Friday, September 12, 2014

Product Review: Orange Mud Handheld and HydraQuiver Double Barrel

So this is a somewhat long overdue review of a piece of equipment that I use on most of my extra long runs and also a new piece of equipment that is surely going to see near-daily use from me.  Both of these products are from the Orange Mud line of hydration products.

The first is their newest offering, the Orange Mud handheld Hydration Pack.  This is a pretty unique hydration handheld that comes in a few colors (black, orange, purple, and grey).  It's a pretty unique and versatile handheld due to the fact that it uses a standard water bottle.  The pack comes with an Orange Mud branded 21 oz bottle, but the bigger bottles fit in just as well.

The new handheld, in orange.
For me this works the best as I can alternate between different forms of hydration without much real worry about using a bottle of electrolyte fluid instead of water - or worry about filling up a bottle that was used for a sports drink the run before and has a bit of an aftertaste.  I can plop just about any bottle in and go.
The Orange Mud 24 oz bottle next to the 21 oz bottle in the hydration pack.
The pack comes with a bunch of really cool features - would include an elastic pocket that expands a bit for storage needs, a key (or small gear) clip that's hidden beneath the pocket fold, and a pull tab that can also double up as a gear clip if needed.

Quick look at the pocket and the key clip.

The pull tab in the front of the bottle.  I can envision myself attaching a small lamp or something to this for longer ultras.
One of the best things about this handheld is the way it fits on your hand.  The strap is an elastic velcro strap, that's pretty wide - which means you can tighten it as much as you want.  I don't have HUGE hands and a I prefer my handhelds to be pretty tight (so that I can "wear" them without having to grip the bottle).  I prefer to be able to run with my fingers in the same place as they would be in if I wasn't carrying a bottle - and this pack accomplishes that very well.  The way my hand naturally curves supports the bottle, but the strap keeps it attached (not my grip).  It works out extremely well, for me.

The strap in action.  It's easy to run without much support from the hand.

You barely have to hold the bottle to move it around once it is in your hand. 

I would think that the strap is fairly versatile in the hand size range it can accommodate.  I've had co-workers try it on and the strap adjusts to people with hands much smaller than mine and hands much larger than mine.  The elastic on the strap really allows for a glove like fit each time.  The material beneath the strap does an excellent job in hugging and conforming to your hand - which helps relieve any direct pressure from overtightening the strap (and also any abrasions from the strap itself).

Side view of the strap undone.

Top view of the undone strap.  Notice the width.

Another side view of the strap.  You can see the material flap that your hand slides under when wearing the pack.

The strap when tightened.

Personally, I think it's a great pack and love using it.  It fits great, gives me multiple options with hydration (in terms of being able to use different bottles), and has enough room that I can bring some solid food/nutrition if I need to.

There are a couple slight drawbacks though.  First, if you're planning to take a phone with you and you have anything bigger than an IPhone5s - forget it.  It's just not going to fit.  I knew my LG G3  wouldn't fit just by looking at it, and I tried to fit an old Samsung Galaxy S4 into the pocket and - which I was able to squeeze it in by a hair - it wouldn't have been comfortable to run with and it was stretching the elastic to its limits.  Secondly, if you have a need to "shuffle" the handheld between both hands - it's a bit difficult to do that.  This isn't really a huge complaint, mainly because you can't have the best of both worlds (a handheld can't be tight enough to stay on your hand without support and loose enough to easily slide off to switch between hands mid run) - but it's something that is a factor.  It IS easy enough to pull the strap, slide it off, and slide your other hand in though - which is how I managed to get it to work.  But the "tossing" between two hands mid run won't work with this.

Hitting the trails with the new handheld.

There are worse views to have in the middle of a run, I suppose.
Next up is a pack I've been using quite a bit on longer runs - the Hydraquiver Double Barrel.  It's one of my favorite pack setups and it can carry just about anything you need to for any length race you do.

The Hydraquiver Double Barrel during a quick photo break in my latest Griffith Park run.
Hydration packs that are not handhelds and I have always had a love/hate/hate relationship.  I loved the fact that they provided me with necessary hydration during events, but I've always hated the way they "weighed me down" on the front - even on the least bulky of packs.  In addition, I've never been a huge fan of using a bit valve to get water from a bladder.  I've done it before on previous races - but it's a lot easier to simply have a water bottle at the ready (which is why I eventually moved to ditching the pack and going with a "double handheld" - which creates its own set of issues).

The Hydraquiver Double Barrel solved some of that for me.  For one - it sits high on your shoulder blades - which alleviates a lot of the cumbersomeness that other packs provide.  The straps that go over your shoulders are a bit difficult to get dialed in - but once they are - it's smooth sailing.  It carries two bottles (24 ounces pictured but you can get it to work with just about any standard size water bottle).

You can see the straps of the pack in this picture - which gives an idea of how high on the back the pack sits.
When I first used the product - I thought for sure that the bottles would bounce out.  When you place them in the pack - they seem loose and seem like they will fly out - even with the strap properly tightened.  However - I can attest - after using it on a variety of trail and road runs, and after taking my fair share of spills with it on my back - that they absolutely will not fall out.  They are about as secure as any bottle can be in a pack.

Mid run selfie of the bottles in the pack.

As you can see - full 24 oz bottles barely jostle around at all during running.
The pack also has a metric shitton (that's an official measurement where I'm from) of storage in it.  There is a "gel storage" slot on each of the shoulder straps that work well for just about anything you can cram in there (I use gels on one side, and Honey Stinger waffles or Bonk Breaker bars broken up on the other side).  There's also a main pocket in the back that can store quite a bit of stuff (phone, music player, extra nutrition, wallet, etc) and a smaller pocket within that pocket that can store smaller stuff that you need to quickly access while running (navigation unit, course map, etc).  Between the bottles there are elastic drawstrings that can be rigged to carry additional storage if needed.  Orange Mud also sells a storage pack specifically for this if that's what you're looking for.  Also - there is a key/gear hook which comes in handy for obvious reasons.  It's quite the utility pack.

A look at the storage pocket of the HydraQuiver pack.  Beneath that pocket is a larger area for even more storage.
Another positive from the HydraQuiver is the mesh backing that the pack has.  This makes the pack highly breathable - which is something that previous packs I've used failed horribly at.  It works well for heat management but also for general comfort.
The back of the HydraQuiver pack.
The pack does have a couple of downsides.  First, it takes some time to get it dialed in to fit perfectly.  During this time, you'll get abrasions, scrapes, etc under your armpits and along your shoulders.  However, once dialed in - you should be fine.  Those problems all disappeared for me by the second or third run - but I know a couple of people who got fed up before then and decided this wasn't the pack for them.
Also, be ready for the peanut gallery to make comments on it.  It's different looking from most hydration packs on the market - so a lot of people will not have seen it before.  I've gotten the "Oh wow, nice rocket pack - you're about to blast off!" and the "WHOA!  You look like a samurai but with water bottles!" a bunch of times before.  In fact, when I was on my death march at Vineman - I heard that almost non-stop.  That said, that's not really a negative as much as it is a preference.  The pack is definitely different aesthetically from "normal" hydration packs.

On the run at Vineman with the Orange Mud HydraQuiver.  It was a life saver in the 95 degree weather.
All in all, both are incredible products that step out from the "norm" of hydration products currently available.  I'd highly recommend either product, and if you're interested in either and have some more questions or whatnot, feel free to give me a shout and I'll do my best to help you out.

My son playing with the pack a long time ago when I first received it.