Buying Right: No-Hands Hydrators

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, July 1994

Buying Right: No-Hands Hydrators
By John Lehrer

Drinking plenty of fluids during prolonged exercise is essential to performance and safety, but toting a sufficient supply can be inconvenient: Scout canteens or a couple of water bottles just don't carry well on an extended run, skate, or ski. There are, however, some clever solutions in two basic configurations: dedicated fluid-toting devices and fanny packs with a special water-bottle holsters.

Of the former, the most elegant I've tried is the Ultimate Direction Stratus ($59), a Cordura backpack that holds 83 ounces of liquid in a nylon bladder with tube that leads to your mouth. The harness is superb: Padded shoulder straps and a mesh hipbelt position the load solidly in the small of your back. From Ultimate Direction, 800-426-7229.

CamelBak's similar hydration system works well--its no-hands drinking valve is particularly useful when you're riding off-road--but the load rides high. The narrow straps on the 70-ounce CamelBak FullBak ($40) can irritate the shoulders; that's no problem with the 32-ounce 1/2Bak ($38). From Camel-Bak, 800-767-8725.

Other fluid-replacement systems wrap around your waist. The Seirus Fanny Flasque comes in one- and two-quart versions ($25 and $27); the company's Belt Flasque ($20) claims a one-quart capacity but actually holds just 20 ounces. They're not quite as comfortable as backpack-style devices, and their drinking tubes don't work as well, but they're still capable. From Seirus, 800-447-3787.

For something a little more versatile, switch to a standard fanny pack set up with special water-bottle holsters. The best I've used is Jandd Mountaineering's Gamal Aqua ($60). It has two pockets for one-quart bottles and about 400 cubic inches of cargo space. Workmanship and materials are excellent, and there's a wide, comfortable hipbelt. If you don't need a lot of carrying capacity, consider JanSport's Oasis ($35), which holds two standard bike water bottles and about 200 cubic inches of gear. From Jandd, 805-564-2044, and JanSport, 800-552-6776.

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