Proper hydration is essential to a rewarding run. When you don’t get enough fluids, you’re PubMed Central “Hydration to Maximize Performance and Recovery: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Among Collegiate Track and Field Throwers” View Source —a frustrating experience for any runner. A running vest, sometimes called a running hydration vest, addresses these concerns by allowing you to carry water (and snacks!) with you. For many experienced runners, it’s a handy piece of gear they fill with all the essential gear for outdoor exploration.
We tested customers’ favorite running vests available on the market today. After more than one month and sixty miles of testing, our top pick is the Salomon ADV Skin 5 Running Vest ($140). This running vest is lightweight and comfortable, and it carries enough fluids, snacks, and gear for long efforts. Still, there are several factors to consider when it comes to choosing a running vest.
Here’s the TL;DR on how the best running hydration vests stack up:
- Salomon ADV Skin 5 Running Vest (Best Overall)
- Nathan Pinnacle 12 Liter Hydration Race Vest (Best for Ultrarunners)
- Ultimate Direction Race Vesta / Vest 6.0 (Best for Racers)
- Osprey Dyna / Duro 1.5 Running Vest (Best for Trail Runners)
- REI Co-op Swiftland 5 Hydration Vest (Best For Extended Sizes)
The Best Running Hydration Vest
Salomon ADV Skin 5 Running Vest
- Gear capacity: 5 liters
- Hydration capacity: Accommodates a 1.5-liter hydration reservoir, plus two 500-milliliter soft flasks (flasks included)
- Weight: 8 ounces (women’s size XS)
- Sizing: XS–XL (Unisex)
- Feels more like an extra layer than a vest
- Zero sloshing or bouncing
- Includes two soft flasks
- Safety whistle
- Hydration reservoir is not included
A running vest should make workouts easier, not harder. That’s why we love the Salomon ADV Skin 5. Wearing the vest for a run felt more like donning a light extra layer than a vest, and an innovative bungee closure system makes it easy to find a comfortable fit and cinch down on your load.
The Salomon ADV Skin 5 comes with two 500-milliliter soft flasks that you can pull out to swig, however, it doesn’t include a hydration reservoir. Some runners may be content to run with the flasks alone; when filled, they allow you to run with a full liter of water. But if the point of investing in a vest is to run with a reservoir, then you’ll want to purchase one along with your vest. On a long run with the Salomon ADV Skin 5, we filled and used a HydraPak hydration reservoir, which we slid easily into the main stretch compartment on the back of the vest.
One drawback: The drinking tube on the HydraPak reservoir we used is long, and it took several minutes to figure out how to loop the tube through the top of the vest and around the side. Some vests include a hydration reservoir that’s designed to work with the vest—for a few seconds we found ourselves wishing that was the case with the ADV Skin. Still, once we were out the door, the pros of the streamlined ADV Skin 5 far outweighed this con.
Anyone who’s gone on a run with a backpack knows how annoying it is when the contents of that pack bounce around and slide all over the place while you’re running. The Salomon ADV Skin 5 has a bungee closure system that’s easy to fasten, offering two main benefits: The closure makes it easy to find a secure fit for your body’s shape and size, and the bungee system helps keep everything in place, so your gear doesn’t move while you’re running. This combination is what made the ADV Skin 5 the most comfortable vest we tested—hands down. On one long run, we even fleetingly forgot we were wearing a vest!
Carrying capacity is another critical consideration for a running vest. We easily stowed our phone, snacks, and water in the six pockets (including the back stretch compartment) of the Salomon ADV Skin 5. We also stashed a lightweight outer layer in the stretch compartment alongside the hydration bladder. On short runs lasting no more than 4 miles, we preferred running without a reservoir, opting instead to fill the two soft flasks.
The vest is durable, although we’ll test it later to see how it holds up over time. On one trail adventure, we accidently rubbed shoulders with a tree, and the vest’s lightweight mesh fabric held up well. One customer review we read complained about the reflective tape delaminating from the vest over time, but we didn’t notice any such wear and tear.
This wouldn’t be our pick for running a self-supported ultramarathon—its carrying capacity doesn’t allow enough room for multiple layers, a navigation device, and/or shelter. But for any other pursuit, including road running, trail running, and most races (from a 5K to a marathon) it’s a superbly comfy, convenient option.
Are Running Hydration Vests Worth It?
The beauty of running is that it doesn’t require a lot of stuff. All you need is you, the road (or trail), and a pair of shoes. Still, over time, every runner develops a few gear preferences. Perhaps you like shoes with a bit of extra cushion. Maybe you’re always reaching for a particular pair of running socks, a running belt, or a way to prevent chafing to power you through your workouts.
A running vest is one of those nonessential—but useful—pieces of gear that many runners choose to invest in over time. Though it isn’t guaranteed, a running vest may allow you to stay out longer and train harder, because you’re carrying your essentials on your back.
Here are some circumstances when a running vest might come in handy:
- You live in a warm environment or you plan to run frequently during the summer. Experts recommend hydrating before, after, and during your runs, PubMed Central “Practical Hydration Solutions for Sports” View Source . Most running vests allow you to carry a minimum of 1 liter of water with you.
- You’re an intermediate or advanced runner who often heads out for workouts lasting longer than 45 minutes or an hour. Some experts suggest hydrating every 15 to 20 minutes during a run.
- You’re training for a road or trail race where it will be helpful to carry water, snacks, and/or gear with you during your run. Some ultra-endurance events even necessitate that you carry a wayfinding device, satellite messenger, and/or shelter. A running vest is an efficient way to do this.
- You have a health condition that requires you to carry snacks and other essentials with you while you’re working out, or you simply like carrying your gear with you. (You may also want to check out running belts.)
How We Found the Best Running Hydration Vests
Meet Your Guinea Pig
I’m Jessica Bernhard, a writer, editor, and content strategist with more than seven years of experience writing about and testing outdoor gear. My favorite free-time activity—when I’m not writing or reading—is running around my Seattle neighborhood. I love running on roads and trails, and I especially enjoy any run that ends with a cannonball into a big body of water. Reporting on this guide has turned me into a running-vest convert. I used to run without snacks, water, and (sometimes even) my phone. But now I love the convenience (and good sense) of carrying my gear with me.
Our Testing Process
We spent more than a month researching the top hydration vests currently available to consumers. We researched traditional running vests that allow you to carry water and snacks, as well as innovative packs designed to help you run to work. After poring over dozens of products, we tested five of the top-rated running vests available on the market today. (Some brands, including Osprey, Salomon, and Ultimate Direction, provided packs to The Nessie for testing. We purchased the others directly.) We took each vest on a minimum of one short (3- to 4-mile) and one long (5- to 7-mile) run.
In total, we logged sixty miles and twenty hours of active running time as we put the vests through the (literal) paces. Before each run, we examined each product for perks and flaws, and then combed over the vests following each workout, searching for signs of degradation. The observations here are the results of our initial comprehensive testing process.
The Running Hydration Vest Buying Guide
Who Should Buy a Running Hydration Vest?
If you’re a runner who likes to carry water, snacks, and/or an extra layer or two with you when you head out for a run, you might consider running with a hydration vest. Any road or trail runner can benefit from a hydration vest as they progress with running—you don’t have to be a professional athlete or a long-distance runner to run with a vest.
Running Hydration Vest Features
Buying a hydration vest is a little like buying a backpack for hiking. The features you’ll want to pay closest attention to include storage capacity, hydration capacity, hydration type, weight of the vest, and add-on features.
Before shopping, think about how you’ll use the vest. Do you plan to use it for road runs in the summer, when it would be nice to carry some water? In that case, a vest with a smaller storage capacity and space for a hydration bladder might work. Or, do you plan to pack your vest with water, snacks, and an extra layer for a long-distance event you have coming up? In that case, you’ll want to prioritize a vest with roomy storage and hydration capacity. Also consider how you like to drink water on a run. Do you think you’d like sipping from a hydration bladder, or would you prefer to use little water bottles, called soft flasks?
Thinking through a few of these questions before beginning to shop is a great way to make sure you get what you’re looking for out of your investment.
- Storage capacity: If you plan to carry a lot of gear with you, prioritize a hydration vest with a large storage capacity. Storage capacity is measured in volume, and the vests in this guide range from 1.5 liters to 12 liters of storage. An everyday runner will get by just fine with about 5 liters of storage, which can easily fit a lightweight outer layer, a couple of bars and gels, a small sun stick, and your water. Runners who need to carry shelter and/or navigation should opt for something bigger, like the 12-liter Nathan Pinnacle Hydration Vest.
- Hydration capacity: Most of the vests in this guide accommodate a 1.5-liter hydration reservoir or bladder (several of the vests in this guide even come with a reservoir). The vests in this guide additionally accommodate two soft hydration flasks, adding to the volume of water you can carry.
- Hydration type: Do you like sipping from the straw of a hydration reservoir, or do you prefer using soft flasks? The vests in this guide accommodate both ways of carrying water. Depending on your workout, you may choose to use both a reservoir and flasks, just a reservoir, or just the flasks. Some vests, including those made by UltrAspire, do not accommodate reservoirs; check out this brand if you’re someone who prefers to run with water bottles or soft flasks.
- Weight: All the vests in this guide are lightweight, ranging from 6 ounces to 11 ounces. But when you’re running a long distance with a lot of gear on your back, weight matters. Prioritize a lighter pack if you plan to be out for more than a few hours, or cover a great distance. Your hydration vest should fit well and be comfortable. You want to find a vest that’s as easy to slide on, with no hot spots, or areas where the pack material chafes against your skin.
- Add-on features: Many vests come with add-ons like a built-in safety whistle, and some come with an insulated compartment for your hydration bladder, so you can be sure to keep your water cool on hot days. Prioritize these features if they’re important to you.
In addition to the features listed above, pay attention to price. The vests in this guide range from $70 to $200. Some hydration vests may seem quite pricey at first, but a closer look reveals that they include extras like a hydration reservoir and/or malleable water bottles that are easy to run with. A hydration reservoir can cost $40 or more, so a vest that includes a reservoir can ultimately save you money. Prioritize the features that are most important to you, and weigh costs accordingly.
How to Find The Right Size for Your Running Hydration Vest
Some running vest brands make women- and men-specific running vests, while others take a more unisex approach. You may want to take this into consideration if you want a vest that’s specially designed for your body shape and size. It probably goes without saying, but just because a vest is marketed to “women” or “men” doesn’t mean it’s designed with your unique shape in mind. When it doubt, head to a store and try on a couple of vests. Or shop online and order two or three vests, returning the models that don’t work.
How to Clean Your Running Hydration Vest
Follow the manufacturer guidelines for cleaning and caring for your running vest. You can usually find these directions on the vest’s hang-tags and/or on the brand’s website.
In general, it’s a good idea to wash your vest when you notice that it looks dirty or begins to smell. Remove any gear or extraneous items, and brush out any crumbs. Then, hand wash your vest with warm, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and hang dry in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight (this can wear on outdoor gear over time).
Empty your hydration reservoir and soft flasks and allow them to air dry after each use. Follow manufacturer directions for cleaning. It’s OK to freeze a hydration bladder, but beware that the water will expand as it melts, so take care to underfill the reservoir.
Other Running Hydration Vests Worth Considering
Best for Ultrarunners
Nathan Pinnacle 12 Liter Hydration Race Vest
- Roomy carrying capacity
- Insulated hydration reservoir is included and stays cold, even on hot days
- Safety whistle
- Does not include soft flasks
- Carrying capacity may be too much for short runs
If you’re a serious runner who’s toying with the idea of training for a long-distance event, the Nathan Pinnacle 12 Liter Hydration vest is a primo training partner. Not only does this vest have space for nearly 3 liters of water plus gear, it’s also lightweight and just looks downright fast, due to its color and reflective details that come in handy on runs at dawn and dusk. This is the vest for you if you’re considering running an ultra, or if you like to be out for more than a few hours at a time.
Although the Pinnacle 12 Liter is a few ounces heavier than the Salomon ADV Skin 5, it offers the same lightweight feel thanks to a polyester-spandex-nylon construction that comes together with a traditional buckle and webbing closure. When on, the vest feels like a gentle hug; even when we loaded it up with a hydration reservoir, snacks, and multiple layers, the Pinnacle 12 never struck us as bulky.
Organization matters when you’re going to be out for several hours—or days, for that matter. The Pinnacle 12 has a whopping 13 pockets that are easy to access once you work your way around the vest. We found there were ample places to stow our keys, bars, gels, and even fruit. On longer runs, two front kangaroo pockets swallowed up our stuff when we needed a quick spot to stash our stuff while we were moving on the trail. In addition to a hydration compartment, the vest features a rear pocket that easily accommodates a compact emergency shelter.
On short and long runs, we loved running with the insulated hydration reservoir that kept our water chilly on 90-degree days; the bladder also features a just-right-size drinking tube that’s perfect for sipping on the go. Equally helpful on hot days are the breathable back panels that the manufacturer says create a “chimney wicking effect,” forcing hot air up and away from your body. We didn’t notice that we felt especially cool when running in this vest, but we did appreciate how much gear we could carry with relative comfort in summery conditions.
The Pinnacle also offers trail-ready features like a hidden safety whistle, reflective trekking pole loops, and two water-resistant pockets on the front that offer the perfect spot for stashing especially important items like a phone or medication. In short, this is a long-distance workhorse. Other perks: Zero chafing and a fit that extends down the back to disperse weight. This may be attractive to runners with a long torso.
The drawback of this vest is that it’s probably too roomy if you don’t plan to be out for several hours. If you like running shorter distances, check out the 4-liter option, which offers many of the same perks as the Pinnacle 12 in women’s and unisex sizes.
Best for Racers
Ultimate Direction Race Vesta / Vest 6.0
- Extremely lightweight and breathable
- Carries a lot of water
- Comes with safety whistle
- Hydration reservoir is not included
Come race day, you don’t want anything holding you back. That’s why our pick for running races is the ultra lightweight Ultimate Direction Race Vesta / Vest 6.0. Weighing less than half a pound (6 ounces), it accommodates ample water and gear for events of varying lengths, all while feeling exceptionally lightweight.
The Race Vesta / Vest 6.0 is capable of carrying 3 liters of water—the most of any of the vests we tested. It includes two 500-milliliter soft flasks, but doesn’t come with its own hydration reservoir. Still, it was easy to slide our 1.5-liter HydraPak bladder into the vest’s hydration compartment and, thanks to a propriety bungee system, cinch down on the bladder to avoid bouncing and sloshing.
In addition to being a svelte rest for racing, the ample water storage makes the Race Vesta / Vest 6.0 an ideal candidate for runners who live in warmer climates, as well as those who want or need to be able to carry a lot of water with them on their runs (if you routinely run with your pup, for example, this could be you).
The vest feels a bit minimalist, but in a thoughtful way. It secures, for example, with a traditional webbing and buckle closure that felt surprisingly secure the moment we slid the vest on. Trekking pole loops double as a nice spot for keys, and we were happy to see that Ultimate Direction includes a safety whistle—a welcome perk for any vest that adds less than an ounce to its weight. Its front chest pocket and back panel are also water resistant, lending some comfort on days when moody Seattle skies threatened rain.
We easily stashed our phone, keys, snacks, water, and an extra layer into the vest’s seven pockets, though we didn’t feel there would be enough space for multiple outer layers or a shelter. This isn’t the vest you’ll want to use on an ultramarathon or trail adventure, but it’s a near-perfect pick if you like racing with a vest during anything from a 10K to a marathon.
Best for Trail Runners
Osprey Dyna / Duro 1.5 Running Vest
- Made with 100% recycled materials, including bluesign®-approved nylon and an environmentally friendly water repellency
- Hydration reservoir is included
- Safety whistle
- Does not include soft flasks
- Small carrying capacity
Small but mighty—that’s how we’ve taken to thinking about the adventure-ready Osprey Dyna 1.5. Though the Dyna has a relatively small carrying capacity (it accommodates just 1.5 liters of gear), its well-engineered design and durable construction make it our pick for easy efforts on the trail. If you’re planning on heading out for a longer trail run, Osprey also makes the Dyna (as well as the men’s version, called the Duro) in 6-liter and 15-liter models.
The Dyna 1.5 is made from hefty (but not heavy) recycled nylon stretch mesh that held up well to brushes with tree limbs and rough rocks on the trail. It comes with a run-specific hydration reservoir, which is easy to set up and load into the hydration sleeve; a “hose path” takes the guesswork out of how to secure the drinking tube so that you don’t run into dreaded bouncing when you start to run. Although this vest is sold in women’s sizes, we didn’t notice anything about the vest that seemed to be geared toward women, in particular. That said, the Dyna was easy to slide on and secure with its dueling snap-in chest straps.
Osprey is known for making best-in-class day hiking and backpacking packs, and this expertise seems to translate over to the Dyna. Handy features like a safety whistle, elastic loops for securing trekking poles, and a bungee system for quickly lashing gear to the exterior of the vest make it feel especially trail-ready. Although we never forgot we were running with a pack, we also never got especially sweaty (even on one 80-degree day!), thanks to a proprietary “bodywrap” mesh that offers lightweight padding and ventilation throughout the interior of the vest to promote airflow when you’re working hard. It also meets bluesign® criteria, meaning the brand has taken a more environmentally friendly approach to manufacturing the product.
Smart pocketing can make a heck of a difference on the trail, helping you stay organized and shaving time off snack and water breaks. Despite its pint-sized nature, the Dyna fits plenty of gear thanks to six intuitive pockets, including a vertical zippered harness slash pocket that secures even bulky phones, and front food and gear organization pockets that stow enough bars, gels, and trail mix to keep you fueled for hours. One caveat: the hydration sleeve doubles as a main gear compartment. We didn’t mind stashing our outer layer beside the included hydration reservoir, and we observed zero leakage from the bladder, even after technical runs spent hopping over tree roots. But some runners may prefer to have a dedicated pocket for a mid or outer layer.
Best for Extended Sizes
REI Co-op Swiftland 5 Hydration Vest
- Available in wide range of sizes
- Made with recycled materials and materials that meet the bluesign® criteria
- Comes with a hydration reservoir
- Safety whistle
- Does not include soft flasks
- Chest pocket doesn’t accommodate bulky phones
The idea of a running vest is great, but what’s the point if you can’t find one that fits? Thankfully, REI makes running vests in more sizes, with a women’s vest offered in XS to 3X and a men’s vest offered in S to XXL. Not only do these options make the convenience of running with water, snacks, and essential gear more accessible to more people, but the Swiftland 5 Hydration Vest also happens to be more affordable than most of its competitors and it’s super comfortable.
A 5-liter carrying capacity, six external pockets, and an included 1.5-liter HydraPak hydration reservoir make the Swiftland 5 easy to load up with an afternoon’s worth of running snacks and gear. The vest secures with a conventional webbing and buckle closure, which is comfortable and easy to adjust, though not quite as customizable as the bungee closure on our top pick. It took us some finagling to secure the reservoir to the toggle intended to hold it in place inside the vest’s hydration compartment. Once we figured out that critical step, we were off.
A nice perk of this vest is that it’s made with recycled materials and, like our Osprey pick, features materials that meet the bluesign® criteria. It also includes thoughtful features like lash points for strapping on gear and shoulder-compression cords to snug down heavier loads (though we kept loads pretty light). REI recruited member testers to test the vest in the field, which, in addition to being a fun fact, means the vest was designed specifically to avoid sloshing. We found this promise held true, no matter how many sidewalk curbs we hopped over.
A couple downsides: The zippered front pockets were a bit too narrow to accommodate big phones, forcing us to stash our devices in the rear main compartment. And a couple of customer reviews note that non-critical pieces of the vest (like that toggle inside the hydration compartment) broke over time. That said, over our ten miles of running, we didn’t note any wear and tear.