Hydration Pack Review, Part 1

Summer is nearly upon us, which means that runners need to pay attention to hydration needs when exercising in warm weather. In recent years, hydration devices have become a multidisciplinary science, with several options available. We’re reviewing the most common types here, along with our recommendations for use of each kind.

As a general rule, unless you’re exposed to extreme heat or humidity (upper 90s for either category), you probably don’t need to take in fluids during your workout if you’re exercising for 30 minutes or less. If you are exercising for less than an hour, you can probably do just fine with water instead of sports drink.

When your body is working for more than one hour, make sure that you drink small amounts of fluid on a regular basis during the activity. There are a few different ways to carry fluids on the go:

Hand held bottle carriers: of course, before hydration accessories were invented, everybody did it the old fashioned way: by carrying a bottle of water in your hand while you run. Hand-held bottle carriers are little more than a comfortable elastic strap that fits around the bottle and the back of your hand; this way, you don’t have to grip the bottle to keep it in contact with your palm.

Most hand-held carriers support a 20-oz bottle, and many have small pockets on the backside to stash things like keys or an ATM card. Some runners find it awkward to carry bottle holders at first, but before long you’ll hardly notice a difference.

Waist packs: These are probably the most common option, and come in several varieties. Most packs hold a 20- or 24-oz bottle on your backside, often angled one way or the other for easier access. Waist packs also have larger pockets with storage space for cell phones or energy bars.

Variations on this design include packs that hold two full-size bottles, and others with several smaller bottles distributed all the way around your waist. In our opinion, the single bottle option is the simplest and most convenient, and should suffice for activity in the one to two hour range.

If you are running or hiking for more than two hours, a single bottle won’t be enough to sustain you – and that’s where the next category comes in.

Hydration packs: These lightweight packs are typically worn like a backpack, but contain a fluid reservoir that can hold up to 100oz of fluid. Models that are marketed towards runners typically hold about 70 oz.

Since they are designed for longer activity, hydration packs also feature a lot more storage space for food, clothing, or other gear. Modern materials and designs make these packs quite comfortable to wear, even when running at high speed.

Fluid reservoirs are slightly more high-maintenance than a typical water bottle - they’re a bit more difficult to clean and dry after each use – but they’re generally very easy to use, and the benefit of having adequate fluids during a long run is usually worth a little inconvenience afterwards.

Hand held bottle carriers and waist packs can be found in both of our local running stores. If you’d like more information about hydration packs, Donald did an extensive review of five different models this spring; go to www.montereyrunninglife.com to check them out.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to take care of your hydration needs so you can enjoy a healthy and safe summer of running.

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