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Buying a Hydration Pack: 5 Things You Need to Know

Shopping for a hydration pack for your run training this spring and summer? Here are a few things to consider.

1. Fit

Fit is the most important thing to think about when choosing a hydration pack. No matter how awesome a pack is, you’ll never wear it if it doesn’t fit properly. Some packs, like the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Set Pack, are available in sizes. Even if the pack you like best is not available in sizes, many offer adjustable shoulder and sternum straps with side compression cinch straps so you can create a nearly custom fit. Women might find an even better fit in a women’s specific pack, like the Nathan VaporShape or Nathan Intensity 2L Race Vests.

For guidance on finding the right fit, watch Ultimate Direction’s Video on Vest Measurements.

2. Pocket Placement

If you want to rock a pack with pockets and pouches, make sure they are located in a place that will be comfortable for you. All the packs we carry are designed for running, so it really comes down to what you think will be most convenient. Think about your range of motion when running, and choose a pack with pockets that will be easily accessible, but won’t get in the way. Ask yourself… “Do I need several front access pockets like featured on the UltrAspire Revolution? Or do I need a pack with rear pockets to access things when resting or re-filling my hydration reservoir, like the CamelBak XCT?”

3. Hydration Capacity

Your hydration needs will vary depending on the intensity and duration of your workout, how much you sweat, and your personal preference. Think about how much fluid you’ll want to carry with you, and select a pack that can accommodate your needs.

If you want to keep the weight down and just carry less hydration, try a more streamlined 2-liter vest like the Nathan HPL #028 Race Vest. If your hydration needs vary from one run to the next, try a pack with a bladder and additional pockets for bottles or flasks. When fully loaded, the Ultimate Direction Highline Pack can provide well over 3 liters of hydration.

4. Hydration Carrying Choices

Packs can carry fluid in a bladder, bottles, or both. Each option has its own benefits. Bladders allow you to carry ample hydration close to your body so that it doesn’t slosh around when you’re running. Using a bladder also gives you fast and easy access to hydration on the run via a flexible drink tube, so you can sip without breaking stride.

But some runners find bladders to be less convenient to fill and clean than bottles. If you’re running in hot temps, bottles also allow you to douse yourself with water to help cool down. An innovative option in between a bladder and a bottle is the Salomon Soft Flask, which gives you a handheld hydration option that’s easy to clean and doesn’t slosh around.

Packs like the Salomon Skin Pro 14+3 Set Pack give you the option to stow fluid both in a bladder and in handhelds so you can keep plenty hydrated.

5. Carrying Capacity

Think about what essentials you want to take with you on your run. Will you need pockets or pouches that can accommodate extra layers (like a lightweight jacket or a pair of gloves)? Do you need to carry gel or chew packets, or a bottle of electrolyte tabs? Do you want a space for your smart phone or MP3 player? Instead of looking for a pack that can carry everything including the kitchen sink, focus on finding a model that’s just big enough for your needs. Too much extra space will add unnecessary weight.

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