After a few half marathons under my belt, it was hydration belts that were my go-to for my water and storage needs. I had gotten my toes wet with a running pack with bladder, but it wasn’t until I started using a hydration vest that I was fully converted.
I decided to ditch my running belt and instead reach for my hydration vest for mid- to long-distance runs.
And there are just so many reasons why.
I have to say that I still very much so use my hydration belts. I have cheap, lesser-known brand ones that were more than reliable when I first took on longer distances to my forever favorites being more comfortable and better quality like Nathan Sports belts.
I also have to admit that as of late I am pausing long-distance running while pregnant. That also means that I simply prefer not to wear a belt around my growing belly now that I am in my third trimester. A vest is just straight up more comfortable for me.
Hydration belts were my preferred hydration carrier when going for anything over 4 miles or when it is really hot out. A lot of it this has to do with practicality. If I am away from home, I need enough water without filling up and space for gels, keys, money, earbuds, etc.
A handheld water bottle simply isn’t enough. (Although, I am still a fan of a good water bottle for shorter distances.)
Then I got used to being hands-free. This is even the case when using my Bob jogging stroller. Even though I have a place to hold a beverage, I still prefer to reach down on my belt.
The downside here is that flasks tend to be smaller in size or else they are too bulky.
Vests tend to be more comfortable on, depending on the runner. It provides that freeing feeling that is liberating after always wearing a hydration belt.
In short, both do its job so it’s more about preference here.
Reasons Why I Switched From Running Belt to Hydration Vest
It almost seems like a natural progression that I went from handheld water bottles to hydration belts to now a vest.
This mirrors the amount of progression in my mileage and changing fuel needs.
Over time, runners often get more submerged in the culture and gear and start to try even more products or hear more recommendations of products.
I have run with a hydration pack before but felt like at the time it was too much for my mileage when the belt was working fine.
But once I began testing out the Nathan VaporHowe 2.0, I immediately was transformed.
It did take a run or two to get comfortable with the fact that I was carrying water on my chest. This vest features two soft flasks that hold 20 oz of water. It is also compatible with a bladder but found the flasks just what I need to make the switch from belt to vest.
I have to say that the main reason why I made the switch is its lightweight aspect. I no longer felt the slight weight around my waist from all the gear. This vest was breathable, thin, and fit perfectly so there was no discomfort or chafing.
The thing to keep in mind with hydration vests is proper fit is everything.
Another reason why I made the switch was the convenience of grabbing gear right from the front pocket instead of digging around in the lower front pocket of belts while mid-stride. I don’t have to slow down to reach for my energy chews.
It might sound silly, but wearing the vest also made me feel legit. Comments I got when out for a run with friends was that I looked like a serious runner. It’s hard not to feel badass when geared right.
I also loved how freeing and non-restricting this vest is, going unnoticed even during hot and sticky summer runs.
Here is a rundown of all my reasons why runners who haven’t tried hydration vests should give it a try:
- Vests like the VaporHowe 2.0 are super lightweight.
- Can be much more comfortable compared to a belt.
- Easy access to drinking water thanks to hoses instead of having to pull out flasks from the belt.
- Enough room to also store other goods like keys and gels without fumbling in one large front pocket.
- Can hold much more water, ideal for summer runs, half marathon training, marathon training, and ultra runners.
Hydration Belts vs Hydration Vests: Pros And Cons
Of course, vests are the end all and be all for hydration gear. There is plenty that is free from flaws, whether it’s the comfort, fit, or storage options.
For example, I used a hydration pack that only had room for the reservoir and there wasn’t a pocket space for my smartphone without pairing it with the water.
Cleaning the flasks is just as easy as cleaning flasks of running belts, although bladders are little more difficult to clean (but not by much). It takes more maintenance to make sure the hoses are properly cleaned.
There is a slight bounce that occurs when wearing flasks on the front. And make sure to equally take sips from both sides to prevent feeling lopsided.
Having both flasks and the bladder would make the vest feel bulky, but this is a great option for backpackers and hikers who need more water on hand.
Having the ability to customize to have just a bladder or soft flasks is another major pro of this vest in particular.
However, Nathan does offer other customizable options for running belts that allow the runner to wear the bottles on their back.
It also might sound silly, by my Nathan vest made me take smaller sips of water. Runners have to bite down to drink, with a small stream coming out. This is great for not over drinking to prevent stomach cramping, but was also an annoyance when looking to gulp post humid run.
Hydration Belt Pros And Cons
- Usually enough water for mid-distance runners
- Typically large pocket
- Some are adjustable to fit tightly
- Some are soft, one piece of fabric options that are lightweight
- Some bounce
- Not enough water without needing to refill for ultra runners
- Hydration Vest Pros And Cons
- Most are lightweight
- A more convenient way to drink
- Store more water
- Neater storage in some
- Limited pocket space in some
- Wrong size results in chafing or discomfort
- Takes time to get used to after only wearing a belt