Water Bottle Carrier

The Best Water Bottle Carrier For The Ultrarunner

Why must a water bottle carrier fit like your best pair of running shoes?

As an ultrarunner you know how important it is to take liquids with you both in training and races.

Just like a good running shoe has to fit your feet perfectly, a water bottle carrier must be very comfortable and snug to your body, too.

I bought my first hydration belt for running nearly ten years ago and have worn it many times over the years.

Power Bar launched the classic black belt with four flasks a while ago and most other endurance sport companies have followed the demand and are producing good-quality belts similar to the ones Power Bar continues to bring on the market.

I have tested various hydration systems and want to help you to find the ones that are geared to your needs. Given that you already own one (or two) drinking system(s) you might want to explore the latest products and stay up-to-date until next time when you're considering buying another water bottle carrier.

And of course, we make no compromises when it comes to purchasing a water bottle carrier that is not only fair in price but is outstanding in its quality and wearability.

Now, let's find out about the different systems first. You can choose between...

  • Belts
  • Waist paks
  • Bladder paks
  • Handhelds

Belts are made of knit elastic and are attached to your waist with a velcro closure. The belts usually come with four gel/water flasks, some include only two and others have six bottles.

In ultrarunning training a belt with four bottles that each fill 6-8 oz. is enough. Otherwise it feels too heavy and bulky on your hips and can hinder your running style. The thing to remember here is to always wear water carrier belts around your waist and never on your hips.

Like Power Bar, Fuel Belt's belts are well-known and established amongst runners, too. Anatomically designed water bottles are supposed to adapt to your physique but to be honest, it doesn't make a big difference.

Belts are available in various sizes. Fuel Belt has specially designed a women's model, too. For extra storage a small neoprene pocket has also been attached to the belt.

Waist paks are clipped at the front so that the water bottle (22 oz. or 0,7 litres) sits diagonally on the lower back. Bottles that are fixed vertically are less recommendable. I experienced it running through the desert and had a lump from the constant hitting for weeks after.

Waist pak water bottle carriers are also useful for putting bars, extra gels, money and keys in the zipper pocket(s).

Decide whether you need to take a fairly big bag with you unless you are planning to be running for more than two hours.

Smaller waist paks are a little inflexible in that you cannot take water and a separate electrolyte drink with you. In that case you'd have to find one that holds two bottles.

Bladder paks are flat backpacks with little volume for spare clothes and other items. Therefore they are designed for the (ultra) runner that plans to be out for while longer. The bladder of this type of hydration system holds one to two litres of fluid. Some bladder paks are now available with two separate bladders for water and a sports drink.

The outer material is made of neoprene and the pak straps to the body like any conventional backpack.

If you need a bladder pak with more storage and flexibility, daypacks are the solution. They are usually made of 50% polyester and 50% nylon for extra comfort and have extra zipper pockets and compartments. Some brands have designed women's models which, from my experience, fit on the back a lot better and the elimination of a tight waistbelt helps to reduce the feeling of tightness. Wearing a daypack is ideal when bad weather can be expected during long races and training runs.

Generally, bladder paks and daypacks are preferred by most ultrarunners because carrying the extra weight on your back creates a better balance.

One disadvantage is that the bladder can stick together like glue if exposed to extreme heat. Switch to a drinking system that allows you to attach a big water bottle (1,5 litres) at the front. Raidlight is specialised in water bottle carrier systems for the adventure runner.

Handhelds are ideal for shorter runs up to an hour to ninety minutes. Especially on warmer and hotter days a handheld allows you to sip from your drink anytime in a very easy and uncomplicated way.

Most of the handheld bottles have an adjustable hand strap and extra small pocket for a key, money or small tube of sunscreen. During ultra races runners prefer to hold one bottle in each hand and refilling them at the aid stations.

The handheld bottle holds 22 oz. or 0,7 litres of liquid. Carrying it in your hand might feel strange at first but the hand held water bottle carrier is definetely a good compromise to a waist and bladder pak and preferred by those who don't like to carry any extras around their waist.

Now, let's take a closer look at the different water bottle carrier systems. I have tried and tested different ones which hopefully helps to decide faster or feel inspired to purchase another one.

Here are my TOP 3 favorites:

This Fuel belt is worn in the waist. It is comfortable on runs that last up to two hours. I usually fill two flasks with electrolytes or gel and the other two with water.

The little neoprene pouch is handy to carry a key and a small energy bar with you.

Another good thing about this belt is that it can be washed at 30°, although not tumble-dried. Make sure to tie the bottle tops really tight so they won't leak.

The Nathan Quickdraw Plus bottle can be filled with up to 22.oz of liquid. I only put water in it when I go for a shorter run and in longer races I'd put a concentrated solution of carbohydrate-electrolyte powder in it.

At aid stations it can be filled up with water again and last throughout a long run.

While carrying it in your hand you are always focused on sipping from the drink. The fairly big pouch opposite the hand strap is perfect for extra gels and energy bars.

For all female ultrarunners out there, I strongly recommend you to try the Nathan Intensity Lady daypack.

Adjustable wide shoulder straps fit the back and shoulders as if tailor-made. The strap you tighten underneath the chest is vertically adjustable, too, and you won't find a tightening waist belt, either.

The bladder holds up to two litres of fluid. Therefore it's the ideal system for long runs and competitions. I often put my Montane jacket in one of the zipper pockets and fill the other compartments with bars and fruit. Even though you can put a lot in it this daypack won't feel too heavy on your back.

And because of the soft yet robust mesh material chafing is a thing of the past.

As you can see, understanding your needs and choosing the right system is very individual.

Take some time to test various models and brands. A good guideline is to decide for two different hydration systems.

Choose between either a handheld or belt mounted pak for shorter runs and waist or bladder pak for ultramarathons and long training runs and enjoy experimenting.

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