I live in the South and I’m training through the summer for the Chicago Marathon in October. For over a year, I had been using a Nathan brand hydration pack that went around my waist, but it only holds four 8 oz bottles and I had a 14 mile run last summer when I got really dehydrated and woozy, and so since I’ll be running a few 20 milers and many other longer long runs, I wanted to make sure that I was going to be able to carry adequate hydration with me on my long runs, so I decided to buy a hydration backpack so I could carry more water with me.
I decided to buy a hydration backpack a day or two before a 14 mile long run and wanted to have it on that run, so I limited my options to what I could buy in a brick and mortar store. I decided to head over to my local REI to try out their hydration packs since they would probably have the best selection. I settled on the CamelBak Aurora (affiliate link) pack in this beautiful Imperial Purple color.
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I initially considered both 50 and 70 oz packs, and even though the 50 oz packs were less expensive, I decided to pay a little extra and get a pack with a larger bladder since I’ll need all the water I can get. I tried on a few different models that had the 70 oz bladders, but as far as the general fit went in the store, I found that the gender-specific pack worked best for me. I run between a C and a D cup, and the gender neutral packs all felt funny and uncomfortable when I fastened the top strap. So, ladies, if you’ve got something up top and you’re looking to buy a hydration pack, I strongly suggest you look at packs specifically designed for women.
My big fear when buying this pack was that it’s not specifically designed for running, it’s designed for cycling. I was worried that it wouldn’t perform well with the bouncing inherent in running, but I thought that the CamelBak Marathoner or Ultra LR would cover up more of my chest than I wanted and cause me to get a lot hotter with both my back and my chest covered by the pack. I read a few reviews online that said this pack had worked well for a few runners, so I decided that I’d cut the tags off and give it a try.
So far I’ve taken my Aurora on a 14 miler and a 10 miler and was really happy with the performance on both runs. I’ve been using the pack for my endurance building runs at a slower pace, so I’m not sure how this pack would hold up for someone doing speedwork, but I don’t plan on using it for faster runs. Once I properly adjusted the pack to my body (the straps at the bottom of the pack were key in getting the right no-bounce fit) I was really happy with how it performed, even when the 14 miler took me 2 hours and 40 minutes. I never felt like it was making me too hot. (I did the vast majority of my running in the mid-70s, although it got up close to 80 toward the end.) I like the security of having two big pockets to carry things like my cell phone and plenty of gels/nutrition, and there’s even a nice little key clip in the top pocket so I know I won’t be losing my key and locking myself out of my house. I read a suggestion that you should turn the bladder upside down so that the spot where the tube is attached points up and then suck any air out of the bladder to prevent sloshing, which I’ve done and I haven’t had to deal with sloshing at all. I love that I can fill the bladder with ice water and have really cold water to cool me down in the middle of my run. I actually put one of those blue ice packs down in the bottom of the main compartment next to the bladder to help keep the water extra cold and I think that worked well. The one thing I wish that the pack had was some more reflective patches for added visibility in the dark, but I think adding lights or reflective strips/tape would work.
Bottom line: I would absolutely recommend this pack for anyone looking to carry a lot of water on their long runs because they want to be sure to stay hydrated. I’m really happy that I bought this pack.