It used to be you were either a bottle person or a tube person. Pick your brand. Fill it up. Go play. Now the choices and how they work are becoming more varied, partly as more manufacturers figure out how to trick out the normally rather mundane bottle or reservoir.
We took a look at companies, new and old, in an effort to call out what struck us as worth paying attention to. It's not your mama's bottle or bladder anymore. (Wait, did we really just say that?)
The SNEWS® team of editors armed with maps and GPS (was this show big or what?) ducked and weaved around the trade show floor over the course of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market to ensure we could bring you the most comprehensive take on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations in stories that will run until we pass out. No, each report is not complete and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned -- we do know you love your company's product, really. However, we're only covering product that stood out to us, so if you're not mentioned we either didn't think your product stood out sufficiently or we started drinking alcoholic beverages too early in the afternoon to see straight and missed you as a result -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on trends and new products in hydration.
Camelbak – New products, yes, but also a big push of a message, "choose to reuse," which emphasizes the environmentally sound choice of refilling bottles rather than buying and tossing all those plastic bottles. As a part of the program, the company is putting up to 100 water coolers in various stores and schools. Now firmly behind its bottle program, Camelbak has introduced more bottles, including new sizes and colors in its "Better Bottle" line (MSRPs $10, $12 and $14), a simple "Performance Bottle" in a softer squeezable plastic for sports and fitness activities (MSRP $8), a "Classic Bottle" with a carrying loop in three sizes (MSRPs $7, $8 and $9), and a "reinvented" bike bottle with a top that turns to open and close and a nozzle so you have to squeeze to drink. The company now says it's all about "hands-free hydration," and not just bottles and packs. Also new are bottle-based lifestyle packs as well as an entire range of sports-oriented, reservoir-compatible hydration packs, some with a new "D.V.I.S." back panel system. www.camelbak.com
Cascade Designs' Platypus – A complete overhaul of its hydration offerings (with a sign noting "hydration revolution") under the Platypus brand had so many new, cool pieces and features we can't mention them all. A new taste-free film, a slightly stretchy material, extra durability, anti-microbial… and that's just the start. The bottles are shaped for better, easier drinking (0.5, 1 and 2 liters). Like a couple of others, Cascade is experimenting with a slide-lock closure for its reservoirs (1.8, 2 and 3 liters, with an MSRP for the 2 liter of $30). We really were impressed by the gravity-feed system, hook up one reservoir (labeled DIRTY for dirty water) to another (yes, labeled CLEAN) with a filter on the tube between them. Hang it up and let gravity do its work, feeding 1.7 liters in a minute. You could also use the gravity feed for a water "tank" at camp or a shower and take away the reservoir for clean water (MSRP $80). All the new stuff will be available in January 2008. www.platypushydration.com
GoLite – Taking another stab at bottle packs, GoLite has a new line that promises "no bounce, no bull," with seven models total, including six in men's and women's cuts and one unisex. "It's all about no bounce," said co-owner and President Demetri Coupounas. How has the company said to have done that? Wider belts, better fit due to construction details, and gender-specific builds. His design criteria were function first, then durability, then weight, so although they are "lite," they couldn't get light while sacrificing function and durability, especially if there was any chance of a bounce. One feature is a little funnel-like top on the bottle holders that look a tad goofy at first but they allow users to get the bottle back in after a drink without fumbling about. MSRPs for one- to two-bottle belts, $35-$60. www.golite.com
GoMotion – On our last swing into the depths of the halls, we stumbled across a new company with products that emphasize wearing lights in different ways, using reflectivity and combining the vest and belt systems with hydration ("to see and be seen," we were told). The motto on company business cards: "Extend the day." So far, there are three products, including a trail vest (MSRP $109), a street running vest ($90) and a belt (MSRP $70), all which have waterproof wiring systems. The vests have 3-watt LED lights and the smaller belt (obviously for shorter hike or run adventures) has a 1-watt LED. The company, of course, has a lot more up its sleeve and we liked what we saw as a different approach to lighting and hydration needs on the go. www.gomotioninc.com
Hydrapak – Back at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market this year and really coming of age, Hydrapak has a new reservoir with a slide-lock top closure system. No more of that roll-top stuff (thanks goodness, we say). The reservoirs also have a quick-disconnect system for easier filling. www.hydrapak.com
Inov-8 – Formerly pretty much a trail running shoe company, Inov-8 out of the United Kingdom has taken on packs -- still keeping its fast-forward clientele in mind (including hikers, of course). Seven new packs in black with bright lime accents (six of which are compatible with the company's 2-liter reservoir) dotted the booth. The most notable concept was its horizontal hydration reservoir, which fits ALL its packs. Made in a partnership with Source, the reservoirs have a large slide-lock top and "wings" that are also made to fill with water and fit into the hip belt area of a pack. The system is said to feed water better since you can tighten your belt as you drink water to keep it flowing better. Expected at retail in November. www.inov-8.com
McNett – The Frontier Pro filter attaches to hydration system hoses and standard water bottles with 28 mm threads and features an antimicrobial filter the company says eliminates 99.9 percent of harmful giardia, cryptosporidium and large bacteria. Includes 28 mm thread tube adapter, 12-inch draw tube and three replacement pre-filters. (MSRP $20). www.mcnett.com
Nathan – Another with a new top slide-lock opening on some reservoirs (in a partnership with Hydrapak), Nathan revamped its women's Intensity pack with a small bungee system and billows in the pack (MSRP $80) to hold a bit more stuff. Finding men were wearing the Intensity, the company also introduced a men's Intensity with wider shoulder straps and a few differences in pockets. New vests had more front-loading options, much beloved by the trail runners. www.nathansports.com
Polarpak – Despite its name "polar," the hot thing at the booth was the "MoFlow" pressurized reservoir systems. Baffled to minimize sloshing, the reservoirs come with tiny palm-sized air pumps. Fill the reservoir, pump any remaining space with air and then when you drink you just bite and the water shoots out. No sucking needed. You can also just squeeze the valve to get it to shoot out to, for example, let your pet drink. (100-ounce bladder, $32 MSRP; a new 30-ounce waist pack system, MSRP $32). The system also offers a charcoal filter (for an in-camp water source) and a shower head (since the pressurized system is ideal for shower use). www.polarpak.com
The North Face – A new bottle is thinner in the middle for better hand-holding with a hand strap that uses hook-and-loop to fasten snugly on your hand to eliminate slippage (MSRP $20). www.thenorthface.com
Ultimate Direction – Sliding more and more into lifestyle products (not to say serious runners won't use them), Ultimate introduced systems that allow incorporation of MP3 players. They include a hand-carry bottle system (Fastdraw N-Groove, MSRP $23), an N-Groove Armband (MSRP $11), and a clip-on N-Groove (MSRP $10) to be able to put your player on belts and packs. All are available in January. www.ultimatedirection.com