Hand, waist, back… bladder, bottle… plastic, stainless… it seems that the options for hydration continue to expand with every new season. The reasons for this are simple: water is an essential part of our sport and a pain-in-the-butt to carry. While some folks get creative with water bottle drops and other trail-side solutions, most of us have to face the fact that we need to carry some water with us on a regular basis. And, thankfully, companies continue to try to give us options for doing so.
Orange Mud is a relatively recent entry into the market. Based in California, this small company is producing USA-made and endurance-athlete-specific products. Their current headliner is the HydraQuiver ($85): a single-bottle, back-slung pack.
The HydraQuiver rides in relatively unique place. It is meant to sit between the runner’s shoulder blades. It accomplishes this with two shoulder straps. No sternum strap and no waist strap. The location is considerably higher than traditional hydration backpacks and a much simpler configuration as well. The straps on the HydraQuiver are long… really long. To alleviate any flopping or flapping around, the company stitched two shock-cord loops on each side of the pack. The loops do their job well, but take some effort to get used to using.
Of course, the big question with this new location/style of pack is: “Does it move/irritate/work?” In short, No. No. Yes. Using it both running and Nordic skiing, I never had to adjust the shoulder straps (once I learned the loop trick) and had no underarm irritation. What was really surprising was how comfortable the pack was. Its location, while a bit odd, does keep it from bouncing and trapping heat and sweat against your back. While it earned a few odd looks on the trails, it makes up for it with solid performance.
The included water bottle is a standard tall bike bottle. It is held in its holster by both a wide elastic band and the gradual taper of the holster itself. While putting the pack on, bending over to put on spikes, and moving, I only had the bottle fall out once. And, it never fell out while I was in motion.
There are two mesh storage pouches located directly on-top of the shoulders. These can accommodate two gel pouches, a full-sized Snickers, or anything of similar size. Since the mesh is loose, keys aren’t recommended, unless you enjoy the sounds of clinking metal. The pouches are secured with ample velcro tabs.
The pack also has a generous storage compartment that can be accessed through two zippers on either side of the pack. The pocket easily handled a smart phone, keys, and a full wallet. I also stuffed a pair of gloves and a running hat in it for testing without any issues. Orange Mud also claims that you can attach bungees to the outside of the pack to carry a layer or two. I didn’t have any bungees that fit this application, so that feature remained untested.
What really sets the Hydraquiver apart from other hydration packs I have handled recently are the small, but important, attentions to detail. Nobody wants to buy a piece of specialty gear and have it be “junk” on some level. The folks at Orange Mud did a great job seeing that this wasn’t the case. A few stand-out examples:
- Double stitching on most seams – Durability without weight. Love it.
- Specialized water bottle – There are a LOT of cheap water bottles out there. The fact that Orange Mud pulled a Specialized Bike bottle and branded it as their own shows they aren’t going cheap. And, yes, Specialized makes a darn good water bottle.
- No “rough” edges – Turned it inside-out, looked all over… not a unfinished edge on the pack. Getting frayed nylon in a zipper just ruins an afternoon. No worries here.
The HydraQuiver is a unique and effective option for carrying water and a few other essentials. The quality and meticulous construction of the pack speak to a company that knows their sport and are looking to do things right. Once a person gets used to the placement of the pack, it is a light and simple option when you are heading out the door. I look forward to seeing what new innovations will come out of Corona, CA in the coming years.