Posted by: Joe Nuss on Feb 22, 2011
Nathan Swift 8 Oz Hydration Belt: $29.99
By Cid Cardoso, Jr.
I never liked running with a water bottle carrying belt. I found that the localized weight of a 24-ounce water bottle bounced around too much on my back and even caused the belt to shift around my waist to an awkward side position. If I further tightened the belt to reduce the bouncing and moving, the result was a tremendous amount of pressure on my stomach. As an alternative, I then tried the backpack style of water carriers, popularized by Camelback. Although I appreciated the incredible amounts of liquid that they could carry, again I had trouble with the weight shifting around my back. Perhaps these issues were related to my wobbling running style but I felt that I constantly had to readjust the shoulder straps while never finding a comfortable setting for more than ten minutes. Then came the “Fuel Belt” type of belts… or wide elastic belts that carried 2 to 6, 8-ounce bottles. These were the answer that I was looking for. They worked perfectly for, or despite, my running style. The evenly spaced smaller bottles seemed more balanced to me and the elastic belt held them in place without undue pressure. Now I did not have to compromise any longer between prompt hydration and comfort.
At the same time that Fuel Belt revolutionized hydration belts; NathanSports was making a wide variety of waist packs, vests and water bottle carriers. They soon embraced the concept of belts carrying smaller bottles and started doing their own research on ways to make them more comfortable and offer additional features. One of the resulting products is the Swift 8 Oz Belt, in their Race/Speed Series. As the category implies, this is a functional yet lightweight belt, designed to be used in races and for those who don’t need to carry an extreme amount of liquid. The stretch limited elastic waist belt is adjustable, so one size fits all (which is good for retailers). It includes a single, angled holster that holds one 8-ounce flask and a gusseted mesh pocket big enough to carry several gel packs or a couple of energy bars. It also includes two movable clips that can hold a race number of pretty much any size. And finally, like many of the new NathanSports belts and hydration packs, it contains an out-of-the way sliding waterproof and medical emergency ID card.
The Swift Belt is exactly what is advertised to be… a streamlined, minimalist belt with some neat little features. There is no bulk to it and at 4.8 ounces it is light and comfortable. I personally like the fully adjustable nature of the belt as with some of the older, Velcro in the front styles, I encountered situations where one size was a little too tight and the next one was a little too big, even with the elastic belt. The Swift Belt still has some elasticity but the one size fits all nature allows the user to fine tune the overall belt size.
One of the most important innovations on this product is part of what Nathan calls Intuitive Access: the molded plastic holsters that allow the user to remove and replace the flask quickly and one handed. This is one of those features that you don’t notice until you’ve tried it, and then it’s practically impossible to live without it. I had run several times with belts that used the conventional elastic “pockets” for the flasks, which worked fine but required the use of two hands, especially when putting the flask back in its place. After using a belt that allowed one hand removal and replacement, I found myself extremely annoyed at having to use two hands and twist my body around mid-stride. For the Swift Belt, Nathan also turned the holster at a slight angle to facilitate this process even further. The flask itself is easy to squeeze, made out of a low density polyethylene and is BPA-free and dishwasher safe.
I found the mesh pocket to be of a good size. For a racing belt, 4 gel packs and a handful of salt tablets is the most that I will need to carry at one time so it was roomy without being too bulky. Note though, that for those who will be doing self supported 100 mile runs, the Swift Belt is not the right product. One 8 ounce flask and a small mesh pocket is basically enough to get the athlete from one aid station to the next, or to get from one water fountain to the next spigot on a long run. On a hot summer day 8 ounces are gone pretty quickly. I would say that for most people, a belt with at least two bottles will be a more versatile hydration product option. In addition to the extra amount of liquid, a second flask allows the user to carry something else in addition to water, be it a fluid replacement drink or a gel/liquid mixture for more calories.
The number clips also work well. The clips are small enough not to interfere in case you do not use them, but at the same time offer a convenient option for those who will be racing with the belt. Furthermore, the well-made clips look like miniature clothes line clamps that can easily hold a race number, unlike the snap on fasteners found in conventional number belts that are hard to snap and often result in a loss cap. The id/medical card is also a nice touch, for those of us who have not yet purchased a road id bracelet and normally leave home for long run through the park with no id. Finally, at $29.99 it is priced on the lower end of most hydration carrying belts or packs these days.
It is proven that proper hydration while exercising will keep performance from deteriorating. On workouts of long duration and or in hot weather, hydration becomes even more paramount. NathanSports Swift 8 Oz Belt is one of the best options for those looking for a hydration carrier that is functional enough to carry the basic needs and deliver them in a convenient way, yet light and simple enough to be used for racing or to get to the next stop.
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