Kelty today unveiled to SNEWS® its intention to grab firm hold of the No. 2 spot in hydration behind CamelBak with the introduction of the company's first line of hydration packs called "Go with the flow."
The 10 new pack designs -- six fast packs ranging from 1,900 cubic inches up to 3,500 cubic inches and four speed packs ranging from 1,100 cubic inches up to 1,900 cubic inches) will be built around hydration technology developed by an Israeli company -- Source Vagabond (www.source-vagabond.com).
Kelty President Casey Sheahan told us that Source's Novell Taste-Free bladders sold him not only because of their "anti-grunge" compound that minimizes cultures taking up residence but also because of their strength.
"We drove over the bladders with a car in our parking lot and they didn't burst -- now that's really impressive," Sheahan said.
Other features of the bladders include Z-valves for easier drinking, Rapid Valves for increased flow and positive leak-proof shut-off of water when drinking, and a Quick Lock filler cap wide enough to allow for ice cubes.
Noting that CIMA Sports first introduced Source product to the U.S. at last year's Summer Market, SNEWS® contacted company president Steve Hardesty to ask him how he felt about Kelty and Source now getting chummy.
"Kelty is willing to get the word out and promote the guts of the hydration technology and anything that promotes Source helps us," Hardesty told SNEWS®. "I think Kelty is a great partner for Source and they will make a big deal out of the unique benefits of the line -- something we simply do not have the marketing strength to undertake."
"We believe there is major potential for Source hydration systems to expand since Source has made it very clear to us that they want to expand as a brand and not simply as an OEM product. Any expansion of the brand means expansion for us," added Hardesty, whose company also distributes Source sandals.
Sheahan stated that Kelty worked closely with Source to modify some of hydration technology for Kelty's needs.
"Hydration packs are still a relatively new concept and, because of that, quite a number of key performance issues have not be addressed or simply overlooked," said Sheahan. "We were able to work closely with Source to create the perfect hydration pack system from the inside out."
Naturally, we contacted Sierra Designs, owner of current No. 2 hydration company Ultimate Directions, to ask how it felt about Kelty (both SD and Kelty are owned by the same parent company, Kellwood) making a run at a category they've owned at the specialty end for so long.
"With the success of our women's line, our new '03 product innovations, and our new fastest-flowing valve on the market called the DoubleShot, we are confident we will not only maintain but grow our position in the market this year," says Sally McCoy, president of Sierra Designs.
SNEWS® View: Smart move for Kelty! Hydration was something its line was clearly lacking. Other pack companies have attempted to introduce hydration systems as part of a product mix over the last several years with varying degrees of modest success, chiefly because the weak point in all of the systems was either the hydration system itself or the compatibility of the system with the pack. Most companies now simply offer hydration-compatible packs allowing the consumer the option of which hydration system they choose to plop in. Kelty has made no bones about going after the No. 2 position in the market, even at the expense of Kellwood family rival Sierra Designs/Ultimate Direction. Could be a tall order though since UD is much loved by the adventure racing, running, and ultra community and CamelBak has a lock on the biking community and a decent share of the runners too (not to mention a name used somewhat generically by many less in-the-know). Still, SNEWS® thinks Kelty has a shot because of the hydration system itself, which one of our team have been testing for a few months now and is very impressed with -- look for a review in the coming weeks. Couple the innovative success of the Source system with solid and cost-effective designs and No. 2 may not be a stretch after all. Still, we don't think UD is going to give up its hold without a hearty fight, and that's good for retailers and consumers alike.