I’ve never been a huge fan of those super stylish water bottle belts that everyone seems to have at races. First, I’ve only really ever participated in shorter races (5K and 10K) so I found them to be pretty unnecessary. Second, I was worried I’d get annoyed with the water bottles banging against my bum. Plus, I thought it would be too difficult to get the bottles off the belt and drink from them while running. Granted, I could stop running to drink, but to me that defeated the whole purpose. Lastly, and probably least importantly, I think they’re hideous. I grew up in the time when people were made fun of for having fanny packs, and I’ve never really recovered from the fear of being made fun of for having one.

However, now that I’m getting into higher and higher mileage with each run, I’ve decided it’s time to invest in one of these hydration systems (especially since all of the water fountains are broken at one of the parks where I run regularly). Because of the aforementioned fear of looking silly, I thought I’d try out the handheld water bottles by Ultimate Direction. I liked that they had the cool little pocket on the hand band so I could store my keys and little snacks in there. What I didn’t like was the idea of carrying something for 13 miles. I think by mile 3 I’d be ready to ditch it on the side of the course. I’m just impatient and I’d end up changing it from hand to hand and then finally throwing it away. Plus, how maddening would it be to have to carry it after it’s already empty. I’d just stare at it with contempt for the remainder of my run. Also, I’m super bad at drinking out of bottles while running. I end up spilling all over myself and wasting all that precious hydration.

So what I finally ended up going with was a Camelbak hydration belt. I didn’t really want a fanny pack type hydration system, but this was the best option for me because it allows my hands to be free and keeps me from spilling water all over the place. In addition, they come in several sizes, most of which are much larger than the water bottles featured in other hydration systems. I chose the Catalyst (pictured, left), which holds 28 ounces of water. I’m able to clip the drinking tube to my shirt or to place it in the holders on the belt (I prefer this because I found that it was in the way of my arm swing when it was clipped to my shirt). It makes for easy drinking. Also, it’s easy to add pockets to the belt if I find that I need them. There are two small hidden pouches on the belt itself, one of which has a key hook so you don’t lose them even if they fall out. I bought mine at the running store for $35, which was a pretty good price compared with the other water belts out there (you can get it on Amazon for only $24.47. Yeah, I’m pretty bitter about that.).

Do you use a hydration system? What works for you? What doesn’t?