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Review: Hydration-Bottle Packs

Ah, summer: The time when runners don their skimpiest spandex and hit the trails in search of sunshine, fresh air and dehydration and, uh heat exhaustion.

Seriously, staying hydrated is important. It’s even more critical if your run stretches to an hour or more and the weather is hot. Unless you’re on a well-stocked marathon course with water and first aid stations every few miles, you’ve got to carry your own refreshments. That means some kind of pack.

We tested four waist packs, a popular choice for runners. (Water-filled backpacks are too hot and heavy for most runners, and most people don’t like handheld bottles.) We subjected each pack to at least 10 miles of city and trail running.

What we found didn’t exactly impress us: The bottles bounce, their straps chafe and you’ll spend way too much time cinching and un-cinching them in search of the perfect fit. Our advice: Go to a store where they’ll let you try them on before you buy, because the ideal fit is going to come down to the shape of your body.

On the plus side, carrying water could mean the difference between finishing that 8-mile run with a smile on your face and collapsing halfway through in a puddle of sweat and muscle spasms. As a bonus, most of these packs will also hold your phone, iPod, high-tech energy gels and any other gadgets you consider essential for running.

Amphipod Full-Tilt Velocity

Amphipod Full-Tilt Velocity

A horizontally mounted, contoured bottle helps this pack snug up against your lumbar area, a bit higher than most water-bottle packs. Because of its shape, it bounces less too. However, the location also makes it more difficult to get at anything you’ve stashed in the nylon pocket.

WIRED Snuggest fit of the packs tested here.

TIRED Horizontal bottle, with a nylon hold-down loop, is a little hard to remove and reinsert. Exterior stretchy pouch accommodates a phone, but feels a little delicate.

$32, amphipod.com

Amphipod PureRun Trai

Amphipod PureRun Trail

The only bottle pack to use a stainless-steel bottle, Amphipod’s PureRun Trail is compact, relatively bounce-free and includes a pocket that’s large enough to accommodate an iPhone, a Clif bar or two, and your car key. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to leave the bottle cap only partially closed, with the result that water leaks all over your butt. How embarrassing!

WIRED Bottle imparts no nasty plastic taste. Largely chafe-free design. Looks cool! OK, looks less dorky than most hydration packs.

TIRED Bottle cap more complicated than it needs to be, and can leak if not carefully closed. Standard bottle only holds 16 ounces. Weighs more than a plastic bottle.

$50, amphipod.com

CamelBak Delaney Plus

CamelBak Delaney Plus

Bigger than the other packs in this roundup, the Delaney sports two separate modules: A main, back unit that holds a generous 24-ounce bottle, with a mesh pocket for Gu packets and gorp, plus a front unit that looks like a mini-fanny pack, with a small zippered pouch for your phone and a pocket for other stuff. If you’re running the ridge trail and expect to be away from civilization for half a day, this pack’s your friend.

WIRED Room for lots of stuff.

TIRED Feels bigger than a Hummer and twice as ugly with a leopard-print paint job.

$40, camelbak.com

Nathan Elite 1

Nathan Elite 1

This diagonally mounted water-bottle pack is straightforward and bare bones. If you don’t need much more than the 22 ounces of water it holds, it might be sufficient. But one annoyance kept nagging at us: The little Velcro straps for bundling up the tail ends of the waist belts are just plain annoying. Bundle the end around itself and it bounces around while you run; strap it to the main waist belt and it will scratch you all day long: Either way it’ll drive you up the wall.

WIRED Trim, lightweight design. No unnecessary frills.

TIRED External pouch is too small to hold an iPhone or similar-size phone.

$30, nathansports.com

  • Manufacturer: CamelBak
  • Price: $30 – $50

Originally published on Wired.com, July 9, 2010


  1. Merrilee

    Why on earth would you put your phone in a waist pack? I like having mine on my arm where I can get to it.

    • Dylan Tweney

      Yeah, good point: an armband is probably more practical, if you don't mind having something strapped to your arm. I haven't found an armband setup I am comfortable with, though. Maybe my arms are just too skinny?

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