Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fuel belts and hand-helds and water....Oh My!

We've all been there.

Maybe it's a long training run, or a distance race with limited course support. We have fuel to carry with us, and may need hydration along the route. Or, we may need a place to stash the phone, car keys, or chap stick. What's a runner to do?

Most of us aren't too eager to strap on a drawstring backpack (though more and more races are providing  them as event swag bags at packet pickup). Some of our shorts and skirts have tiny pockets, big enough for maybe one gel pack, but too small for anything else. Granted, most of us have two able hands, but most of us probably don't wish to have them holding stuff for the duration of a run (several years ago, upon a miscommunication with the husband, I brought along my cell phone to a 20K race....and had nowhere to stash it other than in my hand...for the entire 12.4 miles. NOT fun).

Fortunately, we have many options to serve this purpose. Having been actively training and racing for almost 10 years,  my needs have changed and so have the products available on the market geared towards athletes. Here's what I have in my collection of gear, and how I make each item work for me (depending on the circumstance).

First off, there's the very basic belt. Mine is made by FuelBelt (more information here). Most belts like this are advertised as "will stay in place, will not ride up." Not true, at least for me. A lot of them also say they are "non-bouncing," also not the case for me. It may be my body shape - I'm tall, thin, and have the "hour glass" my waist is pretty small (in comparison to my hips). Most accessories (running related or otherwise) will not stay on my hips, they all ride up and gravitate to my waist. It's a given that a running belt would do the same (and it does).

I have tried wearing it very tight on my hips, but within 20-30 steps, it starts bouncing as it begins its journey upwards. That's my situation, and I have accepted it. Now days, I just strap it around my natural waist, and I strap it tight. Also, for me, it seems to bounce less if I wear it with the pouch against my back instead of in front. Since I can't utilize the bib clip-ons with the pack facing backwards, I just pin my race bibs onto the belt itself. Sometimes, depending on the weather (and how many layers I'm sporting), I'll simply just wear the belt under all my layers and pin the race bib to my shirt (I know. Pinning the race bib to a shirt, what a concept!).  The pouch is not very big, so I use this when I need to have the absolute minimum stuff with me. My phone and ID fit in the pouch, and I can put my gels on the outside (with rubber bands) if needed (there are elastic slots meant for gels, but they are so tight I have never been able to successfully get a gel pack inside one....and fear the gel would either explode or get stuck and not slide back out).

Last summer, I won a HipS-sister (more information here) via a contest on the company's Facebook page. This works like a fuel belt, but with a lot more storage space. Again, due to the shape of my body, it does not stay on my hips, but gradually works its way to my waist as well. Since I'm familiar with this  predicament, I'm not annoyed by it (much). I usually wear this under my shirt as well, and use it when I have a lot of stuff I need to have with my phone (which does not take pictures), my I-Touch (which does), tissues, gels, etc. This fits pretty snug (which, I believe, is the design concept), so I don't notice it or its contents bouncing at all.

I have another FuelBelt, which came with its own water bottle (and special diagonal pouch for the bottle) as well as two good-size pockets on either side of the bottle pouch. This belt straps on tight, but (depending on how much water is in the bottle) it can feel very heavy to me. I have never used it in a race because I know there will be water on most courses. Instead, I use it for those rare occasions when my training runs take me on routes that do not loop back intermittently to my house. On occasion, I use it for fairly short runs (less than an hour) on really hot days when I know I'll need some water with me.

I also have a hand-held bottle, made by Flexr (more information here). This has an ergonomic design, so it is easy to hold. It utilizes disposable bottle liners (much like those used for baby bottles), which collapse as the water is consumed. Even with the collapsible liners, though, the remaining water still does slosh around somewhat. I use this bottle for very short runs on very hot days (less than 30 minutes).

Another item I have used occasionally is the RooSport (more information here). This has a large pocket that closes with velcro and a smaller pocket that zips shut. What is really cool is the magnetic closure under the flap, which allows you to tuck it under your shorts or skirt and the magnet holds the flap secure. I have carried my phone or my I-Touch in it without any problems. I prefer to attach it across the back of my waistband, but it can go anywhere you feel comfortable putting it.

So, those are some of the available options for carrying not only water, but also fuel (gels, chews, salt packets, etc.), ID's or credit/debit cards (or good old-fashioned cash), as well as a cell phone or emergency items (inhalers, EpiPens, etc.).

How about you?  Do you have a tried and true method of carrying your goods on race day?

*****Please note, I have not been compensated in any way by any of these manufacturers. All statements and comments are my own, and are based on my personal use of these products.


  1. Great timing! I'm posting a review of the SPIbelt this week. I've been using that for years, and they sent me a few to try out. I like it because it stays put on my hips. I've tried multiple variations of waist packs/hydration bottles and hated them all, because like you, they wouldn't stay put. I've resorted to the handheld. The lesser of all evils, really.

    1. I tried a SPIbelt several years ago (borrowed from a friend). I had the same issues....riding up,bouncing, etc. I don't know what model it was, and I assume there have been improvements since....I look forward to what you have to say :-) I'm always in search of something better!

  2. I've tried nearly all of these, and only the HipsSister works for me in regards to nearly staying put. I have a big belly, so I usually wear it under my shirt and carry a hand held, which I can't stand but is a necessity.

    1. Isn't it frustrating? I've never used a hand-held in a race, only for some training. I'm lucky in that the water stops are enough for me at races, and I usually loop my training runs back to my house every 5-6 miles or so.

  3. I got a fuel belt from the first half I did just because it was purple (GO KSU). I have trouble keeping it in place as it either wants to go to far down on my hips or ride up and bounce. I always carry my phone so I need it and i just deal with it. I have also tried the flip belts but in the past I have lost keys and my phone has fallen out (although it did stay in place). I have since re gifted that one to my mom:) My favorite for hotter runs or runs when I am going to need hydration due to where I am at is the Ultimate direction VESTA. You can have two 10 oz water bottles on the front and a blader on the back if you so choose. I had to have something when I ran my first trail 25 K that didn't have water on the course and I LOVE it! It was my mother's day gift last year and I am so glad I have it! It fits snuggly, has tons of pockets, doesn't chaffe, and doesn't cause me to be hot. I did have to get use to the sloshing sound of the water but once I got over that, i haven't had any complaints.

  4. Yea, I'm not a fan of anything around my waist. The only think I've liked was the flipbelt and I don't even use that anymore!

  5. Yea, I'm not a fan of anything around my waist. The only think I've liked was the flipbelt and I don't even use that anymore!

  6. Yunmai Running Belt can solve the unpleasantness caused by the inconvenience of carrying in a limited space, Free your hands, open a new sports experience.