Review: Hydration-Bottle Packs

Ah, summer: The time when runners don their skimpiest spandex and hit the trails in search of sunshine, fresh air and dehydration and, uh heat exhaustion.

Seriously, staying hydrated is important. It’s even more critical if your run stretches to an hour or more and the weather is hot. Unless you’re on a well-stocked marathon course with water and first aid stations every few miles, you’ve got to carry your own refreshments. That means some kind of pack.

We tested four waist packs, a popular choice for runners. (Water-filled backpacks are too hot and heavy for most runners, and most people don’t like handheld bottles.) We subjected each pack to at least 10 miles of city and trail running.

What we found didn’t exactly impress us: The bottles bounce, their straps chafe and you’ll spend way too much time cinching and un-cinching them in search of the perfect fit. Our advice: Go to a store where they’ll let you try them on before you buy, because the ideal fit is going to come down to the shape of your body.

On the plus side, carrying water could mean the difference between finishing that 8-mile run with a smile on your face and collapsing halfway through in a puddle of sweat and muscle spasms. As a bonus, most of these packs will also hold your phone, iPod, high-tech energy gels and any other gadgets you consider essential for running.

Amphipod Full-Tilt Velocity

Amphipod Full-Tilt Velocity

A horizontally mounted, contoured bottle helps this pack snug up against your lumbar area, a bit higher than most water-bottle packs. Because of its shape, it bounces less too. However, the location also makes it more difficult to get at anything you’ve stashed in the nylon pocket.

WIRED Snuggest fit of the packs tested here.

TIRED Horizontal bottle, with a nylon hold-down loop, is a little hard to remove and reinsert. Exterior stretchy pouch accommodates a phone, but feels a little delicate.


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Review: Hydration-Bottle Packs

Lightweight Boots Shore Your Feet Up, Never Weigh Them Down

Lightweight Boots Shore Your Feet Up, Never Weigh Them Down

Review: Kayland Zephyr Hiking Boots

Hikers usually have to choose between boots that are lightweight and boots that are protective and supportive. Kayland’s Zephyrs override that dilemma with a polyurethane exoskeleton that gives the boots leatherlike rigidity, while keeping them lightweight (about 2.5 pounds for the pair) and relatively breathable.

This exoskeleton is a black plastic framework that’s injected directly into the underlying mesh. Combined with the shoe’s padding, this gives your ankles and heels plenty of support on foot-twisting, rocky, rutted trails, while leaving wiggle room and toe protection.

The Zephyrs are lined with something that Kayland calls “eVent Cocona,” which keeps them from becoming a steam locker for your feet. Despite all that padding and infrastructure, the boots don’t heat up much, and they dry out reasonably quickly.

They also sport Vibram soles with aggressive treads, making them serious all-terrain boots, and an EVA midsole keeps them bouncy and flexible.

We wore the Kayland Zephyrs through a rainy Bay Area fall and winter, stomping up and over sandy, rocky, muddy trails and through filthy, puddle-marred San Francisco streets (as well as in the frigid confines of the sporadically-heated Wired offices.) The boots hold up well and kept our tootsies comfortable in all these conditions. But best of all? We never experienced any of the Frankenstein-esque trudging common to most hiking boots. These babies left us feeling fleet-footed and twinkle-toed.

WIRED Exoskeleton feels like lightweight foot armor. Springy soles let you tackle any groundlike surface. Breathable. Highly adjustable lacing.

TIRED Rigidity has its price: Not the best for clambering over rocks or running at high speeds.

  • Manufacturer: Kayland
  • Price: $200
  • Score: 9 out of 10

Kayland Zephyr Hiking Boots | Product Reviews.

Lightweight Boots Shore Your Feet Up, Never Weigh Them Down

Stormy Weather Cannot Defeat Re-Engineered Umbrella

 Stormy Weather Cannot Defeat Re-Engineered Umbrella

Review: Blunt Umbrella

On a recent stormy San Francisco day, pedestrians all around me struggled as the wind made their bodega-bought umbrellas leap like impatient leashed puppies, or worse yet, flip inside-out like starfish stomachs. But not me. My umbrella kept its rounded shape in the nastiest of rainy gusts, its architectural integrity as unbroken as the dome of St. Peter’s.

I was using a Blunt umbrella, a water-repelling shelter whose design innovations include beefier-than-usual struts arranged in a more redundant, robust structure than most umbrellas. A “radial tensioning system” helps move the ribs firmly out against the fabric without requiring you to exert a huge amount of upward force, and there’s no little metal locking clip to fiddle with or catch on your gloves: just a solid plastic collar that you push up until the umbrella snaps into shape. And finally, the ribs’ tips are rounded, which keeps them from poking through the fabric.

On the downside, the Blunt is a bit heavier than most umbrellas, doesn’t fold up quite as compactly as some and for some bizarre reason, lacks a wrist strap.

The Blunt is a solid, reliable wet-weather sanctuary. Its unique construction may not be readily apparent, but you will definitely notice the difference in a storm.

WIRED Tough, double-strut system gives shape and strength. No pointy metal parts to poke you.

TIRED Not terribly large (a $75 extra-large model is available though). Petal shape may leave your shoulder occasionally exposed. Not compact.

Blunt Umbrella | Product Reviews.

Stormy Weather Cannot Defeat Re-Engineered Umbrella