8 water bottles and hydration systems for working out outdoors

Bike, run or hike? These hand-held water bottles and hydration waist packs, vests and backpacks will ensure you never go thirsty.
Outdoor exercise
Before you choose a hydration system, you need to consider your activities, the length of time you are going to be at them, and your personal preferences. Blend Images/Michael DeYoung / Getty Images/Tetra images RF
By Amanda Loudin

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We are firmly in the dog days of summer and if you like to exercise outside, that means carrying some water with you. The good news is that the options for bringing liquids along for the activity are more plentiful than ever, and there’s a hydration solution for everyone.

Before you pick one, however, you need to consider your activities, the length of time you are going to be at them, and your personal preferences. Jennifer Harrison, coach at JHC Coaching, based in Chicago, says that in this heat and humidity, you don’t want to mess around. “I remind my athletes that hydration is something they need to consider all day long in this weather,” she says. “You’re out in the heat watching kids’ games, mowing the lawn, and other activities and then you try to go out and run a long run the next day. It can backfire.”

She suggests drinking enough throughout the day to ensure you need to pee every two to three hours — and that pee should be the color of light lemonade. Even if you’re on top of your game here, you’re probably going to need to bring some hydration along during your bike ride, run, or hike. “I tell my triathletes — who are usually doing multiple rounds of exercise — to carry something on every run,” Harrison explains.

Depending on how long you’re going and in what kind of temperature, that may look like a hand-held water bottle, a waist-mounted hydration pack, or even a backpack or vest. “I tell everyone to try a variety of options to figure out what they like,” she says. “For instance, I absolutely despise carrying something around my waist, but for others, it might feel just right.”

We took a look at the many versions of hydration systems on the market today and rounded up some of our favorites:

Water bottles and flasks for shorter runs and bike rides

These are the handheld systems to bring along for shorter efforts. They’re lightweight and ergonomic, and give you something to sip on as you run or hike through sessions in the range of 90 minutes or less, depending on your personal needs.

This 18-oz. sized handheld features a double wall of insulation designed to keep your drinks cooler longer, up to 20 percent longer, according to the company. It offers a natural grip, easy-squeeze access, and a zippered pocket that fits most smartphones, nutrition and or keys. It comes in multiple colors and includes reflective material to help cars see you in the dark.

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With room for 17 oz. of fluids, the Nano is an easy, lightweight bottle to carry along. Using the proprietary X-Grip hand strap system, users can customize the fit to their needs. The Nano offers multiple colors and an essentials pocket for keys, nutrition, or other small items.

Featuring a BPA-free bottle, this handheld holds 16 oz. of liquids. The bottle’s insulated sleeve is hand washable and features an internal pocket divider for ID or keys, along with a large zipper pocket that fits most phones. The ergonomic shape allows the hand to rest in a natural, comfortable position.

Water belts and waist packs for races and longer runs or bike rides

This is NATHAN’s best-selling hydration belt and it comes with two, 10-oz insulated flasks, which sit in its SpeedFit holsters for easy, on-the-fly access. The belt offers a large zip pocket that can fit a smartphone, nutrition and other items.

This one is designed with mountain bikers in mind and offers a minimalist approach to wearable hydration. The water and cargo holders are located at the waist, leaving shoulders and back free. The water reservoir checks in at 1.5 liters and riders can customize the fit.

Hydration vests for hiking

For long endeavors out on the trail, this gender-specific vest offers up a two-liter bladder with a quick-release valve and a zippered pocket and kangaroo pocket. Need even more water/nutrition? There are front pockets that fit bottles and flasks up to 22 oz. Users can use the adjustable sizing features for a customized fit.

The newest version of this popular vest will debut soon and maxes out accessible storage and hydration. A two-liter reservoir, organized compartments for snacks, gear and other items, there is even a secure hold for trekking poles. With mesh venting, this vest won’t cause you to overheat, either.

Designed for the long haul, this vest has a volume capacity of 12 liters. It features a trekking pole holder, a phone pocket, a front bottle pocket, and a rain fly for inclement weather. Users will find the breathable mesh net and four-way stretch make for a comfortable day on the trails.

As Harrison points out, summer is not the time to overlook hydration and when you have so many options to keep liquids at the ready, there’s no excuse not to.

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