While running, I’ve most often handled my hydration needs with a belt and large water bottle. I’ve had two different belts (from Running Room and the North Face) both with large bottles in a diagonal holster, both are fairly good products.
Some of the challenges I faced:
1.) Not enough liquid stored: Whether it was for longer efforts, or in hotter weather,or simply because all the colds I seemed to catch this off-season redirect any fluids towards snot/phlegm production – I seem to need more water than a bottle can provide.
2.) Pockets: So many running shorts and pants lack pockets, and though a running belt will usually have space for keys or a wallet, a gear-head like me always has storage needs that are hard to meet. I bring my Blackberry, sometimes an iPod, sometimes even an extra camera (for blogging or whatever). I also need my keys, my work security card when I’m doing lunchtime workouts… it’s always something.
3.) Dynamic motion: I speculated that the sloshing and jostling makes it uncomfortable going over rougher terrain during trail runs and/or Burbathlon. I’d prefer things to be as integrated into the normal shape of my body as possible; a bottle bulging out over my butt can feel unnatural.
After a little research, I selected a Salomon hydration pack; they seemed to get good reviews and I’m already a big fan of their shoes and cross-country ski gear. I selected the XT Wings because it’s more like a vest than a backpack (satisfying criteria #3). It had enough pockets to keep me happy, too.
I bought the Medium size as it was the only one the store had left, and I wanted to ensure a snug fit so that it would really wear more like a vest than a pack. I bought a Camelbak reservoir to insert into it.
Installed properly, the reservoir hose goes up under the arm with the nozzle secured in the right-hand strap, near the top of the chest. This makes for easy access; I like my nozzle as it’s sealed when not in use, to get it to open, all it takes is a little bite. Water doesn’t taste the greatest coming out of the rubber reservoir, but that’s more of a Camelbak problem than a Salomon one. There’s also the problem that the first sip (from the water in the hose) is cool and refreshing, while the next is warm and tepid (probably because it’s come from the bag being warmed by my back).
I’ve been able to make good use of the pockets storing my Blackberry, keys, camera (and even a tripod!). That’s just using the front pockets. If I used the large pouch on the back, I could have a waterproof shell, or goodness knows what else.
My only real beef with the XT Wings 10-3 is that the zipper doesn’t stay completely closed. My chest seems to be bursting out. Much as I like doing Superman impressions, I’d rather the darn thing stay closed. It’s possible that the next size up would have been better, but like I said, I wanted a snug, functional fit.
I don’t regret the purchase, and I’ve gotten good use of it so far. If I end up going longer (runs or rides) or expanding into more off-road/adventure type events, I’m sure I’ll like having it even more.