As trail runners, we all understand the importance of our pack. It’s got to feel just right both in terms of fit and weight, but also ease of access. Not all of us are blessed with gymnastic skills on the move, and we don’t want to spend hours fiddling around looking for that all-important hydration flask.
Those are the basic requirements for our short list; we’ve gone short and fast, or long and well, probably not quite so fast, but you never know! So, keep that in mind when you make your final choice. Fast over Skiddaw in the pouring rain in February has very different storage requirements than June… probably.
What to look for in a hydration pack
Fit - Some models offer men’s and women’s versions which are important, but above all, you need to consider how the pack fits on your back and what is being offered in terms of support. How many straps are there? Do they easily fit around your waist and chest to minimise movement at pace?
Capacity - For longer races, you’ll need room for a variety of essentials ranging from a jacket, and an extra layer to medical kits and more. For shorter runs on your own, it’s possible you won’t need so much.
Storage - How many pockets are there? How many bottles can it hold? Is there room for your phone, gels, or money? All are offered to varying degrees, but some runners might also need pole storage facilities. And of course, consider ease of access on the move. You don’t want to be scrabbling around for your jacket on a steep ascent into the clouds – you need to be able to access it all instantly on the move, at pace.
Hydration capacity - Remember, water does weigh 2lb per litre, so the larger the capacity the more weight you’ll carry. Around two litres is probably the best compromise capacity for weight and speed.
Pros: Storage, fit and weight are superb
Cons: Possibly capacity might be an issue for some
Think storage, think fit and lastly think performance and you’ll have pretty much all you need to know about this pack. The fine detail will tell you it has a four-litre capacity, is light (165g) and breathable and it has a main compartment big enough for a jacket.
There are also two Scott 500ml soft flasks for hydration and stretchable front and side pockets for gels, phones and anything else you might require. You can even fit poles if that’s part of your race requirements.
It’s definitely all about compact storage on the move and a real winner in our eyes; we love the fit, the capacity, the fact you can adjust it on the move relatively easily and the general soft feel. It may seem a little pricey but well worth the investment.
Weight 165g | Construction Breathable fabric, stretch | Hydration 2 soft flasks | Storage Stretch front and side pockets | Extras Safety whistle, pole storage | Sizes Height: 18cm / Width: 70cm / Depth: 8cm
Pros: Great technology at a great price
Cons: Fills a little more rigid than others in the test (fine margins though!)
Bags aren’t always about stripped-down performance. Training days are also an important consideration which is why we’re drawn to this bag. There’s plenty of storage, while the built-in hydration system will meet all your needs.
It has been designed to meet mandatory kit requirements for long races (80km) so no surprise it’s so user-friendly for the long runs we opted for. The tech spec includes and one-litre water bladder and storage for two soft 500ml flasks. It weighs 285g and comes with more pockets than you have gels! It’s also very affordable.
Weight 285g | Construction 100% Polyester Yoke 74% Polyester, 26% Elasthane Back fabric 80% Polyamide, 20% Elasthane Lining 90% Polyester, 10% Polyurethane | Hydration One litre water bladder | Storage 6 pockets | Extras Safety whistle, pole storage | Sizes XS/S: 62 cm to 72 cm M/L: 73 cm to 83 cm; XL: 84 cm to 99 cm
Pros: A Rolls-Royce feel and look
Cons: Too much storage. Some runners might find it tough not to take everything because you can
If you like to carry a lot, then you must - must - consider this beauty. It’s a premium pack with the storage capacity of a super-tanker such is the number of pockets and the size of the main compartment.
Yes, there are lighter, racier models out there but it’s difficult to fault the ease of access and the options you have for storage of key items like wallets and phones. Indeed, there are eight zipped and five mesh pockets meaning you can reach for jackets, thermals, maps or indeed anything. All are within reach on the move so top marks there; ditto in the marks department for the price.
Weight 280g | Construction Pack-vest style with dual adjustable sternum straps | Hydration Bladder/ Bottle Included: 2 x Osprey's Hydraulics 250ml Soft Flasks | Storage Multiple PowerMesh pockets | Extras stow on the go trekking pole attachment | Size 42cm x 25cm x 7cm
Pros: We love the sustainability tag
Cons: There are less expensive models about
The pack of choice for a recent mountain marathon; that should tell you all you need to know about storage capacity and fit. It weighs in at 315g, sporting all the tech you’d expect from a competitive pack: the lateral compression straps minimises movement, while we can report this backpack is 100% recycled and Bluesign certified thanks to Deuter’s policy of environmental protection and sustainability. Great value too.
Weight Ascender 7: 315g / Ascender 13: 340g | Construction Two adjustable and detachable sternum straps | Hydration Two soft flask pouches | Storage Zippered pocket on the shoulder strap for cell phone, GPS etc; Two stretch side pockets; Stretch compartment inside; Zippered valuables pocket inside | Extras Collapsible trekking pole holster on shoulder strap
Pros: This works both ways, its minimalistic capacity makes it great for racing
Cons: It is a tight fit to get much in!
Yes, this is a pack, but one that is from a minimalistic world, hence the name ‘vest’. It’s soft to the touch, very breathable and the fit is super secure. Designed very much with performance in mind, it’s the type of pack you’ll opt for on hot, long days.
Surprisingly it does have a four-litre capacity so carrying a lightweight jacket and a hat is no problem, while the storage capacity is equally amazing – two 500ml soft flasks, room for a reservoir and even your poles. There are no zips – the pockets are of the stretch variety, capable of storing a moderate sized smart phone – and weight is minimal; just 210g. So too is the price.
Weight 210g | Construction Breathable, ventilated ergonomically designed | Hydration 2 500ml flasks | Storage Mesh pockets | Extras Pole attachments