Monday, April 18, 2016

Real Runner Reviews Hydration Special


With the weather getting warmer (in parts of the country), I figured it would be a good time to talk about hydration. Staying hydrated plays an important role in performing at your best.  With so many different brands and types of hydration gear out there, I wanted to share the different options with you.  This review will just provide a short description of each item.  In the following days, I will post more detailed reviews.  Each day will feature a separate company. 


Handheld Hydration:

The Hydrapak SoftFlask is a fully collapsible sports bottle that can be used for running, bicycle riding, skiing, or any other activity where you might need to hydrate.  It comes in many sizes from 150 ml to 750 ml and several different colors.  The SoftFlask 500ml comes with a comfortable finger loop to hold on to or clip to your pack once there’s no more water left.  It collapses as you drink, which reduces sloshing.  It collapse down so small that you can fit it in the palm of your hand.  This is an easy to hold option if you don’t need any pockets for storage.

Fuelbelt took what they claim is the most ergonomic 10 ounce bottle in the world and added a feather light padded hand strap to it.  While there are no pockets for storage, this is the most comfortable handheld hydration product I have tested.  The strap is extremely comfortable and won’t irritate your skin.  It also comes in 11 different color combinations to fit your personality.  Like the SoftFlask, there are no pockets for storage, but the Helium Sprint is still amazing. 

The Fastdraw 20 Extreme is a versatile handheld bottle.  Not only do you get a comfortable hand strap that allows you to run without having to grasp your bottle, but there is an insulated sleeve to keep your drink cold while preventing your hand from getting too cold.  It is extremely comfortable and easy to use.  You simply slide your hand in and use the cinch strap to tighten it down.  The pocket is somewhat large and will fit a decent amount of gels or even a small light weight jacket. 

The Quick Grip Chill Handheld Bottle takes the idea of a handheld water bottle to the next level.  The Quick Grip Chill comes with a 21 ounce insulated bottle.  There is a nice sized zippered pouch that has enough room for keys, gels, and smaller smartphones as well as an additional mesh stretch pocket for a few more items.  The hand strap is lined with a Velvetex material that won’t chafe your hand.  It really is comfortable and cinches down easily with a simple pull of the strap.  One of my favorite parts of the Quick Grip Chill is the cap.  It features CamelBak’s patented Jet Valve technology.  This allows you to get water without having to push or pull a valve like many other bottles.

UltrAspire came up with a unique design for the Isomeric Pocket Handheld Bottle.  The ultra-soft 20 ounce “Human” bottle has a curved neck to make it easier to drink while on the run.  The area between the bottle and your hand is made with a ventilated material that keeps your hand dry and comfortable and will keep your hand from freezing from the ice water in your bottle.  The stretch mesh pocket is large and really does stretch.  It is big enough to fit my Samsung Galaxy S6 with its case.  That is a rare thing with the handhelds that I tested. 

The Nathan Speedview is a water bottle that offers some great additional features.  It has an 18 ounce SpeedDraw Flask with a Race Cap.  The Race Cap allows you to get quick bursts of water without having to open or close a valve.  There is a pocket with a see-thru conductive touchscreen that allows you to use your phone while it is in the pocket.  There is a separated back area to the pocket where you can store money, keys, gels, or whatever else you want to take with you.  The bottle and hand loop are ergonomic and feel great.



Waist Hydration Packs:

The Nathan Sports Peak is a comfortable waist pack that is great for training runs or races.  It comes with an 18 ounce ergonomical SpeedDraw flask with a Push-Pull top.  The bottle slides into an angled bottle holder that is easy to use and lets you grab the water and put it away with one hand.   There is a pocket that is perfect for smaller phones, gels, car keys, or whatever you need to bring with you and an external shock cord system to hold your jacket or other gear when it’s not needed anymore.

The Nathan Trail Mix Plus Insulated Hydration Belt features two 10 ounce Fire and Ice reflective and insulated flasks with Nathan’s Push-Pull caps.  Not only will these bottles help keep your fluids cooler 20% longer than other insulated bottles, but the fire and ice technology offers 360-degree reflectivity for those early morning or late night runs.  The ergonomically shaped belt offers a multi-directional stretch that eliminates bouncing and the Speed-fit holster makes it easy to store and retrieve your bottles.  There are two pockets (the larger one can easily fit an iPhone 6 Plus) and an elastic cord system to hold extra gear.  

The Speedgoat is about to be released from UltrAspire this month.  It has two angled holsters for easy access that securely holds the two ultra-soft and squeezable 550ml (18.6 ounce) bottles.  The holsters lock in the bottles so they don’t fall out mid run, but still allow easy retrieval of the bottles.  There is a mesh and fabric center pocket in the back that is large enough to hold a jacket, another zippered pocket on the right side for gels, and a trash pocket on the left side.  The belt is extremely comfortable and features a soft perimeter binding.  You put on Speedgoat with a hook system instead of a buckle.  There are two removable quick access front straps that you can use to secure a jacket, z-poles, or other accessories that you no longer later on in your run. 
   
The CamelBak Arc 2 is a hydration belt that is made with a breathable, laser bonded mesh to keep everything light weight and provides a perfect fit.  The elastic really does a great job of eliminating any bouncing of the belt.  The Arc 2 comes with two 10 ounce bottles that clip into the belt with ease.  The bottles are 100% BPA-free and are made with CamelBak’s TruTaste material that eliminates any funky plastic aftertaste and keep any residual taste of electrolyte drinks out of your bottles.  There is also a zippered pouch where you can store your gels, keys, and even a small phone

The SPI H20 Venture features a 2” thick elastic belt that does an awesome job of eliminating bouncing even when fully loaded.  There is a stretchy zippered pouch made with SPI’s WeatherGuard material that will keep your contents safe from the elements (although SPI claims it’s not waterproof, it does keep your stuff dry).  It easily fit my Galaxy S6 with the case.  There are two gel loops, some elastic and toggles to attach a race bib, and there is reflective trim around the zippered pocket.  There are also 2-8 ounce water bottles have clips and feature a leak-free Jet Nozzle.  They simply clip onto the belt.  The H20 Venture recently won the “Best of Active.com Running” Award!

If you are looking for an inexpensive hydration belt, the SLS3 Hydration Run Belt might be right up your alley.  It is designed specifically for runners who want a comfortable running belt that won’t chafe.  It has a separated pocket/pouch that allows you to store your phone (even my Samsung Galaxy S6 with the case fit), gels, or whatever else you need to carry.  You also get 2-10 ounce water bottles, an earphone cord hole in the pouch, and the pouch has a waterproof lining to protect your gear from the elements.

The SLS3 Hydration Belt Deluxe is another great product and is the next step up from the Hydration Run Belt.  It features a clear front pocket that is big enough to fit larger phones (You can even fit an iPhone 6+ in this one).  Behind the phone, the pouch expands to fit keys, money, and other items that you want to take on your run.  Other features of the Hydration Belt Deluxe include race toggles, a headphone cord hole, and there are reflective loops on the front of the belt.  The materials are not quite as good as some top of the line hydration belts, but you also aren’t paying $50-75 for the hydration belt either.  I think you get a great product for the price.

The Helium H20 is the lightest weight hydration belt ever (from what Fuelbelt’s claims).  Its weight is only matched by how comfortable it is and how good it looks, with several color options.  The Helium H30 is its big brother with three 7 ounce BPA-free ergonomic bottles instead of two.  They fit like they used a mold of your hand to make it.  The back part of the belt is made with breathable Hex-Foam padding, which I found extremely comfortable and allowed my back to remain fairly dry, unlike some packs.  There is a large removable storage pocket that is big enough to pack your keys, gels, or money and an adjustable waistband that attaches with soft-touch Velcro.  This hydration belt feels great, almost like you aren’t even wearing it!

Hydration Packs:

The Nathan Sports Vapor Air is a very light weight (weighing only 9.3 ounces) hydration pack that uses highly breathable materials for added comfort, even on your sweatiest runs.  The hydration pack comes with a 2-liter bladder and detachable hose that makes it easy to clean.  The bladder can be turned inside out for drying and has a sliding clip at the top of the bladder to keep it closed.  This pack has tons of storage.  You have two pockets that fit water bottles in front, two stash pockets for gels, and two more zippered pockets on each side of the pack near your torso.  There is a pill pocket that is water resistant for your salt pills, a zippered pocket on the front for your smartphone (not big enough for my Samsung Galaxy S6 with a case), and a huge pocket on the back of the pack.  There are 9 pockets in all.  The Vapor Air also features a whistle for safety, soft touch edges on all perimeter bindings to reduce chafing, and reflective markings.  This is a race style vest, which means that it sits a little higher than traditional hydration vests.

The Ultimate Direction TO Race Vest 3.0 was designed by, and named after Timothy Olson, a very well-known Ultra runner.  This vest is incredibly light weight at only 8.23 ounces.  While it doesn’t come with bottles, Ultimate Direction sells the collapsible Body Bottle Plus (manufactured by Hydrapak), which is awesome.  The TO Race Vest has more storage than you’ll know what to do with.  There are six pocket in the front of the vest, two pockets are made for your water bottles but can hold your phone too.  There are two pockets at the bottom of the back as well.  You can reach them easily so you can store some stuff back there and access it without having to take your pack off.  The pack can be adjusted with two sternum straps and two side straps that help provide a bounce free fit.  The back of the vest is made of a really light weight mesh that is extremely breathable and really does make a difference in comparison to other packs.
 
The CamelBak Marathoner weighs in at a mere 11 ounces (pack only).  The included 2-liter reservoir has a quarter turn wide mouth opening for easy filling, which is an improvement over the first versions of the CamelBak.  The Marathoner has a quick connect attachment so you can disconnect the hose before pulling out the reservoir to fill it, which makes the filling process much quicker and easier.  CamelBak make the best hydration bladders and bite valves in the industry in my opinion.  You can get as little or as much water as you want without having to struggle.  The hydration bladder has arms that fold down to keep the reservoir open after you clean it out.  The Marathoner has 5 pockets including two pockets in the front that are big enough to hold bottles, although I use them to hold gels and my cell phone, an envelope pocket for used gel packs/trash, and a sweat proof pocket for your phone.  Under the reservoir flap, there is another pocket to stash your keys and credit card. 

Here is the schedule for the more detailed reviews:
Tuesday April 19th – Nathan Sports
Wednesday April 20th – CamelBak
Thursday April 21st – Ultimate Direction
Friday April 22nd – SPI Belt
Saturday April 23rd – SLS3
Sunday April 24th – Hydrapak
Monday April 25th – Fuelbelt
Tuesday April 26th – UltrAspire

Almost every function in the body is supported by or associated with water.  Depending on the intensity, duration, temperature and humidity, the body can lose more than a quart of water in one hour. (1)  If you don’t stay hydrated, not only will your performance suffer, but you could end up with a trip to the emergency room.  There are plenty of options out there to take fluids with you.  Pick up a handheld, waist belt, or pack depending on what would work best for you and remember to stay hydrated. 

Credit:
(1)   Competitor.com “Hydration: The Key To Successful Performance.” http://running.competitor.com/2014/05/nutrition/hydration_74785

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