Thursday, July 19, 2012

Simple Hydration water bottle review

When you’re out running long distances, fluids are a must. You need to stay hydrated to stave off heat exhaustion, cramps and bonks in general. Even when the temps are below freezing, you need fluids.

It’s easier when you’re on group runs with planned aid stations or running around developed areas with at least water fountains here and there. Fluids are aplenty and mobile hydration isn’t as much a necessity.

But, what if you’re on a lone 18 miler that leads you on long open roads with no water fountains or aid stations to speak of? What if you race using your special hydration mix that’s more than the standard sports drink? How do you carry what you need?

There are several options for water bottle belts. Some have small bottles that hook on at various points on the belt. Some will support a large water bottle situated to minimize bottle movement and chafing. Some runners even use water bladders in specially designed backpacks for long runs.

Personally, I’ve done them all. Been there, done that and I have the chafing to prove it. I can’t stand the full bottle bouncing around on 13.1 miles during a half ironman. The small bottles on a belt are ok, but after 10 miles, the belt requires cinching around your waist to minimize bouncing. After a while, that’s too much pressure around the waist and causes stomach discomfort. It was pretty much a compromise to go with the least uncomfortable setup to stay hydrated, especially this summer when we have had weeks above 100 degrees.

That was, until Simple Hydration approached me to try out their portable water bottle.

They boast, “Our innovative hook-shaped bottle allows runners or active individuals to simply hydrate on the go. The bottle slides into a waistband, race belt or pocket easily.”

At first, I would admit that I was leery of trying it out. I envisioned major chafing, too snug of a waist band when it was placed inside my tri shorts. The founder and inventor, Brian Hock, assured me that he and many endurance athletes have tried it out and had no issues.

After agreeing to test it out, 2 days later it was delivered by the fine people at the USPS.

At first glance, it’s a very different design than your ordinary water bottle. Some are shaped to fit better that palms. Some are just the regular cylinder shape. Some are smaller to fit in your hands. This one was slender in one place, wider in the other and had a lip on one side to hook on a belt or waist band. That’s new to me.

That hook proved to be invaluable. Some athletes run with bottles in their waist band, but have no way of securing it so the bottle does not slide into their shorts past their waistband. With the hook and your waistband securely tightened, that bottle isn’t going anywhere.

I committed the deadliest of sins and used the Simple Hydration in a race, never able to find a chance to use it on a training run. I figured if it didn’t work, I would chuck it and depend on aid stations that only had water and no sports drinks. Gulp.

Simple Hydration came through with flying colors. This will be repeated several times, Brian was right.

At first, it’s somewhat odd feeling to place the bottle in your shorts. While racing, I wear compression shorts under tri shorts, so I did have a barrier between my skin and the bottle. I also placed the bottle in a lunch tote with frozen ice packs to keep it cold by the time I hit the run and it was around 90 degrees. Combine a cold bottle with placing it in a position I was not used to, and you have a recipe for discomfort. After 100 yards, it wasn’t an issue. The bottle almost feels like it conforms to the small of your back and just fits. The top seems to angle slightly away as not to poke you in the back. It just fit. At mile 6, just like mile 1, I didn’t notice I had the bottle on my waistband.

With only water on the run course, I needed my home brew fluid. I abandoned sports gels, so I need calories from fluid. Simply Hydration was my only hope. It worked great. It was easy to reach around and pull the bottle out, take a few sips and move on. You do have to be intentional when putting it back in to make sure you place the hook side on the waistband so it stays put.

I had no chafing and I was hydrated to the end of the race. I was so comfortable compared to 2011 at the same race, that I negative split my run leg. I only took cups of water on the fly for a quick sip and dumped the rest on my head. I could have run the entire course without the need for aid stations. Just think what I could have done with two bottles!

Look, nothing in my hands and you can't even tell I have a bottle in my shorts...

It’s easy to clean. Like any other bottle, just screw off the top and clean it out.

It’s also easy to get ice into the bottle. The nice wide opening, unlike the smaller bottles that hook to belts, is easily accessible to get ice and scoops of fluid mix in there.

As a bonus, I ran sprint intervals in an A.M. workout with the Simple Hydration bottle in your standard running shorts. I let caution fly and didn’t cinch up my waistband tie and slid in the bottle in and ran off into the dark morning. At first, it was a little nerve racking that I might lose the bottle, but after 4 miles of 30 to 45 second sprints, the bottle was still there and I forgot I had it 10 minutes into the workout. You can’t argue with that.

Simple Hydration is a serious contender in the mobile hydration world. You don’t have to hold on to it (which I hate) allowing your hands to flow naturally while running. It lets you use the bottle as if you would use any regular run-of-the-mill cylindrical bottle. It’s an advanced design that does not sacrifice function, but enhances it.

I’ll be using my bottle for runs to come. Well played Simple Hydration.

Writer’s note, Simple Hydration contributed the bottle for the review and in no way influenced this review.
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