A running hydration pack (or running hydration vest) is a great way to carry everything you need on long trail runs, for everything from 10ks and half marathon distances up to ultra marathons, and there is now a lot of choice when it comes to narrowing down the best women’s hydration vest for your needs. This is a nice problem to have as it has been great to see that over recent years, many great running and backpack brands have been introducing new women’s hydration vests and running packs of varying volumes, fits and styles.
With a lot of choice it can be difficult to narrow down which is the best investment for you, so in this post I’ve picked out five of the best women’s hydration vests for running – all of these are great all-round women’s hydration packs that perform excellently on the trails. The best women’s hydration vest for you will be determined based on comfort, features, style and cost, which are considered below for each option.
If you’re focused on long-distance trail running such as trail marathons and ultra marathons, also have a read of our other gear guide that is specifically focused on the larger-volume women’s hydration packs that are most suitable to ultra running. If you’re looking for the men’s options when it comes to hydration packs, head over to our separate post on men’s running hydration packs and vests.
What is the difference between a women’s hydration vest and a women’s hydration pack for running?
The two terms to describe a small running backpack are generally used interchangeably – many people choose to call them running hydration packs (or backpacks) and others call them running hydration vests. We refer to them as both in our content.
Technically, a running hydration vest is a smaller running backpack, whereas a running pack indicates that it has a larger volume, but in reality the description varies by brand and style and you should normally take both terms to mean the same thing – a small pack you wear on your back to carry essentials while trail and ultra running.
We also sometimes refer to them as ‘race vests’ as this is a common terminology used to describe this piece of trail running gear in the UK and Europe, where we lived for many years.
What factors should you consider when selecting the best women’s hydration vest for your needs?
Firstly, and most importantly, having a good-fitting, comfortable running hydration pack is almost as important as having a comfortable pair of shoes or bra on – if it’s uncomfortable then the whole running experience is less enjoyable – nobody wants to run around with an uncomfortable pack that moves around or is difficult to access on-the-go. This means that when it comes to choosing a running hydration pack, generally most women are going to be better off with a women’s-specific running vest than a men’s version, as these versions have been designed to fit women’s bodies and are more likely to offer a comfortable fit that doesn’t shift around when you run.
Other considerations when choosing a good women’s running hydration pack are its:
Women’s running hydration vest storage capacity
Running hydration packs come in a range of sizes, often measured in litres, with the smallest generally starting at around 4 litres (which is around 1 US gallon, although you can find smaller), and larger packs going up to around 12 litres (3 US gallons) before they start to become larger and more like hiking day backpacks. If you are going on a short day hike then a running hydration vest could be a great, lightweight option (for more on what to pack for day hikes, visit our hiking for beginners guide).
Generally, I would not choose to run with a running hydration vest larger than 12 litres in volume, unless I am going fastpacking and need to carry extra food and overnight supplies. For most people, something in between 4 and 12 litres is going to work well, with the most popular options (if you expecting to run for up to 3-4 hours at a time) being between 4 and 6 litres.
That said, if you’re not sure and you expect to be running ultra marathons and trail marathon distances in the forseeable future, then it may be worth investing in a larger volume women’s hydration pack, as the weight differential isn’t that much and good hydration packs feature straps and bungees that allow you to compress them to stop the contents moving around when the pack is half-empty.
Carrying water in a running hydration pack
There are two main options for carrying water with you in a running hydration pack – either in bottles (preferably for most people – soft flasks) or in a hydration bladder.
Depending on the capacity of your hydration vest and how much water you need to take, you could even take both. Most of the women’s hydration vests we have picked come with either soft flask water bottles, or a water bladder, but are so versatile that you could choose an alternative combination if that’s your preference.
Hydration pack durability and weight
A hydration pack is an investment and something that should be able to stand up to snags, falls, moisture, dirt and more and last for many years. So tough, technical yet breathable material is desirable – and the lighter weight, the better. Of the many women’s hydration packs I have worn and loved over the years, I have not had any issue with durability for any of the brands included in this best women’s hydration pack list.
Style and Cost
Style and cost are more matters of personal preference and budget rather than key elements for a running hydration vest’s function, however if you can get a great hydration vest for a good price and which also looks great, then all the better!
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Our top picks: 5 of the Best Women’s Hydration Packs
1. Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 5.0 (10.3 Litre) – [EDITOR’S CHOICE]
The Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 5.0 women’s hydration pack has some excellent features and it looks great whilst on.
Big thumbs up for the adjustable fit, many zipped pockets, and tidy pole-carrying solution. It’s a great all-round running vest for long days out on the trails. This vest is differentiated from the other hydration vests on this list, as it features a larger volume, at 10.3 litres of capacity. I personally have this women’s hydration vest and use it for everything from short runs where I carry nothing in the rear pocket, to longer runs where I fill it up pretty well, and it works great for both.
This pack includes 2x 500ml Body Bottle collapsible soft flasks (UD own branded bottles) that sit in the front holsters.
Recommended US online stores for the Ultra Vesta 5.0:
11 new from $139.95
1 used from $132.95
out of stock
Recommended UK online stores for the Ultra Vesta 5.0:
1 new from £144.00
2. Salomon Adv Skin 5 Set Hydration Vest (5 Litre) – [POPULAR CHOICE]
The Salomon Adv Skin 5 Set Hydration Vest Sensifit construction offers a snug, precise, comfortable fit and balances the load between the front and the back, so you can move quickly and freely.
An innovative elastic sternum-strap design allows you to adjust and connect your hydration pack quickly while on the move; with non-constricting breathing during intense activity.
This Salomon hydration pack can carry running poles and accessories too and comes with 2x 500ml soft flasks that, due to the design of soft flasks, will stay balanced as you run, with zero sloshing or bouncing.
This Unisex race vest is Alastair’s choice for long trail runs, and it is one of the most popular running hydration packs in the UK and Europe. I also find it comfortable to wear although at the time of writing am training using other hydration pack brands.
Recommended US online stores for the Advanced Skin 5 Set:
3 new from $139.95
out of stock
Recommended UK online stores for the Advanced Skin 5 Set:
1 new from £91.68
3. REI Co-op Swiftland Hydro Running Hydration Vest (5 Litre) [BEST VALUE]
I personally have this REI women’s running hydration vest and it’s one of my favorites on account of the versatile storage options and comfortable fit it offers. This running pack comes in four different womens’ sizes, including S/XS and 2X-3X, which is great if you normally struggle to get a good fit in one-size or more limited size ranges.
The hydration pack is easily adjustable around the sides and across the front of your chest, and features plenty of pockets for storage on the front and back – including two large pockets on the front, which fit most hydration soft flasks as well as a phone, snacks and other essentials which you may need to access quickly.
While there is no information on weight on REI’s website, I can tell you that compared to the many other brands of women’s hydration vests I have worn, it is a pretty typical weight for a women’s hydration pack of this size. The Swiftland also comes with its own 1.5 litre hydration bladder which is stored in the main back pocket, so if that’s your preferred method of carrying water in your hydration pack then you’re all set if you buy this one.
It’s received a load of positive reviews on REI’s website, so definitely worth checking out if you’re shopping for a versatile new women’s hydration pack, especially as it represents such great value for money if you have a sub-$100 budget in mind.
Alastair has the men’s version – to read Alastair’s full hydration vest review and see more images of the women’s version (as worn by me) click here: REI Swiftland Hydro Running Hydration Vest.
The REI Co-Op Swiftland Hydro 5 is available direct from REI in the US:
NOT IN THE US? If you can’t find these products in your country (e.g. you’re in the UK or Europe) this ‘MY US’ international package service (which we have used) can receive your US shopping and send it to you! You’ll save 20% on shipping on your first shipment – click here to learn more and get the discount.
4. CamelBak Ultra Pro Hydration Vest (6 Litre) – [ALSO A GREAT VALUE OPTION]
The CamelBak Ultra Pro Hydration Vest is made from a lightweight 3D vent mesh that’s breathable and comfortable throughout a long run. This is another women’s running hydration vest I have in my trail running gear closet and is currently in regular rotation.
The dual adjustable sternum straps stabilize the pack, reducing any bounce as you run. There are plenty of easily-reachable pockets for stashing a layer, snacks, energy gels, and whatever else you may need.
It comes in 4 different size options and you’ll get 2x 500ml (17oz) high-quality CamelBak branded soft flask water bottles with it.
Recommended US online stores for the Women’s Camelbak Ultra Pro Hydration Vest:
4 new from $85.00
out of stock
Recommended UK online stores for the Women’s Camelbak Ultra Pro Hydration Vest:
6 new from £71.55
5. Nathan VaporSwiftra (4 Litre) [SUPREME FRONT STORAGE]
New for 2021, this women’s running hydration pack is a more recent addition to my gear arsenal and it is a great all-rounder for everything from taking our dog Kepler on a short run to running for several hours.
The VaporSwiftra hydration vest comes with a 1.5 litre water bladder, although the two front pockets will fit 500ml water bottles if you prefer. It’s also available in two sizes and each size has a range of size adjustments around the sides and chest area, to help get a fit that works for your body shape.
The two zip-up pockets at the front are perfect for storing important items that you need to secure up front, such as your mobile phone (I can fit my iPhone 12 pro in one of these pockets easily), and the large pocket at the back can accommodate other items you need to access less frequently, such as a waterproof jacket, first aid kit or extra food. While it would be nice to access the rear pockets without having to take the hydration vest off, that isn’t really necessary when you have so much great secure storage up front, especially if your water source is the included hydration bladder that sits in the back of the vest.
Recommended US online stores for the Nathan VaporSwiftra:
4 new from $124.94
out of stock
As this is a new product I am hopeful that it will be available in UK stores soon – we’ll update this post if so.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful in choosing the best women’s running hydration pack for your needs! If you’re researching other women’s trail running gear and information then you may also find the following posts useful reading:
RELATED GEAR GUIDES:
- The Ultimate Trail Running Gear Guide!
- Women's-Specific Trail Running Gear Guide
- Best 5 Trail Running Shoes For Women
- Best Women's Hydration Packs for Ultra Running
- Best All-Round Women's Hydration Packs for Trail Running
- Best GPS Watches for Ultrarunning & Trail Running
- 5 Best Headlamps for Trail Running & Ultrarunning
- 5 Best Wireless Headphones for Running
- Essential Trail Running Gear for Unexpected Emergencies