Hydration packs aren’t as common for road half marathons and marathons, but can be a vital asset for trail runners out training – or racing – when aid stations aren’t as readily available.
There are a lot of companies manufacturing hydration packs, but there are only a handful of companies known to create high-quality products. Unless you have a brand or model you already have in mind, it’s always worth looking into different products, especially before race season picks up again in the spring.
Here are the top seven hydration packs, both new and older models, I would recommend athletes to consider in the future:
Hydrapak E-Lite Vest
The Hydrapak E-Lite Vest is a no-frills hydration pack that holds 1 liter of water in a reversible reservoir with a custom design that includes support material located in the front straps. For athletes needing a light, durable Hydrapak, this is a fantastic choice with a $59.99 MSRP. The plug-n-play connector Hydrapak has created proves to be very helpful to easily fill the bladder and connect the drinking hose through the built-in tube spot.
This definitely is the hydration bladder I would recommend as race-day apparel if you want to carry water with you.
Salomon Trail 20
The Salomon Trail 20 has an $80 MSRP and is an ideal hydration pack for day hikes, commuting, and distance trail running. Interestingly, Salomon changed the Trail 20 design by locating the bladder to the back of the bag, with an improved sternum belt that better prevents the bag from shifting while bouncing around.
I like Salomon products, but the company is known as a more expensive brand used by hikers and campers, so their running products are unfortunately overlooked.
The CamelBak Dart is an affordable hydration pack from CamelBak, available with a $65 MSRP, designed as more of a minimalist pack. It’s clear CamelBak listened to feedback from runners because the Dart is a relatively streamlined hydration pack that is comfortable and doesn’t bounce around when you determine appropriate sizing.
The bladder holds 1.5 liters of water and the bag itself has a storage area and additional pocket that is great for storing anything small you need to transport with you.
The Hydrapak Soquel is a lighter weight hydration pack with an insulated reservoir compartment that is located separately from the regular storage space of the Soquel. Runners can rely on the 70 oz. reservoir and should keep athletes hydrated as they explore the trails. Even though it’s not possible to access the storage compartments while on the move, but the overall light weight and comfort make this a product worth choosing.
Similar to the Hydrapak E-Lite Vest, the Soquel uses plug-n-play connector and you could love it after you get used to the Hydrapak system. The Hydrapak Soquel has a $69.99 MSRP.
Nathan Sports Minimist Race Vest
Nathan Sports is a well-known company by endurance athletes, and the Nathan Sports Minimist hydration pack is a lightweight pack with a 1.5-liter bladder. It has been a while since I’ve worried about chafing from wearing a hydration pack – I am more concerned with the bag shifting while running on trails – but Nathan offers a softer perimeter to the bag, which helps with overall comfort.
It’s great that the straps are mesh and breathable and the softer material helps prevent uncomfortable rubbing. The manufacturing of the Minimist is top notch and this should be a product that lasts at least a couple of race seasons, assuming you take good care of it.
Platypus Tokul XC 3
The Platypus Tokul XC 3 isn’t designed specifically for runners in mind, but is a great alternative if you don’t like the other brands and models provided. The pack features a 2-liter storage reservoir and can hold one liter of miscellaneous gear storage, designed for energy gels, snacks, keys, and anything else you want with you.
The Platypus Tokul XC 3 has a $69.95 MSRP and is readily available throughout the United States, despite not being a brand many endurance athletes immediately consider.
High Sierra Soaker 70
High Sierra is largely seen as a hiking and camping company, but they have a good selection of hydration packs for runners, hikers, mountain bikers, and those enjoying the outdoors. The High Sierra Soaker 70 has an $80 MSRP and features a solid product for people exploring the trails. The bladder supports up to two liters of water and can be cleaned while still in the bag – good luck trying to get it into the pack the first time, which some owners have complained about.
I recommend this product more for people that walk or jog trail races, because this wasn’t designed with a specific focus on running. It’s easy to adjust the straps both before putting on the hydration pack and while wearing it and on-the-fly adjustments are needed.
As with any type of training, food, or gear advice for distance runners – whether on a trail or on the road – be sure to test the products during training before race day. You’ll want to know how to drink from the hydration pack, remove any food or items for easy consumption, and how to make adjustments while on the fly.
Please remember, it’s important to carry your own water with you, especially if you’re going to explore trails or a remote region, so be sure you carry what you need while working out.
Unfortunately, hydration packs aren’t going to be a cheap accessory, but are great to have while out exploring the world.