Hydration and the CamelBak – great invention or simply uncool?
Anyone into cycling at all has no doubt noticed the plethora of water bottle options available. There are big ones and small ones, insulated and non-insulated, plain and fancy. Most people simply use the give-away bottles from their LBS (local bike shop) or the last event they entered. Those of us in hotter climates, however, quickly realize
that an insulated bottle offers significant advantages. (I’m also starting to experiment with freezing a small amount of water in the bottle before my rides. This is something I learned during my brief term as a golfer, and it worked quite well.)
But, despite the success of insulation and freezing, bottles are still a pain to pull in and out of their cages during the ride, and frequently are insufficient (amount and insulation) for a long ride in the summer. (Just the other day I noticed many riders carrying 4 bottles – two on their bike and two in the back jersey pockets!) This does not seem to be the most efficient technique to me! …So, it begs the question: are there any other options?
For me the alternative is clear – the CamelBak hydration back pack! Most people know what these are, but for those who don’t, I’ll briefly explain… Basically, a CamelBak is a backpack that has a “canteen” or a water reservoir built into it. There are dozens of models and sizes – many also function as a regular backpack. The one I use, however, is simply for water storage only (although it also has a small zippered pocket if you need to store your keys or a credit card). It holds about 50 oz of water, which is roughly the equivalent of two large water bottles. But this is where the similarity with regular bottles ends.
The CamelBak is much better insulated than even the best insulated bottles. After 3 hours of riding in temperatures approaching triple digits one very hot day, the water in my CamelBak was still cold! If you don’t think that’s a big deal, you’ve never tried riding in the desert in the summer! In addition, the CamelBak is MUCH easier to use than the standard bottle. The drinking tube simply hangs over your shoulder, so you only have to quickly lift one hand to pop it in your mouth, then you can quickly return to putting both hands on the bars while you take as big a drink as you need! When you’re done, you simply let it fall out of your mouth – no frenzied looking down at the ground while trying to make sure your bottle goes in its cage properly! (CamelBak also makes a little device that makes the tube semi-rigid so it will stay in one place, thus allowing you to sip whenever you want without ever having to take your hands off the “wheel”! I plan on trying one very soon!)
So, why doesn’t everyone use a CamelBak, then? I’m not sure, frankly! My buddies who have been riding for years think it’s simply uncool! I will admit, it certainly doesn’t look particularly stylish! But, then again, most of the cycling “kit” we wear isn’t exactly flattering! Plus, I’ll bet a rider with a CamelBak and no regular bottles or cages is actually slightly more aerodynamic than the same rider with two bottles and cages! (I wonder if anyone’s ever taken any wind tunnel data?)
In any case, my summary is this – if you want to be well hydrated and don’t care about being cool, consider getting a CamelBak and enjoy your hot summer rides a lot more!