When I first learned I needed some sort of fuel and hydration pack to use while marathon training, I got the typical Nathan brand waist/hip belt. With a pocket for food and a water bottle attached on each side, it suited my needs. I used is for a few years, but when I started going longer than 22 miles in training, it wasn’t enough fluid. Rather than get one of those belts that look like they have a gazillion (but really only 4) water bottles flailing from every direction while you run, I decided to try a hydration backpack. I didn’t want to spend much money on the idea, because I didn’t know if I’d like it. An Amazon search found me one for twenty bucks.
Oh my word – what a difference it makes to carry fluid on your back rather than your hips. The mouthpiece was weird, and it was miserable to even try to clean. It didn’t have a chest strap which made it slide around, but it was still better than the belt.
It didn’t take me long to upgrade to the Camelbak brand. I’ve used the Hydrobak model, but now have the Circuit hydration pack and I love it. The 1.5 liter flask is perfect for the amount of fluids I need. There’s plenty of pockets for phone and key storage, as well as pouches for nutrition, so you don’t really need a belt. The Camelbak brand has a chest strap to make running with a backpack much more comfortable, and the mouthpiece is easier to drink from. I know all hydration backpacks are a pain to clean, but this one isn’t as bad as my first off-brand amazon purchase. The tube cleaning brush they sell is helpful and the backpack shell I just throw in the wash.
Some runners don’t like training with the extra fluid weight and prefer to map out water stops along their route. But I use the backpack as a training tool, and wear it when I’m doing runs of 15 or more miles. I just like feeling that much lighter on race day.