How to Carry Hydration on Your Run


  • Trying to figure out the most efficient way to carry fluids on a long run? According to a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, there’s no significant difference between carrying handheld water bottles, waist belts, and backpacks for hydration and fueling needs when it comes to running economy.
  • Much like any type of other running gear choice—from shoes and sock options to performance fabrics and head coverings—runners will naturally find what works best for them.

    With the holidays coming up, are you considering putting some new running gear on your wish list? (Don’t forget that presents to yourself count, too!) Maybe you want a new option for carrying hydration and fuel—but which should you choose among the three categories: handheld water bottle, waist belt, or backpack?

    A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology went deep into that question, comparing the economy and physiological demands of what researchers call “carriage systems.” They recruited 12 recreational runners, with an average age of 22 and body mass index of 24 (which is considered within the normal range).

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    Each runner completed four hour-long running tests on a treadmill, starting with no load carried, followed by sessions with the water bottle, waist belt, and backpack. Running economy was assessed through heart rate, perceived exertion, oxygen cost, and energy cost.

    The findings showed it actually doesn’t matter what you carry, or where on your body that extra weight is loaded. Researchers noted that this finding contrasts previous studies that found advantages to other system over another. For example, a recent study on backpack designs found that for longer runs, equal distribution of weight through a front/back pack was more advantageous than one carried just on the back.

    But this latest research concludes that there’s no advantage to carrying one system over another, and the choice doesn’t affect running economy in any significant way. So if you are making a choice, it’s up to your personal preference.



    The study has several limitations, most notably in number of participants, lack of outdoor terrain and varying temperature and humidity conditions, and lack of a larger age range and body composition. But their overall conclusion that it comes down a matter of personal preference would likely have occurred with a much larger participant pool, and in various weather conditions, believes Ramsey Bergeron, C.P.T., a personal trainer based out of Scottsdale, Arizona.

    He told Runner’s World that much like any type of other running gear choice—from shoe and sock options to performance fabrics and head coverings—runners will naturally find what works best for them, usually through trial and error.

    The takeaway? Consider putting all three options on your holiday shopping list, and figure out what works best for you. After all, if ever there was a year to boost your December self-care, it’s this one.

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