Hydration Packs, Belts & Bottles for 2018

(Before I get started, I just wanted to let y’all know that we have a hike tomorrow at 6:30pm starting from the 183A fitpark, and a run Thursday, 6:30pm at the Hill of life. Pam will also be at the next Capt’n Karl’s race with hydration gear amongst other things, so look out for us there!)

Hey ATRC folks,

Philip again. I’ve already written multiple newsletters complaining about heat. Extreme heat is probably my least favorite weather phenomenon besides freezing rain. It’s not just unpleasant, it’s dangerous, and out in Texas people need strategies for dealing with the heat and maintaining hydration. I recently had a bout of heat exhaustion while running, and I don’t want anyone else experiencing this (or worse), so I’ve created a list below of various solutions that will help you carry the water you need to make it through the rest of this summer.


For runs under 10k or 5k, handhelds. In terms of time, handhelds are perfect for those hour long or less runs. They’re light and small, inexpensive and usually have enough storage for a phone or keys. At ATRC we have two main types of handhelds: We have hard bottle handhelds, such as the Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 350 and the larger Fastdraw 600, both of which have enough storage for either a cell phone or some gels. We also have soft flask handhelds, such as the EDC and the Clutch, which eliminate the “sloshing” feeling that hard bottles have.

(image: Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 600. Note the large storage pocket.)

Pro Tip: It’s often a good idea to carry two handhelds at a time to feel feel more balanced while running and to double your water/nutrition storage.

Waist belts:

For runs around the one hour or two hour range, waist belts are a great storage solution. They’re also a great option for shorter runs where you don’t need a ton of hydration but don’t like running with anything in your hands, e.g. a handheld. A waist belt that we have at ATRC is the Race Belt 4.0. I own this belt and have used it frequently, partly because I like keeping my hands free, but also because its horizontal bottle carry eliminates the “butt bounce” problem that other waist belts have. In addition, the Race Belt 4.0 has a sweat-proof pocket for those like me who can’t run without their phone. If the Race Belt 4.0 doesn’t have enough storage for you, then consider the Mountain Belt, which has enough to pack a Houdini jacket and other gear as well.

(image: The horizontal pocket is MUCH less bouncy than the vertical storage pockets on the Race Belt 4.0.)

Pro Tip: You can use both a waist belt AND a vest to increase storage on really long runs that have little or no support.


Vests are the ultimate storage and hydration solution. Ranging in size from 2 liters of capacity to 16 liters or more, vests are an ideal way to distribute the weight of water and food for runs ranging from unsupported half marathons to 200 milers. There’s a lot of variability and choice in this category of hydration, so I’ll separate these out into their own categories.

Race Vests:

These include the Ultimate Direction Race Vest 4.0 and the Salomon Sense 2 Set, race vests don’t have the capacity for a bladder and usually have less pockets than other vests. However, they are incredibly light and are perfect for those fast runners who have their gear dialed in and don’t need all the extra pockets.

(image: The lack of bladder pocket actually makes the vest more breathable.)

Ultra Vests:

These are the most popular and best selling packs because of their versatility. Examples of these are the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest, the Salomon Sense Set 5 or 8, and the women’s specific Ultra Vesta. These vests usually have the ability to carry a bladder for long, hot runs, and have more pockets than race vests for ultra distances.

(image: The Ultra Vesta has higher set bottles and different cut for a women’s specific fit.)

Mountain Ultra Vests:

When you go on races in the mountains, there’s a need for extra storage capacity to accommodate rain gear or extra layers for when the weather turns. They will have bladder capability, but they will also have easy access and large pockets for storing the extra nutrition your body will want as you exert yourself at elevation. Examples of this kind of pack include the Ultimate Direction Mountain Vestand the Ultimate Direction Jurek FKT.

(image: You can see all the pockets. Now imagine twice as many pockets up front.)

Now if none of these hydration options fits the bill for what you need, that’s OK! If you’re the kind of person who literally spends days and weeks running in the mountains, then maybe the Ultraspire Epic Fastpack might be more your speed, with 25 liters of storage and the ability to carry upwards of four liters of water at a time. Or maybe you’re not a runner at all, and you need a pack that can carry tons of water but can also carry all your kids jackets, or provisions for the inevitable snack break, or you’re crewing a runner and you need to hike in their gear to the aid station. In that case, the Patagonia Nine Trails Pack is the perfect option, with optimal weight distribution, 20 liter capacity for all the gear/food you need, and durability that will make this pack last a decade.

No matter what kind of runner (or non runner) you are, we at ATRC have all the options you need to keep well hydrated and fed throughout the scorching summer months.

So my question for y’all is, what times have you wished you had more water while running? Have you or another runner you know had close calls with dehydration? I look forward to your comments and emails.