Small Handheld Bottle Shootout!

Small bottles are a great supplement to a race vest or hydration pack, or an effective tool for a race that’s heavy on aid stations.  They’re also a good solution for those who tire of carrying large bottles for hours on end.


These are all I run with now. No more big bottles and nothing on my back, small bottles get the job done without weighing me down.

Here I test the bottles from the major brands, both from objective and subjective criteria.  All were provided to me as samples with no expectation of a positive review. All thoughts are my own.


Objective Stats

Liquid Capacity

Amphipod Hydroform Ergo-Light 10.5
CamelBak Arc QuickGrip 10oz
Nathan Quickshot Plus 8oz
Salomon S-Lab Set 7oz
Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 10 10oz
UltraSpire Isomeric 8oz

No bottle wins this round.


Amphipod Hydroform Ergo-Light $22.50
CamelBak Arc QuickGrip $20
Nathan Quickshot Plus $20
Salomon S-Lab Set $45
Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 10 $17.95
UltraSpire Isomeric $24

This round goes to Ultimate Direction for keeping things under twenty bucks.

Dry Weight

Amphipod Hydroform Ergo-Light 3 1/8oz
CamelBak Arc QuickGrip 2.5oz
Nathan Quickshot Plus 3oz
Salomon S-Lab Set 7oz
Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 10 1 7/8oz
UltraSpire Isomeric 2.5 oz

This round goes to Ultimate Direction for staying under 2oz.

Ice – Does it fit?

Amphipod Hydroform Ergo-Light Yes
CamelBak Arc QuickGrip Yes
Nathan Quickshot Plus Yes
Salomon S-Lab Set No
Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 10 No
UltraSpire Isomeric Yes

Four way tie between Amphipod, Camelbak, Nathan, and Ultraspire. This category is a deal breaker for me. If it can’t fit ice, I don’t want it.

Adjustable Strap?

Amphipod Hydroform Ergo-Light Yes
CamelBak Arc QuickGrip Yes
Nathan Quickshot Plus Yes
Salomon S-Lab Set Yes
Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 10 Yes
UltraSpire Isomeric Yes

Everyone wins!

Reflective at Night?

Amphipod Hydroform Ergo-Light None
CamelBak Arc QuickGrip 1 area
Nathan Quickshot Plus 3 areas
Salomon S-Lab Set 1 area
Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 10 2 areas
UltraSpire Isomeric 3 areas

The Nathan has the most reflective material on the bottle/strap.  Win.

Storage Capacity – Along with my car key and alarm, how many standard size Gu packets could I fit?

Amphipod Hydroform Ergo-Light 1
CamelBak Arc QuickGrip 2
Nathan Quickshot Plus 4
Salomon S-Lab Set No storage.
Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 10 3
UltraSpire Isomeric No storage.

Nathan has the biggest pocket. Win!


Amphipod Hydroform Ergo-Light Neoprene
CamelBak Arc QuickGrip None
Nathan Quickshot Plus Double shell insulation
Salomon S-Lab Set None
Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 10 None
UltraSpire Isomeric None

 Nathan and Amphipod tie for this round.  I tried performing a test that would show how long ice lasted in each, but am entirely unable to hold bottles in my left hand, so the experiment failed.

Subjective Criteria

Fit and Feel

I’m 6’2″ and wear large gloves, though my hands are pretty thin.  Here’s my take on how the little bottles fit my hands.



Fit my hand nicely and the neoprene strap kept everything tight. My thumb is able to close the nipple without having to use two hands.




Camelbak Arc QuikGrip:

This is actually the first small bottle I owned. Still love how it feels. The bottle shape feels very similar to that of the Nathan.




Nathan Quikshot Plus

Soft strap feels nice, though this bottle feels the largest of any of them.  Has the awesome bonus of allowing my thumb to peek through the strap, and not have to “hold” the bottle.





Salomon Sense S-Lab Set Handheld

This is the one product I didn’t try, but relied on friend and runner-with-small-hands Tyler to check it out for me. She said that it fit well, though couldn’t figure out what the white strap was for, as it didn’t appear to tighten anything.



Ultimate Direction FastDraw 10

Smallest feeling bottle, and I like the indented bumps in the bottle that help with grip.  Bonus is that my thumb can close the nipple on the fly.




Ultraspire Isomeric

The rectangular shape didn’t fit my hand well, as there was nothing to “grip to.”  It either fit with my fingers, or against my palm, which was didn’t feel comfortable. However, I love the size and the fact I can close the nipple with my thumb.


This round goes to Amphipod. The size is perfect, the neoprene cover keeps it cool, and I can access the nipple with my thumb, which is a phrase I’ve never written and probably never will again.

Nipples and do I like them.



Alright, let’s talk about nipples. They’re important. Some people have strong opinions and won’t use a certain brand because of the nipple design, but I’m pretty easy.

  • Amphipod: Basic pop and lock. Pop it out with your teeth or hands, shoot into your mouth, and push it back in to lock the flow. Works fine.
  • Camelbak: A softer nipple, but for some reason, there’s a ring around the base that allows you to lock the flow shut. Not sure why that would come in handy (I’ve never used it.)  No need to open or close valve, which is nice.
  • Nathan:  Hard plastic, squeeze the bottle, or suck it. Nipple works great, no need to open or close, and seems pretty tough.
  • Salomon: My tester Tyler loved it. While she was indifferent to the bottle/glove itself, she raved about the nipple. Barely need to suck to get the liquid out, and didn’t leak at all.
  • Ultimate Direction: Hard plastic pop and lock. Works fine.  Biggest question is why don’t they offer the kicker valve that is so popular with their larger bottles?
  • Ultraspire.  Pop and lock. No leaking. Works fine.

This round goes to Camelbak.  I don’t feel like I’m going to break my teeth on the plastic and it doesn’t leak.  This round would easily go to Ultimate Direction, had it used the Kicker valve.

Notes on Each Bottle


I like the Amphipod bottle a lot. Nice soft cover keeps my hands fresh and the liquid relatively cool.  The strap is tight, and the nipple is fine.  I’m able to strap it to my hand, though it’s a bit tight. Only drawback is the limited storage capacity.

Bottle comes in a few sizes.




The Camelbak feels the best in my hand and I like the nipple a lot. One think I don’t like is that once the straps are removed (to wash it), they loosen up and aren’t as secure.





The Nathan has the most storage, a great nipple, quality build, and the ability to strap it to your hand. Great all around bottle, though may be a bit large for smaller-built runners.

Bottle comes in a few sizes.





The Salomon is certainly an interesting piece of gear.  The terry cloth sweat wiper is a nice touch, and the ability to run hands free is appealing, but Tyler couldn’t get past the fact she felt like she was running with a water weenie.




The Ultimate Direction bottles come in two colors…black and yellow, and the Jenny Edition, which is purple and comes with a matching hair band in the pocket. Pretty cool!  My 4 year old has adopted it as hers.

Again, with the Kicker valve, this would be  much better product.



The Ultraspire bottle is very well thought out. I like the material, and I like the ability to take the bottle off my hand by undoing the strap. No gear capacity and my inability to get comfortable holding it were problems for me.

Bottle comes in a few sizes.


 More Info Right This Way:

Amphipod Hydroform Ergo-Light

CamelBak Arc QuickGrip

Nathan Quickshot Plus

Salomon S-Lab Set

Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 10

UltraSpire Isomeric


All things considered, if I were to purchase one bottle, I’d go with the Nathan Quickshot Plus. The combination of storage, feel, insulation, and build make it a great all around small bottle that I’ll take with me on many a race.  All were great bottles, this one works the best for me.

Now go out and run.


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