The Best Hydration Packs for Trail Runners

Why review the best hydration packs for trail runners?

Whether you’re hitting the trails for your long run or just out for a long period of time, the most important thing you need to do is stay hydrated.

Fail to do so and it can be a game-changer for you, ending your race, run or day very quickly. The easiest solution for whatever you are doing is to consider a hydration pack.

They fit well and can carry decent amounts of liquid for you to be out for hours.

They also take away the issue of trying to carry bottles by hand, as this can become a bit of irritation over time. For more background information on hydration packs please check out our buying guide which can be found next.  

How to Choose your Hydration Pack

 

Choosing the right Hydration Pack is super important and should not be overlooked.

It needs to be right for the task and needs to be comfortable if you’re going to be wearing it for long periods. With that in mind, here are a few things you should consider.

Weight

Doesn’t matter who you are, you want to travel as light as possible. this is especially important when you are running the trails.

A long run over the trails has its impact on the body, so the last thing you want to be worrying about is lugging a heavy pack around. Being light makes it a lot easier on the body overall, and of course the lighter the weight you have to carry, the easier your run will be.

Within our list of hydration packs, we have set the target of offering the lightest equipment possible so that weight doesn’t become an issue you have to worry about when making your decision.

Of course, with the pack being lightweight, we still need to ensure that the quality of the material and overall durability is best in class. After all, there’s no point in being light if the pack falls to bits after a few runs right?

The only consideration, in reality, is that there is a fine balance between lightness and durability. Obviously the most durable of materials are generally the heavier ones.

Comfort

A hydration pack or vest is no different than buying an item of running clothing.

We want it to be as comfortable as possible. The last thing you want is to be out for hours on the trails with an uncomfortable pack – this would be really irritating.

You need a pack that’s going to fit right without something that’s going to bounce around whilst you run.

We also need to ensure that there isn’t movement in areas that may cause rubbing and irritation – the last thing you want is a nasty chafing sore on the shoulder or rib cage.

This is why the overall fit and quality of the material is so essential.

Breathability

We hope this goes without saying. It is vitally important that the materials are breathable on your pack. If not there are a number of issues that may arise.

The first one being the fact that you will sweat, you could get cold and it also increases the chances of skin irritation due to rubbing.

The worst-case with sweating is that the kit you are carrying, such as base-layers or spare kit may also get wet which would not be beneficial at all.

Size

Depending on the usage of the pack will determine the size you will require.

When we talk about the size we are considering a couple of things here. What is the volume of liquid you intend to carry?

Hydration packs can either have a bladder (or reservoir), bottles or both. The bladders come in sizes ranging from 1 liter to 3+ liters.

If you’re out for the long haul you might want to consider a larger bladder or a combination of that with bottles.

Remember, there generally aren’t water taps out on the trails so consider what you need before you leave.

The other consideration with the size is what else do you want to carry? If you’re running an Ultra you might need to carry a waterproof, nutrition, spare kit.

You might be on a self-supported Ultra, in which case you need to carry all of your kits with you.

With these variables, it’s important to understand the task you have in mind prior to the purchase of your hydration pack.

FTC Disclosure: trailrunningvegan.com is part of the Amazon Associates affiliate program, as well as affiliate programs from other companies. That means if you purchase a product through links on my website, I earn a commission. I strive to make all my reviews honest because that’s the type of content I enjoy reading.  

Camelbak Circuit Hydration Vest

The Circuit vest is the lightest in the Camelbak range making it a great option when you’re out on the trails.

camelbak circuit hydration vestWith a 1.5 liter bladder, it’s the perfect pack for shorter trail runs up to 3 or 4 hours.

The vest also comes in 3 colors so there is the option to pick the one just right for you.

At a weight of 6oz (180g), the CamelBak Circuit running vest is a great lightweight option you should consider for those runs that are around the 3 to 5-hour mark.

With its 1.5ltr reservoir, there’s enough capacity to keep you hydrated over this time. There’s also the option of adding a couple of soft water flasks in the front pockets to give you that little bit extra liquid on those warm days.

It also has an additional storage capacity of 3.5ltr which allows for the carrying gels or other nutrition as well as a front zipped pocket that’s large enough to carry a mobile phone.

The reservoir itself comes with Crux technology which is said to have the ability to deliver 20% more water per sip. Ideal if you want to drink quickly and get on with your running. The reservoir also comes with a neat handle which really aids the filling of the bladder so there’s no messing around trying to get the water in.

The 3D ventilated mesh allows for greater airflow, so you stay as dry as possible even though you’re hot. This is a great asset as there is nothing worse than getting wet and cold on your torso due to a badly ventilated pack.

All in all, this is a great vest for those wanting to travel light and not carry too much kit. It holds plenty of water, and of course, you will get the chance to top up at fill stations if competing in a race. This pack has an excellent design but also comes with a very reasonable price tag compared to other packs on the market.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Breathable 3D Mesh
  • Soft Material
  • Durable
  • Decent Color Options

Cons

  • Some Sizing Issues Reported
  • Chest Strap Reported coming Loose by Some

Camelbak Circuit Latest Prices

Salomon Agile 2

Coming in at 170g the Salomon Agile 2 is most definitely a hydration pack you should consider.

salomon agile 2 setEspecially those who plan to travel light when out on the trails.

With a 1.5 liter reservoir, this should be ample to keep you on the go for 3 to 4 hours.

However, unlike the CamelBak Circuit, it doesn’t quite have the additional storage pockets to carry soft flasks, so unless you have the ability to refill during your run, you will only have the 1.5 liters.

In terms of storage, the Agile 2 has an additional 1.5 liters of space. This is enough for you to carry your phone, some basic nutrition, and a mobile phone. All of which is ample enough for those shorter outings.

The pack boasts a feature call Lite technology on the shoulder straps. The idea is that the material promotes ventilation and reduces the chances of chafing around that area. This is a nice addition due to the fact that becoming sore around the shoulders can become uncomfortable.

Across the back, the pack has Airvent technology that helps stop the back from sweating, which can only be a good feature right.

In terms of comfort, some reviews have stated that the pack is better suited to males. Although some women have said the pack is very comfortable, those with a larger bust were less impressed.

The snug fit allows the pack to be very good for running as the ‘bouncing’ of the pack is greatly limited when the straps are tightened correctly.

In conclusion, the Salamon Agile 2 is a pack you should consider if you’re going out on shorter adventures or there are checkpoints and fill stations during your race.

The pack currently retails at a very reasonable $75 making it one of the lower prices we have on review.

The only downside to the pack is the fact that some might not feel it has enough storage for the job in hand.

Pros

  • Very Lightweight
  • Hydration Bladder
  • Durable
  • Minimal Design

Cons

  • Small Front Pocket
  • Reported that Ladies with a Larger Bust had Comfort Issues

Salomon Agile 2 Latest Prices

Osprey Duro 1.5

When you talk about Osprey packs you know you are dealing with quality.

osprey duro 1.5This is no different for the Duro 1.5 Hydration Vest. It has a 1.5-liter Bladder but also the option to hold soft flasks in the additional front two pockets if required.

However, during our research, we found that one person had noted the lack of elasticity in the front pockets and found that the hard flasks they used actually fell out of the front pockets. As far as we can tell this is an isolated incident and has seen no issues ourselves.

The pack weighs in at 10oz, which is slightly heavier than the packs reviewed so far. However, due to this pack being more ‘vest-like’ you are more likely to find that pack very comfortable and not notice the difference in weight at all.

In terms of additional space, there are two front pockets that are capable of holding soft flasks or additional kits.

At the front of the pockets are two elasticated pouches capable of holding gels or other similar items. On the back, there is a zipped pocket where the phone, keys, etc. can be stored safely.

The inner material is a ‘contact mesh fabric’ designed to be comfortable next to the skin. This along with side compression straps and adjustable sternum straps makes this vest easy to fit and very comfortable indeed.

The Osprey Duro 1.5 would definitely be a vest that should be considered as part of your running gear.

With the ability to carry a 1.5-liter reservoir as well as 2 soft flasks, this gives you the option of far longer runs and would probably be a good pack for up to 50-mile events.

With the pockets that can hold extra nutrition, phone and also a waterproof jacket, you have all you need to be comfortable out on the trail for a decent length of time.

Pros

  • Vest Style Pack
  • Good Additional Storage
  • Price
  • Build Quality

Cons

  • Cannot Tighten Front Flask Pockets
  • Tube Magnetic Holder Not Strong

Osprey Duro 1.5 Latest Prices

Ultimate Direction Race Vest 4.0

The Ultra Vest 4.0 is one of the more expensive packs on the list but for good reason. The weight, comfort and storage space make it a winner for Ultra Marathons.

ultravest 2.0Ultimate Direction is a hugely popular manufacturer of Packs & Vests and has the backing of some of the world’s most famous trail and ultra runners such as Scott Jurek, Anton Krupicka, and Amelia Boone.

The athletes have had input to a lot of the gear and how it is designed too. At least this way we know some of the world’s best back the design and quality of this gear.

The Ultra Vest 4.0 has been designed with a more serious runner in mind. After all, if you’re not doing the long runs or Ultra marathons then there’s not much need to purchase this vest. However, if these are your sort of races then this might just be the vest for you.

The vest itself weighs in at an amazing 119g / 4.2oz with an incredible 10.3 liters of storage. This apparently is down to the Knit Mono Mesh material. Incredibly strong, light and boasts a 4-way stretch. I can vouch for this as the flexibility of the material on pockets is fantastic.

The Vest comes in 3 sizes (S, M, L) and has both a Male and Female version.

The vest also boasts something called Comfort Cinch. Basically, Ultimate Direction has incorporated rear bungee cords to adjust the vest rather than side straps. The beauty of this is it’s a quick-fire adjustment, but also takes away the potential of side straps rubbing against the skin and causing irritation.

There is plenty of storage with pockets too. There are the 2 bottle holding pockets at the front – the vest comes with 2 500ml soft flasks.

In addition to this, there are further stretch pockets at the front for any need to get to essentials.

At the rear, you will find a zipped pocket at the base of the pack that can hold anything from spare nutrition to head torch or a base layer, plus there is another zipped pocket above that can hold waterproofs, hat, glove, etc.

There is also a pocket that can hold a 2-liter bladder, however, this is not supplied with the pack.

In summary, the Ultra 4.0 vest is a top of the range style pack that is fantastically lightweight, has plenty of storage and is extremely comfortable on those long days out on the trail. If you are considering those long runs then you most definitely should consider the Ultra Vest 4.0.

Pros

  • Plenty of Pockets
  • Breathable Materials
  • Great for Long Runs
  • Very Lightweight

Cons

  • Might be too Expensive for Some

Ultra Vest 4.0 Latest Prices

Nathan VaporAir 7L

The Nathan VaporAir is another vest that is made by a well-renowned manufacturer.

nathan vapor air 7lIt has great build quality and can be used for very long runs. Some customers have stated that they have used for 100-mile races and it has been perfect for the job. It also comes in Male and Female options.

There is plenty of storage and the vest comes with a 2-liter bladder which is ample for those longer runs. It also boasts a further 5 liters of storage with plenty of pockets for nutrition items or the like, plus there are the pockets that can be used for additional water bottles.

However, 2 liters in the bladder should be ample, especially during the long races where you can refill at the aid stations. For items such as clothing, the best option is to secure with the bungee system that is used with the pack.

In terms of comfort, there are a number of adjustable straps that allow what you might consider as ‘fine-tuning’ the fit. It has adjustable shoulder straps, plus Nathan uses elastic mesh side panels rather than straps which just adds to the overall comfort.

The pack hugs the body well so there is no bouncing around when on the run, plus the excellent front straps allow you to re-adjust as the bladder empties during the day. With an overall weight of 14oz, including the bladder, the pack is a decent weight that you won’t really notice during your activity.

Overall, the pack is lightweight and has ample storage for those long runs. The hydration system is excellent with the 2-liter bladder and the magnetic pipe security at the front of the pack is a great feature. Vapor Air is definitely a pack you should consider.

Pros

  • Plenty of Pockets and Storage
  • Breathable Materials
  • Great for Long Distances
  • Magnetic Tube Holder

Cons

  • Phone Pocket is Small
  • Leaking Valve Reported by Some

Vapor Air 7L Latest Prices

Salomon Adv Skin 12 Set

When it comes to any type of trail gear, Salomon is one of those companies that most people recognize. You don’t get to be this well know without producing quality gear. The Adv Skin 12 Set is no exception and in our opinion, it’s the pack of choice for all running distances if you don’t mind the price tag.

salomon adv skin 12 setThe Adv Skin 12 Set currently retails at around $160, but honestly, it’s probably worth the spend to get such a great race vest. Coming it at 14.6oz it’s not the lightest pack, but with all that storage and comfort due to its great fit, you really won’t notice it at all.

The pack comes with 2 500ml soft flasks that fit beautifully into the front pockets. You really hardly notice they are there at all. There is room for a 1.5-liter bladder in the back, however, this will need to be bought separately if you would rather have this over the bottles.

The pack is made of Salomons Sensefit material which wraps around your body giving a really snug fit without being tight.

The only real adjustment comes from the front with the bungee style sternum straps. These are awesome at making quick adjustments on the move with the greatest of ease.

Storage is plentiful and Salomon has used a fantastic elastic pouch type system at the side of the pack for quick storage of essential kit. As well as this there are 2 zipped pockets on the front that can easily hold a large mobile phone and nutrition etc.

There is another zipped compartment on the back that can easily hold waterproofs or base layers.

If your serious about your running and you have the budget, you really should consider this pack as part of your gear. short or long runs, it’s perfect for all and it has the storage capacity to easily compete in a 100-mile race.

The comfort and durability of this pack alone make it a truly great investment for the avid runner.

Pros

  • Very Comfortable
  • Great Moisture Wicking Ability
  • Lightweight
  • Loads of Space

Cons

  • Might Be Expensive For Some
  • Bladder Purchased Separately

Adv Skin 12 Set Latest Prices

Conclusion

As you will have seen, there are so many choices of hydration packs to choose from nowadays, but choosing the right one is important to meet your requirements.

If you are planning on long runs and serious ultra-marathons then, without a doubt, the Salomon Adv Skin 12 should be your go-to pack. You don’t want to stretch to that budget then the Nathan or Ultimate Direction would be great choices too.

If you’re doing shorter runs and want to keep the budget lower, then I would suggest the CamelBak for your needs. This is a very popular pack with great reviews.

I hope this review gave you an insight into the best packs around today and maybe gave you some great ideas for your next hydration pack.

Drop a comment below if you have had any experience with any of these packs, we would love to hear from you. Or perhaps you have a favorite go-to pack that isn’t on the list. Let us know so we can review it at let others know how good it is.

All the best,

Mark

21 thoughts on “The Best Hydration Packs for Trail Runners”

  1. Great post and good info.

    This is perfect for a friend of me, he is a trail runner, and a very good one if you ask me.

    I’m going to show this to him, and maybe he knows it, or it is new to him.

    In any way, thanks for sharing this with us!

    Reply
  2. Hi Mark, 

    I am making research for my husband who is a long distance runner. He runs miles and miles on end, many distances away from where he can get water, maybe from water fountains. So, out of genuine concern for his health and running hobby, I decided to make research on the best hydration packs for trail runners. 

    I have gone through your list and have decided to get him the CamelBak Circuit Running Hydration Vest, I believe it would suit his taste best and he’d love it 

    Reply
    • Hi Peace, thanks for the feedback. Good choice with the CamelBak Circuit. This is a very popular hydration pack with both male and female runners.

      Kind regards,

      Mark

      Reply
  3. What a brilliant idea these hydration packs are, I’ve never seen them before. I can see why they would be an invaluable piece of equipment for serious trail runners or indeed hikers.

    I could do with one for work, I am out in Gardens all day and forever leaving my bottle of water somewhere and having to go back for it.

    Do these packs keep the water/drink cool?

    Reply
    • Hi Louise, thanks for the feedback and question. I never thought about using a pack in the gardens whilst working but sounds like a good idea.

      There are actually some packs that have a lining that helps to keep your water cooler for longer. But due to the fact that a lot of the running packs are designed to be a light as possible, this is the sort of thing you won’t generally see. However, there are plenty of packs that do support this feature.

      Many thanks,

      Mark

      Reply
  4. Thanks for sharing this article on the best hydration pack for trail runners. I like the fact that you gave the pros and cons of each of the various types of hydration pack in this article. This will give readers to make their choice out of the lots. I think the Salomon Agile 2 will be suitable for me considering its durability and price. I will make my order soon.

    Reply
    • Hi Brent, thanks for the feedback. Good choice with the Salomon Agile 2 – a very reputable company that makes quality trail running equipment.

      Reply
  5. Hey Mark,

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this article as you’ve provided us with lots of useful information on “Hydration Packs”. I’m looking forward in getting the CamelBak Circuit Running Hydration Vest, but I have a question. I personally love to run on wet trails when it rains. So, is this particular hydration pack waterproof/water resistant?

    Reply
    • Hi there, thanks for your question. Racing hydration packs are generally not waterproof as they are light materials designed to move quickly. You might find that some are shower proof up to a point. Generally, when out running you would put on a waterproof jacket over the top of the pack – this is made easy because the packs are generally small.

      Larger packs that are designed more for hiking etc. are more likely to have waterproof material, but these are bigger and heavier than those used for running.

      Hope this helps,

      Mark

      Reply
  6. Thanks. Mark for this strong review on the best hydration pack, although I am not into any for of racoracing but I do exercise so it’s good for me to have an indept knowledge about it, it has really helped me though  been hydrated especially for athletes and those into Sports are a thing of concern and so it must be taken seriously   thanks for sharing your thoughts on this 

    Reply
  7. Wow, what a great, comprehensive look at the best hydration packs available on the market today. Thank you for pointing out specifically what intensity of trail running each pack is specifically designed for, as well as letting us in on the “cons” of each. In the middle of a long adventure is not when you want to find out about the cons of your chosen hydration pack!

    In general, would you say that if we purchased one of these packs (according to our needs), it would pretty much last a lifetime?

    Sue 

    Reply
    • Hi Sue, thanks for your great comments.

      To answer your question about the lifespan of a pack I would say there are many considerations. Yes, a good quality pack is important in the first place, but also usage and how you look after it is important. I wouldn’t say they would last a lifetime but I have a couple of packs made by Ultimate Direction and CamelBak that are 5 years old and they are still in great condition. The Ultimate Direction pack has been used a lot on Ultramarathons whilst carrying a lot of kit and it still looks like new.

      I hope this helps to clarify your question.

      Many thanks,

      Mark

      Reply
  8. Hi, Mark. I really enjoyed reading this post and I really like the idea of having a water source in a pack and not having to carry it in my hands.

    I’m not a distance runner but I am planning an 11-mile hike around my 70th birthday, (Yes, I am training for it).  I already have a day-pack that has an outside pocket in it that I could use to store a hydration unit.  Is it possible to buy a bladder on its own with the tube or do you have to buy the whole package?

    The idea of the pack and bladder is great but I don’t understand why a company that makes a $200 pack couldn’t include a bladder with it.  Perhaps an option during purchase could be to specify which size of bladder one would need. Just saying.

    Lots of great info here and if I was a trail runner or long distance runner, there are options here I would definitely be interested in.

    Wayne

    Reply
    • Hi Wayne, thanks for the great input.

      First of all, yes you can buy the bladders separately. They do vary in price depending on quality and size but will start around the $25 – $30 range.

      The packs that are expensive that aren’t supplied with bladders are generally supplied with 2 soft 500ml flasks for the front pockets. This is generally due to the fact that people doing Ultra Marathon will have the liquid in the front via the bottles and use the space that would hold the bladder to store extra kit. I actually think it would be a better option when purchasing this style of pack if you could choose a bottle or bladder option when you purchase – or be supplied with both.

      The very best of luck on your hike, well done to you keeping active.

      All the best,

      Mark.

      Reply
      • Thanks, Mark and thanks also for the feedback. And I agree with the option idea. Looking forward to the hike. It will be the first in about 5 years. Going to be good to see Gods creation the way it was meant to be.

        All the best to you as well,
        Wayne

        Reply
  9. I like almost all of them. They are all pretty good hydration packs. Though I have not used any but I need one this time because I love running and juging exercises. I have always thought about what to use to keep my self hydrated but I never gave it a thought to buy a hydration pack until I read this article. I would love to get one soon.

    Reply
  10. I must commend you for taking your time to share this article because you must have done a lot of research. The features of this hydration packs are really convincing and I think I prefer osprey duro and I will be making a purchase, it seems to be portalble. I will keep following you to get more updates. Thanks for sharing this information.

    Reply
  11. Good afternoon Mark,

    On your About page I read that you used to smoke a lot. You were able to give up, good for you. I smoked my last cigarette just before Christmas 2015 and am very happy I did.

    Coming to your post I find it interesting to read about Hydration packs. I can understand that weight is very important especially when you have to carry it for a long time. To have a pack made out of breathable material is understandable as otherwise, sweat can cause discomfort. Thank you for the review of different brands. Even if I do not do trail running I do like hicking. I think it will be a good idea if I get one of your recommended packs and my better half carries the rucksack.

    Regards, Taetske 

    Reply
    • Hi Taetske, thanks for your wonderful comments. The best thing I ever did was to give up smoking – I never knew why I waited so long. My life has changed in so many ways since then.

      With the hydration packs, I find the weight and breathability so important. I was out on one race for 22 hours so it was really important I had a pack that was going to carry me through that time without being heavy or irritating any part of my body. I actually used the Ultimate Direction pack for this as it is specifically designed for the longer runs and the materials seemed to work really well for me.

      Mant thanks,

      Mark. 

      Reply

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