Fueling the Long Run: Nathan vs. Camelbak
|August 21, 2010||Posted by Lauren under Marathon Training, Running|
This morning, I did my first group long run in a very long time. Becky, Jen and I met for a 14-miler along a beautiful bike path (you can read more about our run here and here). Besides how fast the miles went by or how easily the conversation flowed, what struck me most about this run was the fact that, like our footwear, we all chose to hydrate a little differently.
Proper fueling on long runs is extremely important. When you’re out running for several hours, your body loses a lot of fluid – and burns through a lot of calories. In order to keep running well (and avoid bonking!), you need to make sure you’re giving your body enough fuel. You wouldn’t try to keep driving on an empty tank of gas, would you??
The most important thing you need to do during a long run is hydrate! You may be able to survive without gels or other running snacks, but your body will quickly run out of gas if you don’t replace those lost fluids.
The way you take in those fluids, however, is really up to your own personal preferences and needs. And those preferences will also determine how you transport them. While many prefer to run with sports drinks, I am a straight-up water drinker. And I drink a lot of it. For this reason, I have always chosen to run with a pack instead of a fuel belt or hand held water bottle. (Plus, I hate the thought of having something bouncing around my waist for hours.)
I trained for 3 full marathons and 1 half with a Camelbak and was really happy with it. But when the bladder started getting old and leaky, I began researching what other options were available. Even though my Camelbak had served me well, I was in the market to try something new. Especially since I’ve had my eye on the Nathan Race Vests ever since I saw No Meat Athlete’s review a few months ago. So after a lot of debate, I finally settled on a Nathan Vest made specifically for women: the Intensity.
The verdict? It was love at first run.
Camelbak vs. Nathan
First, it must be noted that my Camelbak is about 3.5 years old. I’m sure there have been new advances in design over the past few years that have improved the way Camelbaks fit – particularly on the bodies of female runners. However, there are some basic things about both packs that are worth comparing.
Advantages of the Camelbak
Although I’m very happy to have made the switch, I would say there are 3 advantages of my old pack over my Nathan vest.
Price – A women’s Camelbak retails on Amazon for about $50 (some smaller ones are even cheaper). In comparison, my Nathan vest was $85.
Mouthpiece – I love Camelbak’s signature Big Bite™ valve. It’s very easy (and fun!) to drink from while running. I could even hold it in my mouth to breathe between sips. On the other hand, Nathan’s mouthpiece takes some getting used to. You open it up like the top of a water bottle, and then have to put your teeth in the mouthpiece’s grooves and bite to get the water out.
Name – Let’s be honest, Camelbak is a little more fun to say than Nathan Race Vest. I think they could use a catchier name…just sayin’…
Advantages of the Intensity Race Vest
Here are the top 5 things I love most about my new running vest – and the reasons that make me happy I made the switch.
Fit – The Women’s Intensity race vest is pretty compact. I love the narrow and long design. There are also many different adjustments straps (or — according to the website — a 3-way propulsion harness) that help the vest fit snuggly and keep the weight of the water off your shoulders. My first time out in the vest, it only took a few quick adjustments to get the weight centered on my lower back. I love that the straps are designed to make it super easy to adjust while running. And unlike my Camelback, whose straps would loosen up over the course of the run, the Intensity stayed firmly in place.
Comfort – I think the biggest worry people have when considering whether or not to wear a pack instead of a fuel belt is that it will make their shoulders hurt. Like any good backpack, these packs are designed to keep the weight off your shoulders and on your chest/back. In my opinion, the Intensity does a much better job, due to the design of the harness. Added bonus for women – the chest strap easily fits under your…well…chest. So you don’t have to worry about squishing the ladies when you run. Another advantage in comfort comes from vest’s the mesh straps. They are extremely lightweight and breathable. I have even worn sleeveless running tops with this pack and experienced no chafing.
Storage – One reason why I love running with a pack is because there’s lots of extra room to store things like gels, energy bars, iPod, keys, cell phone…even extra layers.
The Intensity is designed with the Ultramarathoner in mind, which means there are plenty of spaces for storage! In addition to the main compartment that holds the water, there’s another slot in back where you can put big items like a cell phone and keys. It’s even divided into 2 separate compartments (complete with a hook to hang your keys on!). But my favorite feature (and a huge selling point of the pack for me) is the two pouches in the front – one that even zips. I used to store my gels in the back of my Camelback, which meant I had to stop and take the vest off or do some crazy stretching moves if I wanted to get them out during the run. Now I have easy access to anything I might need…without even breaking my stride.
Ease of cleaning – It’s super easy to get the bladder in and out of the pack. There’s just one little hole in the back that the water tube has to go through, and then another loop in the front to hold it. On the other hand, I had to feed the tube through one of the arm straps of my Camelbak, which made it very difficult to get in and out.
The other advantage is that the top of the bladder opens up all the way. I must admit that this made me nervous at first. I didn’t think the fold and slide top would stay sealed during my run. But it holds the water in perfectly. And when I’m done, I can turn the entire thing inside out to wash it. The mouthpiece and drinking tube also separate from the bladder to make cleaning that much easier!
- Enough Water for a Fish – The Intensity holds 2L (70 ounces) of glorious, refreshing water. This is enough to keep me hydrated even on long, hot 20-milers. My Camelbak only held 50 ounces, and on the longer runs I was constantly worried about running out of water.