I believe we all agree staying hydrated while running is important. Runners manage their hydration in different ways and there are tons of options to fit individual runner needs. Sure, you can stash water along your route or plan to run past water fountains during your run, but this restricts your creativity and freedom during your runs. And isn’t creativity and freedom the reason we all run anyway?
There are three popular options out in the running world, the handheld, belt, and hydration pack. Each has its costs and benefits so let’s go through each one.
The handheld is convenient easy to use and clean. It comes with a little pocket usually where you can store other things like a phone, car keys, or nutrition. Handhelds are not expensive. They come in all sizes and shapes. Having 16-20 ounces of fluid in your hand can take some time to get used to, the added weight and the sloshing of water. You should chose whatever shape is most comfortable. Solomon has a handheld that is more like a bladder than a bottle. I haven’t had the chance to use these during a run. The Solomon handheld bladder is a little more pricy. Handhelds are not a good option in the winter months. It’s hard to hold on to them with big gloves on and if you don’t have big gloves the water will make your hands colder.
What do I look for in a handheld? It needs to hold enough water for a ten mile run. I don’t want to stop and fill the thing up every three miles. You might as well not even carry one at that point. I have smaller hands so I need something that fits comfortably. The strap needs to hold tight enough that I’m not squeezing the bottle the whole run. It has to be spill proof. I can’t have water spurting out all over the place. The bottle has to be easy to squeeze with one hand. If it has a pocket, it needs to be big enough to be useful.
The belt and or vest consists of bottles attached to a belt or a vest. The bottles slide into pockets or clip on. There are vests with bottles on the front and the back. The belts also have various placements. These options are good if you don’t need a lot of water, but you hate to have things in your hands. They’re a little more expensive than handhelds. The bottle tends to be a little bigger or you have two bottles. There is at least one pocket to put other things in. The pockets are big enough to be useful. Having two bottles allows you to care plain water and an electrolyte drink at the same time.
When it comes to belts, I hate the bounce. It drives me crazy. I end up fighting with the thing trying to stop the bouncing. I’ll admit I have not used a belt or even tried one for the past five years because of this, so I’m guessing one company or another has attempted to fix this problem. Sometimes the placement, vertical or horizontal, of the bottles makes a big difference with the bouncing. One thing you need to pay attention to with belts and vests is accessibility. How easy is it to pull it out of the pocket and put it back in without having to stop?
Hydration packs carry a lot of water and you can stuff all kinds of stuff in them such as a compact jacket, food, small first aid kit, and a flashlight. The packs made specifically for running don’t bounce. There is some sloshing of the water, but I can’t hear it with mine. You just get used to it and then don’t register it anymore. The packs are going to be the most expensive option. They are great for long distance and trail running. The water is easy to access. They are also the heaviest choice. In the winter the tube can freeze so make sure it is insulated and if it’s really cold, that probably won’t help much.
With a pack, I look for pockets on the front and the back. I want the pockets to zip closed so things don’t fall out of them. Like all the other options, the pockets need to be useable. I want a women’s specific pack so it fits better and prevents bouncing. If you can’t get it to fit snug it will cause chafing.
Unfortunately, I don’t know of any store which allows for a trial run of their hydration systems. So you have to think of your needs and then try to match it up. It’s good to have options as well because some runs will require a different hydration system. You can always use a pack, but it’s a lot to care for a ten mile run.