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Best Hydration Systems for Trail Running

Proper hydration is the backbone of successful trail running. The combination of physical exertion and exposure to varying environmental conditions necessitates a consistent intake of fluids. Failing to do so can lead to fatigue, impaired performance, and even potentially dangerous situations.

Different Hydration Options

Handheld Bottles

Features: These are small, handheld bottles with an attached strap. They’re convenient for shorter runs or when you prefer minimal gear.

Advantages: Easy to carry, lightweight, and simple to refill.

Considerations: They may not provide enough capacity for longer distances and may require more frequent refilling.

Hydration Vests

Features: These are backpack-like vests equipped with water reservoirs and a drinking tube. They come in various sizes and configurations.

Advantages: Offer a larger capacity for water storage, additional pockets for carrying essentials, and even room for additional layers of clothing.

Considerations: May feel bulkier, but they distribute weight evenly for comfort during longer runs.

Hydration Vest Top Pick – AONIJIE Trail Running Hydration Vest Backpack for Women and Men Lightweight 5.5L 

AONIJIE Running Hydration Vest Backpack for Women and Men Lightweight Trail Running Backpack 5.5L Gray

$29.99 at Amazon.com

Trail running vests tend to be used for longer runs, ultra running or people who sweat a lot and need to carry more water. This one for AONIJIE is great value and has the features you need like two top smaller front pockets for storing things like AirPods or gels, two lower larger front pockets your phone, car keys, sunglasses, and any other snacks you may need. The vest comes with a whistle attached for safety which I was surprised about when I got it. The back pocket can hold a 2-litre water bladder which you will need to buy separately

Waist Belts

Features: Waist belts have pockets or holsters for small water bottles, allowing for hands-free hydration.

Advantages: Lightweight, convenient, and can be adjusted for a comfortable fit.

Considerations: Limited water capacity compared to vests, so they may require more frequent refilling.

Best Waist Belt for Trail Running – AiRunTech Hydration Running Belt with Bottles

AiRunTech Hydration Running Belt with Bottles Zero Bounce Design for Running, Triathlon, Ironman, Marathon, 10K, 5K, Trail Fit for Most Smartphones(2 * 6 OZ bottle)

$16.95 at Amazon.com

For shorter trail runs you still need to take hydration, nutrition, and your phone with you so consider a hydration belt. Look for one with a comfortable, non-sleep fit, pouch for your essentials and water bottle storage like the AiRunTech hydration running belt with bottles.

Hydration Packs

Features: Similar to hydration vests, these are backpack-style packs equipped with water reservoirs and a drinking tube.

Advantages: Offer ample storage space for water, gear, and nutrition. Suitable for ultra-distance trail running.

Considerations: Can be heavier and may require some getting used to in terms of fit and adjustments.

Selecting the right hydration system largely depends on the length of your runs, personal preferences, and the amount of gear you typically carry. Ensuring you have a reliable hydration setup is essential for maintaining performance, energy levels, and most importantly, your well-being on the trail.

Hydration Vest Top Pick – AONIJIE Trail Running Hydration Vest Backpack for Women and Men Lightweight 5.5L 

Nathan Pinnacle Race Vest & 12L Hydration Pack with 1.6L Bladder, Water-Resistant Pockets, Lightweight & Moisture Wicking

$199.99 at Amazon.com

A good example is the NathanQuickStart 2.0, 4 Liter Hydration Pack with 1.5L Bladder which features front & back pockets for essential Storage plus it’s breathable & moisture wicking.

Hydration Systems FAQ

How much water should I carry during a trail run?

It depends on factors like distance, temperature, and personal hydration needs. As a rule of thumb, aim for about 500ml (17oz) of water per hour, but adjust based on conditions.

Are hydration vests or handheld bottles better for trail running?

This depends on personal preference and the length of your runs. Hydration vests offer more capacity and storage, while handheld bottles are lighter and more minimalist.

How do I clean and maintain my hydration system?

Rinse the reservoir and tube with warm, soapy water after each use. Use a cleaning brush for hard-to-reach areas. Allow all components to air-dry thoroughly before storage.

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Karen Parnell
Karen Parnellhttps://chilitri.com/one-to-one-coaching
Karen Parnell is a Level 3 British Triathlon and IRONMAN Certified Coach, WOWSA Level 3 open water swimming coach,  80/20 Endurance certified coach and NASM Personal Trainer and Sports Technology Writer. Need a training plan? I have plans on TrainingPeaks, FinalSurge and TrainingTilt: TrainingPeaks FinalSurge TrainingTilt I also coach a very small number of athletes one to one for all triathlon distances, open water swimming events and running races, email me for details and availability. Karen.parnell@chilitri.com


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