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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

23 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
296 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best handheld running water bottles

Last Updated October 2019

For runners, hydration solutions run the gamut from multi-bottle belts to hydration packs. If bouncing belts and heavy packs haven’t worked for you, consider a handheld running water bottle instead. Handheld running water bottles are suitable for both short and long runs, are easier to clean than hydration bladders, and don’t need readjusting like some belts.

Handheld running water bottles aren’t for every runner, but they’re a solid choice for beginners since they’re typically quite affordable and are suitable for a variety of training distances. While a hydration pack may feel like overkill for a short 5K, a handheld works equally well for a few miles and longer efforts.

Our buying guide includes everything you need to know to select the best handheld running water bottle for your next training cycle. You’ll find information on the factors to consider when shopping for a new bottle and a few hydration tips to keep dehydration at bay. For our top five handheld running water bottles, see the matrix above.

The debate over the best way to hydrate on the run is ongoing. Should you drink to thirst or according to a set schedule? While the scientific community is still at odds, you can experiment during training to find a suitable strategy that works for you.

Benefits of handheld running water bottles

Pros of handheld running water bottles

  • Comfort: Whether a handheld is comfortable for you or not is highly dependent on personal preference, but many runners find this option more natural-feeling compared to a belt or heavy pack.

  • Storage: While a handheld doesn’t fit as much as a hydration pack, most units feature a zippered pocket large enough for a phone, keys, and a gel or two.

  • Customizable: Choose between different size bottles, and carry one or two depending on the length and effort level of your run.

  • Minimalist: A zippered pocket and a bottle: that’s all there is to a handheld. If you prefer to carry fewer supplies, this type of hydration solution is an excellent choice. The smaller profile and reduced storage room of a handheld also make it less likely that you’ll overpack and weigh yourself down.

  • Chafe-free: The padded hand straps are typically easily adjustable and very unlikely to chafe compared to a belt or the straps on a pack or vest.

  • Lightweight: Sure, once filled with liquid, a bottle is a bit cumbersome, but compared to other hydration solutions, bottles are reasonably lightweight. Once you’ve drained the bottle of water, you won’t have to lug around dead weight.

  • Inexpensive: Handhelds are the cheapest hydration solution, so if you’re new to running or you’re experimenting with different hydration plans during training, a handheld should be the first product you try.

  • Strengthens: Carrying full water bottles in your hands while you run will naturally work to strengthen your upper body.

  • Easy to refill: Unlike a bladder, which requires a bit of finagling to fill up, handhelds take mere seconds to refill.

  • Quick access: You don’t have to fiddle with dislodging bottles from a belt contraption or getting a tube to your mouth with a handheld bottle. Your water is right at your fingertips.

Cons of handheld running water bottles

  • Not for everyone: Not everyone finds a handheld running water bottle comfortable. If you find these bottles awkward to run with, no amount of convincing will change your mind, and that’s okay!

  • Uneven weight distribution: Unless you carry two bottles and drain each at the exact same rate, you’re bound to experience a bit of unevenness. One hand might get tired, and you may need to switch arms as you run.

  • Limited capacity: Bottle sizes vary, but unlike hydration packs with bladders, there’s a limit to the amount of water you can physically carry in your hands.
EXPERT TIP

Opt for handheld running water bottles with mesh straps for enhanced breathability.


Staff  | BestReviews

Key considerations

Hydration needs

Hydration needs vary considerably from runner to runner. There’s no single prescription to follow when it comes to hydration. People have different sweat rates, and they also sweat differently – for instance, some people are salty sweaters and need to replenish electrolytes at a higher rate than others. There’s no right answer for how much water you need for a specific distance. In cold weather, the amount of liquid you need to drink may be much less compared to the amount required at the height of summer training. Think about your personal hydration needs when selecting the size of a handheld running water bottle.

That said, longer efforts, higher intensity runs, and workouts in hot weather always require more hydration. When selecting a handheld bottle, take a look at your upcoming training calendar to figure out how much liquid you need to bring along. Consider that you may need to experiment with different hydration vessels along the way, especially if you’re new to running or to a certain distance. You may prefer a handheld for short runs and a vest with bottles for long-distance weekend efforts. If you like running with a single bottle, think about where you might find possible fill-up points or consider whether a looped route near home makes the most sense.

Bottle capacity

The capacity of handheld running water bottles ranges from about six to 20 ounces. You may find a few options outside this range, but typically handhelds top out at half a liter. Carrying water in your hand starts to become uncomfortable after that point.

Storage space

Generally, handheld running water bottles have a strap that eliminates the need to grip the bottle throughout your entire run. Most designs also feature a storage pocket where you can stick your phone, keys, protein bars, and other small accessories you need to bring along on a run. Verify that the pocket is roomy enough to fit your regular running supplies. If you always carry your phone while you run, check that the dimensions are appropriate, especially if you have a larger smartphone.

It’s also important to hydrate regularly outside of training runs. If you start a run dehydrated, you’re already putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Staff
BestReviews

Features

Adjustability

The handheld straps are there to keep you from dropping the bottle as your hand gets tired over the course of a run. Opt for adjustable straps if possible as straps may stretch over time.

Zippered pocket

Don’t risk losing your keys to the road as you jostle your water bottle up and down while you run. Choose a model with a zippered pocket unless you have a spot elsewhere where you can store valuables, such as a zippered pocket on your running tights.

Padding

Padding is comfortable, but too much of it can reduce breathability and leave you with a sweaty hand.

Valve design

Not all bottle valves are equal. While leak-proof valves are designed to prevent leakage even when engaged, you may not enjoy the extra effort required to extract liquid with this type of bottle top. A pop top is the easiest to use but is also more likely to leak than other designs. With some bottles, you simply pour and squeeze while the bottle is upside down, but accidental squirts are likely. Choose according to your preference as there’s no perfect valve design that works for everyone.

Dishwasher-safe

A dishwasher-safe bottle is especially convenient if you want to add electrolyte powders or salt pills to your water. You’ll use your bottle more frequently if it’s easy to clean.

Double-walled construction

A thick double-walled bottle helps keep liquid cool on hot runs, but it’s not a magic design. Eventually, cold water will warm up, and a thicker design also translates to a heavier bottle.

Handheld running water bottle prices

While you can find cheap handheld bottles for less than $20, quality bottles made specifically for running will set you back at least $30.

Pricing varies depending on the bottle’s capacity. A bottle that holds more will typically cost more. Special technologies, like special valve designs or insulation, also bring up the price.

Stick with handheld running water bottles from specialty running brands. These companies have typically put many hours into developing their products and continue to improve upon previous designs.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

Handheld running water bottles tend to be BPA-free, but check the fine print to be sure.

Tips

Here are a few hydration tips to keep in mind before you head out for your next run:

  • The night before a hot summer run, stick a full water bottle in the freezer. The ice will keep your water cold and will melt as you run, helping to cool you off.

  • Hydrating isn’t just about drinking enough water. As we sweat, we also lose electrolytes, which need to be replenished. There are plenty of products available to help you top up your electrolyte stores, including sports drinks, electrolyte powders, and salt tablets.

  • Avoid holding on tight to your bottle. Take advantage of the hand strap that’s attached to your handheld running water bottle to reduce muscle fatigue and tension in your upper body.

  • Bring your handheld bottle (or bottles) on race day. If you’ve been using them consistently during training to hydrate, don’t suddenly change things up on your big day.

  • Soft flask bottles are excellent for those who find the sound of sloshing water annoying, but the freeform design may take a bit of getting used to.

Other products we considered

You may have to try a few handheld bottles before you find one that feels comfortable in your hand and ticks all the boxes in terms of features. The FuelBelt Enduro Fuel Handheld Running Water Bottle is made by a company known for its hydration belts. The 16-ounce bottle is BPA-free, dishwasher-safe, and insulated. It also has not one but two pockets for stuffing lip balm, gels, or anything else you want to bring along. The Orange Mud Hydration Handheld is a large handheld running water bottle that holds 21 ounces and has plenty of reflective webbing for increased visibility. The UltraAspire Ultra 550 Handheld Hydration Bottle features a highly breathable hand strap with a chafe-free design. The bottle is easy to hold onto and has an easy-access nozzle. While it’s on the smaller side, we love that it has every feature a runner might want.

If you’re trying to dial in your hydration strategy for your next race, choose a handheld running water bottle with measurement markings to gauge how much you’re drinking during your runs.

FAQ

Q. My arm starts to feel numb after using a handheld bottle for a while. What can I do to prevent this?

A. Try swapping arms every so often during your runs so you’re not always carrying the bottle on a single side. You might also try using smaller bottles and finding a spot to refill along the way. If you’re still experiencing discomfort, consider trying a different hydration option.

Q. I prefer handheld bottles over hydration packs, but I’m training for a marathon. Can I still use handheld bottles?

A. Absolutely! A handheld bottle is easy to refill at a race aid station. You may need to find a refill location during long training runs, however. Also, consider using multiple hydration options for different types of runs or on various routes.

Q. What’s the best way to wash my handheld water bottle and strap?

A. If your bottle is dishwasher-safe, place it on the top rack for a deep clean. If not, use a wire brush to clean out the nooks and crannies. Some straps are washing machine-friendly, but hand-washing should do the trick if that’s not the case. Be sure to dry your strap and bottle thoroughly after cleaning.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Writer

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