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The best hydration packs: for carrying water and kit on longer runs and races

best hydration packs: runners in hydration packs
The best hydration packs are vital pieces of kit for distance and trail lovers (Image credit: Getty)

Comfortable and specifically tailored to runners, the best hydration packs are vital pieces of kit for distance and trail lovers. Designed to spread the weight of the essentials needed for an adventurous running route and to give you easy, quick access to water and energy snacks and gels, the best hydration vests enable you to perform to your maximum.

Generally, the best hydration packs have a lot of easily accessible, smaller pockets up front for fuel and a larger compartment on the back with a top-closure that houses the water bladder and offers a bit more room so runners can carry a waterproof jacket and/or an extra layer, and access it without having to stop.

best hydration packs

A hydration vest is all you need for your water and supplies on a trail run (Image credit: Getty)

Equally important is the fit: most low-profile race vests have a waistcoat-style design, with extra side pockets rather than adjustment straps, so they are available in small, medium and large. Just like the best trail running shoes, the best hydration vests also have specific male and female versions for an even better fit, but if they are stretchy enough and available in a wide range of sizes the unisex versions (unlike clothing) will fit most body shapes.

Even the best hydration pack doesn’t offer quite as much storage capacity as a running pack, but you can expect to have 5L to 12L of room for stashing all your necessary gear and hydration needs, which will see you through most one-day events and training runs.

How we tested the best hydration packs

These hydration vests were tested on a wide range of trail and road running training outings and during events, including ultra running races, in a mix of weather conditions.

Best high-performance hydration vests 

best running packs: Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest

(Image credit: Getty)
A light, well-designed male- or female-fit running pack for day runs with soft bottles included

Specifications

RRP: $131 (US) / £100 (UK)
Weight (without bottles): 157g/5.5oz
Colors: Women’s: Turquoise/Dark blue; Men’s Black/Bright blue
Capacity: Women’s: 6L; Men’s: 7L
Fit: Male & Female fits
Sizes: Women’s XS–L; Men’s S–L
Compatibility: Whole day runs and multi-day adventures in the hills and mountains

Reasons to buy

+
Bottles included (2 x 500ml)
+
Male & female specific fits
+
Ventilated back
+
Plenty of easily accessible pockets
+
Pole attachments

Reasons to avoid

-
Main compartment could be more stretchy (to shove more in)

This running pack is the perfect size and fit for whole day runs in the hills and mountains using lightweight kit. The Camelbak Ultra Pro comes in male and female specific fits to guarantee the best comfort. The 3D micro-mesh ventilated back and shoulder straps make it one of the most cool vest to wear in hotter conditions. The combination of four pockets up front is very pleasing: two bottle pockets with elasticated tops to keep the included two 500ml soft bottles secure; one zippered smartphone pocket and one very stretchy elasticated pocket that will take a lightweight running jacket or gloves and a hat. 

At each side are two stretch-elastic pockets, one that goes all the way through the base of the rear compartment to meet the other side – great for easily threading a waterproof jacket through while on the move. The main compartment has two bungees for trekking poles to run diagonally across the back, and the only real downside of this otherwise perfect pack is that the main compartment could be made of a stretchy fabric to jam in some more kit and food.

Best adjustable hydration vests with compression capability 

best hydration packs: Ultimate Direction Race Vest/Vesta 5.0

(Image credit: Getty)
A wonderfully adjustable pack with male/female specific fits, many easily accessible pockets, stretchy fabric and included soft bottles

Specifications

RRP: $125 (US) / £110 (UK)
Weight (without bottles): 141g/5oz
Colors: Women’s: Turquoise & grey; Men’s Blue & grey
Capacity: 8L
Fit: Male & Female fits
Sizes: Women’s XS–L; Men’s S–L
Compatibility: Full days out in the hills and mountains, plus multi-day races

Reasons to buy

+
Bottles included (2 x 500ml)
+
Male & female specific fits
+
Unique Comfort Cinch waist adjustment
+
Ventilated back
+
Plenty of easily accessible pockets
+
Pole attachments

Reasons to avoid

-
Comfort Cinch adjustment not necessary for all
-
Hard to access lower front pocket with full bottle in pocket above

This hydration vest has a truly innovative and unique fit that some runners might find sets this pack above all others: the Comfort Cinch allows you to pull the waist area of the pack in from behind, using two dangling threads that concertina a criss-cross of string attaching the waist band to the base of the main compartment. No other race vest we’ve tested has this feature and for some it will make the fit absolutely perfect, while others will not have noticed anything lacking fit-wise in the packs without this functionality. If you have problems with the fit of your current pack, this is the one to consider. 

Even without this feature it’s a fantastically designed pack with plenty of pockets up front, zipped side pockets, stretchy main compartment and bungee criss-crossing the back for extra stuff-storage that you can access on the move. It also comes with two robust 500ml bottles so you don’t have to purchase them separately. Equally it is compatible with a 2L reservoir (not supplied). The adjustable chest straps hook on to a lightweight webbing making these operable with one hand, and there’s room for poles on the shoulder straps too, easily stowable and accessible up front.

The best versatile hydration packs

best hydration packs: Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 2 in 1 Vest

(Image credit: Getty)
Two packs in one with this durable and versatile unisex vest with 10L extension compartment, plus bottles included

Specifications

RRP: $125 (US) / £150 (UK)
Weight (without bottles): 345g/12oz
Colors: Black
Capacity: 12L
Fit: Unisex
Sizes: S/M and L/XL
Compatibility: Short, fast races or longer, full days and multi-dayers out in remote, cold hills and mountains

Reasons to buy

+
Two packs in one
+
Speed Cup & bottles (2 x 500ml) included 
+
Bottles fit in higher or lower front pockets
+
Plenty of easily accessible pockets

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavier (larger capacity)
-
Only available in 2 sizes
-
One color only
-
There’s a knack to clipping the extension pack on and off

This is a fantastic option if you want a durable, versatile vest to allow you to do short runs with minimal kit (2L) and longer ultras with up to 12L of equipment while using the extension pack. It is a little tricky working out how to clip this 10L extra section on and off (we actually had to read the instructions) but once you know how it’s very simple (albeit still fiddly to do with big gloves on or cold, numb hands, so decide on the capacity before you run and stick with it). 

This running pack / race vest is heavier than all the others here due to its larger capacity and durable fabric, but the latter element means it should last forever, which you definitely want with a £150 pack. You get a lot for your dollar, though: two packs in one; the bottles can be used in the higher front pockets AND the lower front pockets using the long drinking straws (great for larger-chested ladies wanting to spread the load up front); two 500ml bottles included, plus a reusable water cup (the Speed Cup) for quickly dipping into streams or filling up at checkpoints. It would just be good to have one smaller size option on this unisex pack to cater for slimmer frames.

The best lightweight hydration packs

best hydration packs: OMM TrailFire Vest

(Image credit: Getty)
A super light, packable and customizable unisex running pack / race vest ready for all types of adventure

Specifications

RRP: £60 (UK) / €79 (EU)
Weight (without bottles): 125g/4.4oz
Colors: Purple/Blue **Capacity:** 5L
Fit: Unisex
Sizes: Adjustable
Compatibility: Any distance from short to long runs going fast and light

Reasons to buy

+
Super light
+
Great price
+
Adjustable at the sides
+
Ventilated back
+
5L Compressor Pod extension available

Reasons to avoid

-
Not many pockets
-
Small bottle pockets
-
Soft bottles sold separately 
-
No side zip pockets

An extremely innovative piece of kit that will appeal to lightweight enthusiasts, this vest is just an incredible 125g/4.4oz on the scales – almost half the weight of most of the other running packs / race vests on the market. Fans of versatility will also enjoy the option to add another 5L capacity using Compressor Pod extension (£28). This loops on via a strong, orange string which can be a little fiddly with cold hands, but its a fantastic idea to be able to leave this somewhere part way round a long run or with a race crew for a speedy top up of fuel or kit mid-way. 

The four pockets up front are quite small so they’re a best fit for 350ml soft flasks (sold separately £13 each no straw, £18 each with straw extension), or you can fit a 2L hydration bladder in the main rear compartment (£26). The stretchy fabric takes a fair amount of lightweight kit and snacks for fuel and the fit is good for all due to the elasticated adjusters at each side, however this does mean you lack two side pockets.

best hydration pack: Harrier Kinder 10L Race Vest

(Image credit: Harrier)
Made and designed in the UK by experienced trail runners for trail runners

Specifications

RRP: £59 (UK)
Weight (without bottles): 230g/8.11oz
Colors: Red/Blue
Capacity: 10L
Fit: Unisex
Sizes: XS, S, M, L
Compatibility: Any distance from short to long runs going fast and light

Reasons to buy

+
Four sizes
+
Lots of thoughtful features
+
Water-resistant features
+
Good price

Reasons to avoid

-
Water bladder and bottles not included
-
Quite difficult to get on and off
-
No specific version for women

Harrier is a relatively new UK brand that focuses on trail running gear. The unisex pack is sold in four sizes with the aim of offering a size to neatly fit a range of people. There are many features including width adjustable elastic chest straps, which can also be adjusted up and down the front of the pack. The main compartment area is split into two, offering good organisation options. A bungee cord on the back can be cinched and secured around additional items, such as a waterproof jacket. There are other pockets such as stretchy mesh zipped side pockets and front stuff pockets with silicon grippers. 

There are different hydration options, including front pockets for two 500ml or 300ml soft flasks and a 1.5-litre or 2-litre bladder in a separate back compartment (none of which are included). The fabric is treated with DWR (durable water repellent) for water resistance, although it’s not waterproof. There are also three options for stowing poles when not in use: at the front vertical, back horizontal and side horizontal. On top of all this, there are other details including a zipped, water-resistant phone pocket, a secure key clip inner pocket, grippy zippers and gel pockets.

Best hydration packs: Camelbak Zephyr Vest

(Image credit: Camelbak)
A lean, efficient pack for the minimalist who likes to move light and fast

Specifications

RRP: $150 (US)/ £124 (UK)
Weight (empty): 198g / 7oz
Colors: Silver/Blue haze
Capacity: 11L
Fit: Unisex
Compatibility: Well-suited to running and shorter days out on the trail

Reasons to buy

+
Body-mapped ventilation
+
Extremely light
+
Room for a reservoir 

Reasons to avoid

-
Bottles bounce some
-
Durability of mesh suspect

This breathable unisex vest is so comfortable and airy, you hardly know you’re wearing it. The super-light, meshy material at the shoulders and back keep things cool as well. Though the smallest bag on the list, at just 11L capacity, this smart design offers surprisingly ample space for fuel and gear storage, with two bigger pockets in back to stow a jacket or bulkier gear, and six smaller pockets up front for easy access. There’s even an attachment for trekking poles and a safety whistle, for adventurers heading into the wild. 

We noted some bounce when moving fast on a trail run, but the adjustable chest straps – while not at all easy to move up and down – helped mitigate that movement, offering a secure, nuanced fit to accommodate a variety of shapes and sizes. The vest comes with two soft bottles that sit comfortably in deep pockets up front, but there’s room in back for a bladder if you prefer. A smart piece of kit that’s well-suited to running and shorter days out on the trail. 

The best hydration vests for night running

best hydration packs: Silva Strive Light 5

(Image credit: Getty)
A pack with useful features for night running with lots of reflective detail and a handy headlamp battery pocket

Specifications

RRP: $98 (US) / £75 (UK)
Weight (without bottles): 220g/7.8oz
Colors: Black
Capacity: 5L
Fit: Unisex
Sizes: XS/S, M, L/XL
Compatibility: Short or full days out and night running in the mountains

Reasons to buy

+
Battery pocket for headtorch
+
Bracket to attach rear light
+
Bottles included (2 x 240ml)

Reasons to avoid

-
Small bottles and bottle pockets
-
Narrow bottle openings

This is a really well-designed, good value 5L vest with a lot of good features, especially for night running (besides its compasses, Silva is best known for their high quality headtorches/headlamps). To help you run further in the dark for longer Silva have a battery pocket high up in the back compartment and you can thread the cable through either of the shoulder straps (the same hole as for the hydration bladder tube if needed). 

This means you can use a super bright headtorch (like the Silva Trail Runner Free) with a heavier battery (so a longer, brighter burn time) without wearing it on your head. There’s also a clip to hook on a light to the back of the pack for even more visibility, plus reflective details to keep you safe on road sections and city commutes. Two soft bottles are included but they are a little smaller than the rest here at 240ml each rather than the usual 500ml, and the openings are narrow making it harder to refill them or pour electrolyte or energy powders into them. One great feature is the stretchy dual access rear pocket at the base of the main compartment, which you can access with either hand on the move and shove a jacket inside quickly and securely.  

The best hydration packs for storage capacity

best hydration packs: Montane Gecko VP 5+ running vest pack

(Image credit: Montane)
A new running vest pack, with five-litre plus capacity

Specifications

RRP: £100 (UK)
Weight: 332g/12oz
Colors: Black/Narwhal/ Blue
Capacity: 5L +
Fit: Unisex
Sizes: S, M, L
Compatibility: Any distance from short to long runs

Reasons to buy

+
Neat fit
+
Vest style
+
Space
+
Check strap

Reasons to avoid

-
Unisex fit
-
Fiddly clips

The Gecko VP 5+ immediately presents as a good-looking and highly functional vest pack for female and male runners. The body-hugging vest pack is made with a so-called ‘Raptor Flex’ 4-way stretch fabric and has an air-mesh harness. The chest fixings comprise two narrow ‘minimalist’ stretch straps with multiple attachment points and a lower ‘Active Strap’ with Velcro for quick closure and release. There are open-top mesh pockets on the chest straps for two 500ml soft flasks and an internal pocket in the rear for a hydration bladder. 

Storage is generous: there is space for at least five liters of volume in the pack divided into a range of compartments. A main zipped rear pocket is supplemented by a large open-top stretch pocket. In addition, there are two smaller zipped pockets at the front and various stretch mesh pockets across the rest of the pack designed for easy access while running. Other details include an integrated bungee for external storage and/or compression, a key clip, a removable whistle and pole attachment points.

best hydration pack: Dynafit Alpine 9

(Image credit: Dynafit)
A vest pack that holds plenty of kit and has numerous pockets for bottles and essentials

Specifications

RRP: $100 (US) / £85 (UK)
Weight (empty): 251g / 8.85oz
Colors: Silvretta & fluo pink / mykonos blue & fluo yellow / magnet & fluo yellow
Capacity: 9L
Fit: Unisex
Sizes: S, M/L
Compatibility: Perfect for long training runs and races

Reasons to buy

+
Many pockets
+
Lots of features

Reasons to avoid

-
No specific version for women
-
Fiddly chest straps
-
Bladder not included

This 9L volume pack boasts numerous compartments and pockets, with a main compartment, (zipped at the top), as well as a velcro-topped stretchy outer pocket, which would be useful for quickly stashing clothing that you might need to access in a hurry. There are also mesh pockets for four soft drinking flasks – two 500ml and two 250ml – at the front of the shoulder straps. 

You can further add a hydration bladder (not included) to the inside of the pack, and run a drinking tube out through a purpose-designed slot at the top of a shoulder. An internal zipped pocket is waterproof and can fit a large smart phone. There are two trekking pole attachment points, one for speed and one at the rear, the latter of which requires you to take off the pack. Other features include a small whistle and a reflective logo.

The best hydration packs for a precise fit

Best hydration packs: Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 5 Vest

(Image credit: Inov-8)

Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 5

A lightweight trail race vest with a minimalist design

Specifications

RRP: $150 (US)/ £130 (UK)
Weight (empty): 370g / 13oz
Colors: Black and green
Capacity: 5L
Fit: Unisex
Compatibility: Long training runs and races

Reasons to buy

+
Body hugging fit
+
Ideal for racing
+
Extremely light

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited storage space
-
No reservoir hook
-
Pricey considering minimalist design

For trail racers who prefer to carry their liquid in soft flasks instead of a hydration reservoir, the Race Ultra Pro 5 Vest is a very good option. It carries its two 500ml soft flasks in an angled position lower on the chest, but the liquid is easily accessible from the flasks long drinking tubes. It’s a bit of a bare-bones, minimalistic pack, but there’s also a surprising amount of storage in four elastic mesh pouches and three zippered pockets. 

But the best part of this pack is that, no matter how full, it rides close to the body and doesn’t bounce. (There are also dedicated cinch cord straps for stowing collapsible trekking poles.) All of those smart, intricate storage and design elements allow the wearer to run uninhibitedly without worry about the pack or its contents. There is room for a hydration reservoir and tube management ports, but, unfortunately, no hook or clip to hold the reservoir in place. The Race Ultra Pro 5 Vest is ideal for ultra-distance races, but it could be used for training runs, too.

Best hydration pack for value

best hydration packs: Evadict 10L trail running bag

(Image credit: Evadict)

Evadict 10L trail running bag

Designed by experts with plenty of space for mandatory gear on ultra trails of up to around 50 miles / 80km

Specifications

RRP: $50 (US) / £35 (UK)
Weight (empty): 285g / 10oz
Colors: Black / Bordeaux & beige / Petrol / Blue & black
Capacity: 10L
Fit: Unisex
Sizes available: : XS/S, M/L, XL
Compatibility: Long runs and races and short days on the trail

Reasons to buy

+
Nice attention to detail
+
1L bladder included
+
Good for a beginner pack

Reasons to avoid

-
Fabric feels less durable
-
Feels a bit cheap

This well-thought-through pack has space for two liters of water in total – one liter is carried in the internal bladder (which is included) and two 500ml flasks (purchased separately) can be carried at the front of the bag. As well as the two front mesh pockets designed for the soft flasks, there are four more mesh pockets for gels, bars and a collapsible beaker. These are also located at the front of the pack for ease of access without taking off the pack. There's a main zipped compartment and inside that a zipped secure pocket for valuables (smartphone, keys, survival blanket and so on). 

On the outside is a larger mesh pocket, which offers a place for a waterproof jacket or hat and gloves. The fit is quite neat. I am a UK10 and the S/XS feels just about right, although maybe a little tight on my shoulders (there is a size guide on the website). There are three front straps that can be moved to six pairs of different height placement points. The chest strap clips are large. Other details include a 110dB safety whistle, which is incorporated into a front pocket, and two elastic straps on each side to attach three-section foldable trail running poles. Overall, this well-priced pack has everything you need to train and complete your first ultra.

Best hydration pack specifically for women

Best hydration packs: Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set W

(Image credit: Salomon)
A light and fast trail race hydration vest specifically for women

Specifications

RRP: $155 (US)/ £115 (UK)
Weight (empty): 331g / 11.7oz
Colors: Poseidon and night sky / Cayenne and porcelain rose
Capacity: 8L
Fit: Female fit
Compatibility: Fast and light trail runs

Reasons to buy

+
Designed specially for women
+
Feels light, even when full
+
Comfortable and compact

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited storage
-
Drinking tubes can be cumbersome

Ask any woman trail runner and she’ll tell you that it’s just not possible to wear a men’s version of a hydration vest during a race or on a long run. The Advance Skin 8 Set W was designed to have a unique shape and style that eliminates pressure on the breasts when cinched down, optimizing comfort, load management and capacity. It is created specifically to adapt to a woman’s curved chest, narrow shoulders and shorter torso length. The two 500ml integrated soft flasks are positioned below the chest, and also have a unique triangular shape and straws for effective hydration access. 

It’s a featherweight pack and hydration management system that keeps everything compact and close to the body, even when stuffed with extra gear. Additional features include a built-in whistle, pole-stashing options and room for a 1.5L hydration reservoir (not included). It’s ideal for races, training runs and multi-hour fast-packing adventures alike.

The best hydration packs comparison table
Hydration packRRPWeightCapacityFit
Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest$131 (US) / £100 (UK)157g / 5.5ozWomen’s: 6L; Men’s: 7LMale & Female fits
Ultimate Direction Race Vest/Vesta 5.0$125 (US) / £110 (UK)141g / 5oz8LMale & Female fits
Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 2 in 1 Vest$125 (US) / £150 (UK)345g / 12oz12LUnisex
OMM TrailFire Vest£60 (UK) / €79 (EU)125g / 4.4oz5LUnisex
Harrier Kinder 10L Race Vest£59 (UK)230g / 8.11oz10LUnisex
Camelbak Zephyr$150 (US) / £124 (UK)198g / 7oz11LMale & Female fits
Silva Strive Light 5$98 (US) / £75 (UK)220g / 7.8oz5LUnisex
Montane Gecko VP 5+ running vest pack£100 (UK)332g / 12oz5L +Unisex
Dynafit Alpine 9$100 (US) / £85 (UK)251g / 8.85oz9LUnisex
Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 5$150 (US)/ £130 (UK)370g / 13oz5LUnisex
Evadict 10L trail running bag$50 (US) / £35 (UK)285g / 10oz10LUnisex
Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set W$155 (US) / £115 (UK)331g / 11.7oz8LFemale fit

Choosing the best hydration pack for you

The different distances and conditions you tend to run in will, to a large extent, help determine the best hydration pack for you. However, before you make your choice, consider the following factor and features.

Weight

It’s always best to err on the lighter side, but remember that lightweight fabrics tend not to be as durable and they might not have all the pockets and features you need. For a 5–10L vest anything from 200–300g is nice and light. 

best hydration pack

If you're out in the wild for long periods, you'll need a larger supply of water (Image credit: Getty)

Fit and sizing

Most of the best running packs have a size guide where you can measure your chest to make sure you get the right fit. For most brands I would err on the smaller size if you are between sizes as it’s very annoying to have a pack that’s slightly too big moving around with each step; this can lead to run-ruining chafing in some cases.

Unisex fit

Let’s not beat around the bush, unisex basically means men’s fit doesn’t it? So having specific male and female fit running packs is always a big tick, with the women’s often having a shorter back length, smaller arm holes and differently shaped shoulder straps or lower bottle placements to account for boobs up front. However, unlike clothing, you can get away with more with a stretchy pack design, so don’t be put off in the same way by the unisex running vests; if they come in a wide range of sizes with ample chest strap adjustment we have found most do a good job of fitting a wide range of body shapes both male and female.

best hydration pack

Some brands design packs specifically to fit women (Image credit: Getty)

Rain

It’s worth sharing a tip here – rather than wearing your running pack over the top of your waterproof and faffing with getting it on and off in mixed weather, it’s worth buying a waterproof one size larger so you can wear it on top of your running pack. You might look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame but not only will your kit be even drier but you will save loads of time in getting it on and off. Take it off and loop it through a shoulder strap under your arm if you think you’ll need to put it back on soon. Every little helps…

Mesh

Most of the best hydration packs will have a mesh back to the inside of the pack and some mesh venting on the shoulder straps too which helps release some excess heat, great for excessive sweaters and/or hot weather running.

best hydration pack

The durability offered by a daypack might suit better for longer, more strenuous applications (Image credit: Getty)

Pockets

Look for a lot of useful pockets up front, but make sure you can use them all when they’re full of kit or water bottles and, also important, get your hand out of it easily once you’ve grabbed the running gel you shoved it in there for. Stuff the pack with the maximum items you think you’ll ever want to carry and run around the house testing access to all the pockets before you commit. Even if they say weatherproof, no backpack pockets are completely waterproof so pop your phone in a dry bag for rainy runs.

Zips & zip pulls

Look for good quality zips with dangly grippers so you can grab them easily when running and with gloves on. One zip pocket at least is a must on a running vest so you have somewhere completely secure for your keys/phone/credit card/interesting item you found on the beach and must take back for your kid/dog/garden.

best hydration pack: hydration pack and runner

A well balanced pack will allow you to run without being weighed down (Image credit: Getty Images)

Main compartment

If you have flexible shoulders it is possible to shove gear in and out of the rear main compartment if it has an open top secured by velcro or a clip, or even a zip across if you’re really dexterous. Zips that run top to base at the rear will require that you take the pack off to access the contents so we tend not to recommend this style as much. 

Extensions

A couple of the vests in this test have extension options with clip-on extra bags which are a great idea if you regularly run with either very little kit or a lot. If you usually just carry a small-medium amount then a regular 5L pack will suffice.

Bottles

Look for a wide-mouthed bottle for ease of refilling or pouring electrolyte or energy powder inside, and a grippy exterior for ease of opening and closing. Scrimping on bottles price-wise is not recommended as a lower quality bottle could leave you with premature leakage. If you buy from a recommended brand at least you can send them back if they leak before you think they should. Most vests can also be used with hydration bladders too, check for a clip at the top of the main rear compartment to hook them on so they don’t crumple down.

best hydration pack: OMM TrailFire Vest

The OMM TrailFire Vest is one of the best hydration packs out there (Image credit: OMM)

Reflective details

This depends on how much road running you do, but we think it’s always useful to have reflective logos and details on running packs especially if you do a lot of commuting in the winter or night running. A lot of packs also have whistles as an additional safety feature which is handy for mandatory race kit lists; one integrated into the top chest strap clip is surely the best option for easy access in an emergency.

Running poles

Most of the best running packs have attachments for running poles in the form of adjustable bungee loops in a variety of places which is down to personal preference, comfort and ease of access while on the move. You can choose from across the chest (can be uncomfortable on the clavicles), one down each shoulder strap (can get in the way of your arms), diagonally across the back (less ideal when the vest curves outward full of kit), in a separate quiver-style bag diagonally across the back (more weight, and there’s a knack to getting them in and out), either side of the back (hard to stow and access on the move) and horizontally across the base of the back (can slap you on the bum if not properly designed…you may not find this amusing at mile 50…). Buy a few and try running around the house with your pack full and poles attached to check how you want to stow yours.

Brian is an award-winning journalist, photographer and podcaster who has written for Runner’s World, The Times, Outside, Men’s Journal, Trail Runner, Triathlete and Red Bulletin. He's also the author of several books, including Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, and loves to run, bike, hike, camp, ski and climb mountains. He has wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of running shoes, completed four Ironman triathlons, as well as numerous marathons and ultra-distance running races.