The Athlete’s Guide to Running Belts, Race Belts and Hydration Belts

One of the disadvantages of being a frequent runner is that you find yourself with absolutely no storage space. So, where are you supposed to keep all of the items that you simply cannot leave home without? Fortunately, there are running belts that will act as the perfect carrying option for you.

There is actually a considerable amount of variation between running belts. This can make it quite tricky to figure out what you should get, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience in these belts. This is why you should read through this guide. Here you will find all of the answers to your questions and more.

An Athlete’s Guide to Buying a Running Belt

These days, it can be difficult to leave home without carrying at least a few of your possessions. From your keys to your phone, there are certain things that you just can’t do without. Now, it can be incredibly distracting and tiresome to carry these things in your hands as you run. Not to mention, you increase the likelihood of losing these on the way too.

This is why it is a good idea for most runners to wear a running belt with them. This way, you will always have just enough storage to carry what you need. Here is what you should be aware of before you choose a running belt for yourself:

Who Needs a Running Belt?

If you don’t venture too far from your home or vehicle (less than two miles away), then there is a good chance that you will not require a running belt. Since you would probably complete your run in an hour or less, you can do without most of your basic items.

However, if you run about three to seven miles each day, that is another story entirely. In this instance, it is quite likely that you will need to wear a running belt. Even if you don’t want to carry water with you, there is still a chance that you will have to carry keys, phones, and perhaps even identification or money. Since these items can’t be carried in your hands, you will need a belt to accommodate them.

Types of Running Belts

The next thing to do is to look at all of the options that you have with running belts. This will make it easier to narrow down which one is right for you:

Waist Belt

These are also often referred to as waist packs too. This type of belt tends to be wider than the other options. The belts are also designed to adhere closely to your skin and to move around as little as possible while you are running. These belts have exterior pockets that you can use to store smaller, flat items such as your keys, phone, money, and IDs. These are arguably one of the more comfortable belts as well.

Hydration Belt

The purpose of a hydration belt for runners is rather self-explanatory. These belts are meant to hold water in one capacity or another, allowing you to remain hydrated during your run. They are usually utilized by long distance runners or those who don’t have easy access to water on their runs.

Hydration belts have loops or holders to place water bottles. These type of belts may come with their own bottles or you may have to use yours. These belts can have between one and four loops on their belts. Some – but not all – hydration loops come with external compartments where you can store certain items. These pockets can usually carry between 0.5 liters and 3 liters of belongings.

Race Belts

These are among the thinnest and lightest of all running belts. The main purpose of this pack is to be convenient without being heavy enough to interfere with your performance. Most race belts aren’t equipped to carry water or water bottles as though will just add more weight. They do, however, have space to keep some nutrition or energy bars, a phone, and some money as well.

Choosing a Hydration Belt

There are a few things that you will need to consider if you have decided that a hydration belt is what you need. For instance, if the belt isn’t sold with its own set of bottles, you will need to ensure that the bottles you have, fit perfectly into the holders.

The other thing to think about is just how many loops (bottles) that you will actually require. To do this, you will need to calculate just how much water the bottles you have can carry and determine how much you will require on your run.

As mentioned, these belts will have between one and four loops on it. Typically, it is a good idea to balance out how much weight you are carrying around your waist. For instance, if you are carrying a greater volume of water, you should distribute it between a greater number of bottles. To ensure that you are carrying the weight properly, try to always have an even number of bottles – two or four.

You should also look for belts that hold the water bottles as close to your body as possible. This way, when you are running, there will be limited movement and the bottles will not get in the way of your form.

Choosing a Race Belt

With race belts, it is a good idea to pick the lightest option available to you. The good news about these type of belts is that while they may not look as though they are able to carry much, appearances can be deceiving. Many of the pockets on the belt can expand to carry even phones.

As you can imagine, race belts are best used for instances such as marathons and triathlons. Since these belts don’t come with hydration features, they are usually not suitable for instances where water isn’t available. If you are taking part in a competition, look for belts with trailing attachment points. You can attach your race card numbers here.

What Material You Should Look For

The material that you should consider depends on several things. The first should be comfort. Now, if you will be wearing the belt against bare skin, you will probably find a Spandex/Lycra blend a great deal more comfortable. Not to mention, these materials will help to provide you with a closer fit as well. If the belt is going to be worn over clothing, then belts that are either made from polyester or nylon will prove to be just fine.

The other thing that you will need to think about is sweat. Now, you will work up quite a sweat while you are on your run which is why you need material that is moisture wicking. This type of fabric will move the moisture away from your body and to the surface where it can evaporate faster. This way, your belt will not be laden down with accumulated sweat. You should also look for patches of mesh to limit how much you will sweat. Since this fabric is lighter, it will not cause your skin to heat up as much.

Depending on the kind of running that you are doing, you may require belts made out of other types of material. For instance, if you are looking for a more durable belt that can withstand abrasions and wear and tear, you will need a special kind of material. In this case, rip-stop nylon will prove to be quite useful.

If you are the type of runner that heads out in all kinds of weather, there is a good chance that you will need a belt that is made from either water-resistant or waterproof material. A belt that is water-resistant will eventually let the moisture seep in while a waterproof belt will repel water completely. If you don’t want the belt to deteriorate due to constant exposure to UV rays, you should invest in a weatherproof belt.

Reflective Belts

Many of the running belts on the market tend to be black with hints of other colors. There are some, however, that are brightly colored or contain patches of luminescent shades. So, the question is, do you need a reflective belt?

If you like to run when it is dark out – perhaps before dawn or after dusk, then you should certainly consider a reflective belt. This is particularly important if you are running in an area that has high foot or vehicle traffic. The reflective belt will let others know your position and will warn them to avoid you and prevent collisions.

If you are running as a group, reflective or brightly colored belts can also be quite useful. It will make it a lot easier for your running mates to identify you if you happen to get separated. So, if either of these instances apply to you, you should definitely get yourself a reflective belt.

Selecting the Belt that is Right for You

In addition to the factors that are mentioned above, there are a few other things to keep in mind to help you choose the right belt. At the very top of this list would be the fit. Now, most belts are sold in a range of small, medium, and large sizes. Each belt can be adjusted within a particular set of waist sizes. Prior to shopping around for belts, you should measure the circumference of your waist. You can then compare it to each size that you come across to determine whether or not that belt can accommodate your particular size.

The other thing that you will need to figure out for yourself is just how much storage capacity you will need your belt to have. This means keeping track of what you want to take with you on your run. For instance, if you just want to carry keys and money, a race belt will probably do. On the other hand, if you want to carry a small first aid kit, phone, and other items, then a waist belt will be a much better fit for you.

These are the points to take into consideration when you are looking for a running belt for yourself.

Top 10 Best Running Belts

1 – Nathan Trail Mix

Nathan Trail Mix Hydration Running Belt
  • Ergo-shaped, soft belt offers multi-directional stretch that eliminates bounce
  • SpeedFit holsters provide easy, one-handed, on-the-fly access to hydration and nutrition
  • Two 10 oz / 300 mL Flasks with Push-Pull caps
  • Zip pocket with front stash pouch for gels, compatible with iPhone 6 Plus
  • Two shock cords with one-pull tension lock at sides for extra capacity

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Nathan Trail Mix:

Reviewers like these things about the Nathan Trail Mix

  • Users have noted that the Nathan Trail Mix pack is excellent on long runs.
  • Many of the reviewers indicated that it’s really nice and comfortable.
  • Other reviewers pointed out that with the pack, it’s way easier to drink out of the bottles.
  • Some users found that the pouch size is excellent.
  • Reviewers noted that the bag seems to be relatively stationary.
  • Reviewers also said that its finish quality is good.
  • Several users pointed out that the holsters and bottles are snug without being too tight.
  • Users noted that its belt clasp is solid.
  • Other users noted that it is highly adjustable.
  • Testers pointed out that it has elastic loops that hold the excess strap in place.
  • They also mentioned that once tightened the band to the waist; there was no movement of the belt itself.
  • Reviewers also thought that bag it can easily be turned while running to access the water or gels.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer noted that an iPhone 6 is not fitting in it even if it’s slightly slanted.
  • Another reviewer said that it lacks water-carrying capability.

2 – Salomon Hydro 45 Belt

Salomon Hydro 45 Belt, Black/Asphalt
  • 45 degrees angled water bottle is easier to reach for. You'll be drawing water faster than a gunslinger. 
  • Wide straps and a balanced load keep it stable when you're moving quickly. 
  • Year round, you'll reach for the hydro 45 whenever high output activity calls. 
  • 1 zipped external pocket 
  • 3D bottle included (600 ml/20 oz) 

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Salomon Hydro 45 Belt:

Reviewers like these things about the Salomon Hydro 45 Belt

  • Many reviewers commend the Salomon Hydro water bottle belt for its durable fabric and robust construction.
  • Users recommend the pack as an additional gear for those who are into hiking, running, and climbing.
  • Reviewers pointed out that its extra stash pouch provides easy access to water bottles when on moderate hikes.
  • Testers mentioned that it is comfortable to wear.
  • Other testers praised the belt for its versatile and stable design.
  • Users noted that hydration bottles could be accessed quickly.
  • Several of those who have tried the belt mentioned that they were able to customize its length based on their preference.
  • Many reviewers pointed out that it does not rub against the back when running.
  • Users liked its minimalist design.
  • They also noted that the water bottles do not leak even when used in climbing.
  • Other reviewers said that the product is conveniently lightweight.
  • Several of those who have tried the belt mentioned that it stays in place whenever they run.
  • Other reviewers noted that its pouch could store a smartphone as well as an energy bar.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer noted that the bottle bounces around, hitting the back with every stride.
  • Another reviewer indicated that the strap is a little uncomfortable when worn.

3 – Nathan Hipster

Nathan The Hipster Running Belt pack and Fitness Belt
  • Super soft stretch belt fits comfortably around your waist
  • Includes pockets to fit all of your small essentials
  • Fits up to an iPhone 6 Plus
  • Sizing: S (29-31 inches), M (32-34 inches), L (35-37 inches), XL (38-40 inches)

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Nathan Hipster:

Reviewers like these things about the Nathan Hipster

  • Testers found out that the Nathan Hipster running belt pack and fitness belt is durable due to its nylon and polyester fabric.
  • Reviewers mentioned that the pack is comfortable to wear.
  • Users noted that their phones could fit on the belt.
  • Other users also stated that it comes with several pockets to fit all small essentials.
  • Other testers said that it comes in a variety of attractive and stylish colors.
  • Users pointed out that the stretch belt is super soft, making it comfortable to wear around the waist.
  • According to some reviewers, the pockets could be accessed quickly.
  • According to those who used it, the belt stays put even when running.
  • Other users thought that the belt is ideal for running, horseriding, and other similar activities.
  • Many users said that the backpack is lightweight yet durable.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A tester discovered that the phone might bounce out of the front pocket.
  • A reviewer mentioned that it might not fit a variety of body types.
  • Another reviewer thought that it holds in sweat.

4 – Salomon Agile 500

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Salomon Agile 500:

Reviewers like these things about the Salomon Agile 500

  • Many reviewers commend the Salomon Agile backpack for being lightweight yet durable.
  • Testers noted that its shoulder straps offer ventilation and reduce friction on the shoulders or around the neck.
  • Other testers noted that the harness is an ideal way of wrapping the body and dispatch the load for a more comfortable and stable use.
  • Many reviewers pointed out that it consists of a lot of pockets for storage and organization.
  • Other reviewers said that they could connect their accessories to the bag through its custom system.
  • They also noted that it has a pocket specifically designed for flasks.
  • Users liked its minimalist design.
  • Many users recommend the pack for those who are into hiking, climbing, and traveling.
  • Several of those who have tried the pack indicated that the front pocket slides conveniently on to the waist belt.
  • Other reviewers noted that they could access their poles quickly while running.
  • Many of those who have tried the pack also mentioned that the bag has a space designed conveniently for a helmet.
  • Testers said that the Motion Belt of the bag provides an ideal fit, especially when moving, enabling breathability.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer mentioned that it was awkward to remove and fill the hydration pack.
  • Another reviewer indicated that the bag was complicated to use.

5 – Dakine Low Rider 5L

Dakine Men's Low Rider 5L Bag
  • Phaser bite valve
  • 2L / 70oz Hydrapak lumbar reservoir
  • Breathable air mesh and foam backpanel
  • Fleece-lined padded phone pocket
  • Dimensions: 305 cu in ( 5L ) 11 x 5,5 x 5,5 ( 28 x 14 x 14cm )

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Dakine Low Rider 5L:

Reviewers like these things about the Dakine Low Rider 5L

  • Many users thought the bladder works well and the hose routing and retention is great.
  • One user refer to it as a brilliant nice looking bag.
  • A lot of users agree that it is a simple way to carry essentials without having to wear packs on short ride.
  • Many bikers love it for its well construction, comfortable fit and decent amount of space for personal items.
  • Most riders describe it as the perfect alternative for everyone who prefers to ride without a big backpack.
  • A lot of users particularly liked the back zippered pocket hydration feature of the bag.
  • Others liked the removable hose that is clipped to the waist belt.
  • Many users enjoy how the interior organizer pockets perfectly store a replacement tube, air pump, snack and phone in a fleece-lined pocket.
  • Overall, users chose the bag for its hydration capacity, good construction, comfortable fit, lightweight and convenience.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some users said the straps won’t stay tight.
  • Others thought it would’ve been great if it has side pockets for additional storage.

6 – Nathan Mercury 2

Nathan Mercury 2 Bottle Hydration Belt
  • Ergological neoprene and monofilament belt design offers soft, multi-directional stretch that eliminates bounce
  • Two 10 oz / 300 ml Flasks with Push-Pull caps
  • Perforated neoprene in center for breathability and comfort
  • iPhone compatible stretch mesh zip pocket
  • Reflective trims

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Nathan Mercury 2:

Reviewers like these things about the Nathan Mercury 2

  • Reviewers thought that the Nathan Mercury hydration belt has a lightweight design.
  • Other reviewers remarked that it was comfortable to wear.
  • Users lauded the presence of two flasks with push-pull caps.
  • Other users noted that its design offers a soft stretch that eliminates bounce.
  • Testers found that its various designs are attractive.
  • Many of the reviewers commented on its durability as manifested by its robust fabric.
  • Users found the bag to be versatile and accessible.
  • A lot of users thought that the pack was easy to carry.
  • Many reviewers who used it commented that its perforate neoprene provides comfort and breathability.
  • Testers also found that they can store smartphones through its stretch mesh zip pocket.
  • Testers like that its reflective trim and details allow them to be seen even in low-visibility environments.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that its bottles are too close together making the weight of the belt more concentrated.
  • Another reviewer indicated that the bottles started leaking within a few months of use.
  • A user found it difficult to adjust the belt.

7 – Camelbak FlashFlo LR

CamelBak 2016 FlashFlo LR Hydration Waistpack
  • Perfect for walking, hiking or running, this pack offers comfortable and stable lumbar hydration
  • Antidote Lumbar Reservoir Features: easy open/close cap, lightweight fill port, low-profile design, and patented Big Bite Valve
  • Key Pack Features: Essentials pocket, front and back reflectivity, reservoir compression, center-cinch fit system
  • Designed to carry phone, trail map, snacks, wallet, keys, ultra-light layer
  • CamelBak Got Your Bak Guarantee: If we build it, we'll Bak it with our lifetime guarantee

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Camelbak FlashFlo LR:

Reviewers like these things about the Camelbak FlashFlo LR

  • Reviewers said that it is comfortable, stays in place pretty good, extra pouch to store phone, key, bar, etc.
  • Other users said that the hose clip on belt works excellent, as does the garment clip.
  • Many users said that it is a great pack to use this for outdoor activities such as wood cutting and splitting, yard work and strength training such as sled pushes and pulls.
  • Reviewers also said that it is the right choice when you don’t need a backpack-style hydration pack.
  • Users said that it is small, light easy to travel with.
  • Some reviewers said that the bladder is best filled out of the pack and easily comes out and goes back in. The quarter turn to lock cover is easy and does not leak.
  • Reviewers agreed that the pack is durable.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some reviewers complained that the waist straps do not hold during a run.They had to readjust them constantly to keep the pack from falling off.
  • Some other users complained that it bounces as the water is consumed.
  • Reviewers complained that this pack has only one clip, and has no space to add another on the other side.

8 – Aqua Quest AquaRoo

Aqua Quest AquaRoo Money Belt - The World's Original 100% Waterproof Waist Pack, Since 1994 - Comfortable, Adjustable, Lightweight - Travel Pouch for Phone, Passport, Money - Black, Blue, or Camo
  • 100% WATERPROOF - No amount of rain, sweat, or spilled drinks (picture yourself on vacation) can get inside this pouch. A removable 'Joey' pouch now comes included inside each AquaRoo, offering you an additional layer of protection. Even under temporary submersion, your stuff will be dry!
  • COMFORTABLE - You won't find a more comfortable waist belt. The Cambrelle mesh rear panel is soft and breathable, even against your bare skin. The adjustable waist strap fits comfortably on anybody from a 4 year old child to a 52 inch waist.
  • ULTRA-LIGHT & EASY TO CONCEAL - At only 3 ounces you won't even notice you're wearing the AquaRoo. It's so sleek that you can easily hide it under your clothing, so others won't notice you're wearing it either!
  • TOUGH & LONG-LASTING - Incredibly lightweight, yet still very durable and resilient to the forces of nature. Expect this money belt to last for many years of good use. Oxford 70D RipStop + TPU Lamination + Double ZipLock Seal + Welded Seams = World's Best Money Belt!

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Aqua Quest AquaRoo:

Reviewers like these things about the Aqua Quest AquaRoo

  • Many users said that this bag fits into a simple handheld article.
  • Reviewers who have used the pack said that the material is top notch, lightweight but durable.
  • Several users said that it is equipped with comfortable straps and two sets of support straps both on the chest and waist.
  • Users also said that after being drenched in rain and covered in mud for four days, it didn’t leak.
  • Many users praised the fact that there is also velcro across the whole top in addition to a rolling and buckling seal.
  • Most users said that it stood up to the rigors of travel and it still works perfectly.
  • Users said that even after a long time of using it, it is still in very good shape.
  • Some other reviewers said that the fabric is strong and of nice quality.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • One user complained that the velcro on the top lost the majority of its grab fairly quickly.
  • Another user said that the shoulder straps are very thin and without much padding.
  • Some users complained that the external pouch is not waterproof.

9 – Camelbak Delaney

CamelBak Delaney Hydration Waistpack
  • Our top-selling bottle-based solution that combines comfort and hands-free convenience for runners and walkers
  • Bottle Features: Insulated, self-sealing Jet Valve, lockout for leak-proof transport, easy to squeeze, BPA-Free, TruTaste
  • Features side cinch with dual adjust, essentials pocket, back reflectivity, key clip, bottle keeps water cool 2x longer
  • Designed to carry energy bar, gel, cash, keys, phone
  • CamelBak Got Your Bak Guarantee: If we build it, we'll Bak it with our lifetime guarantee

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Camelbak Delaney:

Reviewers like these things about the Camelbak Delaney

  • Reviewers found out that the Camelbak Delaney waist pack conforms comfortably to the curve of the waist.
  • Users thought that it is a convenient hands-free waist pack for walkers and runners.
  • Reviewers indicated that its insulated and BPA-free water bottle includes a self-sealing jet valve to secure it from leaks.
  • Others noted that the water bottle easy to squeeze.
  • Testers said that the waist pack is equipped a pocket for essentials including phones and money.
  • Other users thought that they could easily attach their keys to a designated key clip.
  • Many reviewers found that the waist pack consists of side cinch with dual adjust.
  • According to some reviewers, the water bottle is kept cool twice as long as other waist packs they have tried.
  • Testers thought that the water from the bottle does not leave a funky aftertaste.
  • Other users also noted that the pack is versatile and efficient.
  • They also mentioned that the pack features a front and back visibility.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that it was difficult to get the bottle out from the pack while running.
  • Another reviewer mentioned that the pack does not stay tight.

10 – Camelbak Arc 2

CamelBak Arc 2 Run Hydration Belt
  • Lightweight run belt with 2 Podium Arc bottles mountain in quick-access cages, with minimal gear storage
  • Bottle Features: Self-sealing Jet Valve, lockout for leak-proof transport, lightweight, easy to squeeze, BPA-Free, TruTaste
  • Features Two-step, flex-and-twist bottle release system, removable cargo pocket, 10 oz. podium arc bottles with self-sealing technology
  • Designed to carry phone, energy bar, gel, keys, cash
  • CamelBak Got Your Bak Guarantee: If we build it, we'll Bak it with our lifetime guarantee

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Camelbak Arc 2:

Reviewers like these things about the Camelbak Arc 2

  • According to users, the Camelbak Arc hydration belt is comfortable to use.
  • Users took notice of its lightweight design and minimal gear storage.
  • Other users thought that its fabric provides sufficient durability to the bag.
  • Reviewers mentioned that its pockets could be accessed quickly.
  • Users noted that the hydration belt includes two bottles which could be rapidly accessed.
  • They thought that the bottle is easy to squeeze and has a self-sealing valve to minimize leaks.
  • Testers said that its bottle is BPA-free, reducing the plastic aftertaste of the water.
  • Reviewers mentioned that its cargo pocket could be removed.
  • Other reviewers also found that the bottle has a flex and twist release system.
  • Reviewers indicated that the belt is also designed to carry essentials including phone and keys.
  • Other reviewers mentioned that the bottles do not move when the belt is tightened.
  • They also said that the belt is easy to use.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that the hydration belt might keep rotating continually.
  • Another reviewer noted that the pockets are quite small.

Selected reviews

Bike Radar reviewed the Dakine Low Rider 5L

Its hard to recommend this pack for mountain biking. Its faffy to use and even when tightened down an uncomfortable amount its still prone to bouncing about, on even mildly rough terrain. Add in the rather annoying to access main storage and theres little to like.

Posted 23 October 2016 by Jon Woodhouse – Read full review

Bike Radar reviewed the Camelbak Delaney

Weight is well supported. A nice alternative to a riding pack when its warm out.

Posted 27 August 2011 by Andrew Dodd – Read full review

Midwest Basecamp reviewed the Camelbak Delaney

For those of you who doubted it, who said it couldnt be done, I am here to say you are so wrong. Camelbak has created a comfortable bottle-based waist pack (with gel flasks and storage no less!) that is ideal for running

Posted 4 November 2010 by Kovas Palubinskas – Read full review

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