What in the world? A handheld hydration shootout from the guy who hates handhelds?
Perhaps “hate” is too strong a word. I go over why I dislike using handhelds here, but the short version is that they are an annoyance that I don’t need on longer runs. Or at least I thought they were.
The two handhelds I’m comparing here are the Camelback Arc Quickgrip and the Fuelbelt Sprint 10. They both hold 10 ounces, include pockets for carrying small items, and utilize a unique shaped bottle in the hopes that it fits the hand better than a more traditional “bike” bottle shape.
Let’s start with the Fuel Belt. You can pick one up on Amazon for right around $15. Although the bottle is a fairly unique “flat/curved” shape, the bottle’s top is a standard pull-out nipple style. The holder for the bottle is made of elastic and nylon and includes one larger zippered pocket and a tiny velcro pocket in the hand-grip.
The construction of the holder is OK. Unimpressive, but it gets the job done, generally. However, the portion of the holder that is supposed to grip the bottle’s bottom… doesn’t. At least not very well. With a bottle full of liquid, that portion of the holder slips and slides, making for comfort issues.The edge of the portion that comes across the back of the hand has a sharp point, which can (and has) caused some fairly serious chaffing.
The bottle itself has useful markings on the side which show how many ounces are in it, which can help as you run to figure out how low you actually are, and can also help if you’re mixing in different liquids before a run. The cap, unfortunately, leaks. It isn’t a bad leak, but it is recommended that the bottle be upright if you’re headed somewhere in your car. This is a stone cold bummer.
Overall, I am less than pleased with this bottle. It is uncomfortable, leaks, and the storage is an “all or nothing” affair. The velcro pocket is, in my opinion, unusable. You might be able to stuff a tiny key in there. Maybe. Not that you’d want that up against your knuckles.
Moving on, let’s take a look at the Camelback Arc Quickgrip. Amazon has it for around $18. It also holds 10 ounces, has a flat/curved bottle and has a couple pockets to hold stuff. However, that’s about where the similarities end. The bottle/holder combo seemed, right out of the package, really well built. The pockets are positioned well and include an “open” pocket for things like gels, as well as a large zippered pocket (which I used for my house key). The holder is very soft and comfortable, and (unlike the fuel belt version) absolutely locks onto the bottle. Like, ridiculously. While a tiny bit annoying when time comes to wash the bottle, I definitely appreciated the stability.
The bottle shape is similar to the Fuelbelt’s, but also includes small “wings” which I found to help with stability in the hand. The bottle includes both ounce and milliliter markings on it, which while overkill are definitely cool to have.
The bottle top is where the Camelback kicks the competition to the curb. It eschews the standard grip and pull style of nipple for a clever twisting version which not only helps to prevent leaks, but allows you to tailor how much water you get with each swig. At first it was a little weird to get used to, but I quickly adapted. The one drawback is that a very small amount of water ends up not being to come out of the bottle, due to the nipple’s design. Worth it.
So, which wins? It should be pretty obvious that the Camelbak blows the Fuelbelt out of the water, climbs out after it and kicks it a couple times. There may be a chair involved, I’ll let the ref handle that.
Does the Camelbak Arc make me change my mind about handhelds? Well, actually it does. I’ve actually found myself reaching for the handheld on runs 10k and lower, consistently. It is interesting how a solid product can change your mind about something. On longer runs I’ll still grab my hydration vest and fill’er up, but the handheld provides a nice level of freedom. Downsides? It is still a bit annoying not to have that hand available, say for putting my phone back in the arm band. And I do find myself adjusting the strap a lot. That said the adjustment mechanism is done so well, sometimes I just play with it to get it “just right”. Tough to call that too bad.
Camelback Arc Quickgrip
Score: 9/10 RAWRS (Comfortable, changed my mind about this style of hydration product)
High: Great nipple design, comfortable, easy to adjust
Low: “Open” pocket can interfere with items in closed pocket, removing bottle from holder is slightly annoying
Fuelbelt Sprint Handheld
Score: 1/10 RAWRS (Basically made me hate handhelds)
High: Erm… it doesn’t explode? Holds water when upright? I’m reaching here…
Low: Uncomfortable in the hand, holder slips on bottle, leaks