A brave new world: Hydration systems and backpacks

No running today as we recover from our 11 miles. I’m not sore as such but my left knee is definitely not happy. I’ve had ice on it and it’s got better through the day so I really don’t think it is anything to worry about. I started typing a review of our backpacks a while back so I thought I’d finish that. Here you are:

How do you keep hydrated on a long run? We’ve been worrying about this. Hand held bottle just won’t work. Carrying something irritates the hell out of me and throws my running rhythm out totally. Our water bottle belt experiment with the Camelbak stuff was a disaster and we haven’t seen any belts which look or feel any better. We had been thinking about a little backpack anyway because as the weather gets wetter and colder we’ll need a jacket etc. We’ve been looking at reviews and specifications etc online and in magazines for a while but we’d been our usual indecisive selves. Whenever we saw hydration backpacks in the shops our standard excuse was: ‘we should do some more research’. We could go on saying that forever.

We were in Leeds a while back – beginning of August I think – and popped into the Jack Wolfskin shop there. Kath had seen some hydration system compatible backpacks online and they had some in. Well, after a long chat with the sales guy and a lot of trying backpacks on we eventually settled on two. I got the Velocity 12 litre and Kath got the Moab Jam 18 women.

We also bought the 2 litre hydration system. Again, check the details on the web if you’re interested. Looking at others, they were probably a bit expensive but I do like the idea that they open at the top fully rather than having an opening in the side. They only come in 2 litres but the bladder fits nicely into the backpack and of course doesn’t have to be completely full.

So how was running with the backpack? A bit odd I have to say but actually quite comfortable for me. I put just under a litre of water in the bladder the first time I went out and nothing else in  the bag so it wasn’t heavy at all. Initially I had the chest strap too low so felt like I couldn’t breathe properly but I just moved it up a little bit and then it was fine.

The straps on my shoulders moved a little bit but not too much and I suspect that even with just a phone or jacket or something in the bag it would sit even better because of the little bit of weight. I’m not sure I’m ready for having 2 litres in the bladder though. We’ll see.

I initially thought that the noise of the water sloshing about would drive me mad but I really quickly got used to it and almost tuned it out. No that’s not quite it, it formed a sort of rhythmic background which I found oddly calming  and quite helpful. Kath said the same about the water but her experience was slightly less positive. The backpack on her was riding up a bit and bouncing on the shoulders a bit more. It may be that the straps need adjusting a bit more or that a bit of weight in the bag would help but it might also be that she would do better with my slightly smaller backpack. She tried my backpack on another run but that was the same really. Kath managed the 11 miles with the pack and seems to be getting used to it.

As for drinking. Well the first time we tried this was on a 45 minute maintenance run and it didn’t occur to me to have a drink as we completed our circuit. I did have a drink when we were finished. It works well. You just gently bite down on the valve and suck on the tube and you get a nice even flow without any effort. I suspect I might even be able to do that while running although there will always be the walk breaks! Sharing a backpack is a bit awkward with drinking because it’s a bit tricky to walk side by side and take a sip so we actually just stopped.

The verdict – I like the backpacks, I like the hydration system and I would quite happily walk miles and miles with mine. Running is a different matter. I’m such a rubbish runner that running with a backpack for longer distances seems like a big deal. I might just keep practicing on the short runs for now – the issue isn’t the backpack, it’s me. Yes they weren’t cheap but they weren’t as expensive as some and I suspect they’ll get a lot of use over the next 4 months and hopefully beyond.

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