A hydration vest is an essential part of our running gear, especially when we start adding miles to our trail-ventures. As women we cannot simply grab any old hydration vest and expect it to fit us, even when it is women’s specific. We are all shaped a bit differently and a hydration vest *needs* to be fit comfortably to do its job. We should not have to deal with odd chafing or inaccessible pockets due to an ill-fitting hydration vest. This is exactly why we are so excited about this review.
In this review we are going to go into detail on the pockets, pouches and perks of each women specific hydration vest currently on the market. We will also be taking a close look at the adjustability of each vest. The hydration vests listed below were all used on the trails by Heidi, who tends to fall into the small/medium sizing. We know that only a portion of the women hitting the trails fall into the small/medium sizing of hydration vests. Rather than spend time on how vests fit Heidi specifically, we are going to discuss how easy [or not-so-easy] it is to adjust each pack to fit a variety of body sizes. This is meant to give you some insight on how to size a vest when you purchase it [especially if you fall between sizes] and a little perspective on what hydration vests are capable of [even if your current one doesn’t adjust in such ways].
If you already have a hydration vest but it isn’t quite a perfect, fit check out our recent article on how to fit a hydration vest, it might help. Even if you have a hydration vest you love…keep reading, we all need back-up options, right?
The brands creating these vests are creative and come out with some amazing ways to fit our unique bodies. We’re excited to share their creative quirks with you!
The Ultimate Direction Halo Vest is one of the newest trail vests with a men’s and women’s fit. It is an extremely lightweight vest with storage for up to 10L of hydration, nutrition and gear. Ultimate Direction has redesigned the Comfort Cinch 2.0 so there is only a strip of material in the back of the vest. The adjustment cords now attach just below the hydration pockets in the straps.The Halo vest also has two straps across the chest that are adjustable in all directions with a little effort. Ultimate Direction has gone away from the traditional buckle clasp for the chest straps, which definitely does take some getting used to.
The UD Halo vest comes with two 500ml soft flask Body Bottles that fit snugly into the front straps. There is room for up to a two liter bladder in the back with a hook to hold it in place as well as places to secure the bladder tube across your chest. There are no zippers on this vest, but there are a total of ten pockets that are secured with bungees, elastic or velcro.
What We Loved: The vest is incredibly lightweight and the adjustability is awesome, especially with the new design on the Comfort Cinch 2.0 — it is very easy to adjust the vest on the go as you empty/fill it on the trail.
- Fit + Feel: This is a lightweight vest designed with soft, technical material that conforms to your body without chafing. When adjusted properly [which is easy to do on the go] the vest will stay in place when you’re on the move. The Halo vest fits true to size.
- Adjustability: There are six points of adjustability — two at the ribs, four at the chest [the chest straps adjust up/down and side-to-side]. This allows for a lot of adjustability, to different body types and to a single body as you fill/empty the vest on the go.
- Hydration Options: Compatible with hydration bladder in the back and soft flasks [or hard bottles] in the front.
- Front Pockets: Six total on the front straps — two designed for hydration and four pouches that wrap around the ribs.
- Back Pockets: Four total — one designed for a hydration bladder, two outer pouches that can be cinched down with bungees and one pouch with no closure.
- Trekking Pole Storage: Yes, on the chest straps.
What We Would Change: A secured pocket would be a big plus. When the vest is full it is easy to use the tension of the material to hold everything in place, but as you remove gear to layer up or eat, the pouches start to feel too loose to trust on the move.
The Salomon ADV SKIN 8 hydration vest is one of their newest vests and is designed with women in mind. There is space to pack everything you need without anything hanging out or bouncing along on your back. Overall the ADV SKIN 8 is easy to secure to your body; however, there is no way to adjust the pack under your arms so any woman with a small chest or narrow rib cage will end up nearly “zippering” the vest in the front. That said, the main pouch pockets on the front straps have the space and elasticity to hold all of your snacks providing easy access to the essentials. Along the side of each strap there are extra pockets. The ADV SKIN 8 has plenty of storage options, allowing you to get creative with how you organize snacks and gear on the go.
The ADV SKIN 8 comes with two 500ml soft flasks in the front pockets with space for up to a two liter bladder in the back…with an insulation sleeve to hold your bladder. This sleeve is genius — it keeps your water cool even when it is pressed against your sweaty back and it makes it easy to remove/insert your bladder into the pack.
What We Loved: This Salomon ADV SKIN 8 vest has a lot of places to store necessities in the strap pockets and pouches. You’ll pack up this hydration vest before an epic adventure and surprise yourself with what you find hours into the trip.
- Fit + Feel: This vest is comfortable to wear with a variety of soft, flexible materials. When adjusted properly it does not move when you’re out on the trail bouncing between rocks and trees. The ADV SKIN 8 vest fits true to size.
- Adjustability: With only two points of adjustability you are quite limited in what you can do to get this vest fitting properly. The elastic straps across the chest can be pulled tighter and moved up/down along the straps on either side.
- Hydration Options: This vest is compatible with a hydration bladder and two bottles [soft flask or hard bottle]. It comes with two 500ml soft flasks [with straws!] on the straps and an insulation sleeve for a hydration bladder in the back.
- Front Pockets: Eleven total pockets with various methods of securing the contents — zippers, elastic and gravity [in the pouches].
- Back Pockets: Six total pockets — four pouches, a zipper pocket and hydration sleeve.
- Trekking Pole Storage: Yes, on the chest straps.
What We Would Change: A bit more adjustability would be great. Without any way to adjust the vest under the armpits/across the ribs the vest either fits or it doesn’t fit. For women with a narrow rib cage the only way to tighten the vest down is to have the straps meet in the middle of your chest, a rather uncomfortable and unflattering fit.
The Nathan VaporAiress 2.0 is a solid women-specific hydration pack with a wide variety of ways to stash all of your gear, snacks and hydration. It fits securely and stays in place while you’re moving. The quick access straps [for chest and ribs] make it easy to adjust the pack as you add/remove gear or nutrition/hydration. The straps that adjust the ribs work well but they do take a bit of practice to perfect — give yourself some time at home to figure them out.
The VaporAiress comes with a two liter hydration bladder in the back with room for soft flasks on the chest straps. This may not be the best option for a runner who really loves soft flasks as the pockets on the straps don’t quite hug the flasks into place, but the vest still offers the option.
What We Loved: The VaporAiress vest has a handful of unique features such as the kangaroo pouch you can use for layers or trekking poles. The Adaptive-Fit design is unique and makes the vest versatile. The back pouches offers a lot of room for gear, snacks and hydration.
- Fit + Feel: This Nathan vest fits comfortably and does not bounce when you’re running along trails. The back of the vest and straps are made with a soft, breathable material that conforms to your body with ease. The Nathan VaporAiress 2.0 fits true to size.
- Adjustability: There are six points of adjustment on the VaporAiress — two at the ribs, four at the straps. The Adaptive-Fit design allows you to adjust the vest with a quick pull to a cord tucked inside a pocket on each arm strap. The chest straps can easily be moved up or down [no hooks required!].
- Hydration Options: The VaporAiress is compatible with a hydration bladder and two handheld bottles in the front straps.
- Front Pockets: Six pockets total — two with zippers, two cinched with bungees, two with elastic and velcro.
- Back Pockets: Five pockets total — one with a zipper, one kangaroo pouch, three unsecured pouches.
- Trekking Pole Storage: Yes, on the back or in the kangaroo pouch.
What We Would Change: The Adaptive-Fit design has promise, but is a bit complicated to use as it is tucked away in a zipper pocket that takes extra effort to access when you’re wearing a full pack. Lastly, we’d love to see a bungee on the front handheld pocket to help secure a soft flask as you’re running.
The CamelBak Ultra Pro hydration vest is a very straightforward vest with a large pocket in the back and other smaller pockets built around the straps and ribs. The stash pockets along the rib cage are a great place to tuck layers, gloves or a hat that you want easy access to on the go. There is no way to adjust the Ultra Pro along your rib cage, which limits the flexibility of fit for any woman with a smaller chest or narrower rib cage [the CamelBak Circuit does have adjustments along the ribs!].
With the Ultra Pro your hydration bladder will share the large back pocket with any gear you choose to stash there. This isn’t a problem when you’re on the move but it may slow you down a bit when you stop to refill as you’ll also need to do a little re-organizing of your gear.
What We Loved: The Ultra Pro vest has a lot of pocket space on the chest straps, giving you easy access to snacks. The back pocket is very simple, which makes it a great option for the shorter or supported runs where you don’t need much more than you can access up front.
- Fit + Feel: This vest fits comfortably and securely when you adjust it tightly across your chest. The material is soft and flexible, easily conforming to your body. The CamelBak Ultra Pro vest fits true to size.
- Adjustability: There are four points of adjustment on Ultra Pro vest — all across the chest straps, with ability to adjust up/down or side-to-side. There is no way to adjust the hydration vest around your rib cage, which does cause the vest to bounce when it is not fully packed.
- Hydration Options: This vest is compatible with a hydration bladder and two handhelds [soft or hard]. The Ultra Pro vest comes with two 500ml Quick Stow flasks in the front strap pouches.
- Front Pockets: Nine pockets total — one with a zipper, two with bungees, six pouches.
- Back Pockets: Two pockets total — one kangaroo pouch [connected to pouches around the ribs], one pouch at the back.
- Trekking Pole Storage: Yes, on the chest straps or on the back.
What We Would Change: It would be great to have a bit more adjustability around the rib cage on this vest. Another way to organize gear in the main pouch in the back would make it easier to use the vest on the trail — either an additional large pouch or a few smaller pockets.
Similar Items: Women’s Circuit Vest
The Osprey Dyna 6 is a hydration vest that offers a lot of storage options making it a solid decision for someone looking to organize gear/nutrition into different pockets. The vest is designed with a women-specific fit which allows it to securely hug your body without bouncing when you’re out on the trail. The straps that adjust along the rib cage are very straight forward and easy to use, ensuring the vest is always bounce-free.
The Dyna 6 comes with a 1.5 liter bladder, which fits into its own pocket in the pack. You also have the option to purchase soft flasks for the pockets along the straps [not tested]. Once the pack is full and secured to your body it can be a bit challenging to easily access the items stashed in the front pockets, so plan accordingly.
What We Loved: The Dyna has a lot of pockets which means you can get organized before you hit the trail and maintain that organization. With this vest you know exactly where to go for your gear and snacks.
- Fit + Feel: The vest is comfortable to wear. The material that comes into contact with your body is waffled, breathable and overall comfortable. The Osprey Dyna 6 fits a bit small, so order up if you’re between sizes.
- Adjustability: The Dyna 6 has six points of adjustability — two at the ribs and four across the chest. The rib adjustments are very straightforward and easy to use. The chest straps use a unique snap-in method to attach, which is more intuitive than expected. However, chest straps are both elastic, this does give you more room to adjust…or a lot of strap bouncing on your chest.
- Hydration Options: This vest is compatible with hydration bladders and soft flasks. It comes with a 2.5L Quick Connect hydration bladder, which has a hose connector just over your shoulder rather than at the bottom of your pack.
- Front Pockets: Five pockets total — four pouches and one zipper.
- Back Pockets: Seven pockets total — four pouches and three zippered pockets.
- Trekking Pole Storage: Yes, on the chest straps or on the back.
What We Would Change: This is not a lightweight vest [by no means is it “heavy” but when compared to other vests with the same liter rating, there’s a lot going on with the Dyna]. This is due to the heavy duty buckles, zippers and hydration bladder. Lastly, we’d change the strips of hard plastic along the front of the pack. These plastic strips are used to secure the chest straps, but they do not easily conform to your chest.
The RaidLight Responsiv 6 hydration vest is built to fit snugly on a wide variety of women’s body types. Not only can you choose the vest size, there are also a few ways to adjust the pack — across the chest and at the rib cage. The adjustments at the rib cage use adjustment ratchets which are easy to use and do not loosen or rub when you’re moving. The Responsiv vest does not appear to have a lot of storage space but a little creativity goes a long way [you can fit a lot in those two lower pouches in the back!].
The Responiv 6 vest comes with two 600ml soft flasks that have straws. The straws are a bit long, but are easy to cut down and re-attach. There is room for a hydration bladder in the back; however, that would take up the majority of your storage space.
What We Loved: The overall feel of this vest was great and it wasn’t just because the adjustment ratchets make you feel extra fly on the trail. It is a fairly basic vest when it comes to pockets and pouches, but it still gets the essentials — secured zipper pockets, hydration pouches/sleeves and a few individual pockets to keep gear and snacks organized.
- Fit + Feel: This is an extremely comfortable vest. The material that has contact with your body is a plastic mesh, but it is so flexible you won’t notice it…until you realize you’re not pooling in your own sweat. It’s very breathable and forgiving when you move. The RaidLight Responsiv 6L fits true to size.
- Adjustability: There are six points of adjustability — two at the ribs, four at the chest straps. The Reponsiv vest uses “adjustment ratchets” [similar to Boa laces, if you’ve had those on snowboard boots or seen them around elsewhere]. These ratchets are amazingly easy to adjust — both tighter and looser. It takes a simple spin of a knob to get the vest fitting again after you add/remove gear from the back. The chest straps are also adjustable up/down and side-to-side, although they are both elastic so you may need to keep readjusting at the elastic slips.
- Hydration Options: This vest is compatible with a hydration bladder and soft flasks. It comes with two 600ml soft flasks [with straws!].
- Front Pockets: Four pockets total — three pouches and one zipper.
- Back Pockets: Five pockets total — four pouches and one zipper.
- Trekking Pole Storage: Yes, on the chest straps and on the back.
What We Would Change: You cannot secure the main pouch of the vest. While nothing was lost out on the trails, there were definitely moments of doubt. The pouches are generally secure, but when truly full [or a bit overfilled in moments of “why did I wear an extra long sleeve”!] the movement of your body against the vest seems to squish gear up. An elastic top on the smaller pouch and a single hook on the larger pouch would solve this problem.
The UltrAspire Astral 3.0 vest is designed with women in mind. The straps have a unique shape that provide more space across the chest without compromising the secure fit of the vest itself. The straps fit close near the bottom of the rib cage, which is also where the larger pockets are. This means you cannot simply duck your head to drink from a soft flask, but it also keeps the bounce of anything you keep in those pockets away from your face. The chest straps are elastic, which gives you room to breathe but require more regular adjusting.
The Astral 3.0 comes with a hydration bladder in a designated pocket in the back and has room for one soft flask on the chest straps. The one pouch available for a soft flask in the front does not fully secure the flask, so the flask can fall out if you’re bending over [more likely if the flask isn’t full].
What We Loved: The Astral 3.0 has very straightforward pockets in the back. This is great because you do not need to figure out how to open pouches or stash gear while out on the trail. There is also a small semi-hidden zippered pocket in the back that is great for keys and credit cards.
- Fit + Feel: This vest fits comfortably and uses two types of breathable, waffled material to help with ventilation while you’re running. The UltrAspire Astral is a one size fits most vest.
- Adjustability: There are four points of adjustability — two at the ribs and two at the chest. The adjustment points at the ribs are straight forward straps that you simply pull or release. Due to the one size fits most design of this vest you may notice a lot of extra strap, which can get in the way. The chest straps are elastic cords and are set in place but can be adjusted for tightness.
- Hydration Options: This vest is compatible with a hydration bladder and one soft flask. It comes with 2L bladder.
- Front Pockets: Five total pockets — two pouches, one zipper and one velcro.
- Back Pockets: Four total pockets — three zipper and one pouch.
- Trekking Pole Storage: No.
What We Would Change: The straps are designed to give you a lot of freedom across the chest; however, this can allow gravity to steal your soft flask when you’re bending over to tie a shoe. Also, the chest straps can only tighten, not adjust up/down.
*Editor’s Note: Unisex hydration vest review coming soon!