I recommend handhelds for training runs over 8 miles and for race distances of half-marathon or greater. One of the best parts about handhelds is that the ones made for runners have straps that attach to your hand, making it much easier to carry them for long distances. If I am running a long race, I prefer to take 2 handhelds, not only for balance but also so I can put water in one and an electrolyte mixture in the other. Here are some brands/models that I recommend:
- E50/50 North Face Bottle Holder: This is an ergonomically designed bottle with a small pocket for gels/keys.
- Ultimate Direction FASTDRAW PLUS: This is a great choice because of the hand strap and bigger pockets, but it is not as ergonomic as the North Face version.
- GoLite Hydro Clutch Hydration Pack (Spring 2008): this is a great choice because of price and quality, very similar to the FASTDRAW. GoLite Hydro Clutch Hydration Pack (Spring 2008)
Fuelbelts have become very popular lately, especially for trail runners. I recommend using a fuel belt for marathon or longer race distance, although I strongly recommend training with it as well so you get used to wearing it. The great thing about fuelbelts is that they have 2-4 different bottles, making it easy to mix up your water sources. I like to use 2 water and 2 for electrolyte drinks, but you could mix it up any way you like. Fuelbelts also have pockets, which make them great for solo runs because you can store credit cards, cell phones, keys, and gels without having to lug a camelbak around. Im going to recommend several, but they all do the job well, so I recommend making your decision based on price, style, and size.
- Photon Lumbar Hydration Pack: Only has one bottle, but fits well and has decent sized pockets. Great for shorter runs. Photon Lumbar Hydration Pack
- CamelBak Alterra 28 oz. Hydration Pack: Although it isnt a bottle, I really like the simplicity of using it.There is a clip to keep the hose from flying around while you run.
- Ultimate Direction Naviti Hydration Waistpack: Very efficient design with wicking quality so you it doesnt soak up sweat. Has 2 bottles and large storage for long trail runs. Very good pack.
- Amphipod Runlite Waist Race Hydration Pack – 16 oz.: This is a great option for those that dont want one of the larger packs. This has 2 bottles and a small storage pouch, making it lightweight and practical.
- Fuelbelt Helium 4 Bottle Belt: The original 4 bottle fuelbelt. You cant go wrong with this model.
Camelbaks are great for long trail runs, marathons, and ultramarathons. I prefer Camelbaks over fuel belts because of the water capacity and the way they fit, but the drawback is that you can only carry one type of drink. However, you can offset that problem by carrying a handheld with electrolyte mix and keep pure water in the Camelbak. If I am going to run any type of ultramarathon or marathon trail run, I will wear a Camelbak. You can buy Camelbaks with or without a pouch/pouches.
- CamelBak M.U.L.E. 100 oz. Hydration Pack: A bit larger than I like to wear, but if you are going to be out for a long while, then the extra water storage and pockets will come in handy.
- Octane XC 70 oz Trailrunning Pack Awesome pack designed for trail runners. Fits extremely well and has easy access to pockets.
- CamelBak Classic Hydration Pack – 70 oz. Your basic Camelbak with little to no storage. Best option for those that want large water storage without all the extra storage weight.
- CamelBak Hydrobak Hydration Pack – 50 oz. Best Camelbak for the money. Doesnt have any pockets, but stores enough water for long runs and is by far the lightest and most comfortable option.
Hydration is mostly a matter of preference, however I would highly recommend carrying the least amount of water you can afford to carry as comfort and weight are huge issues during races. Training runs are great for getting used to wearing fuelbelts or Camelbaks, but remember to try different options if you can.