Review: The iFitness Hydration Belt (or: The Best Running Fanny Pack)

If you see me out on a long-distance run–or even in some longer races–you’ll note that I’m running with what looks like a fanny pack. Non-runners may judge me for this. Non-runners can kiss my ass.

I used to mock these hydration belt setups. The first two times I trained for a marathon, I ran only with a handheld bottle. The first two times I trained for a marathon, I was an idiot. Not only did the bottle not hold enough water for any run longer than 10 miles, but as light as it was, it still tired out my arms. Seriously, even running with keys in your hands for more than six miles gets annoying pretty fast.

My first season with Team in Training, I picked up a Fuel Belt brand hydration belt. It had four bottles for fluid and a small pouch for money, credit card and, importantly, ID. Because if you’re out on a solo run and something lays you low — a heart-attack, a car, one of those little kids with those damned razor scooters — and you don’t have ID, then what?

Some people ask: “Hey, doesn’t that belt bother you?” Nope. Not really. I even ran with it in races because it was more convenient than dealing with the typical clusterfarg around the water tables.

But the Fuel Belt isn’t, shall we say, optimal. It rides sort of low, bounces around quite a bit and the pouch it comes with is pretty small. You can get additional pouches but they look goofier than the belt and none of them really seem big enough to hold a key item some folks like to run with — the modern smartphone, which has grown the size of a brick.

So Cara and I purchased the iFitness hydration belt (16 oz). I can’t say enough about this belt. It fits much better than the Fuel Belt — and this is for both men and women. (Cara had a Fuel Belt as well). This is partly due to material and partly due to construction. The waterproof pouch in front can hold everything you need–money, credit cards, i.d., keys, iPhone or HTC Evo-size phones and, quite possibly, a small child. It has two little loops built in for Gu packets (or whichever brand you prefer). And while I haven’t used it, it comes with a racing-bib holder that positions your bib right at crotch level.

All of this and the belt does not slip. It does not ride up. It does not ride down. It stays put. This is why we like it.

Beefs with the belt? The biggest beef is that it only comes with two eight-ounce water bottles. So I’m sort of back to not having as much hydration as I’d like. I’m going to order an additional bottle and clip and will report back to see if that bounces around or changes the performance of the belt. I’m also not crazy about the bottles themselves. Mine leak a little when I squeeze them. Cara’s bottles, however, don’t leak–so that might just be a fluke on my part. And it’s not like the Fuel Belt bottles never leaked either.