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Belt, Bottle, or Vest—Which Hydration System Is For You?

Our blogger tried them all to find out which works best for runners.

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It’s hot. We know. It is time to pull out your hydration vest, belt or handheld bottle and get out there. I’ve experimented with three different hydration systems and wanted to give my thoughts on what I like, what my friends like and what does NOT work for me. Take all this with a grain of salt. I highly recommend going down to your local running store and testing out a product before purchasing it.

A water belt was my first foray into the hydration system world. I bought a bright pink Nathan belt and went on my merry way. Both bottles held a total of 20 ounces of water. Initially I liked the feel of the belt. However, half way through my training, I got sick of having the belt around my waist. I just didn’t like the feeling anymore and decided that I was done with it. I think that belts can be great; I have a number of friends who run with them. However I am now one of those people that can’t run with anything around her waist. So I don’t.

Related: Get Ready For Summer Running

Next I moved on to a handheld bottle that I really liked. The Nathan Quickdraw holds 22 ounces of water. It took me a few runs to get used to having something in my hand, but I really have gotten to love my handheld. It was easy to use, didn’t add much weight (especially if I opted not to run with my phone) and I barely noticed it after I began running. I still use my handheld bottle on most runs. I am a huge fan. I don’t like to race with it because I like to have my hands free, but outside of that, I love the freedom of having nothing on my person except this water bottle. Of course, the only limitation to this handheld (and most handhelds) is that you are limited in the amount of water you can carry. 22 ounces is a fair amount of water, but when you are running for hours, you need more. That’s how I decided to explore the Camelbak.

Related: 5 Running Essentials To Have While Traveling

The hydration vest is the big dog in the hydration world. I have tried a couple of different Camelbak vests, but my favorite so far is the Camelbak Marathoner Hydration Vestand not just because of the name. This baby holds 2 liters of water. I’ve made it through multiple marathons only having to fill up once at the very end (like mile 20). I thought initially that I would hate having something on my back, but I don’t. It’s light, breathable and does the job. It has the added advantage of keeping your water cooler longer, because it isn’t directly exposed to the sun. There is still ample storage for extra Nuun tablets, your phone, and whatever gels you might need. I love that everything is easily reachable (i.e., I can access my apple slices without missing a step) but that there isn’t enough room to stow a throwaway shirt. I don’t want a lot of extra weight but just want one vest that has all my marathon needs. This one is it!

Of course, there are lots of options for hydration (i.e., stashing water bottles in your car or house, looping so that you hit that location numerous times, having a sherpa, etc.) but I’ve found that using a handheld bottle or hydration vest really works for me and both my training and racing.

What do you use to hydrate on long summer runs?