Gear is very important once you start regularly running and racing distances 20 miles or more. Shorter runs you can get by with not much more than a water bottle and maybe a couple snacks in a pocket. If you are training long miles self-supported and running ultras, chances are you will need something a bit more significant than a belt pouch to carry some essentials including food and water.
Candi and I had been gifted an Orange Mud HydraQuiver 2 from a
friend who had been too large for this particular vest, but having great results with my old pack, the Orange Mud just stayed hanging
on the running rack in the laundry room. Yesterday, on a planned 20 miler, I decided to give it a test run. The plan is, if it passed, it would get the nod to start the game at White Rock Classic 50K next weekend. (I will get back to whether the HydraQuiver 2 made the starting lineup or not in a few paragraphs, so read on.) Following are my observations from my experience yesterday with the pack.
Fit / Wear
Fit is so important in hydration packs. All the little pockets and gadgets are great, but if the damn thing does not fit right, it might as well go in the garbage. The HydraQuiver 2 vest fit nicely with very easy adjustments. The wearer can adjust from front center, back center, and under both arms. Personally I don’t like shit sitting under my armpits, so I pull tight at the front and wide in the rear and cinch under the arms. I also like it to ride higher on my shoulders – I was fairly quickly able to get the pack adjusted pre-run to a very comfy position (while wearing a long sleeve, fairly thick pullover). So I definitely liked how easy it was to adjust for the first time. No difficult buckles to fuck around with (and still not get right), just a simple one-way pull ratchet clip that stayed in place and didn’t get looser than a truck stop lot lizard while running. While running, the fit held nicely and the pack stayed where I wanted it. My only knock on the fit is that once it warmed up and I took my pullover off, I put the pack back on and it was too loose. Since I had the front already cinched tight (per my preference) I had to either take it off to tighten the rear or have Candi pull the underarm straps. No problem if you have a running buddy, but a big pain in the ass if you are solo. Again, this is partly due to my personal preference in the front, but I would like to be able to reach the underarm straps from the front without removing. But all-in-all a very comfortable fit and ride once adjusted and it did not give me any chaffing or hotspots.
Form / Function
I will start in the front and move to the back. The front (chest) of this pack has a large oval pouch on both sides. These damn things are good size, and are super stretchy with easy to use locking drawstrings at the opening. In my left pouch I had my iPhone 6 PLUS
IN A CASE, a couple cereal bars and fruit strips. There was still plenty of room, and it felt just fine. In the other pouch I had a few more bites of food and it actually felt empty – tons of space for trash or little road finds to be tucked away as we ran along. I shit you not, these little pouches were like Harry Potter “bags of holding” I love having easy access to fuel, small gear items (like chap stick, wet wipes, body glide, etc.) without breaking my arms and cramping my shoulders grabbing from the back – or God forbid – stopping to take it off to get crap out of the back. Beware however, one of the pouches has an access hole on the bottom corner, so don’t lose your keys! I didn’t notice the bottom corner access hole until after I finished, but luckily didn’t lose anything. Fortunately, inside each pouch is a small clip, great for securing keys, whistle, or single shot Derringer pistols. Move up on the shoulder straps and each side has an additional pouch for small items like ibuprofen or S-caps or maybe a few bucks and an ID for you urban runners who have things like convenience stores on your routes.
In the back, there is not much storage (none actually) aside from the water bottle holsters. You could possibly use the bungee adjustment cord between the holsters to strap down a jacket or something rolled up, but I am not sure that was the intended use. As far as the bottle quivers, this is what makes this pack unique. Most packs that use bottles as opposed to bladders (which I HATE) are on the front, all sloshing in your ears and banging into your face, while rubbing your chest raw with the weight. Having to bottle holders on your back damn near perfectly distributes the weight and makes for no bounce. I had one empty bottle and one that was full and could not tell any uneven weight distribution at all. My concern starting was that I wouldn’t be able to reach them well or get them back in the quivers after taking a sip. Turns out that by simply tugging down a bit on the front straps pulls the bottles up your shoulders and it is no harder to grab a bottle than it is to adjust an earbud. I did struggle a little bit – at first – to get them back in, but by the end of a single run, the muscle memory was set, and it was just like slipping your trusty pistol back into its concealed carry holster. Very handy.
The bottles on the back did not bounce and swishing sounds were minimal. I used my trusty CamelBak insulated 21 oz bottles with the lock tips (best on the market) rather than stock and they fit just fine. As a matter of fact, they are taller and skinnier than a lot of bottles and they fit just fine. Actually they might have been easier to grab and stow due to their shape and size. The point is that it will work fine with just about any bottle I have ever seen.
I really had a great experience with the Orange Mud HydraQuiver 2. My only two criticisms are that it is somewhat challenging to adjust the fit while wearing, and if you are going really long in high heat, you are maxed out at 2 bottles – with no option for a bladder. But, for me, in a 50 miler or less or any race where the aid stations, water refills are no more than 8-10 miles apart two bottles should be more than sufficient. I loved the way it rode, fit, and most of all – just how easy it was to get to my food (I LOVE FOOD) while running with no reaching or stretching to get stuff out of the back. When I hit the starting line next Saturday at the AURA White Rock Classic 50K, I will most definitely be wearing my Orange Mud HydraQuiver 2! Check back to read the follow up on how it performs during an actual ultra! Big thanks to Orange Mud for putting out a quality product!
PS – This review was not solicited by Orange Mud in any way. It is strictly my opinion on it based off of my personal experience with the pack. As always, there is no perfect one-size -fits-all in any aspect of ultrarunning. It truly is a deeply personal experience that is different for every runner!