As my runs got longer and the terrain got harder with less places to grab water, I found that I was in need of a hydration pack. I wasn’t in the habit of running past my local sports field anymore where I could fill up at the bubbler, or running laps where I could leave something at home to grab on my way past, so I needed some way of having hydration that would last me hours and hours and also the added benefit of having somewhere to store things when I was running such as gels, a phone and some basic supplies.
The first race that I needed a hydration pack was the Coastal Classic. It was a 30km trail run and I didn’t want to have to worry about aid stations etc. I just wanted the extra security of having everything at my fingertips, so I borrowed a pack from my friend Kath. It was a Nathan Intensity 2L pack and it was the pack that I fell in love with.
The Nathan Intensity is a womens specific pack, so it moulded perfectly to my female figure. I ran that race without so much as a chafe, and the thing didn’t move. I hardly even knew that I had it on. Fast forward a year and I was training for The North Face 50 and was in need of a much larger pack as I am going to need to carry mandatory gear for this race. The pack of choice was the Ultraspire Omega, recommended by my coach and bought from Barefoot Inc in Alexandria. Not being women’s specific was a worry to me, however this pack was very similar in size and shape to my Nathan Intensity. It housed a lot more gear and has a separate section for the bladder from the body of the pack which I love for easy changing of hydration. I needed to carry things such as a thermal, space blanket, rain jacket, food, head torch, maps etc for this race so space was a must. This pack carried everything I needed without the feeling of being weighed down and was extremely comfortable on a mountain run.
So I guess you want to know, what are things that you need to look for when buying a hydration pack:
1. Size: What size do you require? Do you just want something that is going to sustain you for shorter runs that doesn’t really need to carry anything other than water? If so, perhaps you would be better off with a race vest option, such as the inov8 race ultra vest. If you need something that can sustain you for say a shorter distance run, maybe the Nathan Intensity is for you. If you need something to go the long haul then you will need something that can house everything you need…all your mandatory gear, water and not leave you bogged down.
2. Weight: Some packs may look great, and may even look small, but don’t be fooled. Carrying a pack while running takes some getting used to and you don’t want a pack that is heavy and is going to make you feel like you are carrying bricks on your back!. My ultra spire omega for example is light as a feather, while being able to carry everything I would need for an ultra event.
3. Women’s specific fit: This is something that will be of benefit if you can get a women’s specific fit for a hydration pack. Let’s face it, as women we have bits that get in the way. The less your pack is going to rub on those bits the better. You want something that is going to mould to your body shape and not cause chaffing. A women’s specific pack is made especially with the female form in mind, so you know that it is going to fit better than a standard pack made for a male.
4. Does it have separate compartments? Your pack should ideally have some separate compartments for things such as gels, maps, phone, emergency gear etc. The thing i love about my Ultraspire pack is that it has little compartments where I can easily access what I need. There is no point having a pack with all the bells and whistles if I find it hard to access the pockets! I keep my salt tablets right on my chest in a little compartment so that I can easily grab them. I also keep my gels handy in the front pocket along with my phone. There is also a storage compartment for two bottles on the front of my pack as well as the bladder compartment, which I love as it is separate from the main pack. This is great as during a run it is easy to fill up without having to unpack the entire thing onto the ground to fill up water!. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
5. Hydration capacity. Make sure that you choose a pack that has a hydration capacity that is going to suit your needs. If you are a big sweater you are going to need more hydration than someone that is not, so you might need a bigger bladder. Some packs carry 1.5L bladders, some 2L. Make sure the one you get suits your requirements.
So now you have some more information for what to look for in a hydration pack, I look forward to seeing you out on the trails, pack on your back, running for your life.
For more information about packs and some places to buy them, see: