Wednesday, April 6, 2016

CamelBak®: Hydration Products Review

My first encounter with CamelBak was back in 1999 during my first deployment in the Middle East. It was a military standard issue hydration backpack that every U.S service member must have. It was a lifesaving equipment for us, especially on days when the temperature can rise up to130oF. Staying hydrated on a harsh condition like the desert is a must, you definitely don’t want to be a casualty or a liability to your group because you didn’t take care of yourself. That’s how important hydration is…thanks to CamelBak.

If you’re not familiar with CamelBak on how it all started, here’s a little background for you: CamelBak was founded in 1989 by Michael Eidson. The idea began when he was competing in “Hotter ‘n Hell 100” bike race in Wichita Falls, Texas. Yes, 100 miles in the gruesome summer heat of Texas. Since there were only few places to refill, Eidson being an EMT by trade made a contraption. He filled an IV bag with water and stuck it in a tube sock then pinned it on the back of his jersey. He then pulled the IV tube over his shoulder and secured it with a clothes pin. From that idea, a hands free hydration system was born! From that humbling experience and innovation, CamelBak produced their first product, known as the “ThermalBak”.  That’s it…the rest is history.

Over the years, CamelBak has produced different hydration systems and I was fortunate enough to review few of their products that are currently hitting the market today.

Below are the items that I’m going to review. So to make things easy, I did a side by side comparison so you can see things in one glance. Please click on the table to make it bigger.


Quick Grip™ Chill
Features
- A handheld hydration system that utilizes bottle as a source of hydration.
- It comes with a 21 oz Podium Chill Insulated bottle to keep your drink cold / warm.
- A patented self-sealing Jet Valve technology with lock out dial for leak proof setting, easy to squeeze and BPA free.
- It comes with an expandable zippered pouch that lets you carry your running essentials like keys, card, energy gel and phone.
- Adjustable cinch strap for secure grip.
- Key clip.
  

Functionality
My short runs normally consist of 4 to 6 miles on a bike trail with nothing along the course. I’ve been using the Quick Grip for a few days now and I love the fact that it’s so easy to use, basically it’s my “grab and go” hydration. The 21 oz insulated bottle provides more than enough hydration during those runs. I basically don’t carry hydration on shorter runs but its better safe than sorry. A gentle squeeze is all I need in getting a sip. But if I needed more than a sip, a firm squeeze is all it takes and it will deliver a nice stream of water that lets me drink quickly without the feel of getting choke. I didn’t even bother to use the lock during the run and not even a leak came out. But it’s nice to have the lock mechanism as well in the event of accidentally squeezing the bottle. What I liked most was that it kept my fluid nice and cold for the duration of my run, this is nice especially on hotter days. The zippered pouch has enough stretch to get my Nexus 5 phone inside and a small pocket in front of the pouch to get at least one gel in. CamelBak wants us to be safe so they put the longitudinal reflective material along the cinch strap that shines on when hit by a light, it’s an added safety features for those early morning runs or some late night runs. The cinch strap gives additional grip around my hand so there’s no need to apply my gorilla grip on the bottle. I didn’t have any discomfort from the cinch strap unlike other runners, I personally found it comfortable and easy to use, just a quick tap along the belt loop to loosen and pull if I need it to tighten and it locks in place.

The only one bad thing that I can say is that larger phones (like the Samsung Galaxy or iPhone 6) may not be able to fit in the pouch. Also, if you haven’t tried running with something in your hand, just be aware that carrying some extra weight can be tiring, so I suggest that you switch hands once in a while to prevent your arms from getting numb or tight.

My Verdict
Overall, I’m very impressed with the Quick Grip. If you’re just heading out for a quick and short run, then this is the one to grab. You can even use this bottle in cycling, just take out the pouch and you’re ready to go, so this basically serves a dual purpose. Very convenient, lightweight and simple to use…a hydration system right in your hand.

You can purchase the Quick Grip Chill directly on their website or you can go to the nearest retail store in your area.

Delany™
Features
- A waist belt type hydration system that utilizes bottle as a source of hydration.
- It comes with a 21 oz Podium Chill Insulated bottle to keep your drink cold / warm.
- A patented self-sealing Jet Valve technology with lock out dial for leak proof setting, easy to squeeze and BPA free.
- It comes with a zippered cargo pocket that lets you carry your running essentials like keys, card, energy gels, cash and phone.
- Adjustable strap for better / comfortable fit.
- Side cinch with dual adjust.
- Back reflectivity for visibility.
- Key clip.

Functionality
If you are the type of runner who probably might not like holding anything on your hands while running, then this is one of the products that you may want to consider. It’s a waist belt type hydration system that utilizes the same 21 oz Podium Chill Insulated bottle like the Quick Grip but comes with a much larger zippered pocket to accommodate phone and some running essentials. Getting things out of the pocket can sometimes lead to your keys falling out, so they added the key clip to prevent that from happening. Taking out and putting back the 21 oz bottle from my back was easy and convenient that I don’t have to do some arm twisting. Initially, I thought that there would be some bouncing issue especially when the water is full and the possibility of bottle thrusting out from the cage when it’s empty, I was surprised that none of those happened and it’s totally bounce free The dual adjustment strap is long enough for my waist and this could also accommodate runners that may have a bit larger waist too. Pulling the dual strap together to get proper fit is so easy, it stayed perfectly in place around my waist without the feeling of too constricting and not being chafed. The mesh lining plays a big role in wicking moisture out and prevents the sweat from building up on my back

Other feature that I think is worth mentioning is that the bottle cage is tilted sideways to the right, that means I have no choice but to use my right hand only to get the bottle in and out. I’m left handed but this was not a challenge for me, but for some runners that might have some dexterity issue then this is one important feature that you need to consider.

My Verdict
Bottom line, this is totally awesome alternative hydration if you don’t like holding anything in your hand and has a little bit more extra room to carry your running essentials. It’s definitely one of my choices when going long distance, the fact that I’m not holding anything on my hand makes my running much easier and convenient.

You can purchase the Delany directly on their website or you can go to the nearest retail store in your area.

FlashFlo™
Features
- A waist pack type hydration system that utilizes Antidote Lumbar Reservoir (aka bladder) as a source of hydration.
- The bladder utilizes a ¼ turn cap and wide mouth for easy filling and cleaning.
- It is uniquely designed to follow the shape and contour of the lumbar.
- It comes with a patented Big Bite Valve and HydroGuard technology and PureFlow tube for ease of drinking.
- It comes with dual cargo with multiple pockets inside that lets you carry your running essentials like maps, keys, wallet, snacks, phone, and ultra-light layer (clothing).
- Adjustable strap for better and comfortable fit.
- Center cinch fit system designed to prevent water from sloshing and close to your body.
- Front and back reflectivity for visibility.
- Key Clip.

Functionality
Let me say this first, this is not a fanny pack, maybe the idea, but the functionality is definitely beyond the fanny pack. CamelBak calls this a waist pack type system. It utilizes a hydration system called the Antidote Lumbar reservoir (aka bladder) that holds 1.5L of fluid. It has two large zippered cargos that measure 200 cu inches of storage. The main cargo, (i.e. closer to the back) where the bladder is, has the most room for any running essentials that you may want to throw inside. The second cargo (just a bit smaller in size) has two separate fishnet type compartments inside for a more organized placement of items. Inside the second cargo is a nifty tether that you can clip your keys to in order to prevent them from falling out when you're digging through the bag looking for a gel.

The back has a mesh lining for better moisture management and is well-padded for comfort. The tube comes with a clip that goes over my shoulder and basically attach it on my shirt and close to my mouth for drinking.  

With this much storage space, I can basically throw in even the “not so” essential items when I’m running. So to test it out, I stuffed it as much items that I can possibly think of like my phone, snacks, gels, arm warmers, lightweight jacket, keys, wallet and filling the bladder on full capacity. With all these stuff inside, I still have some extra room in it after all. I head out and went for a short run and I found it a little bouncy, the pack tends to sag backward from the top although I already pulled the cinch strap to tighten it and get it close to my body. But one thing I noticed is that if I just put it up my waist and tighten the belt strap and the cinch strap, that it minimizes the bounce. With all these stuff in me, I really don’t expect that I will be able to run on a fast pace, not even a decent pace. So on my second run, I tested it with just my running essentials like phone and two gels and completely filled the bladder, I can say that it’s much comfortable and once the fluid started to get low, all I do was pull the side cinch to make it flat and get it closer to my body to avoid the bounce.

My Verdict
CamelBak took a different approach on the waist pack system, and FlashFlo is definitely a unique type of hydration system out in the market today. Is it a hit? Maybe…or maybe not. It really depends on how you plan to use it. In my humble opinion, this is not really ideal for running and it will probably just frustrate you while you run because of all that bounce, however, that can be prevented if you carry less items with you. I know what you’re thinking, then why did CamelBak produced this so much large capacity if it’s not getting utilized? Well, CamelBak might be thinking that it can be used for something else like trekking, hiking or brisk walking in which you don’t have to create so much bounce. I don’t think the design and functionality of FlashFlo is a flawed, just be aware on how you intend to use it…surely not for running.

You can purchase the FlashFlo directly on their website or you can go to the nearest retail store in your area.

Circuit™
Features
- A vest type hydration system that utilizes Antidote Reservoir (bladder) as a source of hydration.
- The bladder utilizes a ¼ turn cap and wide mouth for easy filling and cleaning.
- It comes with two pockets for storing water bottles in front. 
- It comes with a patented Big Bite Valve and HydroGuard technology and PureFlow tube for ease of drinking.
- It comes with a sweat proof pockets on the strap that lets you carry your phone and other running essentials.
- A dual sternum straps provide a snug and adjustable fit.
- Dual side cinch fit system designed to prevent water from sloshing and close to your body.
- Front and back reflectivity for visibility.




Functionality
This is my favorite so far! It’s one of CamelBak’s lightest running vests hydration system that utilizes a 1.5L Antidote Reservoir. Smaller and lighter than the Marathoner and Ultra, the Circuit still holds plenty of running essentials close at hand. Don’t be mistaken by its size, CamelBak has really put a lot of thoughts and ideas on the Circuit. This is definitely geared for runners going for longer distances or marathon training that provides less weight for runners to carry. If the 1.5L is not enough, the shoulder strap comes equipped with two additional pockets for storing extra water bottles in front. A sweat-proof pocket for phone, card, keys and one stretchable compartment to for gels and electrolyte tabs.

I tested the Circuit in one of my long runs and I was totally surprised with how much comfortable it was. One of the best features on the Circuit is that it sits high on my shoulder, making it feels like it’s connected to my body. Thanks to the dual sternum straps that provided the extra snug and adjustable fit on my back and chest. Once the water started to get low, I adjusted the dual side cinch to make it flatter and
closer to my back, this prevents from bouncing and sloshing of water which could sometimes be annoying. Despite all the snugness and tightening I did during the run, it still allows me to be comfortable and move as if nothing is with me. The back panel was constructed with enormous layer of breathable mesh that prevents my back from turning into a waterfall.    






My Verdict
In my opinion, CamelBak hits a home run with the Circuit, not too bulky and heavy. This is very ideal for long training runs and races that will allow you to run fast and not bog you down. The only bad thing I can say about the Circuit is that the phone pocket is a bit small so some newer / larger phones may not be able to fit in. But this can be remedied anyhow by utilizing the other bottle holder instead. So this may not be a big deal and you don’t have to worry about the balance of the vest if you end up using one bottle. I found it stable using just one bottle regardless on where I put it, however, be prepared to hear the sloshing sound from the bottle during the run. This might drive some runners gaga so just be ready for that.

You can purchase the Circuit directly on their website or you can go to the nearest retail store in your area.

My Overall Assessment    

With all these products I reviewed, I was really impressed with CamelBak. Their name is synonymous with QUALITY, they devoted so much time in designing and utilizing every inch they can get to give the consumers what they expect from the brand. From materials to zippers to ease of cleaning to straps to safety, I think CamelBak got it all pack in every hydration system that consumers will surely love and appreciate. 

CamelBak stands behind their products …below is a quick video on how they test (abuse) their products in the laboratory. They would rather have their equipment fail in the lab instead on the real world.


Video Credit: CamelBak

Like they say: CamelBak® Got Your Bak™ Guarantee: If we built it, we'll Bak it™ with our lifetime guarantee.

Thanks for reading. I love to hear your feedback so feel free to post below.


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