Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
It’s time to welcome the racing hydration vest to the cool-kids club. Long gone are the days of Jerry rigging with cut-up strips of wetsuit, rubber bands and shoe goo. The latest technology translates to lighter, more comfortable vests that are able to handily carry everything you’ll need from poles to smartphones to triple-decker breakfast burritos.
We rounded up vests from several leading brands on the market and landed on these seven for your 2019 racing calendar. Some are best for your first 10-miler while some will take you through the year, ready to run 200-plus miles in the Moab 240 or Big’s Backyard Ultra next fall.
The Flight is the first of its kind for the North Face, and a sexy debut it is. It’s sleek, simple and to the point. A dual-entry pocket sits below an open back drop (the large rear-storage area), and reviewers reported easy handling; the vest didn’t need to come off to reach items. Front and side pockets include two zip chest pockets, two dump pockets and two zip side pockets in addition to the flask pockets.
The Flight gets highest marks for the comfortable four-way stretch fabric, light weight and overall accessibility. 1,000ml of water can be stored up front, with additional room in the back for extra. The Flight has limited soft-flask compatibility (no-straw bottles are best).
The Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 5 wins the features award. A plethora of pockets that can store flasks, nutrition, clothing, phones, etc. are well placed and easily accessed. The included flasks have the longest straws on the market (not shown here) and are meant to sit low, making this a comfortable style for women. As shown, shorter-strawed flasks can sit in upper pockets.
Poles can be secured on the front, side or back and a water-resistant pocket will fit a smartphone. The back drop uses a Velcro closure and is simple to access without maneuvering. The Race Ultra Pro 5 may not be as breathable as other vests and it sizes slightly large. A reusable water cup is included for plastic-less races.
Unleashing its first racing vest, HOKA ONE ONE partnered with tried-and-true vest brand, Nathan. The Race Vest 8L comes in men’s- and women’s-specific styles, is soft, comfortable and can hold eight liters of gear. Tons of front pockets separate clothing and nutrition from trash and the rear dual-entry pocket is easily accessed below the open-top back drop. Three 530ml insulated HydraPak flasks keep liquids cool for long runs.
A zippered pocket in the middle of the back drop keeps gear secure and somewhat dry, yet is tough to access while running. The vest is pole compatible, though reviewers noted some difficulty getting to them.