SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEW:

The Hydration Gamble: Review of the Hydrapak E-Lite Vest from an Ultrarunner’s Perspective

Every ultrarunner knows that the secret to survivin’

is knowin’ when to eat something and knowing when to drink.

Cause every race’s a winner and every race’s a loser,

And the best that you can hope for is to finish in your sleep.

Front view of the E-Lite Vest front pockets

Front view of the E-Lite Vest front pockets

For a trail runner, hydration is a gamble. Is the pack you’ve been wearing this winter over your layers going to rub too much when you race this summer in a tank-top? Are your hand-helds going to seem too heavy after 50k? Will your bladder be large enough to those 10-mile stretches without aid?

The reservoir fits snuggly into the sleeve midway down the back - a comfortable location

The reservoir fits snuggly into the sleeve midway down the back – a comfortable location

The key is gear test, gear test, gear test. Do your long training runs with your hydration system you plan to use on race day, while you’re wearing similar clothes you’ll be wearing on race day. The unexpected problem does and can happen, but the more you test your gear, the more prepared you will be.

I acquired my first hydration “system” for running back in 1996. While in college at the University of Wyoming, my roommates and I made a day trip to Boulder, Colorado, and at the time I thought there was no better place to purchase running shoes and a bottle holder than from the local running mecca of Boulder. Of course my Nike Air-Max Triax shoes are long gone, but I still have my bottle waist belt even if I use safety pins to keep it together. And I was still using it regularly up until last year!

In the last couple years, I’ve been gear testing a number of hydration systems, including a few packs and few different waist belts. Every product has advantages and disadvantages, but personal preference and basic needs of your race/training event are the biggest factors in selecting the perfect system for your training and racing.

Any jostling the vest does while running is not uncomfortable

Any jostling the vest does while running is not uncomfortable

About a month ago, I received the Hydrapak E-Lite Vest to test. Having never had a hydration vest before, I’ve been eagerly testing it out on nearly every training outing since.

The E-Lite vest is what the name implies – light. At 9.9 oz with the 1-liter (34 oz) bladder unfilled, it’s one of the lightest vests on the market. Without the bladder filled – or after you’ve drank all your liquid, you barely notice you have it on as it balances very well from front to back without having to overly tighten the straps. Even when I had the bladder completely filled, the balance was good (which I haven’t been able to say about any pack I’ve ever tried). I really enjoyed not having to get squished by my hydration system just so it doesn’t jiggle annoyingly.

The vest has six front pockets, two of them being fairly large and zippered. The four other pockets are fairly shallow but are perfect a gel, electrolyte tablets or for your trash, so you don’t have to get your hands all gooey from that already-consumed-and-very-sticky gel packet while you’re digging for your ginger chews.

Another nifty thing about this vest is that is has a magnetic “catch” that holds the tube near the bite valve in place, so you don’t have to clip/unclip the tubing to drink. I do, however, think the magnet needs to be a bit stronger as the tube falls off if you’re, say, ducking to dodge low tree branches and such.

The E-Lite Vest is ideal for training runs under 2 hours, due to its lower volume reservoir

The E-Lite Vest is ideal for training runs under 2 hours, due to its lower volume reservoir

Bottom Line: I found the Hydrapak E-Lite Vest to be perfect for my mid to long distance training runs, especially this spring before the major heat (and liquid) consumption hits. If I need to carry more liquid volume, it’d move to a larger pack with a larger bladder, but I usually have a way to resupply liquid during most training runs. With this vest, I can also easily carry my phone, food (such as gels or bars) and my electrolyte tablets – and most importantly have super easy access to all of my stuff. The bladder sleeve is also stretchy enough that you can also shove an extra layer in (I once carried my semi-big camera this way for three hours, taking it in and out for pictures). Last, I believe the price of $59.99 is reasonable for what you’re getting – and the extra weight you’re not getting!

For more information on the Hydrapak E-Lite Vest see www.hydrapak.com/e-lite-vest/

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