Gear Guy

What’s the Best Small, Wearable Hydration Pack?

I’m training for a trail race, and I’m looking for a way to bring water for a couple of hours’ run. I don’t want to haul a huge waterbag on my back. What’s my best bet?

Bob Parks

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The Jurek Endure is a belt that wraps around your waist, holding 20 ounces of water, energy bars, a light jacket, and a cell phone. We tried it for a few long treks in the season’s first heat wave, and it felt part of our stride after an initial adjustment period. Even with two full water bottles, it didn’t bounce at all, and everything was easy to grab while cruising down the trail.

You can tell when your gear is designed by an athlete. Initially, some features and proportions seem quirky and non-intuitive. But extended tests often prove their value. The spare, 8.5-ounce Endure is a good example of this lunatics-take-the-asylum school of design.

In 2011, the manufacturer recruited one of the most successful ultra-maratoners in history, Scott Jurek, to oversee the design of some of their new gear. The results reflect a hydration system built by someone who has probably tried every water conveyor and system over his 19-year career.

Jurek, who covered a record 165.7 miles in 24 hours in 2010, demanded a small, stiff elastic segment to the waistband so that it absorbed shock from each stride without bouncing as a fully elastic strap would. On our test runs, the harness did offer the right amount of give and take.

Jurek put foam panels behind the water bottles so that you could jam them back in the holster without fumbling, and he added a panel to the front pocket to preserve its shape when you zip it closed. To us, these felt more comfortable than the stiff plastic holsters on another popular lightweight belt, Nathan’s Trail Mix. Jurek also added a bungee cord to secure bulkier items, like a small jacket, to the outside of the belt.

We did spot one minor problem: The mesh pouch in back is way too small for our large-screen Android phone. But the gel pocket in front held the phone, and provided a water-resistant “hex mesh” material to protect it from our sweat.

We were happy to find that the two 10-ounce bottles held enough water to carry us through a two-hour run on a hot day, following the hydration advice from the Boston Athletic Association. Jurek points out that two water bottles are better than one because they balance against your lower back. And compared to a reservoir, bottles can be swapped out and won’t get easily gummed-up from energy drinks.  

A few features seemed confusing at first (especially since the belt came without instructions), such as the small elastic loop at the strap’s end. Is it for carrying fresh game? Wait, no, Jurek is famously vegan. It’s actually designed to secure the strap to the belt. Until we figured it out and tucked the bungees in, we found part of the strap hitting us during our arm swing. Compared with an ultra vest like Mountain Hardwear’s Fluid, there were a few distractions like this at first. But we found that the materials on the Endure didn’t get as sweaty and limp as the Fluid after a long run.

Once you adjust the straps and bungees to your needs, the Endure becomes part of you, allowing you to just concentrate on your stride and form on the trail. Jurek must certainly be pleased with the result of his latest design efforts.

Comes in green/blue or gray.

Price: $39.95 (Available May)

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