Running hydration accessories

After a 20 mile training run today and the super hot and humid Savannah Marathon two weeks ago, during which the race organizers apparently ran out of water and Gatorade in many of the aid stations, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about race preparedness.

During that marathon I was lucky to have passed the aid stations before they ran out of fluids, but I haven’t been so lucky before. My very first half marathon, years and years ago, was also (coincidentally) in Georgia… in August… at night a still blazing hot time of day.

It was the inaugural half marathon of this particular racing company, who shall remain nameless, and that should have been my first concern. (As Dear Boyfriend likes to say, don’t try version 1.0 of anything, and I think that’s especially true of long distance races.)

Around mile 8 or so, the fluid station I came to was empty. Out. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. What?! This wasn’t a huge race, mind you — maybe a couple thousand people, max.

Aid station after aid station, they were out of all liquids, only having GU on hand. And, as much as I swear by GU, we all know that taking one without water to chase it is miserably sweet and will leave you feeling even thirstier than before.

Starting to cramp and really feel the effects of dehydration, I was forced to walk the last few miles of my first half marathon, shaking as I crossed the finish line and lunging for the nearest aid tent.

“I’ve learned my lesson,” I told myself after that. “From now on, I shall always, always, carry my own hydration on races longer than 10k. Even if a race is supposedly the most well organized and takes place in the coolest, least humid conditions, you just never know.”

Paranoid? Perhaps. But safe? Definitely.

And thus, over the years, I’ve tried out a variety of hydration methods in races, but so far, there are no clear winners.

First, for a trail half marathon I ran shortly after the Georgia debacle, I bought this waist belt water bottle from Nathan. Verdict: the weight distribution was good, and I liked that it held so much sports drink, but it jostled around so much that it was very distracting to run with. Literally, the entire belt kept bouncing up and down wildly around my waist. Granted, I have a small waist, so perhaps I bought the wrong size, but I wanted to wear it around where you’d wear a belt, not around my belly button.

For many races after that, I used a slew of cheap water bottles — the kind they give away in swag bags that you don’t mind having to toss during a race if it gets too heavy.

Then, earlier this year during a particularly cold half marathon, where I knew I’d need little extra hydration, I bought this handheld bottle, also from Nathan. Verdict: Terrible. There’s a small ribbon tab thingy on the inside of the strap that fits around your hand. I think it’s there to allow you to adjust the tightness of the carrier, but I could never get it to budge. For the entire half marathon, I kept thinking to myself, “dang, this strap hurts!” By the time I actually took off the handheld water bottle after crossing the finish line, I had a pretty sizable cut on the back of my left hand. Simply from holding a darn water bottle!

So now, after experiencing somewhat of another heat/humidity scare at Savannah (during which I just carried a cheap bottle I got for free), I’m bound and determined to find a hydration pack that holds enough, is easy enough to run with, and won’t cut me.

If I hadn’t had two bad experiences with Nathan products in a row, I’d be more than tempted to try out this snazzy pink vest that holds 2 liters.

I’ve also heard amazing things about CamelBak, so I’m considering this 2 liter vest, although it’s a tad pricey.

I’ll put up a post once I decide on a new hydration pack!


  1. I have the nathan firestorm and it does the job well. I like that it also has enough room in the back compartment that I can shed a jacket or shirt into it. It took a couple of runs to get used to burping the bladder well….otherwise it sloshes :/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just got the smallest Nathan vest. Holds 2 bottles up front and has room for a bladder or a bottle or a lifestraw, etc in the back. My experience with camel backs are they are more like backpacks than vests so they wind up being uncomfortable (but it’s been 20 years since I bought a camelback so maybe things have changed).
    My 2016 project is to write about gaining confidence, mileage and experience in long trail runs and writing about it (the other half of my writing is all mental health crap). These essays/stories are at I’d love feedback from another runner-writer. PS – I’m following

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jeff, thanks for commenting! Sounds like the Nathan vest is working out for you. I’ve just been so unlucky with Nathan products that I think I’m done with them for good. I’m quite pleased with the Camelback I bought. I got the child’s size, as it fit me perfectly and was $20 cheaper than the adult size. It holds 1.5L, which I found to be sufficient for a full marathon in decent heat/humidity. I really like all the pockets it has too.

      I thought I had already been following your blog, but when I clicked on the link, it appears I hadn’t. Oops! Now following. 🙂

      I really look forward to reading about your running and mental health posts. You’ll find I write a lot about both of those topics!


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