To run in the summer heat and humidity, it is essential to stay hydrated. For the past 2 years, I have been meeting my water needs by drinking adequately before the run, and for runs of 90 minutes or longer, wearing a hydration belt. I have one from Nathan that I got from Amazon for $44.17 that came with four 10 ounce bottles. Because I feel safer running with a cellphone on longer runs, I use one of the bottle slots for my cellphone, so I effectively only have 3. The belt has really been great for me, and I would highly recommend it to others.
Yet while the belt has worked great up until now, my longest training runs are such that I run out of water on them (I’m up to almost four hours now), and I have to loop back to my car or find some other water source to refill the bottles mid-run. Not only that, on the really hot days, I find the water gets warm and sometimes unpleasant to drink before I run out it, even when I freeze the bottles solid before the run.
For these reasons and out of curiosity and having a desire to try new things that might make my running easier or better, I decided that I wanted to see if a hydration vest would be better for me on long runs. My issue with the vests is that they seem to be terribly expensive and there is no way I want to spend a ton of money, especially if I might find that I don’t even like running with it! For example, the Orange Mud HydraQuiver VP2 Vest Pack is $134.95 from Amazon, and a lot of its competitors are similarly priced.
When I saw the SLS3 vest on Amazon, I was drawn to it, because it looked like the real deal, but only cost $35.90. The one I got came with two 24 oz. bottles, but there are options for other sizes (17 oz. and 9.5 oz., and a few bucks less in price). The relatively low cost of my vest compared with most others made it less risky for me to try. I of course read the reviews, and most of them were quite positive, with the negative reviews worth noting, but nothing I thought would prove to be a show stopper.
I have now worn the SLS3 hydration vest for 5 runs. Three relatively short runs, a run of just over an hour and a half, and a run of almost four hours. I feel I can at least give some intelligent first impressions.
To begin with, not having worn a hydration vest before, I wasn’t sure how to wear it and how it was supposed to feel. I bet it took 20 minutes before my first run to experiment with various configurations to see what worked for me. I started it with a loose configuration and the bottles close together but full of water. I found that the bottles bounced up and down against my chest, which was annoying and somewhat uncomfortable. I adjusted the strap on the back to pull the vest tighter. This took care of most of the bouncing, though there was still a little bit that was distracting. So I tightened the strap on the back even more, but loosened the sternum strap on the front, which allowed the bottles to shift to near my shoulders and armpits.
You might think this would be uncomfortable or limit arm movement while running. I did not find it uncomfortable at all, and it is easy to forget they are there. The location of the bottles does not impede the normal swinging motion of my arms when I run. My arm movement is limited when I reach across my body to grab a water bottle, in the sense that my arm bumps into the one bottle while reaching for the other bottle or trying to get something from the zippered pocket behind the bottle. But it has not kept me from these tasks, it just requires me to push through the restriction.
Twenty-four ounces on each side is a bit heavy, but after drinking a few ounces from each bottle, they start feeling much more manageable. On my longest run, which was in temperatures of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (31 C), with bottles frozen before the run, they stayed cold or cool for 3 hours, and the 48 ounces of water lasted me slightly longer than 3 hours.
The vest comes with two zippered pockets in the front that are probably too small for a cell phone because of their width, but they are decently long and can hold food, tissues, and other items. There is also a smaller Velcro pocket on the outside of a water bottle holder, which can be used for a gel or something relatively small.
The zippered pack on the back I believe is suitable for a 1.5 liter water pack. I have not tried it for the purpose, so cannot say for sure. But it is spacious for cellphones and extra food and clothing.
There are two things that I have noticed that might become a problem for me in a run longer than I’ve done so far. First, there is more pressure on my neck than I would like. It was not an issue in terms of any residual pain after the long runs, but I did find myself adjusting the vest periodically mid-run to shift the pressure point a little bit. Second, with the sternum strap where it is, it can make my shirt fit tighter across my chest, and with the wrong shirt, can cause nipple chafing (so guys, on long runs be sure to take the normal precautions of using Body Glide or consider getting nipple guards).
I hope to ask one of my female running friends to test out the vest, because I’m not sure how it would work for a woman. Where the sternum strap attaches to the shoulder straps isn’t adjustable vertically, so I just don’t know whether it would work or not.
As for me, I am immensely happy with this purchase! Not only is the price amazing, the pack does all I had hoped it would do, and it does it well.