Photo by Oliver Baker.
Hydration Is Key
Camelbak Nano Vest, $100
The minimalist design of this new vest keeps your hydration secure and stable, with a “seamless feel on top of running clothes,” notes one tester. While the design is technically unisex, the two chest straps hit above and below the bust and have good adjustability (though bustier women might want to try on before buying). The two 17-oz. soft flasks aren’t as easy to drink from while moving as traditional hydration reservoirs with a straw. While it’s a very streamlined and lightweight vest, testers did love the pockets it has, which keep your phone easily accessible—plus the overflow pocket along the spine is great for stashing a jacket. One tester would even consider taking the vest on runs just for its accessory-holding features.
Nathan VaporMag 2.5L Women’s Race Vest, $125
For a forget-you’re-wearing-it feel, the newest women’s vest from Nathan delivers. Developed in collaboration with ultrarunner Maggie Guterl, the vest provides a snug and natural fit, is super light and breathable, and the two 12-oz. soft flasks in the straps are easy to drink from while moving. While it’s more on the minimal side, it still features enough storage to hold a phone, nutrition and a jacket. The vest is available in six sizes (from XS to XL), though taller testers noted that it came up to “crop-top level,” which might look awkward.
Cotopaxi Veloz 6L Hydration Pack, $140
Hoping to stand out from the crowd, the Veloz uses a unique cross-strap design and super-modern styling. By using unconventional shoulder straps that connect with an aluminum slotted buckle, this pack eliminates the need for chest straps, instead forming a snug fit that’s easy to take on and off quickly. Despite the lack of a hip strap, testers reported very little bouncing but recommend linking the long excess ends of the shoulder straps together with a small carabiner for extra support. The fabric on this well-organized pack is heavier than comparable hydration options—which bodes well for durability without giving testers any overheating issues. Though the hydration hose did have to be cut slightly to length on a relatively basic bladder for this price point, it performed well once dialed in.
Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 4.0, $135
Designed around women’s smaller torso length, this women-specific vest accommodates women’s chests with bottles placed higher and is also reservoir compatible (unlike the men’s version) so that you don’t have to rely on the two 17-oz. bottles in the front. Testers enjoyed the secure fit of this vest without feeling restricted, though one tester noted the location and hard tops of the bottles provided significant chafing on her sternum and opted to use the reservoir only (not included). With a medium-volume capacity, it held everything testers needed for longer runs, including a slim puffy jacket, gloves and nutrition, and testers appreciated the pack’s durability.
Osprey Dyna 15, $140
For runners who bring everything but the kitchen sink on their runs, the Dyna 15 can hold it. Designed for “the long haul,” as one tester put it, it features a women-specific fit that hugs the back comfortably while also providing great breathability, even pulling sweat away from the body. The included reservoir holds 2.5 liters of water, and pockets on the chest can hold additional soft flasks if needed. With all the storage, you can easily access your run essentials, like your keys and phone, while also bringing along clothes for layering, lunch and trekking poles with some room to spare—just be warned that when fully packed, it gets slightly uncomfortable for running.
UltrAspire Astral 3.0 Hydration Pack, $135
This bag is all about adjustability and fit for every body type—with a harness-like design and bungee cord-like closure across the sternum, this vest accommodates most every woman’s body shape for a flexible yet comfortable fit. It comes with a 2-liter reservoir and allows for a water bottle in the front pocket for additional hydration. The essentials can be contained in zippered pockets, and the large-holed mesh helps pull moisture from the body. While highly flexible and adjustable, the pack only comes in one “universal” size, so it might not fit every single body type.