Handheld bottles, you either love them or you hate them. Certainly in the US, handheld bottles are the ‘norm’ for many a runner and in particular ultra runner. Take a look at photographs from many of the races, you will see runners, bottles in hand working hard on the trails and mountains.
In the UK, it is the opposite. Hand held bottles are very often used by ‘joggers’ who have those funny shaped bottles with a hole in the middle and carry them for a short 5k run. Runners who are going longer, far prefer either a waist belt or more commonly some form of bladder held in a rucksack.
However, if you get the ‘right’ bottle and by that I mean the right size, the right shape and the right functions that you require, you may well be rewarded with a more ‘free’ running experience. I for one love to run with bottles as and when appropriate.
It is worth pointing out a couple of things first…
- If you haven’t used hand bottles before, start small and work your way up to larger bottles. If you don’t, your arms will be aching with the new stimulus placed upon it.
- Run with two bottles, one in each hand. Why? well I personally feel that you are better with say, two 10oz bottles, one in each hand instead of one 20oz bottle in one hand. A 20 oz bottle can weigh quite a lot, this over the period of a run can possibly change your running gait as you compensate for the additional weight on one side of your body. Distribute the weight to your left and right hands and when drinking, alternate sides allowing the weight to balance out.
- Make sure the bottle fits comfortably in your hand and that you don’t have to over stretch to hold the bottle. This is particularly important for female runners as hands are usually smaller.
- Choose the right bottles for the required distance. If your running an ultra with regular feed stations, you may be able to get away with two smaller bottles. However, if feed stations are farther apart or if conditions are hot, you may need larger bottles – keep in mind point 1 though!
UltrAspire make a whole series of handheld bottles – 8oz, 16oz and 20oz
The bottle under test is the ‘top’ of the UltrAspire handheld range called Isomeric Pocket
All the bottles in the UltrAspire range are at first glance unusual in shape and have an angled mouth piece. The Isomeric Pocket fits snuggly within a tight fitting sleeve that allows the hand to slide in providing a firm grip (this grip can be adjusted with a tightening strap) On the opposite side of the hand strap is a pocket. This ‘expandable’ mesh pocket is good for holding gels or personal accessories such as a mobile phone.
The bottle is a 20oz and the largest bottle in the range. I consider myself to have a medium sized hand and this bottle is at the widest extent of what I personally would consider comfortable. Certainly from a female perspective, I would have thought this bottle may very well be too large. Without any contents the bottle weighs 135 grams. When full with liquid it weighs 725 grams. If you add 2 gels (SIS Go Gels for the test) this takes the weight up to 864 grams. That is quite a lot of weight to hold in your hand, so, definitely don’t use these bottles if you have never used handhelds before. As I stated above, if you hold this bottle just in one hand it may well knock you off your normal run style over time as you compensate. You have three choices to correct this issue. Use two bottles, either 2 x 8oz, 2 x 16oz or 2 x 20oz.
The strap is soft, comfortable, flexible, secure and has the added feature of a ‘soft back’ allowing you the option to wipe your brow with the back of your hand; a nice touch.
The nozzle has a twist lock to stop any unwanted spilling. This works really well. Of course, if you are using two bottles you are probably asking yourself the question, how do I open the valve if I have a bottle in my other hand. Simple, you put the nozzle between your teeth and simply twist.
The angled neck is designed to help deliver fluid without the excessive need to tilt your head back more than required. This may sound a little over engineered but in use it worked well.
The bottles are squeezable and are made of low-density polyethylene. It is a BPA-free material so you don’t have to worry about chemicals leaching into your fluid. Reassuring. I found the bottles to have no after taste which is a real positive.
The 20oz bottle is a large bottle. If you have a decent sized hand are used to running with a handheld you will find the Isomeric Pocket a great bottle. The addition of the pocket is a real bonus for when wanting to travel light and maybe negates the need for a pack or waist pack if you only need to carry fluid and gels.
However, if you are using handheld bottles in conjunction with a pack such as the Spry then I would use the UltrAspire bottle without the pocket called Isometric Race, this is still a 20oz bottle but with reduced weight and a little less fuss. If you have small hands, you would need to look at the 16oz or maybe even the 8oz bottle options.
- Large bottle for longer races
- Very comfortable to hold
- BPA free
- Squeezable bottle
- Twist lock valve
- Angled top
- Pocket for gels, phone or other items
- Potentially too large for many hands
- A 20oz bottle full can be quite heavy for the novice
- If you add gels or other items this increases the weight
Hand ottles are a great way to run allowing your body to have some additional freedom. I personally feel that I am always much more ‘on top’ of my hydration when using handhelds as they encourage drinking. If you get the right size bottle, you can customise your needs and requirements with either a small waist pack or small race vest/ back pack for other essentials. Refilling bottles is a considerably quicker experience at feed stations than removing a rucksack, removing a bladder and then putting it all back together again. Ultimately it comes down to preference. If you haven’t tried handhelds before, give it a go, you may very well be surprised.
available from ultramarathonrunning.com