Friday, August 17, 2007

Beyond the Hyrdation Pack

Camelback pioneered the hydration bladder and pack. Extensively used by our soldiers in Iraq and outdoor folks everywhere the bladder and pack in its various forms has redefined how we drink on the go. I have used various generations of the product as it has evolved.

For longer runs/hikes 4 hours plus I use a Patagonia Endurance Pack with a 70 oz. Camelback Unbottle inside.

For 1-3 hour runs I have been using a Camelback FlashFlo belt pack with a 45 oz bladder inside. I find that the excellently stable Patagonia Endurance is not much fun on the back when running fast.

Performance Bottle (left) Flashflo (right)

After trying belt packs with bottles I find the no bounce FlashFlo to be an excellent way to carry water, and a few supplies in the two back zippered pockets, without ever noticing it is even there. The two side/back straps allow you to cinch down the pack as you draw down the water without tightening the waist belt. An over tight belt can constrict breathing, especially going uphill. Never any bounce even when full. The bladder is easy to remove and put back in, helped by an elastic port on both sides. The drinking tube clips to the very breathable soft mesh belt on either side. The only thing lacking are pockets on the belt for energy gels, GPS, etc...I used the pack on a 50 mile road bike ride and found it very comfortable there too.

Camelback also makes the Better Bottle which I have had for a year now. This polycarbonate bottle has a flip up drinking nipple of the same material as the those on the bladders. Flipping up the nipple activates the flow. A straw below the cap allows drinking without tipping the bottle back. The Better Bottle is relatively heavy and of course stiff. Great for work or travel.

In my Camelbacks I have been using their Elixer electrolyte tablets. Not too sweet or sticky. Nice taste and a toss up in terms of preference with the Nunn tablets I previously wrote about.

At OR Camelback introduced a 22 oz Performance version made of soft, light polypropylene (see picture above). Most bike bottles are made of LDPE which imparts a taste to water. Camelback claims, and my initial testing confirms, there is less taste with the polypro. Same nipple as the Better Bottle but the spout doesn't fold down onto the bottle. Flow is started by an easy twist of the lid. This is a great bike bottle, soon to followed by an even lighter Podium version.

OR-The Smallest Elete Electrolyte Drops

Elete comes in two forms: tablets and a Visine sized dropper bottle. Elete is a water add-in electrolyte which dispenses with sugars, sticky mess clean up, and anything other the essential electrolytes.

The dropper sized bottle can make up to 10 32oz servings of electrolyte drink, at $4.99 per dropper bottle with larger refill bottles available.

The taste in water in neutral if a bit mineral but very potable in my opinion during exercise when compared to more traditional electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade. The compact nature of the product makes this a great solution for industry, backpacking and in the gym bag. In hydration packs no special cleaning is required after use.

Elete claims a cost per gallon half that of Gatorade, unclear from their materials if this is powder of liquid Gatorade. Elete can also be added to other drinks

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Outdoor Retailer Summer 2007-Largest and Smallest Finds

The 2007 Outdoor Retailer Show just ended and I have lots to write about. I will start with the largest and smallest size finds and likely products at the show. Both speak to doing more, much more, with less.

The Largest

The Sylvan Sport Go "the backpack on wheels" was the largest sized product I saw.

Call it a spacious pop-up camping trailer which can be towed by a Prius (it weighs 750 pounds).

Or a backpack which can haul not only a place to sleep and eat but bikes, kayaks, skis, or a cargo trailer when the tent is folded into its pod to take your brush and recycling to the dump (we do that here in NH) You can even pick up full size sheets of plywood at the home store. The Go is one neat and very practical toy.

With rising gas prices, smaller cars, boats and bikes accompanying us on adventures, growth in the "RV" market, and a trend away from backpacking towards front range adventures the Go is right and right sized for the times.

Suggested retail $7500. First shipments to distributors Fall 2007