Running is generally considered to be a low maintenance sport, requiring little gear or special apparatus, but the longer you go, the more complicated it becomes. Whether you’re on the road or the trail, for longer distances you want to get as lightweight as possible, losing ounces from your trail running shoes by skipping the carbon plates, purifying your own water and wearing a GPS watch instead of carrying a heavy phone. But the longer distances also mean you need to carry certain things that you don’t need for running a 10k – like nutrition.
For long runs, running gels make an excellent source of fuel. The best running gels are compact, lightweight, easy to consume and contain carefully considered ingredients to keep you going including glucose, fructose and electrolytes. For long trail runs, you should be running with a specially designed running backpack or hydration pack, which offers plenty of space for a few gels, but if you’re road running or foregoing the cargo carrier on your back, how do you carry gels?
We’ve got six ideas for how to carry running gels to help you keep them secure while you’re moving fast and within easy reach when you start to go downhill energy-wise.
1. In your pockets
Obviously, if you’re running without a backpack, pockets are the next easiest place to stash a gel or two. The more lightweight and streamlined your running clothes are, the less pockets there will be, but a few common places you might find a pocket that may be big enough include:
- The waistband of your running shorts or leggings
- Thigh pockets in your running leggings
- Running jacket
- Some compression sleeves
Often these pockets are hidden, so examine the clothes you plan to wear first to see if there isn’t a perfect pouch-sized pocket waiting to be used. Most pockets offer pretty easy access when you start to bonk around mile 10.
2. Safety pin them to your clothes
One of the most popular methods for carrying running gels is by inserting a safety pin through the edge of the packet (be careful not to pierce the part that allows the gel to ooze out though) and attach it to the waistband of your running shorts or leggings.
This is a relatively secure method, but the downsides are that you keep making tiny holes in the fabric of your favorite gear, safety pins can come undone and prick your skin and it can be a tiny bit fiddly to get the pouch off the pin while running.
One other thing to note here – any time a gel packet is touching your skin, there’s the possibility of chafing occurring over long runs, so use an anti-chafing gel (or vaseline) preventatively, or in this case, consider folding over the waistband so that fabric is touching your skin.
3. In your hand
We’re not suggesting that you actually hold the gels for 13.1 miles, but a lot of distance runners secure a running gel or two to their palms using a rubber band or hair tie. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, so we definitely recommend trying it out during a training session first, but if you don’t mind the sensation of a band around your hand, it offers easy access when you need fuel and the band can just move around your wrist when you’re no longer using it.
4. In your sports bra
Some runners love this handy hack while others find it produces chafing in an area where you want it least, so know that it’s not for everybody, but consider using your sports bra to carry some extra cargo.
5. Under your running hat
For bright days, you need to wear a running hat as well as sunglasses and a good hat will have a fairly snug fit, meaning it makes a good lid to secure some snacks. Some runners just place the gel on top of their head before pulling their hat on, though then you risk dropping the gel when you take your hat off. A better option is to secure the gel to your hat using duct tape (watch out for taping your hair) or another safety pin.
6. Running belt
Even if you love running unencumbered by gear, you might want to look into a running belt. These are basically a super minimalist fanny pack with pockets to store light pieces of gear with easy access that you might barely notice when you’re on the trot.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.