Hydration Systems


Around the waist:
Experience From - Jay Hodde#1, Gordon Chase, David Palen, Brick Robbins #2, Clinton Morse, Norm Yager, George Beinhorn #1, John Liebskind, Mary Gorski #1, Larry De Angleo , Gordon Chace , Gary Bruner , Jay Hodde#3 , Joel Zucker , Gordon Chace#2 , Laurie Staton , Skip Eastman , Andrea Feucht , Doug McKeever , Geri "Lady G" Wales, Jim Winne ,

On the Back:
Experience From - Andrew Starsky, Benny Yih#1, Dan Baglione#1, Jennifer Ives, Benny Yih#2, Brick Robbins#1, Kevin Sayers , Steve Westlund , Jim Stroup, Jim Winne #2,

Experience From - Gregg Heinrichs#1 , Scott Rafferty , Dale Perry , RN#2 , Gregg Heinrichs#2 , Unknown , Gordon Chace , Heidi Schutt ,

Hydration Vests For Women:
Experience From - Kirsten Poulin#1 , Andrea Feucht , Misty Fillus , Kirsten Poulin#2 , Missy Heeb ,

Hydration Backpack Conversion:
Experience From - Sean Greenhill ,

Hand Held:
Experience From - Jay Hodde#2, Dan Baglione#2, John Edgcomb, H-1, Karl King , Dina , Rich Schick , Ray Zirblis#1 , Pat Wellington , Andy Holak#1 , Andy Holak#2 , Martha Holden , Andy Jones-Wilkins , Tyler Curiel , John Sondermann , Robert Youngren , Peter Bakwin , Anthony Welch , Gary Bruner , Rick , Mike Miller , Ray Zirblis#2 ,

Experience From - Joe Galope,

Different Situations & Different Needs:
Mike Franusich , Kevin Sayers#2 , Len DeMoss , Mary Gorski #2, Matthew Kavanaugh ,

Hydration Bladders:
RN , GW , Andy Holak , Patty Klaus , Louise Wholey , Bill Gentry , Ben Holmes , Peyton Robinson ,

Aid Station Strategy:
Experience From - George Beinhorn #2 ,

Around The Waist

Jay Hodde #1

Subject: UD Trail Runner vs. UD Extender

Someone asked whether the UD "Trail runner" pack available from Road Runner Sports was the same pack as the UD Extender.

It is not.

The RRS pack does not have an a compartment that can expand; the Extender does. Also, the belt on the Trail runner is not padded; the belt on the Extender is padded and contains two of the small "key" pockets (which I use for pills, chapstick, etc).

RRS claims the Trail runner was made by UD "exclusively" for them. Whenever this claim is made, I think twice about buying the product. Why? 1) A retailer in town won't be able to handle complaints (because it is a special make-up) -- you'll need to go back to the company you bought it from, and 2) I tend to worry about the quality of the product. If the "special" product *looks* like another product from the same company but is being sold at a lower price, I would suspect that the quality of the material or the workmanship has been compromised. (The most dramatic example of this is in the shoe industry, but that's another topic).

FYI, the Trail runner pack is being sold by RRS for $49.95 + tax and shipping. It is not in UD's general retail catalog. The Extender runs about $60-$65 (UD *lowered* the price this season, so I'm not sure of its SRP). Personally, I think the few extra dollars is worth the real thing. . .

Who uses the Extender and loves it.

Gordon Chase

Subject: WS100 Dream pack

I've got one of those WS100 Dream packs. I find it very comfortable, but its previous owner didn't, which is why he sold it to me.

I don't find the Velcro strap easy to adjust. In fact, noticing that the pack has extra loop clips for traditional belts, I bought some one-inch webbing and a traditional adjuster, and run with two belts, the Velcro set somewhat loose all the time and the regular belt I adjust on-the-run for whatever extra tightness matches my payload.

Anytime I want to bring the cargo compartment around front to look for stuff, I pop off the extra belt and the looseness of the main belt lets me swivel the whole thing around my waist. The Velcro belt is wide, I think two inches, so I have a total of three inches of belt width to spread out the pressure.

And of course with Winter upon the North lands again, I'm glad this pack insulates the bottle sleeves so my beverage can remain liquid a bit longer.

David Palen

Subject: Bum-Bags

In general, I prefer back-packs to bum-bags 'cause of lower back stress. Nowadays I like using a two-chamber, tear-drop style Saucony pack which has a stabilizing strap across the chest. One chamber for the items less frequently needed, the other chamber for more constant opening/closing. Since my stomach is picky about energy drinks, I tend to pre-sort the powders into those small sandwich bags, IE one bag per 750ml bottle fill, and mix on the go at the water stops. All the other potions and elixirs go into film canisters: one powdered milk, one salt, one misc pills. The pack fits snug and even in a singlet, Bag Balm over the shoulders and under the armpits does the trick.

The one item I haven't figured out, and usually the heaviest, is the torch/flashlight, especially when you've got to carry from the start. I haven't figured whether it rides better with the batteries in or out of the device, or whether it needs to be higher or lower in the pack. If it starts to bother in one chamber, then I just shift it to the other.

Brick Robbins#2

Subject: Race Pack by Angeles Pack Co.

"The most comfortable pack I've ever worn is the Race Pack by Angeles Pack Co. (they advertise in Ultra running). You can configure it endless ways with Velcro attachments, it rides nice and snug and low on your hips and doesn't bounce, and the bottles are flat and can be mounted on the sides so you don't get that chug-a chug-a impact of the belt buckle against your belly button with every step."

I like Ken's bottles but not his belt. The Velcro tends to wear out. The whole concept of the "flask" bottles he makes is to keep the Center of Gravity of the water close to your body, reducing bouncing. The bladders do that even better. I'd use a Camelback GoBee (bladder on a belt w/o shoulder straps) before I 'd go back to bottles.

Clinton Morse

Subject: Gregory's Mohave Hydration/Fanny Pack

I use Gregory's Mohave hydration/fanny pack and really love it. Its got a 3.5 liter bladder and 950 cu in capacity for carrying the essentials you wish you didn't need on an unsupported long run. (or rogaining) I have room for food, headlamp, polypro and rain gear and it all rides very comfortably due to Gregory's years of experience in designing expedition packs and harnesses. The Coolmax lined belt pulls everything in nice and tight with no bouncing - even full.

The only downside I noticed is that my legs (knees in particular) needed a few weeks of training to get used to the idea of an extra 12-14 pounds coming down with each step but they are quite used to it now. As a bonus, when I run a shorter (no pack required) race its like I automatically lost 12 pounds and I feel like I'm floating along the trails. The other thing to be careful of is that an extra 12 pounds does effect the center of balance and if you tend to bound side to side, rock-hopping down rocky trails - its going to take a little practice to keep your body upright. But I suppose it forces you to establish a more fluid upper body form (less energy required) when running. Just my 2 cents....

Norm Yarger

Subject: Waterbelt Position

I found that my water pack bounced too much when worn in the rear, but for me, wearing it on one side (the left side) works. I would suggest experimenting to find a good location before giving up on a belt.

Steve says:

"If you prefer not to carry bottle(s) in your hands, you can get exactly the same benefit by wearing an Ultimate with the bottle in FRONT and not in back, as I do. This also gives you quick access to the pouches with your GU."

My Ultimate Direction fanny pack bounces. If I turned it around and wore it in front as you suggest and it still bounced...

George Beinhorn #1

Subject: Angeles Race Pack vs. Ultimate 2 Bottle Pack

I used to carry Ultimate Directions 2-bottle pack. Then I switched to Angeles Pack Co.'s "Race Pack." It has FLAT bottles that you can put anywhere on the belt (fastens with Velcro). This is a wonderful system because you can mount the bottles on the sides and there is absolutely no bounce.

John Liebskin

Subject: Western States Dream 100 Pack

First, let me say that I have tried the UD packs and find that they bounce quite a bit. I usually run with the Western States Dream 100. (My wife says I shouldn't use a Western States pack until after I run Western, but this is the "Dream" pack.) Anyway, I have found this pack relatively bounce free. I also have a Quest pack which works almost as well (But I have never used it over 2.5 hours).

When I first got the WS pack, I would get rubbing and chafing at the center of my back. I then put a piece of mole foam over the rub spot (on the pack). Now I still get some chafing, but only after 8 hours of running, and then it doesn't hurt until the next day.

Mary Gorski #1

Subject: Ultimate Direction Single Pack

Just wanted to add another suggestion to the waist pack discussion. I've used the Ultimate single water bottle pack and like it when that's all that's needed. However, for a double holster water bottle pack I got a Gerry. They are the same folks that make the backpacks. It can hold two large-sized bottles and has a nice sized (but not overly big) pouch in the middle. There is also an adjustable tension cord over the back for a jacket and elastic strips around the bottle holders to stick in gloves, TP, whatever. Most of what hugs against you is padded. If you needed a little more storage space, you could put an "extra" pouch on your belt. Its called "Small Pouch" (5'x4'x2', $9) from Ultimate Direction. For a catalog, E-mail UD at h20pack@aol.com or call 1-800-426-7229.

Anyhow, I'm on the smallish side (5' 1" female) and it seemed to fit me better than the Ultimate double-bottle pack. I got mine at a camping store. It comes in environmentally friendly green and black.

Larry De Angleo

Subject: Costco Waterbelt

I just tried a new belt pack you all might be interested in. I got it at Costco (they might call this place Price Club in some necks of the woods). It is the "INGEAR LUMBAR HYDRATION WAIST PACK". Quite a name. Only cost $11 and change. It has good bottle stability -- minimal jostling.

The pockets are mesh with a webbing strap to tighten things up. There is one large compartment that you could put way too much into; one medium pocket suitable for wallet and keys; and one small mesh pocket (with zipper) that might be OK for chapstick, snakebite kit, etc.

The back of the pack has foam padding, but here is no additional padding on the pockets or belt. For most of its length the belt is wide enough that this doesn't seem to be a problem.

Construction is rather lightweight, which might be a problem if you're rough on equipment, (or a benefit if you don't want to carry any extra weight).

I have only had the pack a few days, but I like it a lot. My normal pack for serious runs is a small daypack type unit with two bottle pockets (Ultimate Direction, I think, but I cut the labels off years ago and don't quite remember). I have not previously liked the pure belt pack arrangement since preventing bottle jostle required too much belt tightening. The new one seems to have beaten that problem with a nice design. And, of course, the price was right...

If you check it out, look carefully. They carry two or more different models. The good one will be obvious to a runner.

Gordon Chace

Subject: WS100 Dream Pack

I have a WS100 Dream 2-holer that I bought used from fellow IUS-L member Jeff Wold. Jeff found the fit uncomfortable, but I've been happy with it. However, part of my satisfaction comes from hot-rodding. It's nice that the Velcro belt is wide enough (two full inches) to spread out the weight, but one cannot re-adjust the tension without completely detaching and trying again.

But the WS100 people provided a pair of unused one-inch D-ring clips, to which I added some one-inch strapping with loop adjusters and snap-release buckle, these extra supplies being available at mountaineering specialty shops. Then I set the wide belt just a little too loose, and tug the adjusters on the narrow belt to add just enough tension for the current cargo load and current state of my tummy. By loosening the narrow belt and unclipping the wide belt, I can rotate the whole pack around front whenever I need a good look inside the cargo compartment.

Gary Bruner

Subject: Questions on Capacity & Bounce

I will be buying a 2-bottle belt pack soon and am interested in user comments on relative merits in two areas: capacity and how well they ride. For convenience and a common frame of reference for all of us, I'll refer to the May issue of Ultrarunning ads on pages 12, 36 and 40. There certainly must be others available, so feel free to bring them into the discussion as well and cite source info.

***DISCLAIMER*** I don't want this to cross the gray line into commercial endorsement, so please no comments from the sellers/marketers, just from owners who have tested them in actual use. Please also be discreet in your assessments--be honest without product trashing.

  1. Capacity: what is the preferred size? One big pocket or several smaller? Real quick, even a T-shirt rolled up to a 3 inch circle 10 inches long takes up about 70 cubic inches, so it's pretty easy to fill space up. A typical belly pack probably goes about 100-125 cubic inches. As for ultra-type packs in the ads referenced above:
    -- Western States Dream 100 Miler and WS 100 don't list capacities--anyone know?
    -- Angeles Pack Co. Standard and Standard Race compute out at 112.5 cubic inches.
    -- Ultimate Direction Extender Racepac reports 250 cubic inches.

  2. "Bounce" factor: how well do these ride in actual use?

Any and all comments appreciated!

Jay Hodde #3

Subject: Response to Gary's Questions on Capacity & Bounce

I use the UD Extender and love it tremendously. Adjusted properly, it doesn't bounce at all. It all depends on how you wear it. . . I wear mine over my hips more than I do around my "belly". It doesn't bounce if you secure it around the "hip bones". I carry two 20 os bottles. The 28 oz bottles hit my back in the wrong spot. The pack is big enough, but all I use it for is a flashlight and some minor medical supplies. Not food or anything else. At night I add an extra bulb for my light. The two key pockets on the front are very handy. One carries my chapstick and ibuprofen (and car key). The other carries batteries and my SUCCEED! buffer caps. I carry a light coat if I need to underneath the pack on the straps. This works well, especially if you criss-cross the straps. I've also carried t-shirts under there.

Joel Zucker

Subject: Jansport OASIS

Those of you who have yet to find an expensive double-bottle carrier that fits well might want to try the cheaper Jansport OASIS. It's not sold as a running fanny pack, but it works better for me than any Ultimate product. I wear it on my left hip, and once I drain one of the two 20-ounce bottles I barely know it's there. The Oasis has 425 inches of carrying capacity, and you can put a shell in the pack itself, or shove a hat and gloves and a top map and a light in it and tie the shell on the external straps. About thirty dollars in sporting goods stores. I tried every double bottle belt pack on the market, this is the only one that doesn't drive me nuts when actually running.

For all of you who have bought an Oasis water-purifying bottle and hardly used it, because you have to use more energy sucking water out of that straw than you do climbing scree slopes at 13,000 feet, try the SimpleSource H2O Bottle. Same basic principle as the Oasis, a one micron filter that protects you from giardia and most microcysts, but WITHOUT the chemical filtering. So you take a bit more of a risk, but in return the fluid flow is almost as fast as a normal bottle. A steal at about seventeen bucks retail. If you're running where streams are prevalent, this might be a fine addition to your box of ultra toys. Ask at your local bike store; if they don't have it, you can also get it from Bike Nashbar, www.nashbar.com if you have web access. By the way, if you add salt or other electrolytes to your water, they are NOT impeded by the filter.

Gordon Chace #2

Subject: Some Solutions to the Bounce Factor

"...hands-free and also have those free hands to eat with. I used to puke all the time, in part because of bouncy fanny packs and in part 'cause I think I never really ate enough due to, you guessed it, the bouncy fanny packs. I tried a bunch of different waist packs, but none seemed to fit my skinny...
" Well, I currently don't have the skinny problem as badly as I'd like :-( but have some ideas on how to carry a lot of stuff and keep the tummy comfy versus that tugging and pressing.

After committing some kinky acts with knife, thread, duct tape, and hot plastic glue, I have a hybrid pack based on portions of UD's Aquifer and Elite products. The Aquifer (I'm talking 97/98, not the 1999 redesign) was a front & back bib with cargo pockets on the front half and a water bladder w/ hose on the back half. The Elite is a two-bottle beltpack whose cargo pouch(es) ride up front, thus your back is weighted only by the bottles.

My homemade hybrid has the Aquifer features of hanging all weight over the shoulders, thus the belt-line attachments can be left very loose (versus constant pressure) and if one balances the weight front-to-back then there is also no tugging via bounce.

Also, the hybrid has the Aquifer feature of providing substantial cargo volume up front, which is important to me since I choose to use a specific energy supply that no known race director has at aid stations, thus a lot of powder to be carried.

From the Elite, the hybrid pack provides fluid via bottles and thanks to the Elite's tilted sleeves, easy reach around. I prefer bottles as I can see how far I've drained my supply and they can be refilled without any restrapping of their pack.

With all the kinky extra strapping and shoulder suspension, the bottles can be oversize/over count and loosely attached with less bounce than small bottles on a tight waist belt. And the whole system can remain in place & operation while adding or removing any front-closure outer garment for chilly weather.

When I mentioned this before, there was a request for info so I have written some instructions on how the modifications were done (yes, there are a few other variants and also the option to put either original pack back to working in something similar to its original form). Anybody who is curious can email me and I'll paste that text back-channel.

Disclaimer: This is not a purchasable product. Ya gotta violate yer own warranty and wear gloves if ya might spill the hot glue, and don't poke yer eye with the needle! :-)

Laurie Staton

Subject: UD Nimbus

Louise wrote:

As a woman it is especially hard to make belts comfortable. I prefer them to be at hip level, not way up high where the waist indentation is (cause it makes me sick there). ...My original UD water backpack is good but limited in carry space and tends to rub my shoulders raw...
I too had difficulty with 1) the UD waist belt (I theorized that it contributed to stomach problems) & 2) the UD shoulder straps (a total "non-fit" for me, raw shoulders for my husband, Ian).

Ian & I both use the UD Nimbus (with bladders)...for training & for races (well, we have numbers on anyway, even though it may not look like we're racing). Since purchasing the original Nimbus a few years ago, we both retro-fitted our old models with newer (lighter, thinner) shoulder straps. We also retro-fitted our original Nimbus packs with a series of newer models of bladders, the latest with screamer valves (&, after one defective screamer valve each, we went back to the push valve).

We finally retired the old Nimbus packs (we actually wore them out!!) & this year bought the new Nimbus model, which is much improved over the old. The waist belt is cinched from two narrower pieces of webbing on each side (instead of one very wide piece). The wide-mouthed bladder can easily accommodate ice cubes & the emptying of CLIP packets (no financial interest) & has a good screamer valve (after only one defective one...). Also, the new Nimbus side pockets are much more convenient to access while on the fly...they are placed about 2" farther forward than the old.

We like the Nimbus because it suits the way we travel...we do our long trail runs (25-40+ miles) unsupported, knowing where reliable sources of water are. Many times we run & navigate off-trail. We've found springs & wild Bolete mushroom patches even Irv Nielsen didn't know about.

Skip Eastman

Subject: Angles Pack

I bought one of the two-bottle race packs a number of years ago, and it remains my favorite for longish runs. The side bottles can be "tuned" precisely to your dimensions, moved forward or back to get the best fit. The rear pack is padded and is comfortable even loaded, and has ties for jacket or shirt. The pack uses Velcro rather than buckles, thus can easily be adjusted during a race as need arises.

That said, I've had problems with the bottles as others have stated. I did find, however, that some other cheap bottles which I got from various races had similar tops, and some of them have lasted for the duration. At the price, there is no excuse for shoddy quality. The flask bottles, however, are simply the most comfortable for extended use, and with some tuning they do not bounce. Any sporting goods store can provide inexpensive small auxiliary packets to slide on the Velcro belt. I have a couple of different sizes depending on the length of the run, and the amount of stuff I feel compelled to carry.

Lately I've joined the water-pack group, and now have three different ones, again depending on length of run and amount of cargo necessary. The largest is a 100oz. biking vest from Blackburn, which has a channeled back which aids somewhat in ventilation. The best bladder I've found is from Platypus which is entirely open at the top after undoing the zip-lock. Easy to clean, they come in a wide array of capacities, and are relatively cheap. I had one seam fail, mailed it to the company and had a free replacement, including the hose (which I had not returned), in a week.


Andrea Feucht

Subject: Lowe Contour 30

I've been wearing a Lowe Contour 30 for excursions up to around 12 hours, with no problems. I crank the straps as tight as they go, and no bounce! I like the pack because it is one of the few small ones I've found with a waist strap *and* a sternum strap. When my stomach is a little off, I undo the waist one and make everything else extra tight.

The thing I don't like about it is it is too big. I tend to overfill it, even when I try not to. (1800 cu. in. ~30 liters)

The other thing is my back gets really sweaty and clammy under it... I'd like to hear if the UD vest breathes better.

Doug McKeever

Subject: Lowe Contour 30

I also have a Lowe Contour 30 and use it almost entirely as my bicycling commuter pack.

For running with moderate loads (including the days that I commute to work by running and carry maybe 10 pounds of clothes and lunch, bee sting kit, etc.) I like the Ultimate Direction Tailwind pack. I prefer the 1998 model to the 1999, which I also have (I sorta collect packs!) because the water bottles are easier to remove and replace from the stiff side pockets ('98) instead of the flaccid mesh pockets ('99). If I could ever learn to drink from a tube from a water bladder, the construction of the pockets would be a non-issue.

For still heavier loads for running multi-day mountain trips, carrying sleeping gear, clothes, cooking gear, etc. up to 20 pounds, I like the latest version of the U.D. Voyager pack, which they have FINALLY made very light as well as functional. It is large enough to carry everything (maybe even encouraging a too-large load) and rides beautifully. When properly adjusted to one's torso length, U.D. packs don't bounce while running. I don't find that the packs are excessively clammy and sweaty, but I have had trouble while on all-day runs in hot weather with some uncomfortable chafing down to meat in the middle of my upper back when running w/o a shirt (standard practice in sunny weather for me), but that is eliminated by placing a large square of Spenco adhesive knit or the equivalent on the skin, or by wearing a singlet or t-shirt.

So keep your shirt on, Andrea!

Another pack which looks promising is the Raid Wind 30 [liter] made by Salomon. Although perhaps not widely available, it is much less expensive than the equivalent-sized U.D. packs, and is a catchy yellow and black (now, isn't that important?) How does it perform? I haven't yet tested mine enough to form an opinion....it is hard for me to leave an U.D. at home, because I like the way they work for running with gear.

By the way, I don't own stock in U.D. or in their new parent company, Sierra Designs, but I do work for a store which sells the brands, and I have used most of the U.D. line for the past ten years.

Geraldine "Lady G" Wales

Subject: CamelBak Gobe

There is a smaller version of the CamelBak called the Gobe. I bought one about 3 months ago and think it is the greatest thing. If you use yours you may want to fill it only half way as that much water is a little heavy at the start.

Jim Winne

Subject: CamelBak Gobe

Ok, on the subject of fluid temps, I've always had trouble keeping my water cool during long runs since I live in South Central Texas where is gets really hot in the summer. I run with a Camel Bak Go-Be and no matter how cold the water is inside the bladder - even with ice cubes, the water heats up in the tube running out of the bladder. Nothing tastes better on a 95 degree day than cold water, so is there some kind of insulation they sell to put over that tube so the water doesn't heat up??

After drinking, blow into the tube and blow any water back into the bladder. Be careful not to over blow as you don't want to put excess air into the bladder.

On the Back

Andrew Starsky

Subject: CamelBak on the run

I bought one in the spring solely for the purpose of using it while ultra-running. It works fairly well. I cross the straps at my chest so it holds a little tighter. However, in a race, it is not worth using, especially if there are adequate aid stations. For training, however, it is excellent. On a hot day, fill the thing with ice, then top it off with water.

Benny Yih #1

Subject: CamelBak Mule

"Just bought a CamelBak (Mule) that holds all kinds of things, ... is large enough to quench the needs of an entire city. Do people actually run ultras with these things? ... How much weight do you carry over a 100 miles?"

I've a friend who uses her CamelBak for 100s, but most folks [from my selected sampling as a pacer/crew] get by w/ single/double/triple bike H2O bottles on some waist pack or hand straps. I only take my CamelBak out for longish unaided trips, like the hike a few weekends back up to Kings Peak (highest peak in Utah). Didn't even need to break out the H2O filter ... One of these days, I'll have to try those Oasis "straw" filters as the minimalist system.

Dan Baglione #1

Subject: CamelBak

I have used my CamelBak only on long (20 miles), hot, training runs. Filled with ice and then water it provides me with 4 to 4.5 hours of ice water to complement the 28 oz bottle of souped up Ovaltine that I carry for nutrition. I put the nearly full bottle in the freezer the night before the run so that it will also provide me with cold liquid.

Jennifer Ives

Subject: Camelback Water Carrier

Last fall I bought Ultimate's version of this - a torso pack. I bought it specifically because I was trying to determine if a pain I was experiencing on the left side of my upper abdomen was something internal (tests never did find anything wrong) or caused by the constant shoving in over 15 years of trail running of a plastic buckle for the water packs.

My torso pak carries about 80 ounces.

My version doesn't have pockets for other things however (except for the one on the back of the pack which is wide open rather than with a flap or Velcro closure). I don't like that at all but that's what was available when I needed it so I bought this version.

For fall, winter, and spring running in the mountains, I absolutely loved it. I used it when we ran the 50K in November up into the Catalinas and over to Molino Basin and up to the crest before turning around and coming back . Since I was out around 9 hours and aid occurred once at essentially the turn around, I found that this took me along just fine. I had plenty of water to carry me and I drank a LOT of gatorade etc. at the turn around. The weight distribution is wonderful for me and I did not notice any shoulder pains or irritation of nerves in that area or on out in to my arm (heck, my purse occasionally is heavier than the torsopac).

However, the drawbacks for me are my inability to figure out how to quickly fill the bag and then get it back into the pack. That's very difficult for me and I wish this particular pack had a wider opening to accomplish this. Your CamelBak may have solved that problem.

The Ultimate also does not have any insulation so the fluid gets pretty warm, pretty darned fast in the summer. Your camelback may take care of that, too. Incidentally, I have not experimented with putting the whole thing in the freezer because I'm not sure how long it would last if I did this on a regular basis. Has anyone been doing this?

So, this summer I'm back to running with my wonderful Ultimate double bottle with pocket in between pack. Why? Because (and I feel real silly since I've been running here in the desert in early morning temps of at least 80 in July and August since 1977) I discovered, rather belatedly, that I can go much longer on the same amount of water if I fill those two bottles with crushed ice and top the whole thing off with cold water.

The body - mine at least - absorbs cold water SO much faster than it absorbs warm water!!! And, I keep cool so much longer. It's absolutely wonderful. You've all probably figured this out long ago and heaven knows why I haven't, I guess. If you haven't, well, try it. What a difference.

Benny Yih#2

Subject: Camelback Water Carrier r

The weight distribution is wonderful for me ... The CamelBak shoulder straps are narrower & even w/ the [optional] foam "sissy pads" cushioning, they make my shoulders a tad sore after wearing it all day.

The Ultimate also does not have any insulation so the fluid gets pretty warm. The regular CamelBak outer bag has thin foam between fabric layers, so might insulate slightly better. Their H2O pouch takes a while to fill & stuff back into outer carrier also.

Brik Robbins#1

Subject: Ultimate Torso Pac and Back Pain

Evelyn Rodriguez wrote:

"I recently bought the Ultimate Torso Pac Both times I have had horrible upper back and shoulder pain after wearing the Torso Pac. Has anyone experienced similar problems that owns one or has tried one?"

I'm not sure which one you have. I think Ultimate calls all their waist packs "torso packs" and gives each model its own name. The Ultimate has gone in the wrong direction with their designs - at least for runners. The packs have been getting heavier, and mesh has been replaced with cordura, making the packs sweatier.

Also, I think that some of the nausea that people complain about is directly related to the belt bouncing on the abdomen. I know of at least one runner who has greatly reduced her puking in ultras by switching to a bladder pack with shoulder straps. I don't like the Camelback because it has no waist belt, and the damn thing bounces.

The Ultimate bladder backpack (I don't recall the name) is also way to heavy and expensive, with way to many pockets, bells and whistles. I ended up just making my own, and putting the Ultimate bladder in it. I prefer the bladder pack because here in So-Cal it gets hot in the summer, and I never seem to have enough fluid. With the pack I can carry 2.5 liters, or about the same as 4 tall bottles, much more comfortably. The only downside is more sweat on my back. I even wore it at Leadville. I'm the second guy (the one with the sunglasses) in the picture on page 4 of the October UR and you can see the shoulder straps for my bladder pack.

Kevin Sayers

Subject: Camelbak H.A.W.G

I bought a Camelbak H.A.W.G in March for a 55 mile training run and have used it on several other occasions since then. I only use it for unsupported long runs when getting to water is difficult or if I want to give my legs an additional workout. Tried on a bunch of different Camelbak's and choose the H.A.W.G for several reasons and I'm still happy with its addition to my water belt family.



Steve Westlund

Subject: Leaking Screamer Valves

I followed some previous advice by replacing the original valve with one made by Blackburn called a "gulp valve" and have had success.

I replaced the valves on both my Camelbak Mule and on my UD Aquifer and have never had a problem since. (OK, I have lots of problems, but at least none with my hydration system valves.) Good flow and no leaks! I bought my valves from REI for just a few dollars each.

I have no financial interests in any of the above - I'm just a satisfied user passing along a tip.

Jim Stroup

Subject: Camelbak Brand Bite Valve

I have had very good luck with the Camelbak brand bite valve. ( New last year ?) Just bite it and suck. No on/off mechanism. No leaks or drips. I am pretty sure that they are interchangeable.

Jim Winne #2

Subject Camelbak Mule

1) This seems plausible and I'm not really satisfied with my current belt type water carrier, so if any of you have used the belt type water bottle carriers and the camelback type of hydration system I have several questions for you. 2) I'm wondering what your opinions are on the pro's and cons of both types of water carriers.
I use a Camelbak Mule for long, unsupported runs. For shorter stuff and where I have access to water I use a hand held bottle and a UD Solitaire waist pack. The Camelbak is quite comfortable and you get used to the weight. It holds 100 oz, has an insulated bladder pocket that keeps the water cool and has plenty of storage for a jacket, food, etc. There is a new model called the Blowfish which has an expanding cargo area that is really cool. The one negative is that to get to stuff, you have to take it off as there are no pockets in the front. The bladder is also somewhat of a pain to clean, so I only put in water and use gel for carbos. If using a carbo drink I carry a hand held. I only use mine for training and would not wear it during a race except where absolutely necessary.

2) Have those of you that use the camelback types of carriers experienced chafing or rubbing in the areas that contact your skin?
The only problem I've had is with my armpits. I found that using Body Glide instead of deodorant seems to work.

3) Do you have to wear a shirt when you are using the camelback types of carriers?
I always do anyway.

4) Is there anything else that I should consider?
Check out the UD Aquifer. It's a vest with a bladder in the back and pockets in the front to hold necessities such as salt, etc. The Camelbak Mule holds 100 oz. and the Aquifer 80 oz. so there is a trade off. The other thing to consider is the bladder opening. Camelbaks have a small fill opening which makes getting ice in difficult, while the Aquifer, and some other brands, has a roll top. It comes down to how you're going to use it. Look at the many different brands and models and weigh the pros and cons of each.


Gregg Heinrichs#1

Subject: Hydration Vests

In its current catalog, Ultimate Direction touts three hydration vests. Each vest has a slot for a 90 oz. capacity SportTank (worn against the back) and three closeable pockets in front. I find my UD Stratus pack pretty comfortable, but I like the idea of carrying liquids without the necessity of waist belt, so I'm curious.

Has anybody out there used one of these vests for training and/or racing?

Scott Rafferty

Subject: Hydration Vests

I have had good luck with the Aquifer. It can be a little warm in the Washington summer, but otherwise I like the convenient pockets and new "roll-up" reservoir. Much easier than the old Camelbacks. Also, a better valve/.

Dale Perry

Subject: Hydration Vests

I just got a UD vest called the Aquifer and just love it. I like the convenient front pockets. I found with my two bottle pack that, although it rode real well and carried a lot of stuff, it was a pain for me to either take it off or turn it around to get to stuff as needed. So I would blow off taking any supplements, blow off taking care of feet problems, etc. Running with the pack on my front also didn't work out for me. I found the fanny pack bounced too much when I ran pretty hard. I don't notice it much from the vest.

I've used the vest twice so far, on a long training run and at Mosquito Marathon and it worked great. Need a electrolyte cap...got it. Need to eat something. There it is. I do find the claim that the tank is 90 oz is stretching it a bit. I'd say more like 70 to 75 oz. You would have to fill it up to the very top, which prevents you from rolling the top down to keep it from spilling.

It took me a bit to get used to the draw tube, and I found myself having trouble getting enough fluids during the start of Mosquito, but then I got the hang of it and it worked pretty well. The pack also rides really well.

RN #2

Subject: Hydration Vests

I have used the vests for a range of sports (including running, biking and paddling). For example at the recent Sea to Summit triathlon (I think this counts as an ultra as it finishes with a trail run up Mount Washington (after 7-8 hours of other stuff)) the vest was the perfect solution for the ascent. The mountain is quite treacherous (at least the weather there is); the vest enabled me to carry plenty of fluids, some items for colder/wetter weather, map, compass, emergency blanket and food. No discomfort from a belt. Plus as it was quite a hot day at the base of the mountain, the vest was a cooler (and I don't mean "looks") alternative than one of the UD packs.

Gregg Heinrichs #2

Subject: Hydration Vests

The Aquifer is manufactured by Ultimate Direction. To find a retail outlet near you or to have a catalog slow-mailed you, call UD at 1-800-426-7229 or email h20pack@aol.com.


Subject: Camelbak vs. Hydration Vests

I'd be curious to hear a comparison of the Camelback MULE and the UD Sportsvest. I debated with myself about which one to get, tested the MULE loaded with sandbags at REI (they didn't have the Sports Vest), bought it yesterday, ran with this morning for 90 minutes and like it.

I have tried lots of systems (other than the vest) and have come to believe that the best way for me to carry large amounts of water is in the small of my back/center of my back. The MULE fits 90 oz (or more; the bladder says 100 oz) right down the center of my back. There is a cinch strap to hold down a jacket, etc., extra room in the pouch/backpack (I think my 50 oz. Gobe bladder will fit in there along with the 90/100 oz. bladder for extra-long trips), a waist band (to which I attached a gel flask and a UD pocket for candy and electrolyte tablets). I also added a chest strap between the shoulder straps. I'd rate it an A-. My only real complaint is that the waistband is narrow; maybe I can replace it with a wider one like the Gobe.

It is much more stable than a waist pack, especially considering it holds the equivalent of 4-5 bottles, although you can't access the back pockets without taking off the pack or having a friend help out. Cost was $70.

How much does the Sports Vest hold? Cost?

Gordon Chace

Subject: Hydration Vests

Ultraguy wrote of the UD Aquifer vest:

pockets in the front. I've gotten so used to it I even wear it when I don't really need water support just because it's great to have the pockets for food, cell phone, e-caps, kitchen sink, etc. ... carrying your stuff. The current model does take a minute to put on and take off but the rumor is they're coming out with a new model that is I also like the idea of balancing some cargo weight both front and back - in races I choose to use a specific (hybrid) energy drink so I carry my own powder and need the big pockets.
I've hacked my 1998 vest for easier on&off and can email the details to anyone else who has the courage to void their warranty. The 1999 model is apparently shipping and can be gotten via UltraFit. The new model uses a front zipper and probably is better than my modified '98 for on&off.

Sometimes I use the backpack portion of it to carry one of the 54 ounce monster bottles in place of the water sack - easier refill and cleanup. An add-on hose system exists for the 54-ouncer.

Also, I did an additional modification so that I can entirely remove the backpack and substitute the double-tilted-sleeves of an Elite beltpack. With a sufficiently bizarre strapping system, this can easily overload with the 26-ounce bottles and then I have the big front pockets with the improved access to bottles. This system can remain strapped in place while one adapts to cold temperatures by adding or removing any jacket that uses front zipper/snap closures. And, for various reasons I prefer to take my fluids from bottles rather than hoses.

Disclaimer: anytime I mention products and resellers, I am acting simply as a customer. I'm too slow to be sponsored!

Heidi Schutt

Subject: UD Acquifer Vest

I use the "old style" UD Acquifer vest - which I like tremendously. Actually, I don't know if it was called an acquifer, but it is very much like the new style. I do note that the "new" acquifer now has a zipper in front and they have eliminated the large pocket - a bad move, in my opinion. In training runs, I use the vest with 80 oz water and depending on how long I will be out - take 1 or 2 hand helds with a sport drink (Asics has a hand held that fits small hands very well), when I have finished with the hand helds, I attach them to my vest on the side with a small carribeaner (sp?). Or sometimes I attach a full one to my vest and just carry one til it is empty and then switch. Works very well.

Hydration Vests For Women

Kirsten Poulin#1

Subject: Hydration Vests For Women

Ugh..hydration vests!! I am convinced the manufacturers. make them only for very large women with no breasts. I have the camelback Mule (100oz), Rogue (80oz) and a Blackburn 80oz model. On both 80 oz models, the waist strap is WAY to big (What are they thinking????) and it slips. So, the packs rub against my back and cause a raw spot on my back. Even the ones that have a strap on the torso above the breasts still bounce and rub. On 3-4 hour runs, this is not pleasant.

All the front hydration models I've tried are incredibly uncomfortable around the bust, and the idea of having weight around my hips (waist models) is unthinkable. I am about 5'7 1/2", weigh 125. So, what's the answer? Let me know if you find one that works! And hey, if any of you manufacturers are listening...make a hydration system for us fit women!!!!

Andrea Feucht

Subject: Hydration Vests For Women

I have an Ultimate Direction Aquifer (the 98-99 model of the vest, before the current Endorfun). It has a zipper in the front, and two front pockets. I have found that when I cinch it tight enough to not bounce when I run, it restricts my chest and breathing somewhat. I have relatively small breasts ('A' cup or so), and I'm 5'6", 135#. But I loosen it up when going uphill (when I need to breathe), and it seems to work fine.

I "was" a bit disappointed that once they introduced the front zipper, there was only one size available. The over-the-head singlet style vest came in a few sizes, even if they were all pretty big.

Misty Fillus

I've never tried a vest, but I thought I'd put in my two cents of what I've been using for the last 2 1/2 years - it's the Camelbak Go-Be. Sorry, Kirsten, but it is a waist pack, but I've had no problems with it what-so-ever since I got it. I think having weight at your waist really isn't an issue. I have a small waist (23 in.) and it works just fine - the straps are pulled tight, but they cause no discomfort. The part that goes around your waist is actually a wide pocket, not a narrow strap, so it contours with your waist. It is only 50oz, so that may be a factor if you're looking for something bigger. I find it sufficient during races and most training runs - you can usually get between aid stations with no problem. For longer runs - 20+ miles, I do need to stop and fill it up, so I make sure to run somewhere where I can do that. Good luck on the vest search!

Kirsten Poulin#2

Subject: Hydration Vests For Women

70oz works for about 1 1/2 hours for me...that's why I (and maybe many other people) use 100oz bladders. If they don't have the straps they bounce around like crazy. Maybe it just happens on us dainty, petite, fit females...but believe me, it's an issue.

Missy Heeb

Subject: Hydration Vests For Women

Thanks to you'll who wrote me on/off list. . .I thought I'd summarize as best I could and note that it'll probably be just trial and error to find something one likes. I guess I'll keep making sure that they're returnable and give them a go...

                             Negative   Positive       Comments/problems
Ultimate Direction Vest
        -med/small sizes                   3           replace bladder w/other brand
        -large sizes                       1           lg. padded straps for comfort
        -Aquifer                           1           restricts breathing a bit
        -Elite                             1
        -Extender                          1
        -small                  1                      rubs and bounces
        -Go-Be (waist pack)     1          1           maybe a bit small (50 oz.)
        -Zoid                              1
        -mule                   1
        -rogue                  1                      waist strap too large
        -blackburn              1                      waist strap too large
Moletracks (small)                         1           replace bladder
Bottle-pack system                         1           can easily cinch tight

Hydration Backpack Conversion

Sean Greenhill

Subject: Hydration Backpack Conversion

I'm one of those who converts his hydration backpacks to bottle holders. I've modified a Camelbak HAWG and Camelbak Rim Runner for this purpose with success, and just this week bought a Karrimor Victory pack which I will modify similarly.

The HAWG was the first such pack I modified- I bought two bottle holders from Moletracks (http://www.moletracks.com) and affixed them to the shoulder straps of the HAWG using the straps that came with the bottle holder, along with some stitching. No complaints on the performance.

FOr the Rim Runner, I bought two bottle holders from the local Kathmandu and affixed them to the shoulder straps using Velcro straps and safety pins. Again, no complaints. If you do it right, they won't bounce around.

If I need more than two bottles, I just carry them in the body of the pack. I'll switch them when the bottles at hand are empty. If you use the big bike bottles like I do (800ml- 1 litre) they'll take a couple of hours to run dry, so you can afford a few seconds swapping them over.

The advantage of backpacks over waist packs is that they hold more and don't bounce, and the advantage of bottles over bladders is that you know when it's going to empty, and you can mix up the drinks for variety.

Hand Held Water Bottles

Jay Hodde#2

Subject: Water bottles

Do hand held water bottles substantially waste energy that could better be used moving you faster/farther along the trail?

I've chosen not to use hand held bottles in my races for two reasons:

  1. My shoulders eventually get sore from carrying the weight.

  2. I use my hands for balance when I run -- including grabbing trees to prevent me from slipping down steep hills, grabbing roots and rocks to help me climb, and for general balance on tough, rocky sections of trail. The water bottle becomes a problem if I need to keep it in my hands.

So, to answer your question, I think there is an energy waste, but I think that waste is related more to ineffective use of the hands and arms than to the weight of the bottles on a lever arm (which I *think* was what you were referring to).

Dan Baglione#2

Subject: Water bottles

I decided to stop wearing torso packs and start carrying bottles in my hands while coming up the back side of Hope Pass on a training run a few years ago. The belt cinching into my nearly always too fat belly interfered with my breathing. Even turning the belt around with the bottles in front when going uphill didn't cure the problem totally.

I now run carrying bottles in my hands. In addition to relieving the stress on my breathing, this leads me to drink more and at a more even rate. Sometimes the shoulders do ache from carrying bottles in the hands. I find that arm exercises with weights can strengthen the appropriate areas to minimize the occurrence of this pain. I have straps on my bottles. If I need to use my hands to climb over rocks or things like that, I slide the bottles up on my wrists, thereby freeing my hands. When traversing a snow slope, jamming the bottles into the snow (pointed top down) seems to work as well as an ice axe in arresting a slide when you slip.

John Edgcomb

Subject: Water bottles

Under the tutelage of Bruce Linscott and other Tamalpa ultra runners, I have learned to carry bottles in my hands. The reasoning is that if the bottle is in your hand, you are far more likely to drink from it. Based on my own observations, I know this to be true. The benefit from being well-hydrated and electrolyte-balanced should outweigh any slight expenditure of energy in carrying the bottle in your hand as opposed to on your waist. Another benefit that I have experienced is that if you fall, bottles make great shock absorbers. I broke two that way last year alone. Finally, in big races, you may want to consider whether to carry two bottles in your hands, and perhaps skip an aid station or two, if you're seriously trying to run your best time.

Tried that strategy at Cool Canyon last year and was able to hang with the leaders for quite awhile as a result. Wouldn't suggest it for many races over 50k however. Also, on the screw-off top vs. the flip top thread, in races, if you use the screw-top, it can cost you time trying to put the screw top back on or of you drop it or misplace it. This doesn't happen with a good flip-top.


Subject: Water bottles

John wrote:

"if the bottle is in your hand, you are far more likely to drink from it."

If you prefer not to carry bottle(s) in your hands, you can get exactly the same benefit by wearing an Ultimate with the bottle in FRONT and not in back, as I do. This also gives you quick access to the pouches with your GU.

"On the screw-off top vs. the flip top thread, in races, if you use the screw-top, it can cost you time trying to put the screw top back on or of you drop it or misplace it."

As someone who got into ultras from triathlons and who is always trying to minimize "transition time" (a.k.a. aid station time), I use screw-tops exclusively. As I'm approaching an aid station, I unscrew the top, then at the aid station I (or a volunteer) can quickly refill it, then I screw the top back on as I run out. With flip tops, I find there can be a lot more "futzing" trying to get the top back on; often you need to look in order to get things aligned properly which is not the case with a screw top.

Karl King

Subject: Hand Held

My experience with two-bottle packs is that I don't drink often enough with the bottles in back, but do with a bottle in hand. So, I often run with one bottle in hand and one in back ( UD Solitaire ). The pack has ample room for the stuff I need to carry.

A bottle in each hand is more comfortable ( better balance ) but doesn't work when I need a hand to take care of sweat and/or bugs.

Carrying a bottle in hand did fatigue my arm at first but I added hammer curls to my weight routine and that took care of the arms. I've run as long as 29 hours using a hand-held bottle and did not have arm problems.

I've not tried the vests because I can arrange for fluids every 10 miles or so in my training runs. If I needed one for different circumstances, the UD line would be my first place to look.


Subject: Hand Held

I've always used hand-held bottles. One of my first ultra mentors, Kathy Brieger, advised that hand carrying a bottle made it more likely that you would drink often. And I do, because once that bottle is empty, I attach it to the belt of the one bottle pack that I also use for the second bottle. I don't recall having a problem getting used to it. Also easier to estimate how much you're drinking between aid stations.

Rich Schick

Subject: Hand Held

My technique is to where a pack to carry empty bottles. I don't like to carry things in my hands so I drink the bottle(s) dry as quickly as possible. I carry a bottle in my hand until I empty it and then immediately start on the second if i am carrying two. From experience have a good idea how far I can go before I need to reload, then I repeat the process. I can usually drink two twenty ounce bottles dry in two or three miles which in 90 degree heat will usually be good for ten miles of running.

Ray Zirblis#1

Subject: Hand Held

I, too, have been experimenting with hand-held bottles in training and racing. Even with one bottle, I have a little trouble getting into my pouch for electrolyte caps or whatever on the run. With two, parking each bottle under an arm is a bit much for me. I sometimes wear my UD bottle holder, but carry the bottle unless I want my hands free or the bottle is empty.

The other simple, obvious thing I've begun to do, is take my belt off and sling it over my shoulder if I'm walking a bit, say on long hills. I'd never thought to do this, and it's a nice variation and gets the pressure off hips and belly for a few minutes.

It also works for me to tape a baggie or small pouch with my pills and a little tape of Compeed to the bottle, and to stick 2 or 3 Gu packets under the bottle-holder strap. Or, I'll sometimes have a bottle or bottle in each hand, two packets of GU and light blister kit in one sock, 2 packs of GU, house key, and cash in the other sock, electrolyte capsule baggie in my shorts. That's what I did on a fifty mile run yesterday, where I could swing down and hit a store every 15 miles.

If carrying a rucksack, I find front, shoulder-strap mounted, bottle holders to be useful. These make the bottle ride high up, and I find it a nice change to have the big weight--fluids--up front. In my experience, up to a 24 ounce bottle, or two, one on each strap, rides pretty firm and bounce free. Mole Tracks makes them, but it's not too difficult to fashion something out of webbing. A lot of European and so-called adventure runners use them. For folks having to tote lots of water, of course these can be added to a rucksack bladder system.

If you are having trouble with hand-held bottle(s) though, my advice is to build up slowly. Add it in to short runs or one run a week, and work up to the long ones. Hope this is of use,

Pat Wellington

Subject: Hand Held Bottles

I was satisfied with carrying a hand-held bottle for a long time until I developed an excruciating pain around the elbow and radiating down the ulna. It was so bad I couldn't pick up a file at work or do any lifting activity with my right arm. It made me really aware of how totally right-handed I am. My left hand sort of just hangs around as a supporting appendage. (I've made promises to myself to make an effort to become more ambidextrous, but am still working on following through on that promise :-)

I told my primary physician (not my sports guy) that I thought I had cancer or something. He just laughed and gave me a brochure on "Tennis Elbow" which clearly diagramed the exact area of pain I was experiencing. It also described exercises to strengthen the arm in this area. Having been a natural athlete all my life, I have my own person philosophy of full body movement, i.e., I can't tolerate being in a closed room doing isolated body part exercises. Previously, I had also been told to "exercise" my hammer toe by picking up a towel with my toes (Fat Chance--Hey, a bigger toe box solved the problem).

Anyway, that's when I switched to a waist pack. Please note it took a full year of not carrying a hand-held bottle for that "Tennis Elbow" to go away. After going through several different Ultimate packs which were okay, I'm still more than totally satisfied with the "Western States Dream 100" guaranteed bounce-free pack. Thanks to John Davis for graciously providing specific instructions on how to assemble the Velcro belt. Once I got that sucker attached following John's instructions, I've never had to change or adjust anything. And it's totally compact and suitable for us 5' tall people. The best thing is you can put the buckle on the wide belt so it doesn't touch the body at all. The pack sits firmly and is totally bounce-free, just as NoRm promised! But then that could be because of my "Dreckmann Writing Desk." You see, my mother's maiden name is Dreckmann and it's a family joke that all the Dreckmann girls (my mother had 3 sisters) were built the same with the rear end referred to as the "Dreckman Writing Desk." Well, you get the picture. Whatever it's called, for me it provides the perfect setting for a bounce-free pack.

An added bonus of the "WS Dream 100" pack is that it's a mini-cooler. I didn't realize this until last year at Run on the Sly a guy yelled, as he went charging by me, "great little ice chest your wearing!" Since I usually only carry enough GU for an army, candy, Succeed & Body Glide, I never thought about its "cooler capabilities." But my friend, Wini Jebian, of the famous Ultra Jebians, who carries a much more nutritious variety of ultra foods in her WS Dream 100, assures me that it is, indeed, a cooler!

Another difficulty for me with the hand-held bottles is that I have a severe Reynaud's problem in that my hands turn blue in 50 degree weather, which means that I'm usually wearing different layers of gloves/mits on my hands which makes holding bottles, even with supporting straps, very difficult.

I, too, have noticed that Tom Johnson and Tim Tweitmeyer and Ann Trason are always pictured carrying bottles; but reality is, we all can't do what the Big Dogs do! We all have our own special needs.

Andy Holak#1

Subject: Bottle in the Hand or Pack?

I'm interesting in finding out from those of you who have used both a fanny pack and hand-held water bottles (at different times), what you prefer when racing.

I have been trying out carrying two hand-held bottles with the Ultimate Direction fast draw straps while running on the treadmill. It actually seems easier to carry two rather than one (guess this balances out the weight). I also seem to drink a lot more which will help this humid mid westerner at Western States this summer. Does the weight of the bottles tire out your arms a lot quicker? Did you get used to carrying the bottles so it didn't feel like you had them in your hands after a time? Do you prefer carrying the bottles as opposed to a small fanny pack? And...how do you carry your little food items like GU or whatever you eat on the trail? If I'm going to rid myself of the fanny pack for carrying water, I don't want one for carrying food either.

Have any of you tried the hand held bottle approach and gone back to the fanny pack?

Why do you prefer the fanny pack over the hand held bottles or vice versa?

Andy Holak#2

Subject: Responses to Bottle in the Hand or Pack?

Thanks to everyone who replied to my question about hand-helds vs. waist packs for races. I don't think I ever received so many replies about a question I'd asked.

To summarize quickly, a small majority of those replying preferred carrying hand-held bottles during a race as opposed to a waist pack. The others preferred a waist pack. Many used both a hand-held and a waist pack during a race.

Hand-held bottle comments:

Waist Pack comments:

Both hand-held and waist pack comments:

I'll continue to experiment with hand-helds. I have traditionally used a single bottle waist pack with some storage for GU, Succeed Caps!, food, etc for any race over 50 miles. I'm pretty used to that, but don't like the restricting belt after a while and continual adjustments/tightening/rebuckling so I thought I'd try the hand held bottles. I've run with just one hand held which seems somewhat uncomfortable. I'm now trying out carrying two, which seems more comfortable (balance).

My initial thoughts for Western States are to carry hand-helds from the start through the canyons, and then switch to my single bottle pack. Aid stations are closer together towards the end, and I'll need to free a hand up eventually for a flash light. I'll keep experimenting.

Martha Holden

Subject: Hand Held

My stomach simply can't tolerate a waist pack. In the 2 50-milers I've done, I hand-carried a water bottle. I like the hand strap thingy, but I chose to carry it without one so I could switch hands, and if I needed both hands to eat, I could put the bottle in the waistband of my shorts for a bit. I definitely agree that it encourages you to drink more if it's in your hand rather than a pack. (Although near the end of the race I was happy to throw the damn bottle in the trash!)

I wore Race-Ready shorts (with the pockets sewn on the outside) for tissues, ibuprofen, chapstick, and Gu (and extra M&Ms and pretzels picked up from the aid stations). I also carried a Gel flask filled with XLR8 that I could squeeze into my water bottle after refills. Oh, and one time, a disposable camera. I hate the way these shorts fit, but they are functional.

Andy Jones-Wilkins

I have tried both double bottle carriers with a fanny pack and two hand-held bottles with Race Ready shorts for Gels and E-Caps. For me it seems that I prefer having my hands free. Furthermore, since I have such a wimpy upper body, in the Crown King 50 Miler last year my shoulders and arms did get tired and sore by the end. With this said, when I was recovering from Hernia surgery last year I couldn't wear a belt and the hand-held bottles worked fine. Try both methods and try them on long runs. You may even end up using a combination of both. An example: this weekend at the PNT 50 here in Phoenix I'm planning on starting with a belt and switching to two hand-held bottles at about the 30 mile mark to give me a perceived feeling of carrying less weight. This may prevent the upper body soreness and keep me hydrated. I do think you drink more when you're using hand-held bottles which helps as the weather gets warmer on race day as it will on Saturday.

Tyler Curiel

Subject: Hand Held

I like to hedge all my bets. I often use a 1 or 2 bottle holster (depending on the race and on conditions), and keep the hand straps on them. If you detach the bottom part of the strap, the bottles slide in and out of the holster with no problem. Thus, I can switch from hand held to holster at will. I find that early on in a race, I prefer to go with the hand held approach, and as I tire I might want a break, and can then holster the bottles. I can run much faster with the bottles in the holster than in my hands, but this means 6:30-7:30 min/mile pace, which isn't relevant to many races for most of us. This is mostly when I am trying to run someone down in the later stages. Hope this helps someone.

John Sondermann

Subject: Hand Held

I've had good luck in training doing both-carrying a hand held and wearing a belt with another bottle. I drink way more total ozs. and more frequently with a hand held bottle. It's relatively easy to switch bottles on the trail and the pouch on the belt holds food, lubricants, Vitamin I, etc. I like this system better than the two hand held bottles as it gives me a free hand to do important things like pull myself up hills, keep from falling off cliffs, and to feed my face. Balance has never been a concern with just one bottle as I have no form to begin with.

I'm only a 50 K/miler kind of guy so I can't comment on the weight issue in the longer races you do. I do know from 20+ years in the Marine Corps that the longer I moved the more stuff I'd hang on my torso rather than carry in my hands-let my legs do the work instead of my arms. That's a BFO!

Robert Youngren

Subject: Hand Held

If I know I'll only need one bottle between aid-stations I'll just carry one and wear a little gelflash holder waist pack for my gel and succeed, etc... I've run 100 milers in this fashion and have never had any trouble because I'm used to training in this fashion.

If I want to carry two bottles I still carry one and use a single bottle holder waist pack. I've made my own hand held carrying strap for the water bottle (probably not at good as the ones you can buy) so I can't easily swap out bottles, but I've gotten awful good at refilling my empty hand held with the "reserve" bottle in my pack. Even on the run!! Not as tough as it may sound! Especially if you can master peeing on the run!

In both cases when I've exhausted the bottle I'll just unclip the waist pack and slide the hand held onto the waist strap and re-clip and then top everything off later.

Peter Bakwin

Subject: Hand Held

I "HATE" wearing a waist pack.

For all long runs and many races I carry a Camelbak or equivalent. With that & gels in the pockets of my RaceReady shorts I can do a 4+ hour race without stopping at any aid station. I love blasting by people while they are filling their bottles! Of course this means carrying some extra weight (70 OZ = 4.4 lbs, vs. 40 OZ in two bottles = 2.5 lbs), but I figure I get a better workout that way... On the other hand, filling the Camelbak is slightly more time consuming than bottles. In a long race like States I would probably carry a 40 OZ or 70 OZ bladder for the longer sections & have the aid station people fill it while I graze. I also often use hand bottles, especially if I have a crew or some other means of swapping the bottles frequently & without a lot of down time. At Superior 100 I used a 40 OZ Camelbak for the longer sections and a hand bottle most of the time. I had a crew, so that minimized down time for refilling. At Rocky Racoon (frequent aid stations & I'll have crew) I'll probably use mainly a hand bottle and possibly switch to the 40 OZ Camelbak if it gets real hot. I find carrying two hand bottles to be kind of a pain -- no free hands.

In my opinion the Camelbak tube is the easiest way to drink by far, and you don't end up swallowing a lot of air like you do with bottles. You don't have to tip your head back, so you can drink even while blasting down steep, rocky trails.

Anthony Welch

Subject: Hand Held

I prefer the hand-held for races. I have a tendency to NOT drink enough water during a race and suffer from dehydration. I find that when I use the hand-held I will drink more often. BUT, I do wear a 50 oz. waist camelback for long training runs and I love it. I have not tried it in a race since the races I have run have had enough support so that I could get by with a hand-held and if I needed another bottle, I put it in my other waist pack (1 bottle pack), which also has Gu, Advil, etc.

Gary Bruner

Subject: Hand Held

My first line of water defense is a 2-bottle pack. I am able to wear the pack easily and it just feels like second nature to strap it on. I go thru a bottle an hour, more or less, depending on weather. I will augment and carry a 3rd bottle in my hand if refill points are far apart. I first did this at the Massanutten, VA 100-miler on Anstr Davidson's advice that the Short Mountain segment was a "3-bottle section" (i.e., only 8 miles, but 3-4 hours due to tough, tough terrain!). By having experimented in advance, I found that carrying a bottle was fairly natural.

I actively manage the use of the 2 bottles in my waist pack. Specifically to comment on the notion that having a bottle in one's hand promotes more drinking--I don't personally find that to be a problem. To me it's not a big deal to reach part way around to pull out a bottle. And I'll often continue to carry it in my hand for awhile, sipping, before returning it to its holder. l generally carry just the amount of water I'll need (plus some extra) between aid stations to cut down on unnecessary weight, so often one of my 2 bottles is (nearly) empty.

Like Robert Youngren, I also have created some free homemade straps for all my bottles, from duct tape. When holding a bottle in my hand, the strap runs from the top to the bottom of the bottle and fits fairly snugly across the back of my hand. The bottles still slide in and out of their holders easily.

About using a waist pack for stuff, I like having the security of knowing that I'm prepared for most situations. I can't imagine not wearing a small waist pack. When you're in the backcountry you need to be suitably equipped for of dealing with problems. Not that I'm overloaded.....I've pared the weight down to the absolute minimum, I think.....but the beauty and utility of the List is that I often get tips on things like this that I may not have thunk up on my own.


Subject: Hand Held

Geri K wrote:

I found the main benefit of carrying hand bottles is they give me something to land on when diving into the dirt. I broke a hand one of the few times I didn't carry a bottle in it. Now I don't run anywhere without a bottle in each paw.
Weird, because I found just the opposite. I sprained a wrist falling BECAUSE I had a bottle in that hand. Funny how different we all are, isn't it?

Now I strap everything to my belt I look like a telephone lineman running for his life, barely dressed. Ha ha ha. :)

Mike Miller

Subject: Hand Held

I've tried both ways and the pack works best for me. I like to keep my hands free so I could never get used to holding the bottles for long distances. I've tried all kinds of packs -- single and double bottle and camelback type. I have had limited success with the camelback. It tends to bounce too much and the bladders tend to leak. I don't think I've had a camelback bladder last more than two months and they tended to leak at the most inopportune times. (Peter, if you've had this problem, how did you solve it?)

I prefer the two-bottle WS dream pack for a couple of reasons. It doesn't bounce and I can carry enough water to get me from one water source to another. Here in south Texas it gets hotter than blazes so I go through lots of water. Two bottles will get me to the next fountain for a fill up. I also use Succeed and similar products so mixing that in bottles is easier than a camelback. I also swallow less air with bottles than with a camelback. Stopping for a fill up doesn't really hurt me in a race since I move at a glacial pace anyway. Wearing a waist pack did take some getting used to. I wear mine every time I run so I have finally have gotten used to it.

Ray Zirblis#2

Subject: Hand Held

When I carry a bottle in my hand going long distance I often will stick 2-3 GU packets and some electrolyte capsules under the strap. Perhaps also a baggie with: TP, a compeed, a couple of large capsules filled with vaseline and taped, a couple of Ibuprofen, and maybe a No-Doz tablet. Oh, yeah, some cash as well and a few iodine tablets for water purification if I'll be on trails. Then I can leave my breakdown kit and belt at home. A bottle in each hand allows for 5-6 GU packets. Empty GU wrappers go back under the same strap. If I stick a garbage bag in the upper of one of my socks, I'm set for rain. This will do me on 30 to 50 mile runs here in Vermont. I'm not sure why but I tend to like a belt with bottle holders and pouch in cooler weather, and going with a hand held bottle or two in the warmer months. I guess those extra winter layers make a belt easier to take.

A small thing I've seem European trail runners do is take their belts or packs off and sling them over their shoulders when walking the hills or otherwise taking a walking break. While I typically have great resistance to fooling with anything that doesn't hurt during a race, I notice that taking my belt off periodically--early and often--reduces the hip and belly ache in the last hours.


Joe Galope

Subject: 2 Bottle Pack vs. 1 Bottle Pack with a Hand Held

Rocky Waters inquired regarding two bottle packs. An alternative he or others might consider is the use of a single bottle belt plus a hand-held bottle. After using a two bottle belt for some time, I switched to the alternative method this year and found that I drink much more often and felt much more comfortable due to the reduced weight. Although carrying a bottle in one hand (using the "Fastdraw" by Ultimate Direction or "Shasta" by Bushwacker) is awkward at first. Getting use to it comes quickly.

Different Situations & Different Needs

Mike Franusich

Subject: Different Needs Require Different Options

There isn't one perfect rig for all conditions. A single hand bottle is great for well-supported races, while something like the Laurel Highlands Trail, where long hot stretches between water require you to carry a lot of water. After trying a lot of different belts and such, I settled on the UD Aquifer for my unsupported runs. But I'm tall, and the vest rides pretty high. Other folks I know don't like vests and swear by belts like the GoBe.

One drawback of bladders vs. bottles is if you want to carry something other than water. If you mix some concoction in the bladder it's really hard to clean out, particularly if you toss it in your car, let it sit a few days, and some botany experiment starts growing... Also, undissolved crystals can get jammed in the bit valve. One guy I know keeps his GoBe clean with stuff from a beer supply place -- it's sold for cleaning the line from kegs to the bar. I just don't mix things in the bladder. Instead, I carry a bottle in the web pocket in the back of my vest and mix my magic potions in there. It also gives me an extra 20 oz. for long stretches.

What it really gets down to is how much water you have to carry and your personal preference for where you want the weight and pressure, and what hassles you want to deal with. Once upon a time the hot setup was to rinse out a pair of "Fresh Start" laundry detergent bottles, with the built-in handles, and carry water in those. I still see old-timers with duct tape handles on old snap-top bike bottles.

Kevin Sayers #2

Subject: Camelbak HAWG vs a Belt

The run determines my hydration system strategy. At Vermont 100 I prefer a 1 bottle pack, My first year at Leadville I used a 2 bottle pack, and for the runs that have longer intervals between aid stations (Wasatch and snow bound WS100) I'll use the HAWG. It been my experience that I've never had any problems with any piece of equipment that I used in training, and that goes for the Camelbak HAWG.

The day that I bought my HAWG I took it for a 10 mile spin around town to check out the bounce factor. A few weeks later I loaded up two 100 oz bladders and had my wife drop me off in Washington DC and I ran (55 miles) home along the C&O tow path. I had no problem what so ever. Last year I used it in 4 out of the 5 100's that I ran and experienced no noticeable loss of speed. Neither my back nor my shoulders became sore nor have I had any chafing or discomfort.

Haven't noticed any slow down in the aid stations either. I always take it off before I get there and uncap the bladder so all that has to be done is a fill and go. Even with bottles you should apply the same strategy so the only time wasted is getting the extra 40-60 oz. Some may think it foolish but I'll carry a bunch of spare stuff (clothes and food) so I have it with me at all times. It really came in handy when we got hit with rain, high winds and sleet during one race. I used to carry a spare water bottle to mix drink but I'd forget about it and not use it.

I do agree that powdered sport drink mix can clog up the valve if not mixed thoroughly. In regard to the science projects that seem to happen to hydration systems, Camelbak makes a thin scrub brush with a long flexible handle that can clean the entire length of the tube. The bladder is easily cleaned and for drying it Camelbak has a drying device that you put inside the bladder which keeps the walls spread apart so air can circulate. Between the two items I think I paid about $10.

The other thing that I really like is that I can clip the bite valve to a shoulder strap and position the tube in such away that the bit valve is inches from my mouth. I end up drinking more and with increased frequency. Sometimes I get lazy with bottles (taking them out of the belt, opening them up, closing and putting them back in) I've never become dehydrated using a Camelbak and that has saved me more time than anything else.

It's not for everyone but if the race requires large amounts of drink then a Camelbak can be your best friend.

Len DeMoss

Subject: Hydration Systems

I use a Camelback in training. I use the Camelback HAWG; it holds 100 oz. and has about 700 cc of space in the one zipper compartment. I've had no chafing with it at all, but then I always will wear a coolmax tee shirt when running with it, and not a singlet. I love it and in fact, am taking it to Peru for the Adventure run this week. I modified mine by sewing Velcro along the sides to hold trekking poles and I also use an Ultimate Direction small pack that I wear on the waist belt to get at GU and Succeed caps, ibu, etc. I've had no problems cleaning it at all. In fact, I bought one of those plastic coat hangers that you put into the bladder and it expands the bag for you to then hang up to dry out. The only negative I've had with it is the pockets are not easy to get to without taking it off, but as I said, I use the Ultimate small pack to help out there.

I also use the Angeles Pack, with the flat bottles which ride low on the hip. I have tried the Ultimate Direction packs numerous times (I think I have probably 5 of them!) but the buckle always starts to dig into my gut at about 4 hrs. I like the Angeles Pack a lot for 50 milers as I can carry two bottles. I use the race pack also with the candy pouch in front and the storage (may 300 cc) in the back. I've also modified that one with Velcro straps to easily strap a jacket on top of the rear pack. The only negative I have with the Angeles pack is the water bottle caps. The caps are terrible. After maybe a dozen uses, they always split along the edge of the cap where you snap it onto the bottle, then it will begin to leak over time. I have gotten new caps from the company, but the quality of the caps is really poor.

I also use the Ultimate single solo pack for short runs.

Mary Gorski #2

Subject: Hydration Systems

As the owner of one of Southeastern Wisconsin's largest water holder collections, let me just toss in a couple of opinions on the latest hydration thread:

When carrying a bunch of water (more than one large bottle that fits in a UD solitaire) vests are the way to go. For me, the most comfortable is the UD Aquifer. It does not leave marks and it is WAY MORE comfortable (for me) than a double-bottle belt. Also, the pockets are right in front, so access to GU, etc., is easier. The only drawback -- filling bottles is easier than a bladder. But in a race, a volunteer or crew person will usually help, and even on your own, it's not that big a deal. Just a little more of an effort than bottles.

I also have a Camelback which I use mountain biking. I think you could run for awhile in it, but the UD vest is be more comfortable in the long run (literally) because it distributes the weight around your torso. The Camelback only has the two should straps which might dig after awhile. Plus, there would be a little more bounce than with a full vest.

And finally, I also have the Camelback GO-BE which is also very comfortable for running. But, it only holds 50 oz, compared to 80 or do in the UD pack. The GO-BE is nice for skiing or on really hot days running when you don't want anything on your back.

If I only need a single bottle -- the case in most well-stocked ultras or marathons -- a UD belt does the trick, though after a few hours it does leave a mark.

Comment -- I notice a lot of the top runners use handhelds. I've tried to get used to them, thinking that it would alleviate the waistband problem and the hassle with bladders. But, I haven't been diligent enough and still don't like carrying a bottle for a long time, much less two.

I'd appreciate comments from people who go with hand-held bottles in long races. Did it take you a while to get used to them?

Matthew Kavanaugh

Subject: Packs and Vests

I have an embarrassment of packs, both waist and backpacks styles... My personal favorite is the Camelback MULE: approx. 400 c.i. of storage, plus room for a 100 oz. bladder. I have loaded it up with a 50 oz. bladder, a 100 oz. bladder, gels and energy bars and strapped a lightweight jacket on the outside, with gloves in the pocket, and it's still relatively comfortable for me for running. I could never do that with a waist pack. I find waist packs too constricting on my stomach: they must be cinched very tight to stop the bouncing. The Camelback, on the other hand, rides virtually bounce free with the waist strap snug, not tight, and with a sternum strap (which I added to my 3 year old model, but the new has "from the factory").

I also own a Lowe Contour Mt 30, but use it only for fast packing where I'm carrying clothing, food, shelter, etc. Too big for training runs or ultras; the extra space just isn't needed, IMHO.

I tried the U.D. torso packs and found them too much like the waist packs; i.e., they ride low on the hips compared to the Camelback. I prefer to carry the weight on my back, between my shoulder blades. I know others much prefer carrying the weight lower, on the hips and the small of the back. It sways to much for me there, especially with more than a single bottle.

For ultra events, as many have already posted, I find a single bottle waist pack with a hand held bottle to be adequate. I like the U.D Quickdraw bottle strap, but it helps immensely to add a bottle sleeve to keep the liquid cold and to keep your hand from freezing... WS and AC sell such sleeves and I've fashioned my own from the insulated sports bottles sold at drugstores, Target and the like which come with sleeves or bottle covers (typically $3 - 5 each).

Hydration Pac Bladders


Subject: Filling Hydration Pac Bladders

On the subject of bladders being a major pain to refill - I wholeheartedly agree. Particularly frustrating is trying to fill one in a stream or from a trickle of run-off on a snow pack. Which is why I strongly recommend you look at the Ultimate Direction roll-top bladder. The bladder closes as does a dry bag - to refill, unroll it and you have a nice wide cylinder into which you pour. Or swish it once through a stream. Trust me - it's an enormous improvement. The closure is fairly bomb-proof. Plus you no longer get weird growth in the bottom of the bladder - the opening is wide enough to make cleaning really easy.

While you're checking it out, you may also wanna look at the UD hydration vests. Made of lightweight mesh (there is a fleece model for winter time runs/skiing/snow shoeing), these have a bladder holder on the rear and several pockets in front (one large and two smaller ones).


Subject: Cleaning Hydration Pac Bladders

Another way to clean the bladder, told to me by Andy Wunsch - seller of said pack to myself - and tried by myself, is to put in a little bleach and fill with water. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes and rinse very well. This also cleans the hose.

Andy Holak

Subject: Cleaning Hydration Pac Bladders

I purchased a little HydraPak Tracker hydration pack this summer. I really liked the pack for running...it was small, carried 70 oz. of water, was relatively bounce free, and easy to run with. I also liked the roll-top bladder in it which made it easy to refill and clean. In short, I like the pack a lot for running when I needed a little more water.

However, the bladder did give the water a distinct taste. I figured after using it a couple of times the taste would slowly disappear. Unfortunately, the taste actually got worse. Once after filling it up the night before, the water tasted like very strong iodine the next day. It was undrinkable.

Is there any way to get rid of the foul taste of the bladder? Has anyone had a Blackburn or HydraPak hydration pack with the roll-top bladder? Did you have the foul taste, and if so, what did you do? Maybe I'll have to get a new bladder for it, which is unfortunate because I like the bladder and valve a lot except for the taste, and I bought the entire pack for $16, so the 70 oz. bladder itself will probably cost more than I paid for the pack. Any help greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Patty Klaus

Subject: Cleaning Hydration Pac Bladders

I've had the foul taste before in my Camelbak. Once, with a new bladder, I had the "new plastic" taste. Once, after forgetting I had left some liquid in there, it was a moldy taste. Both times, I mixed about a half cup of baking soda, a quarter-cup of white vinegar, and a quart of water, then poured it in, put the bite valve in as well, and let it sit overnight. Then, I rinsed it very well. The taste went away in both situations. I don't know if it works for every brand or every gnarly taste, but it's worth a try.

Louise Wholey

Subject: Cleaning Hydration Pac Bladders

Air does the best job refreshing them. Keep the bladder open to the air all the time it is not in use. Using air and sunlight is best. The bad taste in my two Ultimate bladders is now gone. One I wrecked by cleaning with Clorox solution, while the other had a bad taste when it was new.

Bill Gentry

Subject: Cleaning Hydration Pac Bladders

A splash of mint mouthwash does wonders for my Camelbak bladders ... even when I've had some pretty impressive science projects going on in them.

Ben Holmes

Subject: Cleaning Hydration Pac Bladders

To get rid of foul tastes in water bottles & bladders I fill water bottles or bladders with 9 parts water, 1 part cheap rot-gut whiskey to get rid of plastic or other foul tastes, then let it sit overnight. Of course, empty container & rinse the next morning. Seems to do the trick. It has something to do with stripping free monomers from the plastic, I'm told.

Peyton Robinson

Subject: Cleaning Hydration Pac Bladders

I once washed a bladder with dish soap.....duh! The lesson = don't do that.

Now, when wanting to get a waterpak bladder clean tasting, I like to use Listerine.

There --> my 2 cents.

Aid Station Strategy

George Beinhorn #2

Subject: Pre Aid Station Strategy

When I was racing (it's been too long, ugh), I carried water and mixed race potions in a very strong solution, which I carried in 4oz plastic bottles in my RaceReady shorts (or belt pack, when I formerly used one).

Approaching an aid station, I'd unscrew the bottle, take in a little sludge, grab a cup of water at the table, and mix it in my mouth. Worked pretty well.