Are you an athlete? Are you searching for women’s hydration packs for running? If you’ve found yourself reading this article, then a shiny new hydration pack must be in your future! But which model is the right choice for you? We discuss how to choose the best option for your specific needs, as well as providing guidance on how to choose between a specialized hydration pack, a traditional daypack with an added hydration system, and even a lumbar style pack.
Once you’re armed with all of this information, be sure to check out our Best-in-Class Hydration Pack Review and our individual product reviews to help narrow down your options and find the right package for you.
Hydration packs have almost become a standard issue for outdoor enthusiasts of practically every pursuit over the past several years. Just like their non-hydration specific cousins, not every bag is created equal, and there are now more options to choose from than ever.
Packs of many shapes and sizes are available, and many include luxurious touches or extra features for specific activities and uses. With all of those choices, how does a thirsty outdoor adventurer choose the right pack? Luckily, we put the top models to the test to help you decide!
Here are some women’s hydration packs for running.
1.Salomon ADV Skin 12 Set
Making a slight deviation from previous models of the ADV Skin 12, there are more fit adjustments on the sides/back, and surprisingly the result is a more comfortable and less bouncy fit.
The chest straps are noticeably thinner than last year’s model, and if we’re honest, they are a bit more challenging to adjust. Once adjusted, however, the tension is easily adjusted on the fly to keep the pack snug and comfortable.
One of the only issues we found with the ADV Skin 12 was the initial adjustment of the chest strap clips up and down the rail. Small hands seemed to help manipulate the small clips.
When compared to vests with similar systems to the Ultimate Direction FKT it makes one wonder why Salomon opted for this challenging clip system. If we ignore this small frustration, this pack is incredibly comfortable even after hours on the trail. The comfort of the soft flasks was also noticeable when compared to other packs reviewed. Having the water weight up front seems to make the vest stay put vs. riding down your back, which is typical of vests that utilize hydration bladder style reservoirs.
2.Nathan VaporHowe 2.0 12L
There are a lot of factors that contribute to making something comfortable (or uncomfortable). For this metric, we judge each pack’s materials, stretch, fit, and breathability to give an overall picture of how pleasant it is to wear for hours on end.
The VaporHowe is one of the most comfortable running packs we’ve ever tested. The first thing we noticed about it is its incredible fabric. The entire vest is made with a silky smooth, super soft material that is great next to our skin. This is the only women’s vest that we tested that we’d really be happy wearing just a sports bra with; others are too rough, and we’d always want to have a t-shirt on underneath them.
The build of this pack is like a hybrid between the Advanced Skin and the Nathan TrailMix. The sides have the same soft material, and while it looks like the Advanced Skin, it still has an adjustable strap like the TrailMix.
We loved this blend of comfort with adjustability. The front closures are highly adjustable as well. They can be moved up and down a sliding rail, and we never had trouble finding the perfect fit.
The pack has a bit of stretch through the back which we thought was great during big athletic days. We found the fit to be accurate, with arm openings and back width that fit all of our testers regardless of their body shape. We didn’t have problems with breathability either, despite the higher level of coverage on the back. We did get some feedback from runners with larger breasts that it was more difficult to find the right fit in this pack, so as always, we recommend trying this pack on before committing to a non-refundable purchase.
3.Ultimate Direction FKT
With the ability to haul around tons of equipment, even enough for fast packing missions, comes the need to adjust shoulder straps, sternum attachments, and side strap tension. Without the ability to adjust almost every strap, having a fully loaded running hydration pack can be pretty miserable. The Ultimate Direction FKT did an excellent job when fully loaded thanks to the high level of adjustability.
Thanks to height adjustments on both the sternum straps and side straps, dialing in the fit depending on where the weight rides in the pack were simple. When getting settled into the FKT initially we realized the side adjustment straps were outrageously long. Once you figure out the range you use, it would be wise to cut off the excess strap with a hot knife as it can get in the way.
While the comfort of the FKT isn’t the best, it does have a wide array of fit adjustments; mesh ventilated material, and wide enough shoulder straps to spread out the weight when fully loaded. All in all, the FKT offers the necessary comfort and adjustments to utilize its massive storage capacity.
The FKT is packed to the rafters with features. This thing has detachable external pockets, media pocket, roll-top back compartment, expandable water capacity, external bungees to attach a light jacket or shirt, and on and on. The FKT utilizes something we hadn’t encountered in our testing to date and thus were a bit skeptical of detachable pockets. These detachable external pockets initially gave us pause but ended up being an awesome added bonus. The ability to add a few hundred extra calories to your pack and have the weight distributed along the shoulder straps was the key for long days out.
4.Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set
During weeks of testing, we realized one very important thing: it’s impossible to tell how comfortable a vest will be at mile thirty if you only judge by its performance at mile one. The good news is, we’ve done the research for you! Of all the categories in this review, we found that this was the one in which the Salomon Advanced Skin fell behind.
For this metric, we first evaluated each pack’s material comfort. The Advanced Skin’s interior is made with a burly mesh which, while breathable, has one of our least favorite next-to-skin feels. The material is rough and we would definitely need to wear a shirt (with sleeves) with this product.
The fit is designed to be “female-specific,” but us definitely found it to be pretty small. We had three women who ordinarily wear a size small to try out this pack, and all found it to be too tight in the shoulders and back. The arm openings felt too small as well. Our testers realized that this is the only women’s product in this review that does not adjust laterally.
The only adjustment point on this pack is in the front, and we think that being able to change the sizing on the sides would really help the fit. This wouldn’t fix the small arm openings, though, so we’d definitely recommend trying on this pack before committing.
All that being said, the elastic front closure allows for more breathing room in the front and increased adjustability. And while we didn’t like the way the mesh felt on our skin, we did love the small amount of padding behind the mesh that provided a really comfortable fit. A lot goes into making a great running pack; it needs to carry all the gear we might need for a big day in the wilderness, without causing us any discomfort. We’ll get into the world of pockets a bit later, but in this category, we judged each product by its inclusion of features like storage for bulky items, clips, trekking pole holders, and other unique details.
5.Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 4.0
The biggest alteration to the 4.0 Ultra Vest is how adjustable the side and back straps are. There is a massive amount of adjustability within each of the size categories (S, M, L). While this design does a fantastic job of fine-tuning the fit, it is a bit on the bouncy side when the vest is loaded down.
As you work through your food and water and the vest lightens up, it is quite stable and comfortable. The dual cinch system that allows the side straps to be adjusted also has several (six) hard plastic pieces that became a bit irritating if we were wearing the vest without a shirt.
This pack has a lot of features. Perhaps the coolest (no pun intended) is the Micromonofillament material that comprises nearly the entire structure which is super lightweight, strong, and non-absorbent.
We also made use of the hiking pole storage bungees, expandable pockets, whistle, and back bungee, allowing us to store and deploy our running jacket quickly. All in all, this vest is packed with unique features.
What to See While Buying?
The first thing you’ll need to consider is how you’re most likely to use your shiny new pack. Are you just looking for a basic daypack for general use? Hikes with the family and friends? Do your outdoor athletic pursuits usually involve pedaling? How about the season? Are you a warm-weather sun worshipper, or are you a cold-weather warrior?
Today’s packs are typically geared towards one activity or another, intended for hiking and general use, road or mountain cycling, running, or cold weather and snow sports. It’s important to choose a pack that includes the features that will be a good fit for your personal outdoor interests.
General use packs are similar to standard backpacks, but with the addition of built-in hydration features: hydration bladder compartment with a hanging clip or hook, drinking tubes with bite valves for easy drinking, and openings, loops, or magnetic clips to route and secure drinking hoses to a convenient spot on the pack.
Women’s hydration packs for running are available with different sizes and uses.These all-purpose packs are available in sizes from quite small to large enough for fast and light backpacking trips.
Riders can opt for certain models that are aimed specifically at their two-wheeled pursuits, whether your rides take you to the road or the trail. While equipped with similar features as the general use packs, like the hydration bladder compartment, bladder, drinking tube, and bite valve, these packs also provide more bike-specific features.
With women’s hydration packs for running, things like tool compartments and gear securing straps and flaps are also included.
Packs that are intended more for paved rides tend to have a low profile and may not include waist belts like those that are more geared for trail riders. Mountain bike packs generally provide more space for extra layers, tools, and some are equipped with armor storage and even built-in spine protectors.
A “newer” old-school style of pack that is making a comeback is the lumbar pack. These packs are typically lighter weight than traditional backpacks, provide more freedom for movement with their lack of shoulder straps, and can be a comfortable, convenient option for bikers or hikers.
Women’s hydration packs for running with just enough storage for a couple hours’ worth of water and your essential tools, keys, wallet, and phone, a lumbar pack can be a great choice for shorter outings where light is right.
If your activity repertoire takes you outside in the colder months, several manufacturers have got you covered, or at least your water supply. There’s no longer a need to construct closed-cell foam and duct tape insulating covers for a hydration bladder and drinking hose unless you’re going for that cool, retro dirt-bag look.
These specialty women’s hydration packs for running typically provide you with extra thermal protection for both bladder and tube, and some include bite valve covers. Even with all of these features, we still recommend blowing out your drinking tube after each sip to prevent annoying freezing and blockage.
Hydration-style packs intended for running are in more of a specialized class by themselves. If you’re looking for running-oriented packs, and also for women’s hydration packs for running.
These models, often a hybrid between a pack and a vest, move with your body much better than any traditional backpack style model we reviewed. They also weigh less and typically feature soft bottles instead of larger, heavier bladders.
General Tips for Selection:
As you’d likely suspect, generally speaking, the larger and longer your adventures, the larger the pack you’re likely to need. That goes for both gear and water carrying capacities. Keep in mind that water is indeed necessary, but adds up quickly at a weight of 2.2 pounds per liter.
Top off that 3-liter hydration bladder, and you’re looking at 6.6 pounds on your back! Remember, you don’t necessarily have to completely fill the bladder with liquid if your hike, ride, run, ski or snowshoe is only a couple hours.
You can partially fill, swap out differently sized bladders, or even use a smaller-sized bladder along with a water filter, etc., in the women’s hydration packs for running for longer days when water sources are readily available for fillups.
Ease of Drinking:
Ease of drinking is one of the most important aspects of a hydration system. During our testing process, we found varying flow rates from our hydration systems. Check out our Best Hydration Packs article to see how they all compared.
While there was a significant variance in flow rates among the different women’s hydration packs for running systems, overall the higher quality/higher priced models performed very similarly, and differences were almost imperceptible when actually out in the field.
If you’re discouraged with the hydration system in your pack, keep in mind that there is compatibility between some of the systems and you may be able to pair one brand’s bladder with another brand’s drinking tube or bite valve.
CamelBak and Platypus make this simple in some of their models with quick disconnect fittings between the bladder and tube. Both systems use the same fitting, and the switch is easy. If you want extra security when it comes to leakage from the bite valve, most hydration systems now include an on/off shutoff valve incorporated into the drinking tube.
Ease of Filling:
A hydration bladder that is easy to drink from should also be easy to fill, which brings us to our next criteria for deciding on which model is right for you: ease of filling in the women’s hydration packs for running.
The first step in determining how easy a pack is to fill is accessing the hydration bladder. Some contenders, like the CamelBak models, place the bladder access right up front and center. Just lift the cover, and you’ve got full access to the vast opening.
Other packs like the Osprey, Platypus, and Gregory offerings make things easy to access with dedicated hydration sleeves that house the bladder in a handy zippered compartment. This style gives you complete access to your hydration system without having to gut your pack completely.
When you’re considering which filling style you’d prefer, remember to anticipate the water sources you’re likely to fill your women’s hydration packs for running from. Most of the competitors we tested were easy to fill from a deep kitchen sink, but if you travel and are filling up from shallow hotel room sinks or natural water sources, you may want to consider a model with a quick disconnect fitting.
In situations like these, it’s much easier to access the hydration bladder after disconnecting the drinking tube, and you’ll gain better access to fill.
Your pack also needs to be comfortable, and there are several factors to consider as you’re shopping for the right model. Things like overall support, ventilation, shoulder strap, and waist belt construction are important to consider.
A general rule of thumb is that as you carry more gear, you’ll want more support. Luckily, today’s pack manufacturers have recognized this and design things accordingly. Minimalist models like the CamelBak Classic are intended for small amounts of weight, generally some water and a couple of small items.
These packs are simple in design with materials and support that are less substantial than larger packs like the Osprey Skarab 18. There’s no need for extra materials and storage when carried loads are light. A simple padded nylon bag with some cushy shoulder straps is sufficient here.
On the other hand, when your days are long, and the weather is variable, your pack weight is likely to increase, and more support will add to your comfort. Packs that are larger and intended to carry more gear have been designed with more overall support in mind.
These models feature more padding in the central areas like the waist belt, shoulder straps, and back pad. Some of these higher capacity packs are even made with lightweight wireframes as we found in our Editors’ Choice Platypus Duthie A.M. 10 or metal stays like the Deuter Compact EXP 12.
These extra support features in women’s hydration packs for running makes carrying heavier loads a little more manageable by giving the pack more structure.
A good pack should be well ventilated where it comes in contact with your back, shoulders, and waist. Particularly on a chilly day, there’s nothing more annoying than working up a profuse sweat, taking your pack off and realizing your back is entirely soaked (and soon, chilling). Today’s manufacturers realize this, and the majority provides excellent breathability.
Look for some women’s hydration packs for running. Look for models constructed with more open mesh and fabrics since this encourages better breathability to keep you cool, mainly where the pack contacts your back. A majority of the packs we reviewed are made with mesh-covered foam back pads with integrated air channels that aid in breathability and ventilation.
For even more ventilation, models such as the Osprey Syncro 12 and Platypus Duthie A.M. 10 incorporate a tensioned mesh back panel with a lightweight wire frame that keeps pack contact with your body to a minimum.