Kathleen and Mike have been gone for the last week, so I was running solo for the last two distance runs, which turned out to be a lot easier than I anticipated. I’m starting to really look forward to the weekend distance runs. As amazing as it is to call the National Mall my primary running route, it can get repetitive when you’re running it 4 times a week. I really look forward to getting outside the 6 mile Mall route on weekends to explore newer trails in Rock Creek, Georgetown and Virginia.
Two weeks ago, I was pretty excited to venture over to the Mount Vernon Trail, but I was kind of apprehensive about taking out my hydration belt for the first time. I drink a lot of water when I run, so this was an inevitable piece of gear given our increasing distances. On looks alone, I had always thought they were bulky, inconvenient and…well..not cool. I’m still undecided on whether or not they’re cool, but after 2 distance runs I can say my new Amphipod Runlite Airstretch definitely proves that a hydration belt can be streamlined and functional.
When I began searching for a hydration belt, I had no idea what I was looking for. In scouring the internet, I compiled a list of preferred belt features based on various reviews, hoping that it would produce the best belt for me.
1) Stretchy fabric on the belt
Some brands do not construct the belt out of elastic material, which limits how tightly you can secure it. A loose belt can cause “bouncing” which further loosens the belt on your hips and results in chafing. There seem to be very few complaints from models with stretchy waistbands.
2) Customizable bottle configuration
Almost all belts allow you to move the bottles around the belt to minimize bouncing. It’s very likely that if you purchase a belt, it will have this feature. I didn’t want to find out that the bottles are static after I bought the belt, so I just made 100% sure that they were moveable.
3) Secure bottle holders
Some bottle holders are less reliable than others and no one wants to reach back for water to find a missing bottle. The bottle holders really only need to be designed to do one thing: secure and hold bottles of water. I would not be thrilled if I continually lost bottles during my runs.
4) Storage for iPhone
For runs where I’m gone for over an hour and a half, I’ll want to have my phone on me. It would be great if there was a pouch large enough to hold a few “must-have” items.
After looking at a bunch of brands and models, I decided to go for the Amphipod Runlite Airstretch belt with four 8 oz bottles. I had tried on the less stretchy Amphipod Runlite at Pacers and liked the fit a lot. I probably would have gotten it had it not been covered in pink and green flowers. I went home and found the Runlite Airstretch on RunningWarehouse.com and figured it would work just as well as the one I tried at Pacers.
As far at meeting the four shot-in-the-dark criteria for which I was judging hydration belts, the Amphipod really exceeded my expectations.
1) It’s stretchy all the way around and has a nice snug fit that doesn’t bounce.
2) The bottles are not only removable but you can also turn the holders 90 degrees. I probably won’t use that feature because it looks like you’re just asking for leaks, but it’s an option. Amphipod also sells different sized bottles, larger storage pouches, containers for your energy beans or salt tabs, gel bottles, etc.
3) Rather than have the bottles slide into a holder/pouch, Amphipod bottles clip into place. I bought the belt online and was really concerned when I opened the box and couldn’t get the bottles out of the clips. Turns out it’s a lot easier when you’re wearing the belt and there’s liquid in the bottles. A little squeeze on the side of the bottle and they pop right out. When you want to put it back, you simply press it back into the clip and listen for the audible snap.
4) The belt came with a storage pouch large enough to barely hold my iPhone 4 and 1 gel packet. As the runs get longer and I need to take more food with me, I will likely buy a larger pouch for my belt. I have a SpiBelt, but doubling up belts would probably draw some puzzled and unwanted looks, so new pouch it is.
In my two long runs with my hydration belt (11 and 12 miles), I was very impressed with the lack of “bounce” and the ease of accessing bottles both on the front and back. For both runs, I ran with 3 bottles (2 water and 1 Gatorade), my iPhone and 1 gel pack. As long as the weight is evenly distributed and kept toward the outside of the hips, everything stays in place.
I will say there’s a definite learning curve to running with a hydration belt. It doesn’t feel normal, but for someone who needs a lot of water when they run, it’s a necessity. The jury is still out on whether or not it looks “cool”. I’m leaning toward no, but I’d probably pass out from dehydration/heat exhaustion if I didn’t wear it, so I’ll sacrifice the cool factor for the time being.