Diablo (courtesy, Ultimate Direction)

What hydration pack will keep me in the drink on a wilderness half-marathon?

I pretty new to running and going to do a 13-mile trail run that is expected to take about four-plus hours. I looking for hydration packs as there will not be aid stations or anything like that. My concern is with the hydration backpacks or lumbar packs that offer only one place to store one kind of drink. What do I do about carrying water and my electrolyte replacement? Are backpacks out of the question? How do you feel about The North Face Dayhiker Lumbar Pack? It has plenty of room for food, and has a dual source for water and my other drink. Tia San Jose, California


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Good grief—new to running and tackling a wilderness half-marathon in which you’re expected to be largely self-supporting? Ambitious, I must say! Is there anything along the route? Even extra water? Because you’re going to need maybe a gallon of liquid—at the very least, two to three quarts—which is a lot to carry.

Diablo Diablo

That pretty much obviates a lumbar pack such as The North Face’s Dayhiker ($70; www.thenorthface.com), which is a perfectly fine pack but I think will just rattle around too much on your hips. I’d definitely think you’ll want a hydration pack, something along the lines of the CamelBak Magic ($75; www.camelbak.com), a woman-specific hydration pack with a big bladder (72 ounces, or two quarts) and room for energy gels, maybe a light jacket, whatever else you might need. And it will ride fairly well.

You might also like Ultimate Direction’s new Diablo pack ($80; www.ultimatedirection.com), which is equipped with a comfort-enhancing SportVest harness to keep the pack steady as you jog. An internal 64-ounce hydration sleeve will hold your water, while Ultimate Direction have answered your wish for pre-mixed fluids by including a 20-ounce bottle that rests in an easy-access stow pocket on the back of the pack. I’d estimate that this pack has everything you could possibly need (including two Gel Flask pockets on the shoulder straps).

Other options here might also include GoLite’s 24 Pack ($80; www.golite.com), made specifically for adventure racers, so more than capable of handling gear and supplies for a long slog. Perhaps a little large for your needs, it has 1,200 cubes of storage space and a three-liter hydration sleeve.

As for what to drink, you have three choices. Choice one is to carry only water and supplement that with energy gels, energy bars, that sort of thing. They’ll offer all the electrolyte replacement you need, largely obviating the need for Gatorade or a similar sports drink. Choice two is fill the bladder with your sports drink then rinse it thoroughly after the run so that the stuff doesn’t start to mold. Choice three is to take some powdered sports drink, an empty sports bottle, and on occasion stop or slow down long enough to mix a little sports drink and use that to supplement your water.

So that’s my advice on the gear. Good luck with this bit of insanity!

For more on hydration systems, check out Outside Online’s Hydration Packs Buying Guide.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021 Lead Photo: courtesy, Ultimate Direction

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