Hydration Packs vs Running Belts – What Is The Best Option For You

by | Sep 19, 2023 | Gear Check, Buyer's Guide, Featured, Run

Among the array of storage accessories designed to improve your trail running performance, there are two prominent contenders – hydration running belts and hydration packs. Read on to find out which one is for you.

Each offers a unique set of advantages and disadvantages, catering to the diverse preferences and needs of trail runners. We delve into the intricacies of these two hydration solutions to help you make an informed choice for your trail running adventures.

Hydration Belts
Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel opting for packs on a long run (c) Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

Hydration Packs: Versatile and High-Capacity

Hydration packs have been the default go-to for many years and their design has evolved from hybrid backpacks to racing vests. They are super convenient and offer various advantages.


1. Abundant Fluid Storage: Hydration packs come equipped with large reservoirs capable of holding 1.5 to 3 litres of water. This substantial capacity makes them an excellent choice for longer-distance trail running.

2. Even Weight Distribution: The much-evolved ‘vest’ style design ensures even weight distribution, diminishing the risk of discomfort or chafing caused by uneven weight placement.

3. Additional Storage: Hydration packs usually boast multiple compartments and pockets, offering ample storage space for nutrition, first aid kits, extra clothing, and even trekking poles for trail runners.


1. Bulk and Weight: As with most outdoor gear, you get what you pay for. Ultimately the more budget-friedly packs could come at a weight compromise. Of course, the added water capacity adds to this as well.

2. Initial Investment: High-quality hydration packs can be pricier than hydration belts, which might deter runners on a budget.

3. Overhydration Risk: With a larger water reservoir, there’s a heightened risk of overhydration if not managed properly. Overhydration can lead to hyponatraemia, a dangerous condition caused by an electrolyte imbalance. *This shouldn’t really count against choosing a pack over a belt but rather be something to be mindful of.


Hydration Running Belts: Sleek and Convenient

With the rise in popularity of soft flasks and minimalist, ultra-light running, hydration belts have gained popularity among trail runners over the past few years.


1. Minimalist Design: They feature a sleek design that reduces bulk and weight, allowing you to run with unencumbered ease. For runners who prefer a lightweight and unobtrusive option, this is a clear advantage.

2. Easy Access: With bottles or soft flasks comfortably nestled at your waist, hydration is merely a quick reach away. You can sip on the go without breaking your stride, ensuring you remain properly hydrated throughout your run.

3. Storage Space: Many hydration belts come with small pouches or pockets for essentials like keys, energy gels and a mobile phone.


1. Limited Capacity: The primary drawback of hydration belts is their limited water capacity. They typically hold 450-950 millilitres of fluid, which might not be sufficient for longer training runs or races, necessitating the need for refilling stops.

2. Bouncing and Chafing: Some runners find that hydration belts can bounce or cause chafing during their runs, particularly if the fit is not perfect or if they are carrying too much weight in the pouches.

A Few Hydration Belt Options:

Salomon PULSE Hydration Belt

Hydration Belt

Crafted from breathable 4-way stretch fabric, it ensures a secure fit during intense activities. Plus, secret pockets keep your personal items safe, while two stretch horizontal pockets hold 500ml hydration flasks.

Orial Running Waist Belt

Hydration Belts

A sleek, ergonomic and hassle-free solution for carrying your essentials during your runs.

Silva Race 4X Belt

Hydration Belts

Made from lightweight, breathable materials with soft 3D mesh on the back for ventilation, it offers enduring comfort. Easily adjustable while on the move, even with gloves, this belt keeps you snug. Smartly crafted outer pockets and inner compartments provide easy access to items like jackets, power bars, gels, phones, or headlamp batteries. The 4L main compartment remains compact yet accommodates essential gear, while the 1.5L insulated reservoir compartment, ensures your fluids stay at the right temperature.

A bigger list showcasing a range of hydration belts to follow soon.

The Verdict: Selecting the Right Hydration Solution

Ultimately, the choice between a hydration running belt and a hydration pack hinges on your individual preferences and trail running objectives. We’re a fan of both and alternate as the route and length of the trail require. In broad sweeps, if you value a lightweight and easily accessible option for shorter runs, a hydration belt is a good call. Conversely, if you’re tackling longer distances and require extra water and storage capacity, a hydration pack offers versatility and convenience.

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