I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not an insane snowshoe enthusiast, pitting myself against the elements with my boots strapped into a pair of high-priced powder rompers every chance I get. That said, I am familiar with freezing temperatures. Growing up in, taking a short break from, and now currently living back in Wyoming provides plenty of opportunities to both enjoy and despise the below-zero winter weather. The 2015-2016 season has been pretty tame, all things considered, but I’ve made it my goal to get out and roam around in the elements. Fortunately, the folks over at Nathan Sports have made winter wonderland adventuring a little easier, and I recently got my hands on a few pieces of their Ice Cutter™ Series to test out.
First to arrive was the small-but-surprisingly-capable IceStorm™ Insulated Waist Pak, which I was a little wary about at first. We were a big track running family when I was young, but staying hydrated was usually done by filling up a few empty Gatorade bottles. So, the idea of a hydration belt/fanny pack floating on my waist as I ran wasn’t really appealing, and I was sure this thing would flop around and get in the way more than it would help keep me hydrated. With my doubts in mind, I scratched the itch to strap this baby on and give it a try.
ICESTORM™ INSULATED WAIST PAK INDOOR USE
Believe it or not, my first inclination wasn’t to hop outside and stomp around in the snow. Instead, I put on a pair of shorts and jumped on the treadmill for a decent run, the IceStorm™ snugly strapped to my waist. Admittedly, I’m still not sure I’m a big fan of having something pulled tight against a thin layer of clothes as I run, and the repetitive motion mixing with the stretched fabric of the belt took some getting used to. I had to adjust the straps as I walked before I felt the thing was sitting “right,” but that’s probably because I’m not used to using hydration belts. That said, once I found my stride, I was surprised at just how comfortable Nathan Sports has managed to make the Insulated Waist Pak. The company advertises the belt as being bounce-free, and a full 18 oz. bottle slapping against my back was my biggest concern. So, having this thing hug my body without as much as a jiggle made me happy. In fact, I had my smartphone tucked into the stretchy side pocket (there are two of them on the right wing of the belt – one perfectly suited for a phone and the other quite a bit smaller) playing music to my headphones, and the entire setup sat comfortably as I ran.
Aside from being comfortable, the IceStorm™ bottle/holster combo is pretty easy to use. Reaching an arm around mid-stride to pull the SpeedDraw™ Flask out of it’s insulated holster can be a bit of a shoulder stretch. Doing so at full-stride can be a little awkward. I don’t think it was necessarily meant to be used while you’re running quickly. That said, the holster is slightly slanted, making it easier to pull the bottle out. I really liked how the slim, grabbable shape of the bottle itself fit in my hand. Another nice practical feature I really appreciated was the Blast Valve™, which made squirting a quick drink into the mouth super simple. For indoor use, from personal experience, working up a sweat for half an hour with the IceStorm™ strapped on wasn’t anywhere near the uncomfortable experience I had expected. The belt seemed to stay dry, I only had to re-adjust a few times. Thanks to the insulated holster/bottle, my water even stayed refreshingly cold throughout the run.
ICESTORM™ INSULATED WAIST PAK OUTDOOR USE
The following day, I decided to test the belt/bottle pair in the elements it was made to withstand. I put on my boots, pulled on a pair of snow pants, made sure my head and hands were covered, and buckled on the IceStorm™. Right out the door, I noticed the slight discomfort from my indoor run had disappeared. Instead, I actually really liked how everything felt with a few layers providing a little padding. It reminded me of a coat’s powder skirt or the waist buckle on a trekking pack, tight but reassuring, and within minutes I almost forgot I was wearing the thing.
With my camera around my neck, I set out for an hour of wandering game trails through a small valley and up an adjacent hill. I knew I’d be out a little longer, so I took the opportunity to use the zippered pocket that lined the back left wing of the belt and packed some crackers for lunch. I also wanted to stretch out the external shock cords that sat over the right-side pockets, advertised as being stretchy enough to hold an extra layer, so I stuffed a pair of gloves in there. Overall, there was a little more weight and bulk than my treadmill run, but I was pleasantly surprised with just how much more I liked using the IceStorm™ Insulated Waist Pak outdoors.
Over the next hour, I hiked through a foot of snow, stopped periodically to snap a few photos. I took a break to munch some crackers, all the while popping the SpeedDraw™ Flask out when I was feeling a little parched. For the most part, I tried using the bottle/holster system with one gloved hand, testing to see just how conveniently I could grab a drink without stopping and pulling off the gloves. It was easy enough to draw the bottle, pull the flexible colored cap off with my teeth, and blast a few swallows down the ol’ gullet. Plus, putting the bottle back into place was a piece of cake. It was warm enough out that I didn’t test the behind-the-bottle pocket meant to house a hand warmer (to keep your back warm), but it’s a nice touch to round out the package.
When all was said and done, I was really happy with this little guy. It only houses 18 oz., so it’s really only meant for shorter trips or an afternoon run. For those purposes it does a respectable job of staying in place while giving you a little room to work with for extra warm weather or cold weather gear. It’s a lot easier and a lot less restrictive to buckle on the IceStorm™ than it is to pack around a shoulder bag. I really appreciated being able to hike and run without shoulder straps digging into my armpits or a chest strap feeling like it was restricting my breathing.
If you’re in the market for a hydration belt, find your water freezing while enjoying a snowshoe event in 2016, or simply call yourself curious, the IceStorm™ Insulated Waist Pak is worth trying out.