Q:

What's the Best Hydration Pack?

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

Regrettably, the author discovered, any true innovation makes you look like a total dork.     Photo: Bob Parks

A:We’ve tried CamelBaks, fanny packs, even holding a water bottle in one hand for miles and miles. But just last week, while battling summer heat, poorly marked trails, and sudden thunderstorms, I found the best solution yet, a small nylon carrier called the Fluid Race Vest (Mountain Hardware, $60). It holds tons of water, plus gels, goos, and other nutritional space-food for long runs. I don’t always incorporate the products we test here at Gear Guy into my daily routine, but I’ve been using it on regular runs, not just races.

The only downside? Style points. In the annals of technology, it must be axiomatic that any true innovation makes you look like a total dork.

The Fluid Vest is a new running accessory for keeping hydration and supplies close at hand. It’s a good one. But I had to get used to the appearance. During the testing period, my running friends said I looked like an organ grinder’s monkey, a futuristic morris dancer, and a guy who shrunk his frame pack in the wash. So what? Among all the technical gear in a race, it wouldn’t stand out. And it’s not like I’m not going to wear it to the record store.

Weighing in at around five ounces, the Fluid was designed for ultramarathoners, specifically for holding all the supplies needed between far-flung water stops. Its various buckles, straps, and elasticized nylon bands cinch to your torso, holding as much as 50 ounces of water on your back without budging. Its ventilated mesh allows you to sweat without bogging down.

Though I didn’t try it in an ultramarathon, I found the vest useful on various long and short runs, which I’ll relate after the jump.

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