Staying hydrated is no biggie for those running on a treadmill or a park with ample water fountains. But for runners trekking city streets or mountain trails, carrying a running water bottle may be the only way to get some sweet, sweet H2O.
The best running water bottles are lightweight, easy-to-carry and inconspicuous — you shouldn't even remember you're toting it around until you need a drink. Short neighborhood jog or miles in the wilderness, there's an optimal running water bottle to keep you hydrated and performing your best.
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The Best Running Water Bottles for 2023
- Best for 5K Runners: Nathan QuickSqueeze 12 oz. Insulated Handheld ($30 to $35, Nathan Sports)
- Best for 10K to Half-Marathon Runners: Nathan TrailMix Plus Hydration Belt ($50, Nathan Sports)
- Best for Marathon Runners: Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 5.0 ($129.95, Amazon)
- Best for Trail Runners: Camelbak Women's Circuit Vest 50 oz. ($58.25, Amazon)
- Best Collapsible Water Bottle: Platypus 1L SoftBottle ($12.99, Dick's Sporting Goods)
- Best Insulated Water Bottle: Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask ($37, Nathan Sports)
- Best Budget: Aonijie Quick Grip Handheld Water Bottle ($18.99, Amazon)
How We Chose
We chatted with Lauren Sheu, Road Runners Club of America (RRCA)-certified run coach and owner of Running for Wellness, and Bethany Welch, RRCA-certified run coach and owner of Bethany Welch Fitness to learn their top picks for the best running water bottles.
Along with their recommendations, we narrowed our search based on features including:
1. Best for 5K Distance: Nathan QuickSqueeze 12 oz. Insulated Handheld
- Design: handheld, hand strap
- Capacity: 12 fl. oz.
Sheu is a big fan of handheld water bottles for runs shorter than 5 miles — and this one from Nathan is her top pick. "It's a high-quality bottle, fits well and includes a small pouch for extra fuel, your keys and other essentials," she says.
Welch also recommends this Nathan handheld water bottle for shorter jaunts. "The bottle is a favorite among myself and my clients," she says. "It's super lightweight and easy to hold for long runs. It feels very compact, and just rests in your hand so you don't feel like you need to grip onto it for dear life!"
Another big bonus: The bottle is insulated, meaning your water won't get overheated on a super-hot day.
Buy it: NathanSports.com; Price: $30 to $35
2. Best for 10K to Half-Marathon Distances: Nathan TrailMix Plus Hydration Belt
- Design: belt
- Capacity: 20 fl. oz.
For mid-distance runs (10K or half-marathon), Sheu and Welch recommend a running belt with water bottle holders. And the Trailmix Plus Hydration Belt from Nathan Sports is the one to try.
"If you are doing a longer run, you should consider a hydration belt that can hold more hydration and fuel," says Sheu, noting the belt has room for two 10-ounce bottles (a total of 20 ounces) to carry with you. "There is also plenty of room for additional fuel and essentials in the center pocket."
Best of all: It's adjustable, so you can get a perfectly snug fit, Welch says. After all, you don't want your running belt bouncing all over the place.
Buy it: NathanSports.com; Price: $50
3. Best for Marathon Distance: Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 5.0
- Design: vest
- Capacity: 10.8 L (365 fl. oz.)
"Hydration backpacks and vests become important when running long distances," Sheu says. Thanks to their high capacity, hydration backpacks and vests are crucial for long distances, Sheu says. That being said, an ill-fitting or heavy vest can slow you down, rather than fueling you for longer distances.
Your hydration vest should fit snuggly with minimal mid-stride bounce or movement. The Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 5.0 has an adjustable bungee cinch so your pack stays snug on your shoulders and back. This one is also super light, weighing only about 6.3 ounces.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $129.95
4. Best for Trail Running: Camelbak Circuit Vest 50 oz.
- Design: vest
- Capacity: 50 fl. oz.
When you're trail running, you want your hands free in case you need to grab a tree for stability (so, handheld bottles are a no-go). And extra weight around your waist can throw you off balance on uneven terrain (pass on the hydration belt, too). That's where hydration backpacks or vests come in, Sheu says.
"If you're planning to walk, run or hike for more than a few hours, consider a hydration vest," she says. Sheu loves the Camelbak Circuit Vest, as it can haul a lot of water with a snug, obstacle-free setup. Plus, this one has a waterspout that is easy to use and a zippered pocket for your phone.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $58.25
5. Best Collapsible: Platypus 1L SoftBottle
- Design: handheld, packable
- Capacity: 1 L (33.8 fl. oz.)
Collapsible bottles are ideal for long-distance races, Sheu says. These flexible bottles can be flattened and easily stowed away, making them convenient for long-distance runners who need to consistently refill and quickly store.
Her top pick: the Platypus SoftBottle. This product can store up to a liter of water but still only weighs about an ounce (for reference, that's the same as a few pencils). And while a collapsible water bottle is ideal for ultra-marathon distances, Welch uses these bottles for short runs, too — like running through a park with frequent water fountains.
Buy it: DicksSportingGoods.com; Price: $12.99
6. Best Insulated: Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask
- Design: handheld, hand strap
- Capacity: 12 fl. oz.
Whether it's frigid and your water turns to ice, or sweltering hot and your water warms up, having a poorly insulated water bottle can seriously thwart outdoor runs.
To combat this problem and keep your water "just right," Sheu recommends an insulated water bottle. The Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask has a double-insulated wall that's perfect for temperature regulation.
And like Nathan's other handheld bottles, this one has an adjustable strap and thumb hole, giving you optimal movement and little added weight.
Buy it: NathanSports.com; Price: $37
7. Best Budget: Aonijie Quick Grip Handheld Water Bottle
- Design: handheld, with strap
- Capacity: 0.5 L (16.9 fl. oz.)
Not quite ready to invest in a pricey running water bottle just yet? The Aonijie Quick Grip Handheld Water Bottle is a solid choice.
Like the Nathan QuickSqueeze bottle above, this model (which is nearly half the price) offers an adjustable hand strap and multiple zippered compartments for storing keys, cards and other small items. And at barely half an ounce, it's light and convenient.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $19.99
5 Things to Consider When Purchasing a Water Bottle for Running
1. Distance and Location
"The most important thing to consider [when purchasing a running bottle] is the type of runner you are and how often (or much) you need to drink," Welch says.
Those who love to spend hours on trails don't have a lot of refill options at their disposal, so a hydration backpack or vest is probably the best choice, thanks to its high capacity. Runners training for a marathon may want to consider a hydration belt with multiple pockets for keys and on-the-go fuel.
For those who plan to head out on city paths with easily accessible fountains, a handheld or single collapsible water bottle should do just fine. "You don't want to lug around a heavy hydration vest all day if you don't need it. This will help you to have the most comfortable experience," Sheu adds.
When the weather outside is particularly hot or cold, plan to run with an insulated water bottle to ensure your water doesn't freeze or get uncomfortably warm.
"Insulation ensures that the water you are carrying does not freeze during your run," Sheu says. "Insulated bottles can also help so that your cold hydration stays cool during warm weather runs."
If you need mid-run snacks, continuous hydration or space for valuables, find a water bottle with storage pockets, both Sheu and Welch say.
And while hydration packs and runners' water belts often have ample compartments, don't discount handheld products. Many handheld bottles (like our picks above) have zippered pockets that can easily fit keys, credit cards and even smartphones.
Fit is crucial for finding the right running water bottle, Sheu and Welch say.
For belts and vests, read the product info to find a sweat-wicking material that won't chafe, Welch recommends. But if you do chafe on the first few runs, don't worry (yet): "Oftentimes, it takes a few runs [with a new hydration pack or belt] to get comfortable." In that case, make sure the company has a flexible return policy.
While most handheld running water bottles, hydration packs and hydration belts come in various sizes, look for items with adjustable straps to allow for the best fit, Sheu adds.
When searching for a running water bottle, keep an eye out for one major descriptor on the packaging: BPA-free. Essentially, BPA is a harmful chemical some manufacturers still use in packaging and product creation that has been linked to various health complications, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Some non-reputable manufacturers still rely on cheap ingredients for products that may have these harmful chemicals, Sheu says. So, before you buy, read the product info to make sure your bottle is BPA-free.