One of the things I have learned since I started reviewing gear here on Runblogger is that different companies have different approaches to how they deal with soliciting reviews from bloggers like me. Some are clearly interested in just gaining exposure and linkage, they aren’t good at returning emails, and one has gone so far as to stipulate that any review I write if I agree to work with them must be either positive or neutral (needless to say, I find this unethical and I quickly declined that one). Others are genuinely interested in getting feedback, good or bad, and are more than willing to answer questions and respond to emails quickly. These are the companies I most enjoy working with, and Hydrapak is a company that belongs to this group.
Hydrapak is in the in the hydration solution business, and they aren’t as widely known as big name companies like Nathan and Camelbak. However, my experience interacting with Hydrapak has been stellar, and they make some really nice products. I have previously reviewed their Gel Bot water bottle and Softflask gel flasks (which are awesome!), and several months ago they sent me a new hydration pack that they had released called the Hydrapak E-Lite hydration vest (disclosure: the pack was a free media sample).
I generally don’t wear a pack when I run since most of my runs are near home or pass through parks where I can fill a handheld bottle, but I’ve now had the chance to run in the E-Lite vest several times, and I must say that I am once again impressed. The other pack that I own is an older Camelbak Rogue that carries 70 ozs of fluid, but it’s a bit bulky and sometimes chafes my shoulders and neck as it bounces when I wear it on the run. The E-Lite vest, in contrast, is about as minimal as a pack can be, and the fit is perfect – stays put and doesn’t bounce. It carries only 1 liter of fluid, but that’s more than enough for the vast majority of my runs. It doesn’t have the storage space of my Camelbak, but it has pockets in the right places – two on each side on the front of the shoulder straps. The pockets are just big enough for a cell phone, gel pouches, iPod Nano, car keys, or any other small item you might need to carry. Because they are located on the front straps, they are easily accessible, unlike my Camelbak which requires me to stop and take the pack off if I want to access the pockets on the back.
One of my favorite features of the E-Lite vest is that the tube coming from the reservoir has a little magnet attached to it that sticks onto to another magnet on the chest strap. This keeps the tube firmly in place while running, and it’s located right where I need it when I’m ready for a drink. The bite valve works great, and the tube has a quick-connect attachment that makes it really easy to attach and detach it from the reservoir. The reservoir itself is also innovative, as the entire top of the reservoir unfolds and opens for easy filling and cleaning. It seals by folding it over and sliding a clip across, and I have not yet experienced any leakage.
All in all, I give the Hydrapak E-Lite vest a huge thumbs up. It’s a great ultralight hydration pack from a small company that I respect a lot. If you’re looking for a pack that is really simple, comfortable, and stays put, I’d definitely recommend that you give the Hydrapak E-Lite a try.