When you are fives miles into a solid run, thirst can be the deciding factor in whether you stop short or not.
For those logging serious mileage, the most obvious hydration option, a handheld bottle, requires no extra gear. But it can be a bulky nuisance. In theory, a water belt makes more sense, as it allows you to be hands-free.
But hydration belts are not without their challenges.
The one I tested, from The Running Room ($53.99), is designed to minimize bouncing. The sales associate explained to me it should sit higher up – around the waist rather than around the hips. The general population, however, does not have a mannequin's waist-to-hip ratio; I'm high-waisted so the belt felt (and looked) awkward, especially whenever I grabbed one of the four bottles.
The four mini bottles are spaced out evenly and against perforated neoprene pads so you don't feel the plastic against your body. But to reach the back two bottles, I had to twist awkwardly (which is hard to do mid-stride). The bottles are also curved in shape – kind of like kidneys – which I suspect offers a better angle for the water to flow out of the nozzle. That nozzle is tricky, though, and does not pop open without effort. This would annoy me if I were running at speeds any higher than 10 kilometres an hour.
I also found the plastic holsters for the bottles don't do a good enough job. I wasn't happy when a bottle popped out on two occasions because I hadn't pushed it down far enough. Had I been in a race, I would have left them on the side of a road.
This belt isn't adjustable. I found the medium fit me fine. I also give marks for the reflector trim, although much of it was hidden behind the bottles. There's a little pouch for storing keys and money. The words "stay hydrated" appear on the belt and the bottles and it's an important reminder. But I'm not convinced this is the ideal solution.