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9 hands-free ways to run with water because the thirst is real

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

Every runner knows the water struggle all too well

Rock out with your, um, water bottle out?

The conundrum: Running makes you thirsty. Unless you're a camel, you can't carry enough water in you to fuel long runs. Don't drink and you can die (or at least you won't be able to run much farther). Every runner knows this struggle all to well.

More: You don't have to be a 'real runner' to enter races

Thankfully, there are options for hauling your hydration. They are all annoying in there own little ways because no one wants to carry anything on a long run, so it's all about weighing the pros and cons. What's the lesser of nine evils here?

1. The handheld bottle

Every runner knows the water struggle all too well

(Handy Hydrator — Road Runner Sports, $14) 

Carrying a water bottle (in your hand, not your shorts) is the obvious solution, but everyone knows if you're running long enough to bring water, you're not going to want to carry it in your hand for that long.

Pros: This simple strap not only keeps the bottle securely in your hand, but the curved design makes it more comfortable, giving your fingers a rest. Bonus: The little pocket keeps your car key, sports gel and emergency info handy.

Cons: You're still carrying your water bottle in your hand. Ever run with hand weights? Yeah.

2. The fanny pack

Every runner knows the water struggle all too well

(R-Gear Full Throttle Bottle Pack — Road Runner Sports, $38) 

OK, so no one will outright call this a "fanny pack," but if you remember going to Disneyland with your parents in the '80s, you'll immediately recognize it for the gloriously functional fashion accessory it is.

Pros: This pack belts around your waist with an ergonomic pocket to keep your water bottle close — no painful flopping around. It also has roomier pockets and more options for storage like a key clip. The positioning of the bottle against your lower back allows you to carry a larger-capacity bottle.

Cons: Feeling water slosh against your back is annoying, and while I wouldn't say it's difficult, reaching around your back isn't quite as convenient as just lifting your hand.

More: How to run softer to decrease injury risk

3. The backpack

Every runner knows the water struggle all too well
Image: Camelbak

(Circuit Vest — CamelBak, $70) 

Even though a camel's hump is filled with fat, not water, the desert-dwelling mammal still knows a thing or two about staying hydrated on long runs (or ambles). And carrying your water on your hump — er, back — is probably the most comfortable and convenient way to keep your water handy.

Pros: Distributing the weight of the water across your back allows you to carry more water with less discomfort, sloshing and annoyance. The backpack can carry lots of additional stuff like a light jacket, headlamp and spare socks. Plus, the "straw" is situated right next to your parched lips.

Cons: Have you ever tried washing one of these things? It can (and should!) be done, but it's not as easy as throwing a bottle in the dishwasher.

4. The hydration belt

Every runner knows the water struggle all too well
Image: Fuel Belt

(Helium — FuelBelt, $45) 

Hips are super handy things to have. They help birth babies, they rock a body-con dress and ballroom dancers would be lost without them. Plus, they're great for carrying water! (Awkward segue? You're welcome.) 

Pros: You can customize your belt to hold anywhere from one to four little bottles. The smaller-sized containers allow you to ration your water better and distribute the weight more comfortably while still keeping them handy.

Cons: Maybe I run funny, but I always knock the side bottles with my arms.

5. The water bottle bra

Every runner knows the water struggle all too well

(Hydropocket Sports Bra — Etsy, $20) 

You have to wear a bra when you run anyhow (yes, you do), so why not make it do double duty by carrying a water bottle on your back?

Pros: The low-profile mesh pocket means this bra looks good with or without a bottle stashed in it, perfect for women who like to run with just a bra as their top. No extra layers, straps or packs required. Plus, it's one of the most affordable items on this list.

Cons: I have no idea how this would work with a shirt.

More: 6 exercises that make you a better runner and why

6. The thigh holster

Every runner knows the water struggle all too well

(HydraQuiver SUP-SIP — Orange Mud, $80) 

Runners are famous for their strong, powerful legs, so take advantage of that muscle by using it to tote your water.

Pros: It's a novel idea and for people who can't or just dislike carrying things on their backs, waists or hands, it's nice to have other options. Plus, who doesn't want to feel like a super-stealthy spy on their run?

Cons: I... dunno about this one, guys. If you're going to have a waist belt, why not just strap the water bottle to it and skip the thigh? Plus, chafing looks like a real problem here. But, I haven't tried this one, so maybe it's amazingly comfy.

7. The bra with pockets

Every runner knows the water struggle all too well

(Idona Racerback Pocket Sports Bra — Swoob, $40) 

Boobs are also super handy things to have and most girls know the convenience of stashing a few necessities in their bra.

Pros: Interior pockets down the front and sides of the bra allow you to store a multitude of items like your keys, credit card and cellphone while keeping them safe from sweat.

Cons: The pockets are small-ish, so when it comes to hydration, you're probably stuck with just an energy shot in your cleavage. Plus, the sizes only go up to a 38-40C cup, so larger-busted ladies are unsupported (literally and figuratively).

8. The vest

Every runner knows the water struggle all too well

(AK Race Vest 2.0 — Ultimate Direction, $100) 

Keeping your water close to your center of gravity is both convenient and comfortable and the harness keeps everything in place.

Pros: Water bottles are front and center for maximum convenience along with plenty of storage. You also have the comfort of a pack, and bottles are easily washed and replaced.

Cons: Not sure how comfortable this would be for anyone with larger breasts — or breasts at all, for that matter.

9. The water bra

Every runner knows the water struggle all too well

(The Wine Rack — Amazon, $35) 

A bra filled with liquid isn't exactly a new invention, but adding a flexible straw takes this from simple boob-booster to hydration helper. And, while this sports bra is marketed for sneaking booze around, it can handle any liquid including water or your favorite sports drink.

Pros: Your water literally couldn't be any closer to your mouth, unless you strapped a trough around your neck. And, it gives us small-chested gals a little more oomph (at least at the beginning of the race).

Cons: Who wants to carry more weight on their chest?

This article was originally published in November 2013. Updated July 2016.

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