Carrying water while running and choosing how to carry it is a matter of preference for many. If you are an off road runner who enjoys spending time on the trails, chances are you find yourself out for hours on end with no sign of a water tap or shop. We certainly find it different to road running round the local town where there are convenience stores, water taps and places to stop for water at various locations. Perhaps then, unless it’s a particularly warm day, you don’t need to worry so much about carrying water while running but if you do prefer to have it with you, we take a look at the best solutions to facilitate your running hydration, whatever the distance or terrain and what you should be hydrating with!
How to Hydrate
First and foremost, we take a look at what to hydrate with. Now, the obvious choice is water – especially for those day to day runs. Ensuring you are adequately hydrated before during and after a run is key. However, when you need to replace the salts that you lose, especially when running in the heat, you may want to consider electrolyte tablets. This are available from many places, our go to is Amazon. You will see that there are many manufacturers – Nuun, High 5, SIS – our go to has always been SIS but if you are preparing for a race, we recommend trying something out first and not leaving it until the day.
We tend to use electrolyte tablets to rehydrate after a run and to hydrate pre-race. Personally, I cannot stand the after taste when I am running along and will only drink water during my long runs. Some prefer to fill one of their bottles with something other than water though.
Another firm favourite is tailwind – lots of running groups that we are in recommend this. Unlike all the different electrolyte tablets mentioned above, we have never tried it but it does have lots of great feedback. It’s more of an endurance fuel in place of gels but well worth a look into.
We absolutely swear by a pre-race coffee with our porridge and banana too. Accompanied by a water chaser, coffee is great for giving you that last minute lift. We have also tried flat coke on our longer runs too – later into the race for that sugar and caffeine boost.
It is important to discover what works for you and to get your running hydration nailed before your main events. This also goes for the accessories that you will use to carry your various liquids. If you choose a two bottle hydration vest, you may choose water for one and electrolytes for the other or you may use a bladder for water and an additional bottle for other fluids. There is no right or wrong answer – it’s what suits you.
Let’s take a look at some of the vessels you can choose for various distances and types of running to ensure you have access to fluids on the run.
We talk a lot about hydration vests and the various options available from the Aonijie entry level vest to the more robust and higher capacity vests from brands such as Salomon. You can read reviews, opinions and check out some of our offerings in other sections of our website however, here’s a recap of what you should consider if you are looking to purchase a hydration vest.
How long are you running for? The reason that we have started with hydration vests is that it tends to be the preferred choice for ultra and long distance trail runners. If you are going to be out for more than 20 miles and need a lot of water, it’s going to house much more water than the alternatives. Look for something that has room for a hydration bladder or soft flasks with or without straws that are housed in the front pockets. There are many pros and cons for both types of water solutions. Often it’s a case of personal preference.
Hydration Bladder Pros
- Houses a lot of water – usually around 1.5 litres – more than this can get 2 litre and 3 litre versions. Just be advised that the more water you carry, the heavier your vest will be until you have consumed some of the water
- Easy to access via a straw while on the run. the straw usually clips on to the vest then you just unclip it when you want to take a drink
- Leaves the front pockets free for other things. Soft flasks take up room at the front which you may prefer to keep for others accessories
Hydration Bladder Cons
- They can leak – while running to meet a friend last week, she messaged to say she was running late as her bladder had leaked – she was referring to her hydration bladder of course!
- They can slosh about – this is the reason I personally don’t use one
- The water can taste rubbery despite your best attempts to get rid of the taste
- Not easy to refill – you have to remove them and faff around at a tap
- Heavier than the alternatives
Another option is the flasks on the front – these soft flasks flatten as they empty and have lots of pros and cons
Soft Flask Pros
- Really easy to access while running – just bend down to drink or lift the bottle out
- The flasks are soft which means they flatten making more room as they empty
- Easy to refill if you come across a tap
- Easy to clean at the end of a run
- Don’t slosh if you squeeze air out
- Inexpensive so easy to replace
Soft Flask Cons
- Can taste like plastic – same as bladder
- You are limited to 500ml per bottle so smaller capacity
- The bite sensation can sometimes be a bit odd (this might just be me)
Handheld Water Flask
This handheld water flask from Amazon (good old next day delivery) is my latest purchase and is my new go to for long runs on the road where I can stop and refill a bottle. I have so far used it on 18 mile run where I didn’t need too much water and a very thirsty 20 miler where I stopped and refilled it at 14 miles. I can also fit my key in there and a debit card/cash for emergencies. I use a soft flask (the same ones I use with my hydration vest) and squeeze the air out so it doesn’t slosh.
What I like about this is it’s small, doesn’t weigh a lot and doesn’t bother me while I run. When I start running, it’s full and firm and I can fit my hand around it and as the water empties I can kind of fold it into my hand and it’s also comfortable. This is the handy accessory you want if you are carrying water while running on holiday! You can fold both the flask and the carrier down really small and pop it inside your shoe with your running vest in your suitcase – so much space saved rather than taking your hydration vest and bladder.
I don’t think I would ever replace my hydration vest completely but I think it’s cheap enough to add it to your running kit, especially with more and more races going plastic free and not offering water. You could actually carry your water with you during a 10k or half marathon using this.
Hydration Belt for Carrying Water
I also have one of these from my beginner days when I didn’t run long miles. It’s not an expensive running belt but it holds two hard flask bottles – the small ones that slip inside the pockets. I am not as much of a fan of this as I am the former items mentioned but they are used by lots of runners and they do have many benefits.
You can get various hydration belts that also give you elastics to hold your gels (mine always slip through when running with purpose). I also find that these belts, unless properly adjusted can move around and feel a little uneven when you have emptied one flask.
Collapsible Cup So You Don’t Have to Carry Water
If you want to pack light, you could clip this handy solution onto a belt or pop it in your belt. The collapsible cup means that if you are going to pass a tap – churches, popular touristy spots etc. then you can simply unfold it and fill it up. We think these are great for races that have water bowsers on route or at the end so that you can help yourself to a drink. We actually believe these are going to become more popular. In fact, some ultras now insist on this as part of your kit list. Come to an aid station and fill up your cup. Unfortunately I learnt the hard way when running an ultra – I was desperate for a drink and really fancied coca-cola – I didn’t have a collapsible cup and couldn’t have a drink! Of course, I have one now.
A Handheld Bottle for Carrying Water While Running
Finally, if you prefer, you can choose from an array of handheld running water bottles. Designed with grip so that you can comfortably hold them while you run, they tend to hold around 350ml of water which is great for short to middle distance runs or carrying water while running races when running hydration isn’t as much of a priority as for the long distances.
There are many solutions but generally they fall into the categories above. The decision will depend on the distance, type of run, if the weather is hot and if you feel you need water and how much. Just make sure you are adequately hydrated before, during and after a run.
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