Which hydration vest is best?

Water is essential. When you are engaged in an activity such as running or hiking, where space is at a premium and there is no available source of fresh water to hydrate your body, you need to bring your own supply. That is the main purpose of a hydration vest.

The best hydration vests are rugged, fit snug and let you bring an ample supply of water. The Nathan Pinnacle 12L Hydration Vest is the top vest, featuring a sleek design with an insulated bladder that lets you bring 1.6 liters of water with you on your adventures.

What to know before you buy a hydration vest

How a hydration vest works

A hydration vest is a lightweight vest that you put on when you will be engaged in a physical activity — for instance, walking, running, kayaking or biking — for an extended period. The vest has several pockets that can hold bottles of water, a water bladder, food and your essentials (phone, wallet, keys, etc.). While you place the water bottles and fuel in front pockets for easy access, you carry the water bladder on your back. The water bladder has a convenient drinking tube that lets you take a quick sip whenever you get thirsty.

Benefits of a hydration vest

With a hydration vest, you do not need to interrupt your activity to unpack and open a bottle of water. If the tube is right by your mouth, you will drink more often, which will help you stay properly hydrated. A hydration vest also makes it easier to carry more water, and it lets you keep your hands free so you can better navigate difficult terrain.

What to look for in a quality hydration vest

Capacity

In general, you need to drink half a liter to a full liter of water for each hour you are engaged in a physical activity. When shopping for a hydration vest, look for one that can carry enough water to keep you sufficiently hydrated.

Lightweight, durable and comfortable

A hydration vest needs to be lightweight, durable and comfortable. The best are made with a moisture-wicking, breathable fabric that will hold up under rugged use.

Insulated bladder

If you prefer cold water, look for a hydration vest with an insulated bladder. Understand, however, that even the best ones won’t keep your water cold when you are in the sun for several hours.

Reflective markings

For safety, it is always wise to get a vest with reflective markings, so you are easier to see in low light. Choosing a vibrant color that stands out from the environment during the day is also smart, because it makes you easier to locate.

Additional storage space

Besides water, you may need to carry food, a smartphone, keys, identification and more. If this is the case, search for a hydration vest with extra storage.

Extras

Some hydration vests have areas that hold trekking poles, and others have a built-in emergency whistle. Sometimes, these minor aspects clearly make one vest better than all others.

How much you can expect to spend on a hydration vest

A budget hydration vest can cost as low as $25. You must be careful when purchasing these, because they might not have a durable build. On the high end, it is possible to spend up to $200 on a name-brand vest.

Hydration vest FAQ

How should a hydration vest fit?

A. A hydration vest needs to fit snugly. You do not want it sliding or bouncing around as you move because that will lead to chafing. It should provide a good fit when you tighten the adjustable straps about halfway — this gives you room to make adjustments either way as needed. Be careful about getting a vest that is too tight, however, as it might hinder the deep breathing required during physical exertion.

Do hydration vests come with a bladder?

A. Some do. Read the description to learn if the vest you are considering comes with a bladder. While it is not hard to find and buy a hydration bladder, some can cost as much as a low-end hydration vest.

What’s the best hydration vest to buy?

Top hydration vest

Nathan Pinnacle 12L Hydration Vest

Nathan Pinnacle 12L Hydration Vest

What you need to know: This high-end hydration vest has a sleek design and a 1.6-liter bladder.

What you’ll love: Its insulated bladder helps keep water cold for longer. It has eight pockets, so you can also carry food and other essentials. The reflective details enhance visibility in low light. The moisture-wicking fabric wears like a shirt.

What you should consider: It resides at the top of the price scale.

Where to buy: Sold by Backcountry

Top hydration vest for the money

CamelBak Circuit Run Vest

CamelBak Circuit Run Vest

What you need to know: If you are looking for a compact, affordable vest that still provides a high degree of quality, this is a solid choice.

What you’ll love: It’s made of micro-mesh fabric that encourages multidirectional airflow for maximum comfort. There is a zippered pocket for securing a small item, such as a phone, and drawstring pockets give you quick access to your food. You can adjust the sternum straps up or down for a customized fit.

What you should consider: It doesn’t offer much space to pack anything besides the bladder and a couple smaller essentials. While this may be a negative for some, it is a benefit for others.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Worth checking out

Ultimate Direction Adventure 5.0 Hydration Vest

Ultimate Direction Adventure 5.0 Hydration Vest

What you need to know: This lightweight vest offers an impressive 17 liters of overall storage.

What you’ll love: The versatile design of this hydration vest has 13 pockets for storage along with loops to stash your trekking poles. It has an integrated rain fly that keeps your gear dry and a bottle with an angled cap for easier drinking. The front zippered pockets are roomy enough to secure a large cell phone.

What you should consider: Because of its ample storage, this vest is better for hiking than running.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Backcountry

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.