I live and run in south Florida. And in south Florida in July and August, it’s HOT. Fact is, those regular little hydration belts no longer cut it.
The humidity makes it feel even hotter. Yes, you get used to it but, even to those of us who have lived in soflo for years, this summer has been especially hot. We lost track of how many days had temps over 98 degrees with a weather channel notation of “feels like 107.”
Somewhere after we entered double digit mileage, all of us runners very decidedly (and desperately) picked up CamelBak hydration backpacks. As I mentioned in my last post, we didn’t even try the packs out before we took off on a 14 mile run. The way we saw it, anything was better than those damn belts with tiny water bottles attached to them. Turns out, we were right! Two of the people on my run team are now running Chicago with their Darts.
We each wore different models of CamelBaks. Mine is a now obsolete CamelBak Slipstream but the function is the same as current ones. My run team pack used the CamelBak Dart. (UPDATE: I have since bought the Dart and it’s great!). The Dart is very sleek when compared to the Slipstream. It doesn’t have the Slipstream’s outside latches and fold-over flap or outside pockets. Instead, the Dart has zipped pockets which keep everything flush. Inside the top zipper, there is a compartment that allows you to hold two of the old hydration belt’s 8oz water bottles filled with Gatorade or extra water. That definitely came in handy around mile 11. The Dart also a has mini mesh pouch on the front where you could stash money or GU or some small item you don’t want to have to unzip to retrieve. (UPDATE: CamelBak just came up with their updated Dart)
I believe each of the packs carries 50oz of water, compared to the 34 oz you can carry on the regular hydration belt loaded with 4 bottles. Then, if you stuff more bottles in the pack itself, you can get 68oz total. At first this seemed like a lot, but it turned out to be bare minimum hydration for the 14 mile morning run down here in south Florida. Oh and I refrigerated the bladder overnight to make sure it was cold, and also stuffed a few ice cubes into the bladder in the morning. Let me tell you, sipping on cold water during a long run is AMAZING. I will say that it was warm by maybe mile 6, but that was ok. I didn’t put a ton of ice in really. Next time – more ice!
None of us felt our packs were uncomfortable on our backs either, which we were all worried about. When you finish all your water on a regular hydration belt, for instance, the belt no longer sits well. The water is no longer weighing it down so it starts to shift up. At bare minimum you now have to adjust it a bit. The CamelBak, on the other hand, just gets easier and better once you start drinking the water down. Towards the end of your run it’s like you’re not running with anything at all. You barely notice it.
Now about what you have to wear when you wear the CamelBak… we were all wearing tank tops, really thin ones, so we were concerned with the rubbing from the straps on the bags. The tank tops weren’t bad with it but, and maybe this is all in my head, I’ve since shifted to short sleeves to provide more of a barrier between my skin and the CamelBak. The problem being that women’s tanks always have this T-back that doesn’t offer as much coverage as, say, a guy’s tank would offer between your back and the pack.
Drinking water from the valve is so easy and the valve doesn’t flop around much even though it’s hanging down loose to one side. Though I did notice that the Dart had a shorter valve tube so theirs were more secured than mine, which is a great improvement. It really is a psychological boost to reach down and sip from the valve whenever you want. I can’t tell you how often I’ve accidentally dropped a belt water bottle b/c I was fumbling with the strap or the bottle and something would catch and it would fall. Yes, maybe I’m clumsy but it still takes more time to unlatch and pull out the water bottle than it takes to lift the valve and sip and you’re done. And maybe this doesn’t bother anyone else but when you drink out of one whole water bottle on your hydration belt, all of a sudden the belt is lopsided. One side has more water than the others and it creates this weird shift in the belt. That type of thing drives me nuts. The CamelBak just solves all the little annoyances that I found with long training runs done with hydration belts and armbands and pockets.
In conclusion – buy one of these if you are distance training somewhere hot! Or get one if you want to consolidate gear. It holds everything you would want along for a run. I can completely fit my iPhone 6 in main pocket (I put it in a ziplock bag). It’s actually a relief from having to wear bands around your arms and waist. It’s also great for trail running when you want to make sure, if anything bad happens (lost, hurt) that you can bring some extra gear for your safety (whiskey, flare gun, whatever). Try a CamelBak! You won’t hate it.
Also, for those of you who want to take your phone along with you, the Dart holds an iPhone 6 pretty well. I can fit my regular sized iPhone 6 into my pack along with all the random other things I take along. I keep my iPhone in one of those large cases that protects it if you drop it, so it’s rather bulky, and it still fits. It does get a bit wet in there with the perspiration from the cold water I pack and the heat I’m running in, so I put my iPhone into a non-sealed ziplock bag and plug my headsets in so I can listen to music streaming on my phone too, which is easy from the phone in your pack.
The Marine Corps Marathon, like many other big races lately, has reversed the ban on hydration backpacks in time for the 2014 race. Also, the shortage of CamelBak Darts has finally been explained with the unveiling of their new Camelback Dart. It is about $10 more expensive than the retail cost of the previous Dart and has “an improved harness and more compression” for a better fit. I think I may have to find an excuse to “lose” my old Dart so I can check this one out.
There has been some heated debate about CamelBaks. Some people still say it’s a security risk for races. Other people say CamelBaks aren’t even necessary during marathons where water is provided every mile. I don’t know about the security issue but I’ve run 2 marathons now – one with a CamelBak and one without. Turns out I over-hydrated during my marathon with my CamelBak. I suspect it was because I was still drinking like I was in 107 degree south Florida, when it was actually 50 degree DC. It was a major mistake. But in my marathon 11 weeks later, also freezing cold, I ditched the CamelBak and only sipped water along the course and I felt great! The moral of this story is CamelBaks are awesome but, in my experience, they need only be used in really hot and humid weather. They are still life savers for summer Florida training and I still have my near emotional attachment to my Dart.