Do I Need To Wear a Hydration Pack When I Run?

Do I Need To Wear a Hydration Pack When I Run?


It’s a question that plagues many new runners, “Do I need to wear a hydration pack when I run?

I’ll cut straight to the chase with an appropriate answer.

“Yes, but not always.”

And this is right about the time when you roll your eyes, flip me the bird, and tell me you have no time for a cryptic and foggy response like that. You came here for clarity. You need to know exactly what this hydration pack thing is, at what point you need to put this water missile on your back, and most importantly, if you actually need this beast?

These are all valid questions that race through the minds of many new runners.

Let us plow through each and every one of them with clarity and precision.

What is a hydration pack?

In its most simplest form, a hydration pack is a backpack or vest that is designed to carry fluids (such as water) on your back while you remain hands free. The fluids are typically held inside a bladder/reservoir with a tube attachment that acts as a giant straw to drink out of. In most packs, there are also pockets to carry water bottles or soft flasks in various spots in the front and/or back. These same pockets can be used to stash nutrition, keys, phone, and other essentials. Basically, the goal of a hydration pack is to make the art of consumption quick and easy without breaking a stride – all while keeping your essentials tight to your body.

Hands free?

Easy and quick consumption?

Nice and tight to the body?

We can get down with that. But let us address the age-old question that follows.

At What Point Do I Need To Wear a Hydration Pack When I Run?

This is a complicated one. As stated before in many blogs, we are all different. We run at different rates, sweat at different rates, and thus need to consume liquids at different rates.

Plus, what kind of running are we talking about? Is this trail running or road running? Trail runners tend to use their packs for shorter distances than road runners. That’s because you have to take into consideration the extra effort (more effort = more you get thirsty) used in uneven terrain and elevation changes, and also to carry extra gear and supplies they need while they’re exploring the great outdoors.

However, as the avid readers know, I do my best to make the complicated things simple. Therefore, I am going to give a specific example of when a human who runs at a 10 minute per mile pace (according to my friend Google that’s the average) running on the road on a perfect day (weather is not too hot or too cold) as to when he/she would need to wear a hydration pack.

So here’s the deal. Most manufacturers create running hydration packs that either comes with

A) 2 500 ml water bottles or B) 1 1.5 Liter bladder.

Assuming that’s what you have, and you’re trekking at a 10 minute per mile clip, you should consume the following amount of liquids.

  • 1 (500 ml) water bottle every 4 miles
  • 2 (500 ml) water bottles every 8 miles

For those who like to know the reasoning behind this, here’s how those numbers were landed upon.

During a run, it’s generally a good idea to consume 250 ml of fluids every 20 min. That’s half a bottle every 2 miles. Which then equates to a full (500 ml) bottle every 40 min. Therefore, a runner who runs a 10 min/mile pace should consume 1 bottle every 40 minutes (or 4 miles) while running. If we double this, we know that 2 bottles should be consumed in an 80 min (8 mile) span.

Given these statistics, it would be a good idea to begin wearing a hydration pack for an 8 mile run so you can make sure you are carrying 2 water bottles.

*Yes, there is the murky area if you’re running between 5-7 miles where 1 500 ml bottle is gone, but you don’t quite need to carry 2 full bottles yet. If you’re running those distances, I usually recommend using a waist pack that holds 1 water bottle above the 500 ml mark.

Also, please note for the 8 mile run we haven’t even busted out the bladder yet. This is just for the 2 water bottles to ride high and tight on your chest. As I mentioned, there are those that prefer the waist belt up to this distance and that’s perfectly fine. However, once you’re past the 8 mile mark, I would recommend having the reservoir come into play.

So how long will the bladder/reservoir last me?

I’ll assume you’re using a 1.5 Liter (which is 1500 ml) bladder. At a 10 min/mile pace, this beast should last you an additional 12 miles after the bottles are drained.

So to wrap it up pretty with a bow on it –

  • 12 miles = 1 bladder/reservoir

All in all, fully loaded down, (which is 2 500 ml water bottles and 1 1.5 Liter bladder) you should get 200 minutes (3.3 hours) or 20 miles out of the pack. Here’s your friendly breakdown if you run a 10 min/mile pace.

  • 1 Water Bottle = Miles 1 – 4
  • 1 Water Bottle = Miles 5 – 8
  • Bladder = Miles 9 – 20

Total Hydration Pack with 2 500 ml water bottles and 1 1.5 Liter bladder = 20 miles

Please keep in mind this is just one scenario. If you want a more in depth review on exactly how much fluids you should be drinking on long runs, check out my post here.

So is it necessary to wear a hydration pack when I run?

Yes and no.

Yes, if you’re planning on hitting the road or trails and being off the grid for well over an hour.

No, if you’re just going for a short run.

This said, the beauty of a hydration pack is the customizability of it. You can dress it up any way you want. Just fill the bladder and leave the bottles at home? That’s perfectly fine. Only take the bottles for a ride instead? Go for it. What about loading this thing to the max and going on an epic adventure? No harm in that, either. It’s your run, bring however much is in your comfort zone. But most importantly, let the distance determine how much fluid intake you should be having.

I understand this all seems like a lot and can be a little intimidating, especially to new runners. However, if I could give one piece of advice it would be this. Even if you don’t feel like you’re at a place where you’ll need a hydration pack yet, it’s always good to have one handy just in case you get that wild hair to roam.