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Hydration Backpacks

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Hydration Packs

If you're a runner who regularly runs longer distances, you'll reach a point where you need a way to comfortably carry water, extra clothing and other gear. Many hydration vests and packs have a sleeve for a hydration reservoir or pockets for water bottles, making it easy to drink water on the go.

Hydration Vest vs Pack

Generally speaking, vests are sleeker and more suited to fast-paced running; they fit more snugly on your body so don't jostle or chafe as much as packs. For longer runs where you need to bring a lot of gear and water, a pack is the better bet. If you're a casual runner and want something versatile that you can also take hiking, consider a pack.

Gear Capacity

You want enough total storage space (measured in liters) to carry all the water, food and extra clothing you typically take on your runs. Below are rough guidelines:

  • Two-hour runs: 2 liters of storage space
  • Two- to three-hour runs: between 2 and 6 liters of storage space
  • Three- to six-hour runs: between 4 and 12 liters of storage space
  • Runs six hours and longer: 10 or more liters of storage capacity

For recommendations, read our top picks for the best running hydration vests.

Storage for bottles and/or a reservoir: Most vests can carry water bottles in pockets on the front and a hydration reservoir in a sleeve on the back. Packs can also have both options, though the pockets are typically on the sides. Neither a bottle nor a reservoir is inherently better. It's mostly a matter of personal preference, and you might need both for longer runs.

Note: Bottles or reservoirs are sometimes included with a vest or pack, but not always.

A basic recommendation for runners is to drink 5 to 10 fluid ounces every 20 minutes, though this would vary based on air temperature, your fitness level and the route difficulty. Read more tips in our beginner's guide on hydration for runners.

Size and Fit

Below are a few fit tips to keep in mind for getting the right fit:

  • Fit varies between brands: Check each brand's sizing chart and fit adjustment instructions carefully.
  • Your vest should fit snugly, yet still allow you to move: If it's too tight, it'll be hard to breathe. If it's too loose, it will move around, which can lead to chafing. Packs don't have to hug you closely.
  • Women-specific vests and packs: Their panels and straps are designed to contour around a runner's chest.

More Reasons to Shop at REI

REI carries top brands like Ultimate Direction, Nathan, Osprey and Salomon. We also offer other essentials runners' need, like stanley tumblers, water bottles, reservoirs, electrolyte drinks, running shoes and running clothing. And, to be sure you don't forget anything, we also created a comprehensive trail-running checklist.