After a couple of years of offering no hand-held hydration systems, the word is that Salomon will be bringing the specially designed hydration “gloves”, first seen on Killian Jornet at the 2011 Western States Endurance Run, to the consumer market. The “gloves” are also currently being tested and used by Salomon team athletes and glimpses can be seen in some of the recent Salomon Running videos such as in this one (the “gloves” can be seen starting at about 1:58; at about 2:10 there is a close-up of the “gloves” and, it so happens, a pair of the Sense Mantra shoes (with the new logo) and “exo”-like socks):
Salomon will also be offering a S Lab hydration belt with a medium-sized pockets in the rear (for things like a jacket, headlamp, etc.) and bunch of smaller mesh pockets around the waist, very much like those on the S Lab Exo and twin-skin shorts. Think of the waist band of the twin-skin shorts with a bigger separate pockets in the rear and a quick-release clasp. It would appear that the belt is designed to accept the small 200 ml (6.5oz) Salomon rigid fuel flasks currently available and/or the 120-150 ml soft flasks and possibly some other form factor to be introduced separately. Here is a video from Italy which shows the “gloves” and the hydration belt:
As can be seen in the video, the S Lab hand-held hydration system combines a Nordic skiing-like pole strap with a soft 240 ml (8 oz) bite-valve soft flask and a quick release mechanism to allow for efficient refilling or change-out during a race. They will sell as a pair giving a total of about 500 ml (16oz) of water or fuel. There may be a 120-150 ml (4-5 oz) flask option, probably for fuel. I have run on numerous occasions with a pair of the 240 ml bite-valve soft flasks by just holding them in my hands. They work quite well even without the “glove” to hold them, however under certain circumstances it may be better to not have to actively grip something. With the soft flask system you have a lot more control over the rate at which fluid is dispensed as you can uniformly apply pressure to the flask and obtain a reliable dispensing rate.
One nice thing about the soft flasks is that the water/fuel does not “slosh” around as it does in a hard shell bottle or flask. This is because you are pulling a vacuum as you consume the fluid as there is no air in the flask. But as the soft flask empties it needs to be slightly compressed to not wiggle around in your hand. This is probably one of the functions of the “gloves”- to compress and hold the soft flask in place as it empties. We will have to see, but I am sure that this product, when launched, will be quite refined given that they have been working on it for about 2 years (or maybe even longer).
The 500 ml total volume may sound small but for racing where aid stations are rather frequent it could work out, provided they are easy and quick to refill. This lower volume is also in line with the latest on endurance sport hydration science as described in Tim Noakes latest book Waterlogged. In the book, Noakes offers a comprehensive review of the history and science of hydration and concludes that endurance athletes are often drinking way too much water. Our expectations for how much water we need to carry with us is likely to change given the strong evidence that Noakes presents supporting a “drink to thirst” protocol for endurance athletes. He suggests a hydration rate of about 400-800 ml/hr is sufficient for racing. I will post a review of this book soon as I am just about through it for the second time.
Not sure when these hydration systems might be available (they appear to be available now in Europe) but it will likely be no later than early 2013 in the US. Perhaps they will be showing them for real at the OR show in Salt Lake City next week here in the US.