As many are aware, Salomon is bringing to market their “hydration glove” concept next spring. This glove-soft flask hydration system has been used by some Salomon team athletes since Killian Jornet first debuted the system at the 2011 Western States Endurance Run. In advance of the introduction of the glove part of the system, Salomon started offering the soft flask part of the system this past spring. The soft flask is available in two sizes- 237 ml (8 oz) and 148 ml (5 oz). The hydration flask is designed and manufactured by Hydrapak in a blue colorway. Hydrapak also markets this same flask under it’s own name in a different colorway (white/orange). It has a screw-off bite valve which is fed by squeezing the flask.
I received a pair of both the 237 ml (8 oz) and 148 ml (5 oz) flasks in April but I did not try them out until July- what a mistake.
Try it – you’ll like it
At first glance it is not obvious that the soft flask-type design is hand-held friendly. At the outset the soft flask concept seemed to be best suited to a vest or belt pocket. Being a hand-held hydration runner, I was used to the “hard shell bottle with strap” and did not think that the soft flask would be very functional as a hand held. Questions arose like:
- How do I hold it?
- Do I have to grip it and if so will that be tiring?
- What happens as it empties?
Well all I can say is, give it a try, I think you will like it.
I have used the soft flask system now for both hydration and fueling since July. My hard shell bottles are no longer used as I find this system to be more comfortable and easier to use. As far as the questions that I had initially: the soft flask has a very natural feeling when held as it form fits to your hand and level of grip. It takes surprisingly little effort to grip it. Another feature of these flasks is that the fluid does not “slosh” around like it does in a hard shell bottle because the volume of the flask is decreased as you consume the fluids. However, as it empties, the flask itself does begin to flop around. But once the fluid is consumed you can “blow it up” with air and it no longer flops around.
One issue I was particularly concerned about was how the flask would feel on a hot day where I was sweating quite a bit- would the flask feel slippery and slimey? Hydrapak have developed a very nice fine texture for the surface of the flask, there is no slimey feeling, and it is not the least bit slippery when wet. The texture allows for air flow beneath your hand for continuous drainage and drying of the surface. Very nicely engineered.
Ultimate in control of fluid and fuel
I have now converted entirely over to this soft flask system for all my hydration and fueling needs. The soft flask design allows one to to very precisely dispense fluid or fuel via pressure from your hand once the valve is bit open. This is very superior to the rather random dispensing that one typically gets from a hard shell bottle. I often accidentally over dispense with hard shell bottles and end up with water/fluid going down my wind pipe and causing discomfort and coughing. This just does not happen with the soft flask.
On fueling side, I use the 148 ml (5 oz) size and can easily get about 5 gels into the flask without too much effort. Here is a video made by Hydrapak demonstrating the soft flask for both fueling and fluids:
Once in the flask, dispensing is smooth and very controlled. This allows one to control how much you consume at any given time, whereas with a gel pack one generally consumes the entire contents at once. I find that I respond better to the fueling by metering it out more slowly and that I can consume more this way, as I have had trouble in the past with consuming enough sugar during races. The soft flask allows for more comfortable fueling of more fuel- a “win-win”. I also use the smaller size for fluids during shorter runs and longer runs in cool weather, as a pair is about the same volume as a standard 0.3 l (10 oz) hard shell bottle. These fit nicely in the hand with your index finger over the flat part of the top near the bite valve. Very comfortable.
Are they large enough?
Initially I was concerned that the largest soft flask (237 ml/8 oz) would only allow me to carry about 0.5 l (16 oz) of fluid for long runs and races. But at about the same time, I read Dr. T. Noakes latest book Waterlogged. Noakes goes through the science of hydration and I have come to the realization that I was carrying and consuming more fluid than I needed. On a typical long run of 30-50 km I would carry two of the Salomon 0.6 l bottles for a total of 1.2 l. I would often have left over fluid even after over 3 hours of running. As I learned in Noakes’ book, it is not uncommon for well trained athletes to consume as little as 200-400 ml/hr during a race and less during training. Upon experimenting, I found that the two 237 ml (8 oz) soft flasks are sufficient fluid for me for runs up to about 3.5 hours, even in 90 degree peak heat. For shorter runs (<25 km) a pair of the 148 ml (5 oz) are sufficient. It would appear that I am consuming about 100-150 ml/hour on average and that the soft flask system is a good solution- for me. Depending on your fitness and other variables, you may need more fluid, but I suggest that you experiment with how much fluid you consume with the realization that dehydration is not the issue that the sports drink industry would have you believe it is. In fact available data shows that the fastest runners in any given endurance running race (either marathon or ultramarathon) are typically the most dehydrated after finishing with no ill effects. Based on the irrefutable evidence presented in Noakes’ book, I expect we will see a general downsizing in fluid replacement systems for endurance running. The soft flask system is a step in that direction.
Do you need the “gloves”?
Although I will certainly try out the Salomon “hydration glove” system, at this point I am unconvinced that the “glove” is necessary. I have now logged over 1000 km with the soft flasks without the “gloves” to hold them and find no issues with just gripping them naturally. Perhaps there will be some advantages to the “gloves” but I can already see that refilling during a race might be more difficult as well as just the concept of having a glove on your hand seems constraining. In any case I will update when I have tried out the “gloves”.
I encourage you to try this new hydration system and see how it works for you. My experience has been very positive, but some may have certain expectations that might not be met. However, the flasks are inexpensive and can be used for other purposes so giving them a try is not big deal. I expect that you will be surprised at how well they work.