(The Gear Loop) - When it comes to running, there are two types of vests: the type you wear when the temperature soars and you’ve got absolutely no qualms about getting your guns out and the more practical running vests that meet hydration and nutritional storage needs.
These running vests, or hydration vests as they’re better known, are all about giving you room to carry water bottles, soft flasks and snacks, while also making room for keys and phones, all via a more streamlined design when compared to a typical running or hiking pack.
Think of it like putting on another textile layer that can help you carry more, yet one that spreads the weight evenly across your back and chest, allowing you to carry more without the risk of the pack bouncing around as you pick up the pace.
Running vests are great if you’re training for your first marathon and you're still getting to grips with a fuelling strategy. Or, if you love the idea of getting lost on trails for hours but still want the peace of mind of carrying a map, food, spare batteries and some kind of navigational device.
With that in mind, our selection of the best running vests will allow you stay out longer, run further and remain comfortable doing so.
The best running vests for hydration and storage
Salomon Sense Pro 10
- Great size options
- Comfortable fit
- Huge storage
- Limited saftey extras
- Lacks bladder system
Our top pick goes to the Salomon Sense Pro 10, because if you want a vest that offers a stable fit and doesn’t neglect its load-lugging duties, Salomon is among the best in the business.
For starters, you can pick this pack up in six different sizes, when most vests are usually offered in one or two. The soft mesh and stretchy fabric means it will hug the body snugly in the right places and won't restrict movement as you run.
In terms of storage, there are pockets aplenty in the front, with dedicated spots for soft flasks that are held in place with elastic loops to prevent them from moving in transport. Around the back, the main area can host larger items, like clothing, and makes it easy to access them from either side of the vest thanks to intelligent zip placement.
CamelBak Circuit Vest
- Solid storage for fluids
- Breathable mesh materials
- Good bite valve action
- It's expensive
- Not much storage space for kit
- Limited colour options
CamelBak’s prime focus is to keep you hydrated and its latest Circuit vest will help you take on fluids in a hassle-free manner and actually make sure you get a good enough gulp with minimal wastage.
It’s built from a 3D micro mesh to ensure it places a soft and breathable material against your other running tops, with simple adjustments in the strapping for a comfortable, figure-hugging fit.
There’s a 1.5-litre reservoir to fill up with water or performance fluids, complete with a bite valve so you get a solid draw of fluids without spilling it everywhere. If you need more, there’s room for two soft flasks or bidets up front too.
On top of all this, you’ll find a zipped pocket to throw in cards and keys and reflective elements to offer a small, but useful visibility boost when you’re out in the early hours or running into the night.
If hydration is the priority, this vest gives you the capacity to carry a lot of fluids, with the added bonus of some nourishment and other practical items.
Decathlon Evadict Trail Running Hydration Vest
- Great price
- Plenty of pockets
- Nice fit
- Comparatively large
- Lacks bladder
- Limited size options
Proof that you don’t have to spend big on a good running vest, Decathlon’s budget option goes light and minimalist on styling but large on storage options.
There’s just the seven pockets in the front, giving you room for two 500ml soft flask bottles and a zipped pocket to pack away phones, keys and cards. However, it pays to make sure your flasks are a good fit before venturing out too far, as bidets kept up front can move around a lot.
Cleverly, Decathlon has added a dedicated pocket for stowing empty wrappers and energy gel packets, while a hidden rescue whistle is handy if you get into a spot of trouble.
You can also stash away another water flask and a spare jacket or shirt in the rear pockets, though there is a lack of capacity for a larger water bladder if you want to carry more fluids.
It’s a vest that sits close to the chest but does so in a comfortable way that doesn’t feel an absolute nuisance as you run. A great low-cost option fro those dipping a tentitve toe in the trail running world.
Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 5 Vest
- Top pick for racing
- Well thought-out features
- Great fit
- It's pricey
- Only one colour choice
The clue is in the name: Inov-8’s vest is a good fit if you’re planning to go that ultra distance and you need room for a bit more kit than just a couple of soft flasks or water bottles.
This 5-litre capacity bag also comes with two 500ml Ultraflasks and a reusable Speedcup to enhance its use in race scenarios. There’s room to secure walking poles up front or around the back, and extra storage pockets to throw in gels, energy bars or anything else you might need to fuel your big runs.
It comes in two size options to help make sure you get an optimal fit, includes a whistle to offer a safety boost and, with or without those bottles, it’ll max out at a weight of 370g to make it an option that shouldn’t hold you back as you pick up some speed and chase down the rest of the field.
Osprey Duro 1.5 Hydration Pack
- Dual bite valves for flasks
- Compact and light
- Flasks included
- Limited storage
- Lacks size options
- Could do with more straps for bespoke fit
The Osprey Duro 1.5 is a vest you want on your back if you want to go big on carrying items on your run, but you don’t want to feel the weight of that extra gear.
Up front, you’ve got mesh and zipped pockets to stash away and spread your smaller items around, and there’s a larger zipped pocket on the back to squeeze in some light extra clothing or walking poles.
There’s room for a 1.5 litre reservoir with upper vest pockets offering space for Osprey’s 250ml soft flasks, of which you can attach an extension hose and bite valve to make sure you take in enough water.
The straps on the vest can be easily adjusted and the breathable mesh makes it a comfortable option to run with and is a solid fit for trail-running newcomers.
What to look for in a running vest
Arguably the most important thing is getting the right fit, whether that’s simply the correct size or looking for a model with numerous adjustable straps and fastening areas. The last thing you want is for a pack to be bouncing around as you pick up the pace, so ensure you measure your chest and back first, then take a retailer’s advice on the best size to go for tp avoid discomfort.
You could view a running vest as a slab of elaborate fabric with some pockets, but these have often been designed and engineered by ardent runners, meaning they often pack some clever features. Loops or straps to keep flasks in place, easy access pockets, stash areas for gels or waste and bite valves for efficiently accessing fluids are just a few to look out for.
Depending on your intended use, you might want to look for bespoke storage solutions, like areas for walking poles or cups that can double up as cooking or eating devices for those attempting multi-day epics where carrying nutrition is key.