Running vests are my go-to choice for storage and hydration during my runs because of their comfort and versatility. Unlike other options like running belts and backpacks, running vests feel so close and attached to your body making them perfect for activities that have lots of turns, sidesteps, and jumps like trail running.
In addition, most vests have lots of reachable pockets for your personal belongings and nutrition gels.
But looking at the number of options, choosing the perfect hydration vest could be confusing.
To lessen your burden of choosing the right vest, I will give you only two options that are guaranteed to be great choices.
These recommendations are based on personal experience and looking at the experiences of other people who’ve used the product.
Here are my recommended running vests.
My Recommended Hydration Vest
Ahead, I will discuss why I like those two hydration vests in detail. So stick along and find out why.
Salomon Adv Skin 12
Why I Recommend It
- Impressive fit; does not bounce around
- Very breathable, made with lots of mesh material in the sides and straps making it cool throughout your run
- They use a quick link instead of the traditional strap and lock making it easier to wear and remove even in motion, plus it prevents breaking because it’s not the regular plastic clasps
- They conform to your body shape
- other than the main compartment, everything is reachable
- Easy access to hydration, no need to remove the flasks to drink
Little Things I Don’t Like About It
- The flask holder is only for soft flask. It’s too small for a water bottle
- It’s more expensive than other bags of the same size
- No insulated bladder (although you could buy one)
The Salomon Adv Skin 12 is a solid option for beginners and advanced runners alike. It has a 12L total capacity which is perfect for long-distance running or trail running.
If you’re looking for your first running vest, it could be tempting to go with the smaller and cheaper option, however, when you’re going for a long-distance trail run away from towns or your car, it’s safer to overpack cause you never know what could happen.
I used to wear an 8L vest. Everything was great, but I found that the vest was too small for long-distance trail runs (I get anxious when I’m running in an unknown trail so I tend to pack more than I need). There’s just not enough space for lunch, a jacket, snacks, and personal items.
With the 12L vest, I have enough space for all that. You must be wondering: if there’s too much stuff in there, wouldn’t the main compartment start bouncing when I run on trails? Well, the Adv Skin has an elastic string for the main compartment to compress it and avoid the items in the bag from bouncing around.
Speaking of bouncing, the bag has a very nice snug fit, considering you bought the right size. It doesn’t bounce around. There is complete stability and freedom of movement that you won’t even feel that all the stuff is in there.
Now, let’s talk about compartments. There are 2 stretch pockets for gels and snacks in the front, 2 reachable pockets with secure loops for your flasks, the main compartment for larger items, and a low back mesh pocket with access on the side for your jacket. That’s a lot of storage!
My previous vest has no zippered storage at the front, so I have to put my wallet and phone in the main compartment. You can imagine how annoying it is having to remove my vest every time I reach for my phone to take some pictures.
With the Salomon Adv skin, you can put your personal belongings in a reachable and secured pocket which makes everything so convenient.
The vest comes with free 2x500ml soft flasks. If you’re worried about not having enough water, it’s compatible with an additional 1.5L soft reservoir (sold separately) bringing the total water capacity to 2.5L.
The vest is elastic and breathable. It conforms really well to your body and lets the air pass through keeping it cool throughout your run.
If you decide to buy this, I highly recommend choosing a bright color. It makes you more visible in the dark for safety purposes. You can check its price and other color options on Amazon.
Nathan VaporKrar 2.0 (12L)
Why I Recommend It
- It’s slightly cheaper than the Salomon Adv Skin 12
- Has an easy to reach kangaroo pocket at the back that allows you to get extra layers like a windbreaker or jacket without having to remove the bag
- Has a water-resistant chest pocket for phones and other personal items
- Comes with a free 1.6L insulated hydration bladder
- The front pockets can accommodate water bottles, not just a soft flask
- Snug fit doesn’t bounce around
- Sternum straps are more adjustable
- Lots of water storage, up to 4.3L
Little Things I Don’t Like
- It’s heavier, 422g compared to 335g Adv Skin
- Not as breathable as the Salomon Adv Skin
- The locks are made of small plastic clasps, it has a tendency to break
Just to make it clear, I haven’t used a Nathan VaporKrar 2.0 but I just want to give you a slightly cheaper option in case you don’t want to spend $157 for a Salomon vest.
Nathan VaporKrar series is one of the popular ones. In fact, most runners who don’t wear a Salomon Adv Skin wear something from the Nathan Vapor series.
From what I gathered through my research in forums and product reviews, the Nathan VaporKrar has a good, snug fit and doesn’t bounce around when you run.
Unlike the Salomon Adv Skin, the VaporKrar has wider front pockets that are compatible with 650 ml bottles. Plus, it comes with a 1.6L insulated hydration bladder (we both know how good it is to drink cold water on a hard trail run).
Another thing I like about the design of this bag is that it has kangaroo pockets at the bag making it easy to access additional layers in case it gets cold or it rains. You literally don’t have to take your vest off, just pull it out from the side while you keep on running.
The water-resistant phone storage in the front is very convenient too. I can’t count how many times I can’t swipe my phone because of a wet screen. So that feature is a huge plus for me.
What I’m concerned about though is that there’s not much mesh material in there. Not that it’s a bad thing, but in the place I run in, it’s humid. I could use the extra breathability from Adv Skin.
Also, an Amazon reviewer pointed out that the locks are made of small, flimsy clasps. Now, I’m not sure if those are really that flimsy that they would actually break without force (I’m quite confident Nathan won’t create something of poor quality), but if those break in the middle of the run, it could be a problem.
Other than the breathability and the clasps, I think if you’re looking for a slightly cheaper option, the Nathan VaporKrar is a great buy. You can check its price on Amazon.
What To Look For When Buying a Running Hydration Vest
Unlike shoes, buying a running vest is a lot easier. The main thing you should consider when buying a vest is the distance of your runs, the accessibility of the pockets, and the overall fit.
Find a Bag Large Enough For How You Pack
I know I recommended 12L earlier but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a smaller one if you’re quite sure you don’t need the extra storage. I’m a 12L guy because I like to overpack when I’m going for long distances. I’m a little anxious if I don’t have enough food and water. I usually run in the deep jungle so I take getting lost and miscalculating the duration of my runs into consideration as well.
If your usual route is in towns, roads, or a nearby trail, feel free to get an 8L vest like the Salomon Active Skin 8. It pretty much feels very similar to adv skin, only with less capacity.
Accessibility of The Pockets
When buying a running vest, you want something with accessible pockets. This allows you to grab things without having to stop running or removing the bag.
The type of pockets matters too. You want something tight and secure that your items won’t fall out or bounce around while you’re running.
Both vests I recommended have accessible and secure pockets, so any of the two will do just fine.
The Overall Fit
The most important thing you should consider is the fit. You want something that conforms with your body, something that feels just like another piece of clothing.
The worst thing that could happen is if you get a running vest that isn’t snug. The vest will bounce around making it very uncomfortable when you run.
An overly tight vest could limit your motion which could be a problem too.
That is why Salomon Adv Skin or Active Skin is my favorite vest. They just conform to your body really well, I’d even say better than all those I’ve tried.
They’re a little bit elastic which allows them to move with your body while maintaining their snug fit.
To get the right fit, make sure you refer to the sizing guide available in every listing.
If you need more running vest fitting guides, I made an article discussing that in detail. I also added some tips on how to know if you got the right fit. Check it out.