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Q:

Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race Vest: Final Analysis

What’s the best way to haul water when running long distances?

Your choices are many, but this little pack is a great bargain.     Photo: Bob Parks

A:If you pit the Fluid against other hydration systems, it fares well. For $60, the product doesn’t come with its own water bottles or hydration bladder, but those can be added for a small price ($10-$30). So it’s basically a modular system that lets you add your favorite options. With a large hydration bag, you can carry a couple quarts of pure water on a long trek. With bottles, you can swap out a specially made supplement mix, given by your pit crew in a race. I also like the Camelback HydroBak ($43), but it’s not as comfortable as the Fluid. Plus, after a few years you need to replace the hydration bladder anyway (mine was hosed the day my son backwashed part of a hamburger and I forgot to clean the bag before storing it—TMI, I know.)

For the final test, I decided to wear the vest on a speed workout, despite the potential for bouncing (and despite the fact that my running partner insisted on calling the vest a “man-bra”). I should explain that my running buddy is sort of demanding. He likes to run in the middle of the day despite hot conditions. He likes to meet on a random dirt road in the middle of nowhere, with no access to a car or high school gym to grab water.

We planned to run a warm-up, six by one-mile repeats, and a warm-down. The midday sun was brutal, it was humid, and temps were in the high 80s. The Fluid stayed put on repeats at an average 6:30 pace, and it was comfortable and secure the whole time. The day demanded a constant need to rehydrate, and after an hour, it was great to pause for a big water break and a refueling. There really is no other way to travel.

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