Thirst for innovation: Hydration vests go strong while hydration packs take on vest-like qualities

Hydration vests go strong while hydration packs take on vest-like qualities.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show July 31 – Aug. 3. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable ar

Whether it’s for a high-powered endurance event or a short run in the park, consumers are demanding quick, easy and comfortable hydration packs that limit how much of that liquid is lost to sweat.

Hydration pack designs for spring 2014 focus on ergonomics and higher-quality, lower-weight, more breathable materials.

“People are using the products harder and in more situations than ever before,” said Jim Frazier, vice president of product for Nathan, adding that such use pushes companies to make human-based designs that fit and perform more comfortably.

At trail races, vests seem more popular than ever and Buzz Burrell, brand manager for vest veteran Ultimate Direction, said his company’s vests are easy to use, don’t bounce, are easier to refill at water sources and carry weight better than backpack-style hydration packs.

HydrationPacks_UltimateDirection_JennyUltraVesta

Ultimate Direction offers up its women’s line — named the Jenny Collection after Scott Jurek’s wife — which includes the Ultra Vesta (MSRP $125, photo above). Every piece in the women’s collection, including the Ultra Vesta, has a women’s-specific ergonomic cut and places to stow iPhones, lip balm and keys. “We want it to look good, because we know it’s going to work well,” Burrell said of the athlete-designed line. It features the classic Ultimate Direction fabrication, made from racing sails to be highly durable and abrasion-resistant.

HydrationPacks_Nathan_Zeal_Back_PurpleCactus

Nathanbrings the Zeal for women (photo, above) and Zealot for men (both MSRP $125), 11-liter running vests that are substantially lighter than the company’s previous versions. The products have more breathable fabric and come with one of its 18-ounce anatomic Speed Draw flasks as well as a 3-liter bladder. The redesigned pack has strategically placed materials in order to strip weight.

Marmot shows its Kompressor Speed (MSRP $99), an adventure racing/trail running vest/pack with two water bottle holders up front (which will hold its Hydrapack bottles) and a space for a reservoir in the back.

Backpack-style hydration products aren’t going anywhere, though. Marmot also brings its Verve 26 Kompressor (MSRP $109), a lightweight hydration pack with full panel access loader and a hydration port with a hanging reservoir.

Pack veteran Ospreylaunches a line of hiking hydration packs in its Rev series. “In this case, we’re really looking at people trying to knock off five 14ers in a weekend or even a day, carrying a little bit more gear but needing ready access to all the stuff,” said Erik Hamerschlag, Osprey’s product line manager. The Rev series products have a semi-vest style with wider mesh straps and pocketing that includes a flip-down media pocket big enough for an iPhone or other smartphone. It doesn’t come in gender-specific designs, but does have small, medium and large sizes of the various volumes — 1.5- (MSRP $70), 6- (MSRP $100), 12- (MSRP $110), 18- (MSRP $120) and 24-liter (MSRP $130) packs.

HydrationPacks_CamelBak_Fourteener

CamelBak re-engineered the men’s Fourteener (MSRP $125 for 20-liter and $145 for 24-liter, photo above) and women’s Aventura (MSRP $125 for 18-liter and $145 for 22-liter) alpine hydration to include the NV Back Panel system designed for cross ventilation and load stability — aiming to solve two common complaints about hydration packs, said CamelBak Product Manager Hunter Shoop. The NV Back Panel has two horizontal pods that move in sync with the back, while a third lumbar pod acts to transfer the weight of the pack from the shoulders to the hips.

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