The Orange Mud brand continues to grow in the world of outdoor sports. Much of this growth comes from their continued expansion of products that meet the demand of the athlete. While I have been aware of the brand through my retail work experiences for quite some time. I had never experienced the comfort of their hydration packs till recently with the Orange Mud Hydraquiver Vest Pack 1.
I did not realize it at the time, but my search for a new hydration pack began at the 2016 Western States 100. Orange Mud Founder, Josh Sprague, was my last minute pacer addition for the final 41 miles of the race. Josh had invested in a three-year sponsorship of the race, so picking up pacing duties must have been icing the cake for him. While we tried to push through some low points in the race (WS100 blog post), Josh shared countless stories of his own race experiences. He also shared some really valuable information with me about his pack designs. Information that I would not fully process until months later on a trail run after the December Western States lottery.
For the past four years, I have been using the Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin Pack. The Salomon pack is an amazingly lightweight pack and it has served me really well through nearly 35 ultras. However, there were three key issues with this pack for me.
First, it always made my body run warm. A great selling feature during the winter, but on the hot canyon trails of States or the humid swamps of South Carolina. In a sport where overheating and stomach issues prevail, speeding up your increase in core temperature is not good. Second, I found myself carrying an excess amount of gear just because I had space for it. Instead of trying to calculate my gear and nutrition needs. A return to relying more on aid stations, drop bags, and a crew was needed. Finally, the Salomon pack seemed to exaggerate lower back pain in the late stages of a race.
Fast forward from Western States race day to the December Race lottery. Not chosen to run the 2017 event did not dampen my trail spirits as I shuffled out the doors of the Placer High auditorium. I threw my Salmon pack on one last time for a 13-mile run on the final sections of the Western States Trail. For much of the run, I could not get over how the pack just seemed to feel like a life jacket. As I ran, I kept coming back to the things that Josh shared with me about Orange Mud. I felt that it was time to take the plunge and give the brand a good run! My new Orange Mud Hydraquiver Vest Pack 1 came in mid-December. Just a few days later I was adjusting the straps in preparation for a group trail run at Pleasanton Ridge.
The Orange Mud Hydraquiver Vest Pack 1 is a single bottle version of their more popular VP2 pack. Besides the one bottle holder in the center, the pack features two chest pockets that can fit soft flasks, a phone, nutrition, or other small items. It has two shoulder pockets for smaller items and two stretch mesh pockets on either side of the bottle on the back for additional gear.
The pack snaps into place with a single buckle across the chest. There are two additional adjustment straps under the arm along the rib cage on both sides. Adjusting these two straps first allows for a non-restrictive, but bounce-free fit. Then, the chest strap can be tightened down to fine-tune the fit.
Retail Price: $119.95 (includes 25 fl oz bottle)
Weight: 8.7 ounces (10.7 ounces with empty bottle)
Chest Size: 27-52 inch circumference
As I put the Hydraquiver Vest Pack 1 on, I can honestly say, I initially felt discomfort. The pack sits high on the back, only covering slightly below my shoulder blades. From my Salomon pack and like most other major brand packs, I’m used to a fit that wraps my entire back. The other initial discomfort was how snug the pack felt without tightening down any straps. However, I remembered how it always seemed like I was continuously cranking on the straps of my Salomon pack. Never finding the ideal fit for even the shortest of trail runs. The night before putting the Orange Mud pack to use, I watched a How To Video on the wearing this style of the pack from Orange Mud. The video gave me confidence that the pack would work out for my long run the next day.
As the above video highlights, the key to wearing the Hydraquiver Vest Pack 1 or 2 is a proper fit. As I put on the pack for my run at Pleasanton Ridge, I left all the straps loose. Then, I tightened up the straps under the arms, before pulling the chest strap snug. Within the first 2-miles of my run, I was loosening up the chest strap to allow more freedom for my lungs to expand. To my amazement, the pack was staying in place. I had this perceived thought that a pack that had a large bottle on my back was going to bounce just like a hydration waist belt. I could not have been more wrong!
With water refills out on the trail, I did my best to simulate my normal race day amount of gear. The 25 fluid ounce bottle was filled with water to start out. I carried two stickpacks of Tailwind Nutrition, a stick of Squirrel’s Nut Butter anti-chafing, a GoPro Hero Session, an iPhone 5S, and two granola bars. There was still plenty of space in the pack for additional softflasks and other essential gear if needed. I see myself carrying the 25 fluid ounce bottle in combination with 1 or 2 softflasks for longer hauls between aid stations during a race.
Prior to the run, I had also worried about being able to grab and replace the bottle while running. With the bottle sitting so high up, I thought it seemed like an awkward movement with my arms. However, I came to find it easier to grab and replace than my typical softflasks tucked into the chest pockets of my Salomon pack. The bottle compartment stays rigid and holds snuggle. This makes it almost impossible to knock out the bottle when leaning over as well.
With temperatures in the 30-50 degree range, it was hard to tell if the pack ran any cooler. With less material covering my back, I have to assume that it will help to not raise my core temperature come the spring/summer months. I also did not experience any chafing under my arms during this run, which is typically spot of irritation. I was wearing a t-shirt and jacket, so more test runs in warmer temperatures and singlets will be a better gauge against any unwanted rubbing. By then, the pack will be pretty broken in, so I don’t expect to see any issues here.
Overall, the Orange Mud Hydraquiver Vest Pack 1 performed extraordinarily well for 17-miles (4-hours) on the hills of Pleasanton Ridge. Its comfortable fit and bounce-free design, makes this pack very competitively priced on the market. Plus, it’s made in the U.S.A! I am looking forward to putting this pack to much more use in 2017 during training runs and races!