When it comes to hydration, for the most part there seems to be two distinct camps, those that prefer bottles and those that prefer bladders. While neither is right or wrong, one’s preference is more of a personal choice rather than a universal truth.
Why Choose Bottles
Over the years, I have used many different products, in various scenarios, and personally, I am fan of bottles. Here are 10 reasons why I find bottles are better:
1) Simpler design
With less moving parts, I find that there is less that can break and go wrong
2) Easier to use
I can just turn it upside down and get liquid without having to create suction from a hose.
3) Quicker to refill
I can just take the top off and fill it up. No fumbling around with taking a bladder out of a
4) More options
If I am carrying multiple bottles, I can carry water in one and an electrolyte/carbohydrate
mixture in the other. This also helps with palate fatigue.
5) More versatile
While getting liquids is its primary use, I can also use it to cool myself off or rinse salt off.
6) Reduced weight
I have found that in trail racing, aid stations typically are within manageable distances,
meaning that I can refill often and that I don’t need to carry a whole bladder full of liquids. It’s
just extra weight that I have to carry, slowing me down.
7) Travel Easily
Because bottles are small and less bulky, they are easy to fit in luggage, making them ideal for
8) Less Expensive
Hydration packs are usually much more expensive than bottles.
9) Crew friendly
Because they are smaller and less expensive, having multiple bottles makes it easy for
crewing. Racers can come into an aid area and have previously filled bottles by their crew
waiting for them. This cuts down on time spent at aid stations.
10) Better Hygiene
Bottles are easy to wash in the dishwasher. In contrast, bladders need to be hand washed
and if not dried properly bacteria can grow or the taste of flavored hydration products can
Which Bottles to Try
Currently, I use and recommend UltrAspire hydration products. I have used both their packs (with bottles) and handhelds. I find that they are very well designed. Their ergonomic design make them comfortable in the hand for extended periods of time or when wearing close to the body. My experience is that packs with bottles on the front move too much when running, so I prefer packs where bottles are on the back and lumber region. This gives more stability and has a more comfortable ride.
I have also used Ultimate Direction in the past with success. However, I have found that their newly designed strap that keeps the bottle secured to my hand is thinner now. This offers less security and loosens easily. Nathan also makes decent products.
Regardless of your preference, if you choose to use a bottle over a bladder, I think you can’t go wrong. Keeping water in your hand will help you drink more often and give you much more versatility. Hopefully making you a better runner.