Two weeks back we had a bit of a discussion on hydration packs, largely thanks to dancing.with.rocks (again, thanks Ben). Since I'm not running a whole lot right now and have little to report otherwise, it's as good a time as any to look at water bottles (and bottle belts).
I've personally used two belts and a single bottle over the past few years. My purchasing philosophy has been simple up to this point: I buy whatever is on sale at REI. This being the case, I've ended up with Nathan products exclusively (not purposefully, but because that's what's been on sale). Below are my thoughts on the hydration solutions I've tried, followed by d.w.r.'s graciously-provided input.
Nathan Elite 1 Plus:
This belt's got a 22 oz. hydration bottle plus a 5 oz. little bottle for gels and the like. The belt itself sits well, with a strap wide enough to nicely distribute most of the belt's weight. I've got a big backside; this belt rests nicely on my ass shelf. Doesn't bounce much, easily adjustable straps with velcro containment to keep the loose ends from flying around. I take this belt with me on any run longer than 2 hours. Bottle caps leak, which is a problem. Otherwise, this belt pack is perfect for runs up to 20 miles.
Nathan Trail Mix:
This belt has two 10 oz. bottles and a pouch in the back. The version I have is about 4 years old and has been improved upon -- the mesh outer pocket of my belt was cut through almost immediately by an iPod. The bottles are a decent size, but this pack doesn't have a large storage capacity. Used in conjunction with a hand bottle, this pack would be excellent for holding large amounts of gel. Bottle caps leak, which is very disappointing.
Nathan Quickdraw Elite:
I've been using this hand-bottle for a while, and I like it well enough. Feel like I don't really like the hand-bottles all that much because of my dainty arms. The curvature of the bottle is pretty good, and the ventilated strap is a nice touch. Still, the surface of the bottle that's in contact with my hand will get very sweaty and the bottle slides around in my hand, which I don't care much for. This bottle cap leaks from time to time, which is really annoying. I take this with me on hot days when I'm running anything between 5 and 10 miles.
I haven't tried any insulated bottle holders or anything more involved than this mid-level bottle. Luckily, d.w.r has experience with such things:
Love the insulated bottle holder (aka Nathan Thermal Quickdraw). The insulted sleeve is good both on hot days and cold days with the only draw back is that it tends to get nasty with your hand sweat over time. The standard bottles that come with the holder are lackluster. The valve leaking is the biggest issue. On the warmer days, I also prefer a slightly larger bottle. The built in pocket is good for 3-4 gels and also can carry your keys (with an handy clip to keep them from falling out).
Awesome bottles. The 'Kicker valve' works great, doesn't leak and the finger loop on the lid is extremely useful in action. There are many times during a long race or run where you may need both hands free but you don't want to set your bottle down, the finger loop let's you do just that.
The sleeves are nothing special. They recently came out with an insulated sleeve but I haven't tried it yet since they don't carry it at the REI near me.
Comfortable shaped bottles in the hand but fragile. I've had more than a few bust open on the mildest of falls. Not compatible with other brand sleeves.
My handheld solution is Nathan Thermal Quickdraw sleeves with Ultimate Direction 26oz bottles with Kicker Valve.
That does it for the two of us: what do y'all use? Do you prefer handhelds, belts, hydration packs?