On muddy, sunny, rainy or all-of-the-above runs, it’s great to have a vest filled with water, extra layers and other trail run essentials. But finding your holy-grail vest can be difficult with the number of options out there. What’s most important is finding the right vest for you–one that fits your body (and your gear, and your distance) just right.
The right vest might change depending on the weather, the distance or the locale, which is why we’ve rounded up the best running hydration vests for whichever path, trail or road you take. To bring you our top picks, we looked to our customers. Each vest in our roundup is top rated by verified purchasers. That means they put in the miles for you, and came back smiling.
Best Hydration Vests
Best for Shorter Training Runs – Women’s
Gear Capacity: 7 liters
Hydration: Comes with a 2-liter reservoir.
When you’re heading out to train but don’t need to lug more than the Ten Essentials, some water and nutrition, a pack with 5–7 liters of capacity works well. The adjustable sizing system on this vest gives wearers a bounce- and chafe-free fit, keeping you comfortable and focused on training runs. Customers rave about the adjustable fit on this and the men’s version of this vest, both of which are built to accommodate a range of sizes. If you’re an after-dark (or before-the-sun) runner, it features reflective trim all around to help you stay seen while you pound the pavement.
Best for Shorter Training Runs
Gear Capacity: 6 liters (M/L; 5 liters for S/M size)
Hydration: Comes with a 1.5-liter reservoir.
A top-rated, smaller-capacity pack, the Duro 6 is another excellent choice for staying hydrated during your routine miles on roads or trails. REI customer Madhav appreciated the storage in this vest, saying they “could easily fit in a puffer and loved the multitude of organizational compartments that Osprey is known for. The sternum strap offers a number of adjustable options and I could feel no bounce whatsoever. The pack by itself is super light and I hardly noticed it throughout my run.”
Best for Longer Training Runs
Gear Capacity: 10.32 liters
Hydration: Comes with two 500-milliliter collapsible soft flasks. Compatible with a 2-liter reservoir (sold separately).
On longer training runs, you’ll want to carry plenty of water, an extra layer and enough food to keep you moving. Some runners also like to pack a bit more supplies than they think they’ll need, in case they run into someone on the trail in need of assistance or extra food. This Ultimate Direction vest is roomy and breathable, with plenty of pockets to help you organize your must-haves.
Hate taking your pack off mid-run? This vest’s on-the-move adjustability lets you easily tighten or loosen your fit without breaking stride. And if you aren’t a fan of using hydration reservoirs to carry your H2O, it also comes with two 500-milliliter soft flasks up front that shrink as you drink. The two-bottle option is great for mixing up your hydration—put electrolyte drink in one and water in the other to keep you fueled up for a several-hour adventure.
Best for Race Day
Gear Capacity: 5 liters
Hydration: Comes with two integrated 500-milliliter soft flasks. Compatible with a 1.5-liter reservoir (sold separately).
Made from lightweight, stretchy materials that feel like a second skin, this Salomon vest is a great choice for training and race days, as well as endurance runs. With 5 liters of capacity, it carries just enough to keep you moving from one aid station to the next without any extra bulk. REI customer Joanie summed it up nicely: “Love this vest! It holds plenty of hydration with minimal bouncing. Breathable and fits great.”
Best Women-Specific Fit
Gear Capacity: 10.1 liters
Hydration: Compatible with a 1.5-liter reservoir (sold separately).
The Ultimate Direction Vesta series dominates the women-specific fit game, and its latest update is no exception. This vest’s adjustability and fabrication allow it to easily and comfortably adapt to a wide range of body types, and is especially suited for those with larger busts. Its 10-liter capacity keeps you going on long days or in remote environs (if you want a little more or less capacity, Ultimate Direction also makes an 8-liter version and an adventure-ready 12.4-liter version). If you prefer to use all of this vest’s storage space for gear, fuel and extra layers, it also comes with 2 collapsible soft flasks, so you can run reservoir-free and still stay hydrated.
Best for Hiking
Gear Capacity: 13.27 liters
Hydration: Compatible with a 2-liter reservoir (sold separately).
Heading out for a day-long adventure at a slower pace? Your running vest could come in handy. If you plan on using your vest for both runs and hikes, it’s good to look for a larger-capacity vest so you have enough room for all of your supplies. This vest boasts more than 13 liters of gear storage and a movement-mirroring, adjustable fit for comfort on the long haul. It has plenty of convenient pocketing up front and on the sides so you don’t have to take it off to get your items out mid-hike.
“I’ve used a few different packs in the past for running longer trails where I might need a first aid kit, extra layers, snacks, etc. and this one is by far the best…I love the variety of pockets and stash places for everything from doggie bags to my cell phone, sunglasses, or keys.” – Stephanie, REI customer.
Best Hydration Vests for $100 or Less
We get it; not everyone wants to invest in a higher-price hydration vest, especially if it’s your first one. Luckily, REI stocks several vests that are $100 or less and still deliver outstanding performance.
According to REI senior gear designer Graeme Wagoner, the biggest differences between higher-end and more-affordable packs are in sizing and materials used. Typically, more affordable vests have fewer size options—but with ample adjustability to help you fine-tune fit—while expensive vests are more akin to apparel. The vests below came with glowing reviews, so they’re excellent options for budget-conscious runners.
Gear Capacity: 5 liters
Hydration: Has 4 slots (2 Front, 2 Back) for hydration flasks.
According to REI customer bcompa, this unisex hydration vest is “amazingly customizable.” Its smaller capacity and sleek styling make it a great option for short runs, races and exploring trails closer to home. Plus, it’s made with breathable honeycomb mesh that keeps you cool while you’re working up a sweat.
Gear Capacity: 5 liters
Hydration: Comes with a 1.5-liter reservoir.
In addition to being a great buy, this is one of the few vests available in larger sizes—in both the men’s style and in this women’s vest. Several reviewers with large busts complimented its comfort, and many others loved the adjustability: “This pack has so many adjustments it’s easy to find a great fit,” reports robinoutside. You’d be hard-pressed to find this kind of praise on any hydration vest, let alone one at this price. Breathable mesh on the back and straps helps you keep cool, and a variety of stretch pockets offer plenty of places to stash things like your phone, keys and nutrition.
And, if all that weren’t enough, this is the only hydration vest made from using bluesign®-approved material, which reflects a sustainability standard that involves stringent monitoring of the health, safety and environmental effects of the resources used to make it.
Hydration Vests Buying Advice
Ideally, your vest should be snug while still allowing you to move, without anything poking or pinching. Annoying spots on the first wear will only turn into painful chafing later on. Wagoner says you shouldn’t expect to wear the same size hydration vest you wear in shirts or backpacks, since vests are designed to cling to your body and fit it more securely. When trying on a vest, secure the buckles first, adjust the straps and go back and forth between adjustment areas until the fit feels comfortable. And if you’re using a reservoir, the water should sit high up on your back.
Use the straps as a guideline if needed: you don’t want to bottom out any straps or, conversely, have tons of excess strap material dangling. You should always have the ability to adjust it further in either direction if needed.
For more information, check out our Expert Advice article, “How to Choose a Running Hydration Vest.”
What’s the difference between a vest and a pack?
There’s definitely some ambiguity between hydration vests and hydration packs, but generally speaking if there’s more coverage on your chest and it fits higher-up on your body, it’s a vest. Vests will have more pocketing in the front for easy access to stuff on the move, whereas packs could just have straps up front while storing all your gear in back.
Do I need a hydration reservoir?
You never need any particular piece of gear, so do what feels best for you! Some people are firmly set on Team Reservoir, some on Team Bottles and some folks use both. As long as you have enough water for your run, carry it however you prefer.
What’s the difference between unisex and women-specific vests?
REI senior gear developer Lauren Meyer acknowledges that despite the fact that these vest designations are gendered, body types exist on a really wide spectrum. Age, gender, weight and more can all play a role, so it’s all about finding what’s a just-right fit for you and your body.
A men’s or unisex vest is generally a better fit for a straighter body, while a women-specific vest will better fit a chest with more contours. The front paneling is designed to fit that curvature and prevent gapping, so it’ll feel a little more like a sports bra. Here’s a useful tip from Meyer: The second strap should sit below your bust. That being said, if it’s more comfortable having it up top, do what feels best and keeps your vest most secure.
Plenty of runners try on unisex, women’s and men’s vests to determine what feels best for their shape. So if you find a pack that fits your body, disregard the label and just enjoy the run.