For active lifestyle consumers on the go, quick and easy hydration for the trail, ride and work is a must.
By M.T. Elliott
Bringing water with you has never been easier, nor has collecting more along the way.
Hydration-pack brands are working with new mesh materials to add stretch and lessen loads, while the reservoirs inside will get makeovers. Filtration systems are becoming smaller, lighter and easier to clean.
It’s all to serve an increasingly mobile and active lifestyle consumer who needs their hydration on the go and on demand — fitting in weekday runs between meetings, Crossfit after work, or a bike-commute to and from the office.
At the campsite or in the backyard, drinkware has seen more imitation than innovation. Pick a portion size and it is available in steel or insulated steel from more brands than last year. The stalwart screw-top water bottles have new looks and designs on the way, and the focus here is better leak-proof and insulated lids, some even sold separately — a quick upgrade if the container is still in good shape.
Water filtration is following the compact designs of hand-held hydration.
Filter companies now offer small, soft-sided pouches that roll up around the filter mouthpiece. LifeStraw’s steel filter is as compact as they come, but requires hovering over the water source. That’s not much to ask in an emergency scenario, or even among hardcore backpackers opting for the ultimate in weight savings.
Most backpackers will still want a capture-and-carry option, and new soft-sided pouches and microfilters from Vapur or Katadyn’s BeFree can do the trick. Or at basecamp, the LifeStraw Mission employs a 5- or 12-liter roll-top pouch, which, when hung from a tree, lets gravity pull water through its carbon cartridge filter. The filter includes taps for clean and dirty water, which can be cleaned by squeezing a backflush bulb and draining the dirty water. Each filter has a lifetime of 8,000 liters.
With the wave of new products also comes a debate of how well these smaller and lighter filters perform in their primary role — keeping the user from getting sick. Not all filters are alike, and some education is slipping through the cracks, brand officials noted.
The growing ranks of high-performance ultra runners are pushing for their water-carry solutions to weigh less, slosh less and breathe more. Hydration packs and vests are still settling on a sweet spot between size and weight, and as gear shrinks, so too will they. But, they can’t go too small.
“The Jaws 10 is a little small for ultra-events,” said Matt Kemp, Montane’s lead pack designer. “14 to 15 liters has become a perfect size for ultra-events.”
At FuelBelt, a redesign of its products made some tweaks to stabilize bottles and improve flow for the ultra-running consumer, but another big emphasis is trickling down those technologies to the run/walk crowd as well, officials said.
At CamelBak, its redesigned 100-ounce Crux reservoir has a new shape and cap, but its biggest innovation is the bump in water flow, which the brand cites as allowing 20 percent more. A new tab handle makes the reservoir easier to hold in one hand while it fills, and a new on/off valve helps prevent leakage.
And coming this winter, we’ll see more hydration options for endurance and backcountry skiers. Ultimate Direction brings its hydration designs to the slopes with its SkiMO packs, which hold much more than their minimalist running vests.
Pretty Metal Vessels
The drinkware category represents the biggest crossover item in hydration.
Insulated pint cups and metal koozies available in a rainbow of colors are filling retail shelves, and just as quickly leaving those shelves. Consumers love cold beverages, and retailers love the margins and fun items to brighten up store displays. But there are just so many. Brands are fighting to include that one extra feature that will set a product apart from the overcrowded market.
Among insulated bottles, HydroFlask’s new insulated caps are also leak-proof. And along with Klean Kanteen both brands have new colors and sizes. Avex added a skid-proof bottom and adjustable grips inside its insulated Lounger koozie so it can hold bottles or cans, unlike previous entries.
Work desks and car consoles are filling up with all this steel drinkware and retailers can expect to see more than the backpacking crowd searching for new mugs, cups and bottles.
Lead photo courtesy LifeStraw Mission