hydration packs and water bottle carriers for runners

Whenever I first started running more than a couple miles at a time, the question of “how do I carry food and water with me?” really boggled my mind. I no longer had the luxury of a cycling jersey with pockets in the back, a backpack would be way too big, and I sure didn’t want to carry water bottles in my hands!

But I didn’t want to die of dehydration, either! So I had to do some testing and some shopping, and here are the six different methods I’ve found that actually work:

fuel belt helium

1. The Fuel Belt

The Fuel Belt is the “go to” product when it comes to carrying food, water, and other essentials while running. With a Fuel Belt you can carry small water bottles, a gel flask or packets, keys, and more (depending on the model you choose.)

The best part is that everything is carried around your waist, making it comfortable and stable. Yes, you’ll know it’s there, but it’s much more convenient than getting dehydrated!

Shortly after I started running, I began to see these for sale at shops and race expos, but I could never justify the $35 to buy one. In hindsight, I don’t know what I was thinking! This is essential for all endurance runners.



race ready shorts

2. Shorts with Pockets

If you just need to carry a few gels, and maybe your car keys, there are some running shorts out there with little pockets made for this very purpose. The shorts pictured are from Race Ready, who make numerous articles of “race ready” clothing with those little pockets.

However, I also have a regular pair of Nike split shorts with a tiny mesh pocket in the back, just big enough to squeeze in a couple gel packets. Just make sure the pocket has a flap, Velcro tab, or zipper, because you don’t want anything falling out!



nathan quick draw plus

3. Water Bottle Glove

Want to keep your water bottles off your waist, but don’t want to waste energy gripping them in your hands? Then consider this product (the Nathan Quick Draw Plus is pictured,) which is almost like a glove that holds your water bottle in place. You still have to deal with the weight of the bottle, but you don’t have to waste your hand strength keeping a firm grip on it.

Another neat thing with this is that it also has a pocket for your keys or an energy gel.



camelbak octane xc

4. Hydration Pack (Camelbak)

If you’re venturing out into the jungle or desert and need more than 20oz of water (which you could carry with a Fuel Belt,) you might need to step it up to a full hydration pack.

Packs from Camelbak, Deuter, and other brands are small, lightweight backpacks that contain a reservoir that holds 20-100oz water. You can drink from the pack by way of a tube and bite valve that hangs over your shoulder.

You just have to get one that is small, lightweight, and ergonomic, so that it doesn’t interfere with your running stride.

The trade-off for carrying more water is that these packs are heavier than a Fuel Belt, and they can make your back uncomfortably hot if they aren’t well ventilated. Some packs don’t have built-in waist belts, which means they might flop around, too.



fuel belt excursion

5. Bottle Carriers

Another option is this cross between a water bottle glove, a Fuel Belt, and a hydration pack. This is a lot like a typical Fuel Belt (and is usually made by the same company,) but it carries full-size water bottles.

You get the benefit of carrying a larger quantity of water around your waist, without the extra heat and weight of a hydration pack. And if you have a favorite brand of water bottle, you can easily swap that in, in place of the standard bottles.



safety pin

6. Safety Pins

Doing a race where there is plenty of water on the course, but you still need to carry your favorite energy gel? Then skip the fancy products I’ve listed here and go back to basics – safety pins!

Yes, you can use safety pins to attach gel packs directly to your running shorts. I used this technique during my first marathon and it worked marvelously.

I take GU gels and safety pin the tab to the outside of my shorts along the waistband, then fold the gel pack over inside my shorts. Then I just tear off a gel as needed. It works marvelously!

(Here are full instructions for pinning gels to shorts.)


So get whatever you need, whether it be a Fuel Belt or just some safety pins, and from now on you’ll stay properly fueled and hydrated while running!

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  1. Not bad ideas. i never could find a usable camelbak though. the fuel belt is where its at!

  2. @Jones

    Yeah the hydration packs can be weird when running. I’d stick with the other solutions unless you’re doing an ultra marathon, in the desert, unsupported!

  3. all this stuff available and i’m still carriying bottles with my bare hands! who would of known.

  4. Nice one, I like the fuel bottle, stylish and easy to carry.

  5. Thanks a lot, very useful stuff.

  6. Hi. I have a dilemma. I am going to be running a marathon on the Great Wall of China. I think I should get a hydropack, or whatever it’s called, but I’m not sure what kind. I want to be able to carry food and water with me. It was suggested on the website to bring a hydropack as well as food. The race is up and down stairs, so it is a lot harder and a lot longer than a normal marathon. Last year’s winner (for girls) came in around 6 hours 59 minutes.

    Any suggestions? I see a lot of people use handhelds, but I’m not sure how that would work for me. Much of the marathon I’ll be climbing stairs, not just running. Besides, I hate having things in my hands while running.

    • @Melanie

      If you go to a store like REI, you can try on different brands of packs and run up and down the stairs wearing them. That will give you an idea of what you’ll like.

      CamelBak and Osprey are a couple good brands to check out.

  7. So I would like some help. I am new to this whole running thing because I am the worst junk-food person ever (while trying to eat healthy), but it’s for me to be able to become fit and in-shape.

    Basically, I read that some runners take power bars with them. So what would you particularly store it in?

    I do have small items to store things in like bags, purses, and a kind of small backpack, but I use that for school. But that backpack I have is smaller than the typical regular backpacks that most students, but the kind I have are becoming more popular where I live – at least for girls it is.

    So, what would recommend storing extra food in?

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