Disclaimers: None – no affiliations at the time of writing this review.
Ahhhh…trail runners and their quest for hydration! One could argue that we are pickier about this than we are with our shoes. Vest, belts or handhelds? Bottles or bladder? With all of the different varieties out there, we certainly have options (and if you look at what is hanging in my closet, I certainly am no exception). After much experimenting early on in my running life, I can safely say I am a bottle guy. Although I often alternate between handhelds and different vests depending on the run I have planned, I always stick with bottles. I also like to experiment, so I’ll admit that I was quite intrigued with the latest offering from Orange Mud. I appreciate innovative thinking, and Orange Mud certainly offers an innovative new approach to bottle-based hydration packs. Their initial single bottle model is interesting, but I didn’t feel that it offered me anything new beyond the packs that I was already using. Fast forward to the release of their Double Barrel two-bottle pack and I became quite intrigued. At face value, it looked to be just what I was looking for so I finally decided to give it a shot and I am glad I did. So without further adieu, here is my review.
I mentioned that Orange Mud takes an innovative approach to the bottle hydration vest. Where most vests will place the bottles on the front chest or the lower back, Orange Mud takes a different approach by placing them on the upper back. With the double barrel model, you essentially have a bottle resting on each shoulder blade. Also on the back is a bungee cord in between the bottles for fastening a light jacket or poncho.
Just behind the bottles is a zipper storage compartment for storing additional items, such as energy, a blister kit, etc. It is pretty roomy and offers a big pouch with a smaller pocket inside of that. This is not accessible without taking the pack off, but is good for storing items that you won’t need to access regularly.
Lastly, there are two pockets on the front, one on each shoulder strap. These are stretchy and secured by velcro. They are ideal for holding 2-3 gels per side. Because of the stretchy nature, I had no problem using one pocket to hold my iPhone 5S. They velcro from the bottom, but since they rest slightly behind the top of the shoulder, I had no concerns with the phone inadvertently falling out. The fit is pretty straight forward…you put it on just as you would a jacket. Each strap runs from the top up the shoulder and wraps under the armpit. Each strap also has an adjustable pad for added comfort.
I had a few major concerns with this pack when I first saw it, so for my review, I wanted to make sure I tested it on all of the types of trails that the mighty Wasatch has to offer. I took it on some rolling long runs along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail as well as up and down the steep, technical terrain of Grandeur Peak with its 5000 feet of elevation change over six miles.
The first concern was, how much would the pack bounce? Would it be unbearable? Would the bottles fly out? The answer to this question is a resounding NO! In fact, the pack was so snug that it I had barely noticed it, particularly on the downhills. As I was cruising down a 20%+ grade decline, I actually forgot I had the pack on. On top of that, my hands were free so I could use them to help maintain my balance. The bottles are never at a risk of flying out either thanks to the design of the pack. In fact, you can even hang the pack upside down without the bottles sliding out.
The second concern was whether or not the straps would become uncomfortable over a longer distance. The longest run I did with the pack was 27.5 miles and I had no discomfort or chafing on my shoulders. I did find myself running my thumbs under the straps every once in awhile to readjust it, but it was minimal and not really a big deal. The pack is lacking a buckle between the two straps, which I think would help hold them in to position. At the same time, I found that without the buckle, I had nothing going across my chest that would restrict my breathing. Either way, this may be a good future design consideration.
Lastly, I wasn’t sure how accessible the bottles would really be on the run. The ease in which I was able to do this was perhaps the most surprising observation at all. After a couple of tries, I already had a good feel for pulling the bottles in and out of the pack, even with a pretty brisk pace. During my entire testing, I did not drop or miss a bottle placement once. The cradle for each bottle is also adjustable, so if you need to raise the bottles for a better reachability, you can.
My Final Thoughts
Beyond what I have already called out above, I wanted to highlight a couple of additional things that stand out about this pack.
- The two 24-ounce bottles provide quite a bit of water. On top of that, because your hands are free, you could carry additional water in the form of handhelds.
- The thing I love about this pack more than anything is its footprint. It sits on your upper back and extends only to the bottom of your shoulder blades. I love this because it keeps my entire lower back and chest open. I found that I sweat a lot less thanks to this added breathability.
- The shoulder straps slightly shift your shoulders back when wearing it, which helps to reinforce running form.
- Although it has a storage pouch on the back, it is really only meant for essentials. When trying to back too much in there, it creates a bulge that you can feel on your back and causes the pack to rest awkwardly against your back. It really is meant for minimal storage.
- The price runs at the high end versus comparable competitive products.
4.7 out of 5
This vest is the latest in my collection, which also includes UltrAspire, Ultimate Direction, and Nathan. All of those will continue to serve their purposes, but I can see this vest as getting the majority of the action. Ideally, I think the Orange Mud Double Barrel HydraQuiver is best suited for 10-30 mile self supported runs (more if you want to carry additional handhelds or know of reliable sources to refill your water bottles). I also see it being a GREAT option for supported ultras, where you can frequently refill your bottles and fuel at aid stations. In this instance, you can carry everything you need and get the convenience that bottles offer while also keeping your hands free.