I have grown to loathe my hydration pack, a Nathan HPL #020 that I bought two years ago after realizing I needed/wanted to carry my own fluid (among other things) during a 50k. I didn’t have too many choices at the time and honestly, it was fine for awhile, but now the straps are all stretched out and the buckles won’t lay flat and I’m having to cinch up the chest strap with a piece of velcro that is ruining the front of all my shirts. Also, it sits low on my back and it’s causing back and shoulder pain after a few hours of running. (I think it’s because the pack was designed for men. I’ve seen the women’s version and the pieces over the shoulders are definitely shorter.)
There is one thing I really like about the pack. The pocket on the front is big enough to hold my phone: a Samsung Galaxy S3 in an Otter Box. I always ALWAYS run with a phone, both for safety and to take pictures. I love to take pictures when I run! (Which means it needs to be in a pocket I can easily reach.)
After months of agonizing over a decision, I’ve narrowed my choices of pack down to two:
So now this is why I’m torn.
The Orange Mud vest is very intriguing because it’s a new style of pack and it sits high up on your shoulders. While that does look slightly ridiculous, reviews from other runners indicate it is very comfortable and has a lot of storage. It also gives the option of carrying different sized bottles and bottles are definitely easier to clean and fill than bladders.
On the other hand, the pack was not designed for female runners, and the chest strap looks like it is positioned a bit oddly. The writer of this positive review was kind enough to answer some of my questions via email (even sent a picture) and she believes the pack would be fine for women of various sizes, due to the multiple adjustment areas across the chest and under the arms. Another kind of negative thing: the Orange Mud vest is $150, which is pretty steep. The company does have a 100% money back guarantee if you don’t like it, but that’s still pretty steep.
The Ultra Vesta is lower priced at $125. It was designed by a group of women specifically for female runners, which makes this pack intriguing in its own way. Every review I’ve read has been very positive and it does look like a very comfortable, more traditional hydration pack. Another thing I like about the Ultra Vesta are the pockets—three in the back and four in the front! It accommodates a 2 liter bladder and comes with a whistle.
On the downside, the Ultra Vesta comes with two small bottles in front, which will never never never work for me, and a bladder has to be purchased separately. And the more traditional fit means a full bladder will sit at least at mid-back or lower, which might not solve the discomfort issue. I also wonder…do I really need all that storage? I’ve considered buying a larger pack for run commuting, but this would be too small for that.
I have to think a little more, but I’m already starting to lean a bit on one direction. More to come…
Be sure to check out Raina’s blog, Small Town Runner. She was really helpful to me, proving once again that runners are the best!