Outdoor Activities
The Best Running Hydration Vests of 2024
The Best Running Hydration Vests of 2024
Jul 24, 2024 3:00 AM

  There’s a running pack for everyone these days. Are you a trail aficionado, or more of a road-only type? Hungry for vert,  or like to go long?  From fast-and-light styles to options that hold everything you could possibly want, there’s a pack that will meet your needs.

  The Winners at a Glance Best for All-Day Outings: Rab Veil 12 Best for Quick Trips: Janji Multipass Sling Bag Best for Racing: Salomon Pulsar 3L Best for Training: La Sportiva Trail Vest 5L Best for Fastpacking: Outdoor Vitals Skyline 30 Fastpack Best for Weekend Long Runs: Salomon Adv Skin 12 Best for Multisport Use: Black Diamond Distance 15 The Best Running Packs of 2024 Reviewed Best for All-Day Outings: Rab Veil 12 ($180)

  Weight: 10 ounces without flasks

  Sizing: S-L (Unisex)

  Capacity: 12 liters


  Soft fabric Huge, plentiful pockets Cons:

  Water flask slightly bouncy Pockets are my love language. I’m particularly a sucker for zippered front pockets, and this pack has two. Last year our testers fawned over the buttery fabric, giant mesh pockets, and easy-on-the-eyes aesthetic of the 6-liter version of this pack. With this year’s new 12-liter capacity, our favorite ultra race pack has become our new long-distance go-to. The two zippered front pockets are ideal for long runs: we put a phone and InReach Mini in one (there’s a small separate mesh compartment that keeps them secure) and cards and cash in the other. There are two flask pockets, two large open mesh pockets behind the zippered ones, and two gigantic side access mesh pockets that wrap around the back. There’s also an open neck pocket on the back with a secure zip pocket inside (which I found great for an external battery for charging my phone on a long effort) and a large zippered compartment for extra food and layers, with a pocket for a 2-liter bladder. Bungees on the back secured other odds and ends and front and back pole storage gave tester Blair Callaghan quick options to stash gear and candy during a 14-mile trail run in the mountains outside of Seattle.   

  Bottom line: A workhorse for the long-distance lover.

  Best for Quick Trips: Janji Multipass Sling Bag ($56–58)

  Weight: 5.8 ounces

  Sizing: One Size Fits Most

  Capacity: 2 liters


  A fanny pack/sling bag carrying style Versatile Cons:

  Hard to access pockets while running This versatile bag is tiny, but mighty. It can be worn like a standard fanny pack, or over your shoulder like a sling bag, on the front or back. A secondary crossbody strap secures the bag from bouncing while you’re running in sling mode, and can be stowed when you’re not. When not using the strap, you can slide the bag around to the front and grab what you need while on the move. It is the right size to “carry everything you need but nothing you don’t,” said a tester. An outer zip pocket easily holds a phone or wallet, a large internal pocket has a hook for keys and a mesh pocket for cards, and the bungee pocket is perfect for stuffing extra layers or a water flask. The ripstop body adds durability and a DWR finish keeps items dry when the weather changes. I loved that this bag can work for everyday walking and for running. Whether on a quick jog to the post office or an hour-long trail run, we appreciated being able to carry essentials without having to wear a full backpack.

  Bottom line: Versatile, comfortable carrying options for when you need to bring things along, but don’t need a full backpack.

  Best for Racing: Salomon S/LAB Pulsar 3 ($160)

  Weight: 3.17 ounces (Size small)

  Sizing: 2XS-XL (Unisex)

  Capacity: 3 liters


  Super light and breathable Adjustable fit Cons:

  No pole storage, but can be added for $30 This is the pack for the fast runners among us—and those who appreciate lightweight, breathable gear. The Pulsar’s polyester-elastane material has four-way stretch so it fits like a good hug, and the elastic, bungee cord chest straps allow the wearer to get a mega-custom, comfortable fit by simply tugging on the strap. “I love the hook-and-bungee adjustment system. It’s easy to change the fit on the run (pun intended) as the load changes, and is quick to get on and off. No complaints,” Blair said. Even though the pack is small, it is mostly made up of pockets. On the front, two flask pockets hold Salomon’s 250-milliliter soft flasks (included), one zippered pocket stores valuables, and two large stretchy pockets can fit a few hours of snacks. On the back, a kangaroo pocket holds a puffy, and a pocket at the neck fits an accessible wind layer or a water filter for fast transitions.

  Bottom line: Best for anyone’s race day, but especially those trying to podium.

  Best for Training: La Sportiva Trail Vest 5L ($129)

  Weight: 5.8 ounces

  Sizing: Small and Large

  Capacity: 5 liters


  Lightweight and breathable A versatile, dependable, daily driver Cons:

  The striped design is not our favorite Stellar for its size, this no-frills pack just does its job. You can easily take it for both short and long runs. Carry the bare minimum up front—two flasks, a phone in the zippered pocket, and a snack in one of the two front stretch pockets—and it will hold them snugly for a weekday six-miler. Or stuff it full for a weekend long run and it still wears comfortably, thanks in part to the buttery, breathable fabric. A large mesh back pocket and a back kangaroo pocket are “ideal for cramming full of everything you don’t need frequent access to,” tester Mike notes. “Although, you can easily pull a puffy from the back kangaroo pocket while you’re running.” The company says the pack will be released in June.

  Bottom line: Easily could be the one-pack quiver for most runners.

  [Available in June 2024]

  Best for Fastpacking: Outdoor Vitals Skyline 30 Fastpack ($198)

  Weight: 20.6 ounces (S/M); 21.6 ounces (M/L) without flasks

  Sizing: S/M and M/L (unisex)

  Capacity: 26 liters (S/M) 31 liters (M/L)


  Incredibly lightweight for the capacity Well-ventilated for all-day wear Cons:

  Only two sizes This new fastpacking piece from Outdoor Vitals stood out for its ability to support our fast intentions and multi-day efforts, with hydration pack features in the front and storage in the back. The front has two flask pockets, two zippered pockets, and two pockets with a bungee closure. Two side pockets can hold extra water or even a tent or sleeping pad. The roomy main compartment can fit everything you need for multiple days out on the trails with ease and there’s an internal zip pocket for valuables like car keys, or it can also fit a bladder. A stretch pocket on the back fits a puffy, or even crampons, and there’s a spot for carrying an ice ax, which makes this pack a trusty companion no matter the conditions. The roll top closure combined with a water-resistant finish protected our gear from whatever weather we encountered. To make this pack comfortable for an overnight trip in the San Juans, I fine-tuned the chest straps, which can be adjusted horizontally and vertically. A shoulder harness helps evenly distribute weight, and a foam back panel offers added support and comfort. I loved the pass-through sleeve on the bottom to store a puffy, and the zippered bottom pocket for trash. If you want a pack that is comfortable to wear all-day, day-after-day, this is the one.

  Bottom line: Fastpackers or runners going long who need to carry extra gear.

  Best for Weekend Long Runs: Salomon Adv Skin 12 ($160)

  Weight: 10.33 ounces

  Size Range: XS–XL

  Capacity: 12 liters


  Customizable fit Good for both short and long runs Cons:

  Can chafe a little at the back of the neck, depending on shirt The Skin 12 feels like a good hug—tight but not suffocating. Stretchy bungee cord adjustments provide an über-custom, snug fit and prevent flask sloshing and bouncing. Our testers loved all 13 (!) accessible pockets on the vest. It has all the expected mesh flask and snack pockets, plus zippered pockets for valuables, a large mesh kangaroo pocket on the back for big layers, and a sneaky bonus stretchy pocket behind the neck. On a 25-mile trail run, one tester stashed her wind shirt and water filter in the top rear pocket to avoid having to ever take off her pack. The Skin 12 fits everything you need for a triple-digit run, yet one tester also noted that the vest “wasn’t cumbersome for a six-mile run where I wasn’t carrying much.”

  Bottom Line: A perennial favorite for its adaptable fit, convenient organization, and comfort over the long run

  Best for Multisport Use: Black Diamond Distance 15 ($180)

  Weight: 12.7 ounces

  Sizing: S–L

  Capacity: 15 liters


  Durable and rugged Great for different uses Cons:

  Too much pack for shorter runs The Distance 15’s 200-denier fabric is woven with a heavyweight polyethylene yarn that Black Diamond claims is stronger than steel relative to its weight. It held up admirably against sharp rocks and crampon snags on Colorado’s Longs Peak. Ice-ax holders and trekking-pole sleeves boost the pack’s versatility on trail, snow, and rock, while two flasks, a reservoir attachment, four front pockets, and a roomy main compartment support triple-digit mileage. Even half-full on a mellow 15-mile run, the Distance didn’t bounce.

  Bottom Line: Light and comfortable enough for running with the storage and durability needed for mountain adventures

  How to Buy Fit: Nothing compares to putting on a running hydration vest, filling up the flasks, and taking it out for a spin. Comfort is always the first thing to consider. How does the material feel? Are there any pressure points or places that rub? Can you get it nice and snug? The second thing is bounce. Nothing makes the miles feel longer than a water flask sloshing around with every step you take. Make sure you try it with the weight ranges you’ll likely be carrying.

  Size: To get the right fit, you need to get the size right. Since sizes vary between brands, start by checking the brand’s measurements, and then measuring yourself. The vest should feel snug, but not restrictive. If it’s hard to take a full breath without battling the straps, it’s too small. If there are gaps in the fabric around the shoulders, it’s likely too big. If you are maxing out the straps in either direction — cinched all the way in, or all the way expanded — consider shifting sizes. Finally, if you’re having trouble finding packs that fit properly after trying all of this, try a different size option. If men’s packs aren’t fitting right, try a unisex or women’s-specific model and see if that helps. Women’s packs typically have more room around the bust, are narrower in the shoulders and are shorter. For the final test, load up the pack (at the very least with a full flask) and see how it feels with a little bit of weight.

  Preferences: The final consideration is personal preferences: Does the pack meet your specific needs for what you want to do with it? Some people, for example, demand a zippered front pocket, or pole storage, or large pockets capable of holding many easy-to-access snacks.

  How We Test Number of testers: 3 Number of products tested: 24 Number of miles: 240 Number of vertical feet: 38,100 We tested all over the Rockies and the Pacific Northwest, throwing on packs for easy weekday road miles and sunrise trail runs. Our testers included two women and one male of varying heights and preferences. One tester loves to push speed, while another just likes to be out in nature plodding along. We logged all runs in a spreadsheet and ranked them for comfort, bounce, pockets, pros, and cons.

  Meet Our Lead Testers Anna Callaghan is a longtime Outside contributor based in Boulder, Colorado—which happens to be a great place to test running hydration vests. She’s managed the category for the last few years, and this year enlisted another Boulderite, plus a Seattle-based tester (her twin sister, Blair, who is a physical therapist and ultra running coach) to help put these packs through the ringer.

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