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Searching for a women's hydration pack for running? You've come to the right place. We have exhaustively tested 12 of the best women's packs available today to help you find your perfect match. Our running experts have put in miles of sweat to provide you with information about the most cutting-edge gear we can find. We searched high and low, ran peaks and informal marathons, and even tried to induce chafing to determine which hydration vests hold up to the hype and which aren't worth shelling out the cash for. Whether you want to carry a lot or a little, we've got a suggestion to fit your hydration needs and your budget.
Weight: 7.20 oz | Included Liquid Capacity: 1.6 liters
REASONS TO BUY
Huge storage capacity
Comfortable apparel-like fit
REASONS TO AVOID
The Nathan Pinnacle 12L is one of the most comfortable hydration packs available on the market today. Its abundant size options, contour-hugging female-specific fit, and ample storage capacity make it one of our favorites. This hydration pack for running has more pockets than you ever think you'd need (15!), which makes it an exceptional choice for your longest, neediest days in the backcountry. You'll find yourself wanting to get out and run with the Pinnacle on your team.
The only drawback to the Pinnacle is its hefty price tag. Ultimately, the sheer number of features and comfortable assets makes the price worth it, but we totally understand that it's a lot of money to cough up upfront. Still, if you are on the hunt for a long-lasting, high-capacity vest with a cozy profile, we think the investment is well worth it. Endurance runners of all kinds will find the Pinnacle to be the perfect attribute to their running ensemble.
Weight: 7.13 oz | Included Liquid Capacity: 2 liters
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Smaller storage capacity
The Nathan TrailMix 7L is a lightweight but rugged, trail-specific hydration pack for more minimally-minded trail runners. We love the burly yet breathable backing, especially because it is surprisingly comfortable. The TrailMix has well-placed pockets to stash quick-draw items, like nutrition and your phone, and offers ample back-pocket storage for lesser-used items. The ruggedness of this pack makes it awesome for heavily wooded areas — the fabric won't snag on stray tree branches as you bound through the forest at top speed.
The TrailMix didn't score as highly across the board as other hydration vests we tested, but it held its own for sure. The 7-liter storage capacity is smaller than some but still plentiful enough that we could stash everything we needed for a day in the mountains. If you are looking to go on ultra-long adventures, you might like a vest that offers a few liters more of storage. However, if you are a daily trail runner looking for a hearty pack that won't break the bank, we can't recommend the TrailMix enough.
Weight: 7.8 oz | Included Liquid Capacity: 1 liter
REASONS TO BUY
Great storage capacity
REASONS TO AVOID
Less soft to the touch
Might be more vest than some runners need
The Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 6.0 is a 7.8-ounce hydration pack that is ready to race. From its exceptional pocket placement to its external compression system, this is the vest that we reach for when we know there won't be any time to fiddle with our gear. The Ultra Vesta offers 360-degree adjustment cords to ensure a bounce-free fit, while the soft flasks stay locked in so you can hydrate as you run. With safety features and thoughtful touches, such as specific waterproof pockets, this vest is a go-to winner for race-ready gear.
With a total storage capacity of 10.2 liters, the Ultra Vesta 6.0 might be more vest than many runners desire. If you want a more minimalistic style, plenty of hydration packs will suit your fancy, but the Ultra Vesta won't be one of them. The ripstop textile isn't as silky-soft as other vests we have tested, but this element didn't detract from this its overall comfort. If you want to invest in a piece of running gear that will suit your body shape and running needs, we don't hesitate to recommend the new-and-improved Ultra Vesta.
Weight:11.5 oz | Included Liquid Capacity: 1 liter
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Large storage capacity might be too much for some runners
The Ultimate Direction Mountain Vesta 5.0 is another favorite of our testing team for grueling alpine jaunts. This vest truly fits like a vest instead of a miniature backpack, allowing the external compression system to keep up to 12.7 liters of gear secure as you tackle the trails. We also love how many zippered pockets and self-locking bungees there are on the vest. This adds a great sense of security so you can focus on the technical underfoot terrain, not the safety of your gear.
The external compression bungee of the Mountain Vesta 5.0 is super long. This is great if you max out the storage capacity, but can be kind of a pain if you prefer to carry less gear. The sheer capacity of this vest will make it a less desirable choice for runners who don't want to tote excessive amounts of gear. There are plenty of hydration vest options that have smaller carrying capacity, so if over 12 liters seems like too much, we recommend a more modest storage volume. While on the pricier side, if the Mountain Vesta checks all of your boxes, it is a worthwhile investment.
Weight: 5.1 oz | Included Liquid Capacity: 1 liter
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Fit has to be specific
Might not hold enough gear for some runners
Poor volume-to-weight ratio
The Naked HC is a minimalistic vest unlike any others we have seen. With a total weight of just over 5 ounces, this compressive vest fits more like a sports bra than a standard hydration pack, and the carrying capacity depends on the size you purchase. This is one of our favorites for light days. If you are a minimalistic-style runner who only wants to carry the basics, this zippered-front vest will be a great match for you.
Because the compression of your gear is based on how secure the zippered closure of the front of the Naked HC is, it is important to purchase the correct size, which can be a bit tricky since this vest doesn't offer bungees and straps for customizing the fit. If you only want to purchase one hydration vest, the small gear volume of this one might not be enough to accommodate a variety of run lengths. The modest capacity and bra-like fit make the Naked High Capacity our true favorite for lighter days when we only want to stash the basics.
Weight: 10.7 oz | Included Liquid Capacity: 1.5 liters
REASONS TO BUY
Moderate gear capacity
REASONS TO AVOID
Poor volume-to-weight ratio
Heavier because of internal frame
If you want an adventure-ready hydration pack with a moderate storage capacity, look no further than the Osprey Dyna 6. This hydration pack has an internal frame with a strong compression system, which really makes the backpack-like fit work. The textiles that make up this pack are far more rugged feeling than the bodies of many of the packs we have tested, and we love it. We never felt uncomfortable running in this pack, even when we maxed out its 6-liter capacity. The hydration bladder includes well-engineered elements to ensure a slosh-free run, making this bladder one that we want to use in every single one of our packs.
The Dyna 6 is a bit heavier than some, which adds to its overall lower ranking in the volume-to-weight ratio metric. The internal frame adds to its weight, but this is also the element that helps keep your gear snug against your body during your runs. The front closures on the Dyna are a bit tricky to use upon first glance, but once you get the hang of them, they are just as simple, if not more functional, than many other closure systems we've seen. If you are in the market for a mid-range capacity vest with features truly built for gritty adventures, this is very likely the perfect vest for you.
We couldn't wait to get running immediately upon receiving a box full of hydration vests designed specifically for women. In addition to rotating through the vests to ensure equal in-depth testing time on the trails, we wore them around our homes and parks to get to know them better. We specifically loaded each pack up with the same amount of gear and voice-dictated notes into our smartphones while we ran, hiked, and even post-holed through the snow. A few of the hydration packs in our roundup were uncomfortable immediately. Still, we toughed it out and allowed our skin to chafe so that you can be certain that you're receiving unbiased, authentic, and exhaustive evaluations.
Our testing of hydration vests for running is divided across five rating metrics:
Comfort (30% of overall score weighting)
Features (25% weighting)
Hydration System (15% weighting)
Volume to Weight Ratio (15% weighting)
Pockets (15% weighting)
Our women's running hydration pack review is led by Ally Arcuri, an exercise specialist and experienced ultramarathoner. Ally remembers buying a CamelBak made for children back in the mid-2000s to satisfy her trail running needs in Lake Tahoe, CA. Since then, she has run her way across the beaches of Southern California and Mexico, the Rockies in Colorado and Wyoming, the deserts of Utah, the streets of Chicago and New York City, and most recently, the forests of the Pacific Northwest. According to her loved ones, Ally drinks more water than humanly possible, so, of course, she is an authority on testing hydration packs. Ally earned her Bachelor's degree in Kinesiology and has her 200-hour Yoga Teaching Certificate, so she has a keen eye for proper posture and biomechanics. When she isn't traveling and searching for places to run, you can find her teaching yoga or learning how to AquaSkip in San Luis Obispo, CA.
Analysis and Test Results
To ensure a fair trial for each hydration pack we chose to test, we ran a ton. We usually run a lot, but with these packs on our backs, we ran even more. We spent months testing, retesting, and evaluating each one. We bagged peaks, ran through dense forests, and surveyed each vest individually before bringing them together in a head-to-head competition. After we exhaustively tested each pack, we compared them to each other over a variety of metrics. We analyzed the comfort and fit, the intelligence and functionality of the hydration system, available features, and ease of use. We weighed each vest and assessed their maximum storage capacities, and you know we explored the depths of each pocket. We awarded each contender a specific, numerical score in each metric. We encourage you to read on to determine which female-specific hydration pack for running has the potential to be your everyday sidekick.
It's no secret that hydration vests can often cost a pretty penny and then some. We chose to test some of the most expensive hydration vests available and some on the more affordable end of the spectrum. While many of the pricier vests offer a more comfortable fit, more features, and more moisture-wicking material, we did not find this true across the board. We were certainly surprised by how durable and rugged some of the lower-priced options are. We were pleased to find that the divergent prices don't necessarily mean you're getting a lower quality or lower-performing hydration pack for running.
The Nathan TrailMix 7 offers the best balance between comfort and affordability. The TrailMix is a well-engineered, comfortable running pack with smart pockets and a thoughtful hydration system. The REI Co-op Swiftland 5 is another pack offering function and affordability. Much like the Swiftland, the Ultraspire Momentum 2.0 didn't score quite as well overall, but it is certainly a wallet-friendly purchase. Additionally, we really love the Osprey Dyna 6. The durability of the Dyna increases its value by a lot.
If you don't mind spending some shillings for an even more comfortable ride, it's worth it to invest in the Nathan Pinnacle 12L. The Pinnacle is supple and breathable with anti-chafe technology and a whole lot of storage space. We also love the feeling of the Salomon ADV Skin 5 Set for a soft touch. The ADV Skin fits in a fashion similar to the Pinnacle but offers soft flasks and a smaller storage capacity, two elements you may prefer. Either pack will serve you well over the long haul, which is also a solid way to approach value.
Comfort is one of the most valuable components for assessing running gear that is intended to be worn for long periods of time. We measured comfort by running in all of the hydration packs for many miles.
Even for those of us who love to run, running is hard. We wanted to evaluate each vest's ability to remain comfortable when the terrain and mileage are grueling. We spent months testing through myriad weather patterns to ensure each hydration pack got a fair trial on the trails. We assessed each pack's comfort on cold days with long-sleeved layers, on rainy days atop our favorite running jackets, and on hot days in tank tops with the packs against our skin.
Even the more rigid and toughly-constructed packs were generally quite comfortable, which is a huge win for female-specific running vests as a whole. We tried each pack on with different hairstyles to see if any vest pieces had an appetite for human hair (unsurprisingly, Velcro LOVES to get all wrapped up with long hair). We even made sure to test each vest with a small necklace on to see if that interfered with its comfort at all.
We noticed a trend amongst the hydration packs that scored well in this heavily weighted metric. Three of our top contenders are made of supple and forgiving yet contour-hugging textiles that wick away moisture and stay in place. Even though most hydration packs for running are frameless, some offer more boning and ribbing than others. Across the board, the more comfortable the vest, the less structure it has.
We enjoyed the understated comfort of both the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 6.0 and the Ultimate Direction Mountain Vesta 5.0. Both are constructed of highly breathable nylon mesh and offer plenty of cords and bungees to adjust the pack to fit the specific shape of your body. Both Ultimate Direction packs are easy enough to adjust that you can find a snug fit whether you are running in one thin shirt or multiple layers of technical gear.
The Naked High Capacity is unlike any other hydration pack for running we tested. It offers great comfort with a more streamlined and tight fit. Instead of wearing your hydration vest over your clothes, the Naked vest is essentially worn as an additional garment, hence the name. Choose your size wisely if you opt for this svelte running vest. You'll love its softness and the way it offers extra breast support when it is zipped up.
Features is a catch-all type metric that we use to define all of the bells and whistles included with a particular hydration pack for running. We tested this initially by exploring what each vest offers in specific storage accessories and safety features. We took each vest and its features out into the field and engaged them in a side-by-side comparison. We evaluated the features promoted by each pack's manufacturer and tried them out in various ways.
We love that most of the vests have added safety features. In particular, our favorite component is the safety whistle. We tend to pack a lot of safety gear when we trek into the mountains, so it is a real treat to have a whistle included. We blew each whistle with all our might and found the one included on the Osprey Dyna 6 to be the loudest and most reliable. Furthermore, the Nathan Pinnacle includes a covertly stashed, loud whistle that could attract attention deep in the trails if you find yourself in a pinch.
We evaluated each hydration pack's trekking pole holding system. Overall, we discovered that the more secure the pole holders, the better we felt running with our poles — no big surprise there. We like the pole storage of the Osprey Dyna 6 and the Nathan Pinnacle Both offer a secure and designated space to stash your poles. Our testers tested with a particularly large and clunky pair of poles but ultimately found this to be an attribute. We strung our poles up in different ways to find the most comfortable way to haul them.
We observed that many of the packs have reflective elements to ensure visibility while running in dark or hazy conditions. The rise of adventure races and overnight ultras makes small details like this vital to staying safe in the backcountry.
Some runners love soft flasks while running; other runners prefer a hydration bladder. No matter your preference, we can all agree on one thing-- hydration matters! Some hydration packs for running come with soft bottles, and others come with bladders. Most notably, each and every hydration pack for running offers the option to run with bottles, a bladder, or both. We love to see most hydration bladders being made with a fold-over closure system. This style of closure is better at preventing leaks. The slide-across clips all have holes to secure Velcro loops through to maintain the thinnest fit possible against your back.
While assessing hydration systems, we were ruthless in our observations. We are serious runners, and a leaky bottle could truly lead to our unraveling while deep in desolation; running out of water is a run ruiner. To allow each hydration system a fair shake, we ran with each pack as intended to begin. After each maiden voyage, we ran with our hydration bladders half full without extra gear to assess the sloshing of each system. We never encountered any sloshing with the soft flasks, though they are definitely not created equal.
Nathan employed an hourglass-shaped, insulated bladder in the Pinnacle 12L. We adore this bladder style when we have gear stowed in the back of the pack, but without gear, this shape still sloshes like the less contoured ones. The Osprey Dyna 6 comes equipped with a smart hydration system. The bladder has shallow fins running vertically down the bladder, which truly helps prevent sloshing.
Some hydration packs for running thoughtfully include a magnet system. There will be a small magnetic clip on the hose and a corresponding one on the chest strap or ribbing. This addition helps place your hose, whether you want it looped up towards your mouth or hanging down across your chest. Options with this magnet included earned higher marks due to their sheer convenience.
Our biggest observation about soft bottles is that they have to be placed just so to be functional while running. Unlike a hose, which can be grabbed and placed in your mouth without even looking down, the bottles require more attention. We found that some bottles didn't seal well and leaked and that others had to be fully removed to drink from them, such as the hard bottles included with the Amphipod PureRun Minimalist 24. The Salomon ADV Skin 5 Set came equipped with an insulated sleeve, which really upped the ante on its hydration system.
We also like the hydration system included with the Naked HC vest. Because of the tight-fitting vest, the soft flasks have minimal opportunities for bouncing. Since this pack rides higher than average, the mouthpieces are also always just within reach. We found the same technology in play with the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta and Mountain Vesta.
Volume to Weight Ratio
We used a volume-to-weight ratio to fairly measure each hydration pack's storage capacity relative to its weight. Since hydration vests tend to be made of different textiles and components, we use this equation to assess each gear-hauling capacity accurately. We divide the carrying capacity (liters) by the weight (ounces) to calculate this ratio.
The Pinnacle has a ratio that is bigger than most. However, it weighs in a bit higher than average. Still, its volume-to-weight ratio is the best in our roundup because of how much gear it can haul. The Mountain Vesta scored lower based on numbers alone, but if you want a super-hauler pack, it's worth looking into. It may sound like we are splitting hairs, and in truth, we are — all in an attempt to separate the good from the great.
Another element we noted while assessing this ratio is the weight distribution of each pack. Some hydration packs for running fit like mini backpacks with pockets on the front straps. Others fit more snugly, like a vest. Overall, we found that the apparel-like, vest-structured vests had better weight distribution for running. To measure this, we stuffed each vest full of more gear than we could need for a day on the trails. As we ran, we noted any bouncing, joint aches, or changes in gait patterns caused by wonky weight dispensation. Even with their exceptional carrying capacities, the Nathan Pinnacle and the Mountain Vesta were the clear winners. These vests seamlessly distributed their 12+ liters of gear so that we never felt weighed down or off-balance. We also love the weight distribution of the Naked HC and, surprisingly, the Osprey Dyna 6.
We never fell in love with the CamelBak Ultra Pro, but it did impress us by being a relatively low-weight pack with an above-average volume-to-weight ratio. The REI Swiftland 5 surprised us by being super comfortable and freeing, despite its poor ratio. It is a mini backpack-style vest, but with strong straps and a haul-bag-like main compartment, it stays snug and even during grueling trail days.
Pockets are important, and we love evaluating them. We went far beyond simply counting the pockets of each hydration pack for running, though we did that too. We utilized each pocket for different items as we ran, making sure to switch up our systems every so often. We analyzed how accessible each pocket is on the move, which are safe for stashing your valuables, and which are best for providing easy access to outer layers when the weather turns.
Our most pocket-full vest is the Nathan Pinnacle 12L, which boasts an impressive 15 total pockets. As is the case with the Pinnacle, we discovered that vests with well-dispersed pockets generally offer better weight distribution throughout the vest, ultimately leading to better comfort. We also love the number of pockets on the Pinnacle because it helps us keep our belongings organized. Having a pocket dedicated to gels, one for electrolyte tablets, one for our handkerchief, and one for our phone upfront makes grabbing and going easy.
Both the Ultra Vesta 6.0 and the Mountain Vesta 5.0 scored well in this metric. Not only does each vest offer ample storage in secure pockets, but the pockets are precisely placed. The Mountain Vesta features a large clamshell pocket as its main compartment on the back, similar to that of the Ultra Vesta. Even the textiles under the arms of both vests are laden with functional pockets. We emphasize the word "functional" because we often find that shallow pockets are not the most useful. When it comes to hydration vests made by Ultimate Direction, though, the pockets have fantastic closures and placement that encourages freedom of movement. Both the Mountain Vesta and the Ultra Vesta feel like they were designed for runners, by runners.
Even though the Ultraspire Momentum wasn't the highest scorer overall, the pocket structure of this pack is worth swooning over. They are uniquely placed with creative closure options. Since this vest provides flask holders in the lower portion of the back panel, the front straps are fair game regarding gear storage. The front pockets do make great flask holders, so it is up to you how you want to configure your gear. The front pockets feature shock cord closures, which allows for comfortable and safe storage. The pocket placement of this unisex vest does a fantastic job of allowing full range of motion movement as you run — even when the pockets are fully loaded with snacks.
Many day hikers are moving away from using small backpacks and are dipping their toes into the world of the more form-fitting hydrations vests like those we tested. Hydration vests, especially those made specifically for female runners, offer svelte profiles and plenty of mobility for the gnarliest adventures. While we assessed each vest through the lens of an adventure runner, we wholeheartedly believe that anyone looking to log miles comfortably will find a hydration vest made for them. From minimalist styles to those that can carry everything but the kitchen sink, we love watching hydration pack technology expand upon itself. We tracked each mile, nagging detail, and sip of water to bring you the most relevant and reliable information about some of the most popular women's hydration packs for running on the market.
After researching over 40 pairs of women's running shorts...
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