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By Luke Paulson

Summer is approaching and with it will come the hum of cicadas, dense green foliage, afternoon rain showers, and perhaps most noticeable of all, the crippling summertime heat and humidity. As runners, we often plan our runs in the cooler parts of the day, usually the morning or evening, in order to take advantage of more tolerable weather. Even then, conditions are often still quite warm and muggy, forcing us to find ways to stay properly hydrated throughout the run. Of course, the single best thing you can do is to stay hydrated throughout the day, especially in the several hours leading up to your run. But hydrating during your run is often necessary on the warmest of days and during longer efforts, which can present some additional challenges, most notable being the question of how to carry your water.

A running hydration vest with bottles and/or hydration bladder is an option, especially for very long runs, though often overkill on shorter runs or races. Public water fountains are a runner’s best friend, though these are often sparsely spaced throughout town, and oftentimes sadly “out of order” (especially during a global pandemic). Hydration belts (think about a waist pack with bottles attached to it) are definitely an option, though they can sometimes be uncomfortable as they can tend to ride up the waistline. So, you ask, what other options are there? Enter the handheld water bottle.

Essentially, the handheld water bottle is a reusable plastic bottle that fits in one hand with a strap that is attached to the bottle’s sheath. Sometimes they include a small pouch/pocket capable of holding a few gels/credit card/keys. A handheld water bottle can be the perfect option for us in the right circumstances: shorter runs where the storage compartments of a hydration vest are not necessary, races with regularly spaced aid stations, and runs with frequent water sources are all instances where a handheld may be most appropriate.

But there are so many different options, which handheld bottle should I go with? Well, you have options. 

Capacity: For starters, there is the bottle’s capacity, which generally ranges from 10fl oz to 22fl oz. Going out for 30 minutes? The 10fl oz bottle should be all you need. Racing a marathon? A larger option, such as 18fl oz or 22fl oz, may be your best bet. It is unlikely you will find many bottles over 22fl oz because they would be too cumbersome to carry while running. 

Insulated versus Non-Insulated: Pay the premium for an insulated bottle and your fluids will maintain their original temperature for longer. On the flipside, the insulation will cost you a slight increase in weight.

Additional Storage: If you plan to carry gels or your car keys, then you will want a handheld that comes with a small storage compartment (the author believes this optional accessory is worth it). 

Hard Plastic versus Soft Plastic: Hard plastic bottles will hold their shape regardless of its contents, while the soft plastic will shrink in size when its contents are emptied. While the soft (also known as “collapsible”) bottles are helpful because they can be stuffed into your shorts’ pocket or crumpled into the ball of your fist and are also lighter weight, they can be a bit annoying when only partially full because they lose pressure and turgidity, causing them to literally collapse in your hand. Unlike many of the soft bottles, the hard plastic bottles will effectively squirt out fluids even when there are not many ounces remaining inside the bottle. We recommend trying both the hard and soft versions and determining what works best for you.

Brand: There are many brands on the market offering handheld water bottles. Jus’ Running carries Nathan and Salomon bottles, though Amphipod, Ultimate Direction, and Ultraspire are other brands specializing in hydration accessories.  

It may take a few runs to get used to having one or both of your hands occupied with a bottle, but give it some time and you may just find that you do not mind it and that it makes you a better and more prepared runner. Maybe even mix some hydrating drink mix, such as Tailwind, Skratch, Maurten, Hammer, or Nuun, into the bottle as well and you’ll be well on your way to your best summer of running yet! For advice on how to properly fuel during your runs, check out our recent post all about “Fueling On The Run.”