How To Carry Water While Running
Drink water. Hydrate and stay hydrated we’re told. But carrying water while running is a challenging task and the further you intend running, the more you need to take with you. Anybody who has tried to carry a pail of water or an aquarium of fish can tell you that as well as being wet, water is very heavy. Thankfully though, there are ways to carry as much water as you’ll need, stay dry and still be able to run. So prepare your trail running shoes and read on.
1. Handheld Bottles
For runners, handheld bottles seem like a great way of carrying water since it makes water quickly accessible when needed. It works well for short distance runners but not so well for long distance runners because the extra weight in one hand unbalances the body. It is also tiring to have to hold on to water bottles for long periods.
Most of the handheld bottles do come with a short strap to wrap around the wrist giving some freedom to your fingers and palm if you don’t mind the bottle bouncing around on your wrist. In fact, there are many varieties of handheld bottles for runners with many different features and in different price ranges.
There are huge handheld bottles for runners to store a significant amount of water but these are not always practical or preferred since they add a lot of weight. Some bottles even have storage for keys and other small belongings. The most popular are insulated bottles that maintain the temperature of the liquid stored in them. The best bottles to choose are those with a strong grip and a non-slip design.
2. Hydration Packs
Hydration packs, on the other hand, are a great way of carrying water while running or walking. They either come in a running vest or in a running backpack. A running vest is a vest with pockets for carrying water and a tube for sipping while running. It also has a reservoir for storing extra water.
Running backpacks for carrying water, are like a regular backpack but with an attached reservoir that allows sipping on the go through attached tubes. Unlike regular backpacks they have very limited storage space apart from that for the water reservoir. Although running backpacks do have a hip belt with pockets there is no additional space for gear.
The best thing about hydration packs is that they provide easy access to water whenever it is needed and that they are a hands-free alternative. When running with either the hydration vest or the backpack there is an even weight distribution and therefore less risk of physical stress or injury due to running with an unbalanced load.
The only limitation of hydration packs is to do with hygiene. They are not so easy to clean and ensuring they are completely clean each time, especially around the bite valve, is sometimes not possible although washing with a baby bottle sanitizer helps.
3. The Backpack
The backpack is the traditional way of carrying water and is ideal for long distance runners. It allows you to carry an ample amount of water as well as other crucial stuff such as your torch, snacks, jackets, socks and a first aid kit or any other essentials. Most of the backpacks have a built-in water reservoir with sipping option, while others have the option of an attachment. Most backpacks also have side pockets which are useful for carrying extra bottles.
Carrying water in a backpack seems similar to camel carrying water in his hump. But it is not that easy. It adds extra weight on your back and serves as a resistance for runners although it works for hiking trails. More importantly, if your backpack doesn’t have a water reservoir then it won’t provide easier access to water.
4. The Thigh Holster
The thigh holster allows you to attach water bottles to your thighs. This is a unique way of carrying water and is designed with the strong muscular legs of runners in mind. The benefit of carrying water on the thighs is that you don’t have to carry anything in your hands and your back will be stress-free too. But this idea of carrying water on thighs may not seem like a comfortable option once you factor in the risks of thigh chafing. Further to that, carrying water on the thighs adds resistance for runners’ leg muscles that may not be needed. Similarly, carrying water in a thigh holster will not allow you faster or easier access to the water.
5. Hydration Waist Packs
The hydration waist pack is a waist belt with a water reservoir. They usually have additional pockets on the hips to carrying extra water bottles. The biggest benefit of hydration waist pack is that being higher up the body, it provides hands-free water carrying option that does allow easy and fast access to the water whilst on the go. Unfortunately some hydration waist packs don’t sit snug on the waist but slide up and down and bounce around while running to create a distraction and discomfort for the runner.
Hydration Pack Buying Guide
For a runner who wants to keep his hands free, hydration packs are the most suitable and comfortable option for carrying water. Still, choosing the one to buy that is appropriate for your needs could be a matter of lengthy research with so many available. To help you make an informed choice here are some key features to keep in mind when buying a hydration pack.
Greatest consideration should be given to the capacity of your water reservoir in relation to how much water you need to carry and how much you can realistically carry. If you are a runner who uses any of the racing tracks where water refilling is not available your only option could be to carry a sufficient amount of water with you. In these instances, you need a hydration pack with larger gear capacity. But if you often go for short runs and hiking a lesser capacity hydration pack could be sufficient. Usually the gear capacity of hydration packs range from 5 to 50 liters so there are plenty of options.
Here are key features of different gear capacity hydration packs.
- 1 to 5 Liters Hydration Packs: These are small hydration packs for bikers and small distance runners. They are lightweight and comfortable to carry around but they don’t have space to carry extra stuff.
- 6 to 10 Liters Hydration Packs: These hydration packs are preferred by mountain bikers and trail runners. They have ample space to carry essentials and food for a day.
- 11 to 20 Liters Hydration Packs: These hydration packs are not comfortable to carry around but they are needed for long-distance runners or longer excursions. They have ample space for essentials for few days including food and emergency kits.
- 20 Plus Liters Hydration Packs: The hydration packs with more than 20 liters gear capacity for long-distance hikers and not preferred by runners due to their weight. They have cargo room to carry everything required for camping or hiking trails.
Water is not weightless so only carry water that is essential. Additional water weight will serve as an added resistance in the way of the runner. You can top up the hydration pack as per need instead of filling it to its maximum capacity and hauling around liters you are not going to need.
Other features of the hydration pack include,
- Bite Valve Switch: There are different kinds of bite valves opener. Some hydration packs have a switch to open and close others have twist open and close option. Each has its own pros and cons so choose according to your preference.
- Tube Portals: Tube portal is the opening in hydration pack to insert sipping tube. Some hydration packs have only one tube portal while others have multiple tube portals. Again, choose the one that best fits your requirements.
- Clips: Some hydration packs also have clips on shoulder straps. These are there to secure the sipping tubes in the place to keep them handy and within easy reach.
- Quick-Disconnect Tubing: An additional feature of some hydration packs is a button to allow for dismantling the water bottle for refilling without removing the sipping tube. This keeps the tube in its position even when the bottle is not there. This feature is beneficial for runners since they don’t have to go through the time and trouble of inserting and resetting the position of the tube every time they refill.
- Opening of the Water Reservoir: The wide opening of the water reservoir allows easier cleaning whilst those with a smaller opening need cleaning kits to ensure complete hygiene. Needless to say, only water should be used.
- Weather Add-Ons: Some hydration packs have weather associated add-ons like insulated tubes and rain covers.
Although you could run along with your water safely stowed on your back on your thighs or even gripped tightly in your hand, if you want to have your water when you need it, a hydration pack is the way forward. Not only can you sip on the run but refilling fast isn’t a challenge. One clear benefit is being able to travel with momentum and not have water sploshing about on your back or thighs to throw you off balance. Another is that you will have your hands and arms free to help create the forward momentum you need to run without being thrown out of kilter by the weight of the bottle in your hand. Having your hands free also means you can react to protect yourself if you do slip or fall. These benefits alone have to be good reasons for investing in a hydration pack for running.