Finding a suitable hydration system for Ultramarathons is a very personal thing and what works for one person, might annoy the hell out of someone else.
Since coming into the sport, I have struggled to find something that works well and consistently for me, but I think I am finally there now…
Initially, like many people when first starting out, I went for the budget Camelbak pack which sloshes, bounces, wobbles and you have no idea how much is left. On the flip side, you can carry a lot of water so it does have its advantages.
I then moved to hard bottles which means you can easily monitor your hydration quantities, but they too slosh and bounce on your pack which can get annoying. They are also bulky too, whether on the front or rear of your pack.
Finally, I came across the ever popular Salomon Soft Flasks which compress down as you drink and eventually fold down into virtually nothing and so take up very little space on your pack. The downside here, is as you drink and there is less water in the flask they tend to go floppy and until you get the hang of holding them in a way that works for you, it too can be very annoying.
So when I came across the Hydro Set by Salomon I thought I may finally be on to a winner. This is essentially two fingerless gloves which are very lightweight and breathable and allow you to slot Soft Flasks of varying sizes (I use 500ml in each hand typically) into a strap by the bottom of your palm and connect them by the nozzle to a small bungee cord which means no sloshing or bouncing and despite them being secured to your glove, a hands free hold.
I used these last weekend at the NDW50 race and they are nothing short of brilliant. Of course, they would be less suited to self-supported long haul races as they only carry 500ml each, but for races where aid stations are relatively close together or for training runs where you can plan to re-supply every couple of hours, they are excellent.
Whilst you do have the added weight in your hands, you don’t have the back and forth sloshing you get with half empty hard bottles as you move with each stride. This means less jarring on your arms and more natural running movement. It also means as they crush down and eventually empty, you can simply untie them from the bungee and pop the flask in your pocket or on your pack to run hands free again.
I run with the Ultimate Direction pack and stopped using the hard bottles for the aforementioned reasons. Yet sometimes, I do want to carry more than the Hydro Set will comfortably allow. Ultimate Direction have learnt from the popularity of the new 5 and 12 Salomon race vests, which come with two 500ml soft flasks in the chest pockets as standard, and have introduced a soft flask of their own called the Body Bottle.
From experience, and I have tried and failed, the thin and long 500ml Soft Flasks by Salomon will not fit in the wide and shallow chest pockets of the Ultimate Direction Signature Series packs. So, the Body Bottle is specifically designed to fit the UD chest pockets. These are 420ml (14.2 Oz) and whilst slightly less capacity than their standard 600ml hard bottles, perfectly fit the pockets.
Since the NDW50 where I ran out of water at a couple of points, I have used this body bottle on a couple of short rehabilitation runs and have been staggered with how unnoticeable it is as well as no sloshing whatsoever.
For my next race in August, the NDW100, I will be using the Hydro Set on my hands again and one or two Body Bottles on my chest pockets for the longer hauls.
One thing I really like about the Body Bottle is that you do not need to remove it from the chest pocket to drink. You can simply lean down and drink as opposed to a hard bottle which you need to remove. I have never been a fan of the UD bottles and their slightly complex valves which mean you need to get the hang of them. With these, and the Salomon Soft Flasks, you simply just bite and compress the flask to get the water flowing.
It has taken a while, but I think I have finally found a solution that works for me.
The Ultramarathon Running Store stock both the Body Bottles and the Hydro Set as well as a range of Salomon Soft Flasks, so if you are looking to try and amend your hydration structure for ultras or long runs, I would highly recommend the above two as a solution and playing around with what works for you.