When I go on a long run in the woods or mountains or if I’m racing in something longer than 20 km, I always take my phone, water, some gels or chews, and my Patagonia Houdini Jacket if I know I’m going to reach elevations where it gets pretty chilly and windy up there. If it’s not summertime, I’ll also take along a Smartwool baselayer if I’m not already wearing it on me. Then, if I plan to stop at the top and enjoy the view with a light little lunch, I might pack along some form of a sandwich or bars. Sounds like a lot to take on a run, doesn’t it? The best way to comfortably lug all these things without everything bouncing up and down your back is with a running vest, sometimes called a hydration vest.
Nowadays, running hydration vests are all the rage not just for trail runners, but also for day hikers who want something superlight on their back for a quicker pace. All running vests have a way to store water, some have bladders that fit in the sleeve that sits against your back while others have bottles or soft flasks that sit in the front pockets of the shoulder straps. I prefer to have soft flasks in the front because I’ve found that the water stays cooler in the front. Plus, during a race, it’s easier to pull out the flasks for water refills at the water stations along the course without having to remove the backpack.
As for the capacity of a running hydration vest, you can find vests that usually range from as little as 1.5 liters to 20 liters. I use a vest that holds 5 liters and it’s plenty for races and long day runs. However, if you plan to do multi-day runs, sleeping in mountain huts, for example, you’ll probably need something bigger to hold more essentials.
Another important aspect to consider when looking to buy a running vest is the fit. The vest should fit snugly around your upper back, chest, and shoulders to eliminate any bouncing of the pack. There are also vests that are specifically designed for women where the chest and shoulder straps can accommodate a more feminine figure. I’m 5’2’’ and weight 100 pounds with zero ‘busti-ness’ and I wear a unisex running vests with the all the straps pulled tight all the way. Different vests will fit differently, so make sure you’ve adjusted all the straps while trying one on to have a better idea of its fit.
With that said, we’ve looked at the top performing running vests on the market and narrowed them down to our best 5.
The Best Running Hydration Vest is:
Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Hydration Vest
Why we love it?
- Salomon created their Advanced Skin Hydration Vest line with Sensifit technology and construction for their signature snug and precise fit, providing a balanced load and more freedom to move further and faster. This running vests also boasts lots of features like easy to access pockets and plenty of adjustability.
Top 5 Products
Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Hydration Vest
Osprey Duro 1.5 Hydration Vest – 1.5 Liters
Arc’teryx Norvan 14 Hydration Vest
UltrAspire Momentum Hydration Vest
Ultimate Direction Ultra Hydration Vest 4.0
|134.99$ View On Amazon
|89.95$ View On Amazon
|189.00$ View On Amazon
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|129.00$ View On Amazon
|Sensifit construction for comfortable and snug fit that conforms to body, No bounce, Balanced load front and back, Innovative elastic sternum strap, Easy-to-use design for multiple ways to adjust fit and carry poles and accessories , Super lightweight, Has pole holders
|Lightweight and carries just the essentials, 1.5 liter reservoir with a zippered sleeve, Two stretch-mesh harness pockets in the lower front strap for easy access to gels and food, QuickConnect Sternum magnet to hold bite valve, Minimal bounce design, Vertical zippered harness slash pocket with whistle zipper pull
|Roll top design for easy loading/unloading, 500 ml soft flask compatible in the front pockets, No-bounce design, Weather resistant, Waterproof comparment, Highly adjustable, Lightweight with large capacity
|Super lightweight, Highly customizable with hydration options, Honeycomb mesh maximizes breathability, No-bounce streamlined snug fit with ErgoFit, Compatible with 4 UltraFlask 550 mL bottles, Tons of pockets everywhere
|Compatible with 2-liter reservoir , Pole holders that snaps out of the way when not in use, Comfort Cinch technology for custom fit, Very comfortable, Highly adjustable
|Soft flasks are sometimes tricky to insert in front pocket, Can feel hot wearing it
|Front pockets don’t carry flask bottles well, Tube slides in front , Material requires frequent washing to control odor
|Pole holder straps not durable, Pole holder location inconvenient
|Flasks not included, No pole holders, Rear bottles can be tricky to reach
|Waterproof pocket isn’t large enough for a phone, Hard plastic caps on the flasks rub against chest on long runs
|The Salomon Advanced Skin 5 hydration vest will actually feel like part of your torso with the no-bounce design and construction so you can run freely and forget you have a pack that’s carrying enough essentials for your race.
|This running vest is for the minimalist with enough capacity to take just the essentials but plenty of water.
|The Norvan 14 Hydration Vest is great for long runs where you need to carry more gear and food, but without the bounce on your back. Plus, it’s so versatile due to its large capacity, this running vest is great for fans of other outdoor sports as well.
|Highly breathable, superlight, and ErgoFit design, it’s like, “What hydration vest, am I wearing one?”
|Very comfortable and lightweight running vest to carry your essentials and then some for long runs, races, and everything else.
2. Osprey Duro 1.5 Hydration Vest – 1.5 Liters
- Lightweight and carries just the essentials
- 1.5 liter reservoir with a zippered sleeve
- Two stretch-mesh harness pockets in the lower front strap for easy access to gels and food
- QuickConnect Sternum magnet to hold bite valve
- Minimal bounce design
- Vertical zippered harness slash pocket with whistle zipper pull
- Front pockets don’t carry flask bottles well
- Tube slides in front
- Material requires frequent washing to control odor
Streamlined and lightweight, the Osprey Duro 1.5 is great for runs where you don’t need to pack much except for enough water. This minimalist running vest can pack a layer and food in addition to the 1.5-liter reservoir for a body-hugging and bounce-free fit for training, racing, and wherever else your running love takes you. Note that this vest also comes in a 6-liter capacity.
3. Arc’teryx Norvan 14 Hydration Vest
- Roll top design for easy loading/unloading
- 500 ml soft flask compatible in the front pockets
- No-bounce design
- Weather resistant
- Waterproof comparment
- Highly adjustable
- Lightweight with large capacity
- Pole holder straps not durable
- Pole holder location inconvenient
Arc’teryx created the Norvan 14 Hydration Vest for long long runs into the wilderness, or for your running commute to the office. It has enough capacity to store your change of clothes and food, including plenty of water. It’s also great for multiday runs where a highly compressible sleeping bag could fit.
4. UltrAspire Momentum Hydration Vest
- Super lightweight
- Highly customizable with hydration options
- Honeycomb mesh maximizes breathability
- No-bounce streamlined snug fit with ErgoFit
- Compatible with 4 UltraFlask 550 mL bottles
- Tons of pockets everywhere
- Flasks not included
- No pole holders
- Rear bottles can be tricky to reach
The UltAspire Momentum Hydration Vest is one of the lightest running vests on the market and still has enough capacity to hold plenty of water, food, layers, and/or devices for your long run. The ErgoFit design curves around your torso for zero bounce even when fully loaded, allowing full range of motion in the arms and shoulders.
6. Ultimate Direction Ultra Hydration Vest 4.0
- Compatible with 2-liter reservoir
- Pole holders that snaps out of the way when not in use
- Comfort Cinch technology for custom fit
- Very comfortable
- Highly adjustable
- Waterproof pocket isn’t large enough for a phone
- Hard plastic caps on the flasks rub against chest on long runs
Here’s a really light and comfortable running vest that can carry a lot. The Ultimate Direction Ultra 4.0 is lighter than its predecessor and redesigned for more comfort and features. Lots of mesh and 4-way stretch material to keep things bounce-free and snug against your torso so you can run happily and forget about your pack.
Criteria for Selecting our Running Hydration Vest
The most important aspect of a running vest is its fit and comfort. If the vest doesn’t fit well or things bounce around, it will be difficult to run in and incredibly annoying. All of the running vests selected here are bounce-free and provide that snug fit we all are looking in a running hydration vest. Fit and comfort can come from highly adjustable configurations with straps or the way the vest is shaped to contour around the shoulders. Also, the material of the vest contributes greatly to the comfort, so we liked light stretchy material that also proved breathable.
Although we want to be as minimalist as possible when we’re out running, we also like things to be convenient. So features like many pockets, whether there are pockets in the front, or if the pockets in the back are easily accessible are things we considered when we made our top 5 selection. We also liked things to be customizable. Some people prefer carrying reservoirs while others prefer soft flasks in the front. The vests here allow various combinations to suit you.
As with most outdoor gear, weight matters. Every gram we can shave off is one gram less we have to run with. We selected vests that are super light and streamlined with material and technology that prioritized being just as lightweight as it is comfortable.