What makes a good running hydration pack?

What makes a good running hydration pack?


Wearing a hydration pack is kind of like getting a hug. It can make you feel comforted, secure, and really awkward if you receive the wrong one.

Here at drankful we want to avoid the awkwardness and double down on the goodness. So we create hydration packs that make you feel smooth wherever you go.

But what makes a good hydration pack a good hydration pack? And why is it so important to receive a high quality and thoughtfully designed water companion to take with you on the move?

We’ll get into all that.

But before we do, let’s first address why these are needed in the first place and what to watch out for. After all, you can’t move smoothly with your hydration until you learn to see what rough really looks like.

Why do runners wear hydration packs?

When you’re heading out for a long run, you’re going to need to bring some type of fluids with you. Because when you’re thirsty, running stops being fun. You’re also going to need to carry fuel and your valuables with you. Because if you get hungry, and you don’t have your phone for emergencies (or for your music), again, running stops being fun.

But holding a water bottle in your hand, then stashing your pockets with nutrition, jabby keys, and a clunky cell phone makes for a very burdensome experience.

Alas, hydration belts, packs, and vests were created to solve this problem. They sort your valuables out of your pockets and out of your way, giving you hands-free hydration and storage.

Voila. It’s a great concept.

But…watch out

Not all hydration packs are created equal. While their intentions are good, there are some problem children out there that make running clunky, bouncy, and sloppy. Clunky meaning the pack feels heavy and awkward to carry. Bouncy meaning your fluids and gear slap against your body. And sloppy meaning loose straps, cords, and loops swing and obstruct you from your experience.

If this sounds like a nightmare – you’re not wrong. Falling victim to these types of packs can make running distracting, annoying, and unenjoyable.

But luckily, life with your hydration pack doesn’t have to be this way.

So what makes a good running hydration pack?

Let’s break it down.

1) Smooth when you move

First and foremost, a good hydration pack should feel smooth when you move. The main way to accomplish this is to stabilize the reservoir. When the reservoir is stabilized (aka it doesn’t move) it becomes less noticeable. When it becomes less noticeable, it also becomes less of a burden. Because it’s less of a burden, you save valuable physical and mental energy not having to fight it. And what does that ultimately result in? Longer, balanced, and more comfortable runs with your hydration.

But wait, there’s more.

There’s another side to smoothness that needs to be acknowledged. And that’s the element of straps, cords, and loops. You see, those 3 things do serve a real purpose. They help tighten the pack down and are also functional for expansion and attachment purposes when needed. However, when they get in the way of your natural movement, they become a problem. It’s intrusive and irritating to the athlete when dangling straps flop, rub, and obstruct your way. That is why good running hydration packs find ways to keep everything tucked tightly away, out of sight out of mind, completely smoothed over – without having to compromise the functionality of the pack.

So keep it smooth. And keep it tight.

2) Thoughtful organization

Next, good hydration packs have thoughtful organization. When there is not thoughtful design around pockets, zippers and other storage spots, you risk having your pack turn into two things –

  • The black hole

This is when you open your pack up and it’s just a giant space that you have to take a deep dive in, dig around for, and blindly reach to get your items.

  • Tornado destruction

Black holes then turn into tornado destruction when you move. Since nothing is keeping your items secure, all your valuables get thrown and spun around like a whirlwind inside. Leaving nothing behind but a pile of unorganized mess to sort through when you’re done.

Good hydration packs avoid these two scenarios. They do so by prioritizing organization and keeping everything neat, tidy, and secured in place with pockets and zippers. Let’s face it, every adventure is different. But the fundamentals remain the same. You need to have quick access to your essentials and you need reliable storage for the rest. Whether that’s securing down trekking poles, stashing your pockets with gels, or finding a comfortable spot for your phone, good hydration packs will have you neatly covered and protected with thoughtful organization.

3) Breathable and lightweight

Last but not least, it should be breathable and lightweight. You’re running, it’s hot out, and you don’t want a heat machine on your back burning you up. Good hydration packs take the heat off your back and disperse it into the air. This is accomplished by constructing the pack with a combination of strategic lightweight materials and stretchy mesh.

Also (and this should go without saying), if you’re going to be moving, you’re going to need it to be lightweight. Running is hard enough as it is. Heavy packs can be an unnecessary anchor that you don’t want dragging you down and ruining your experience. Therefore all good running hydration packs find a way to pack a punch with a ton of features, but keep it lightweight and breathable at the same time.

Heavy on the features. Light on the weight.

To wrap it up

As with most things, it’s the attention to detail that separates the average joes from the elite. Hydration packs are no different. Getting a pack that puts the attention to detail on smooth running, organization, and lightweight breathability will make your entire experience more enjoyable.

Remember, the main objective should always be to focus on your run – and not your pack.

Because running smoothly should be a necessity – not an accessory.