By Michael Lanza

Some ideas are so obviously better than everything that came before that the new thing just takes off: Many serious runners now recognize that the smartest way to carry water on a run—plus clothing layers and food on longer trail runs—is in a lightweight, streamlined, torso-hugging hydration vest. This review spotlights the best vests for trail running—how they differ in fit, comfort, capacity, and details—and offers expert advice on choosing the right one for your runs and perhaps dayhikes.

For this review, I chose hydration vests that feature the comfort and fluid and cargo capacity for ultra-trail runs—such as running the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim in a day, an arduous 42 miles and over 22,000 cumulative vertical feet, on which I tested one of these vests (see this photo gallery)—but that also remain reasonably light and compact enough for relatively short runs.

My picks for the best vests and my buying tips are based on personally testing all of them on numerous long trail runs and my experience as a trail runner and a gear reviewer for over 25 years, including many years running this blog and previously the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine.

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

As with many runners, most of my trail runs are close to home and under two hours—but I also take runs of 15 to 20 miles or more. Thus, I like vests with the versatility for runs of 90 minutes that also have the comfort and capacity for several hours. Those models also cross over well to long dayhikes when I’m trying to move quickly in the backcountry and want easy access to what I need without having to stop frequently.

I think this review will help you find a running vest that’s perfect for you—plus you’ll find the best prices at links in this review. Purchasing through those affiliate links supports my blog at no cost to you. Thanks for doing that.

To go directly to the vest reviews, scroll past the buying tips.

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Ultimate Direction FKT running hydration vest.
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