In the city, it's not difficult to find water along my running routes. I'm fortunate to have access to abundant public water fountains and runner-friendly Dunkin Donuts or Whole Foods stores.
During marathon training this summer, I began logging lots of miles on unfamiliar, much more rural trails and roads. I was already fairly accustomed to carrying this handheld water bottle, but found myself quickly drinking through 18 ounces in the summer heat. Between fuel, extra layers for unpredictable weather, keys, phone, and money, I also found myself carrying a lot more stuff as my runs grew in length. I've previously tried and disliked the feeling of running with a water belt, so I decided it was time to buy a running pack.
I did not do research about running hydration packs ahead of time. I walked into REI, pulled all of the small hydration packs they had in stock off the racks, and ran around the store wearing each one. I tried on and really liked a few different brands. The CamelBak Mini M.U.L.E. wasn't even among my first round of test packs...because it was in the kids section. That's right, this is a pack designed for a child to wear while riding his or her bicycle. I had narrowed my choices down to two packs when I caught a glimpse of the Mini M.U.L.E. and decided to give it a try. I didn't love the bright pink color, but the $50 price tag was less than half of any other pack I had looked at. A 1.5 liter reservoir seemed like a good match for marathon training long run range, the pack had some extras like gear and cell phone pockets, and the fit was surprisingly comfortable. Sold.
Total Capacity: 91 cubic inches (1.5 Liters) + 1.5 Liter reservoir
Hydration Capacity: 1.5 Liter reservoir (included
Pack-Only Weight: 8.5 oz (.24 kg)
Torso Length: 12 inches (30 cm)
Harness: "kids fit lightweight mesh with slider sternum strap"
Fabric: "70D Diamond clarus/ 210D Nylon"
I'm a 5'5", 125 lb woman, and this pack fits snugly and comfortably. It sits high between my shoulder blades and has adjustable shoulder straps and a sternum strap that slides up or down. I've taken it on dozens of runs now, and I've never needed to make adjustments or fuss with it while running. I do sometimes hear the water sloshing in its reservoir while I'm running, but this hasn't affected the way the pack feels. I even tried it out on some faster paced tempo runs without a problem.
The pack has two zippered pockets: one on the front of the backpack for keys, snacks, etc; and one at the top of the backpack which fits my iPhone vertically and is a good place for stashing cash. There's also an open cargo slip pocket in the middle of the pack with adjustable straps. This pocket works well for carrying a light shirt, pair of gloves, or sunscreen.
The 1.5 liter reservoir is your typical Camelbak with a hose and bite valve. The bite valve can be shut off with a locking valve to prevent leaking during travel. When running, I do tend to leave this valve unlocked for easy access to drink, and I do occasionally notice the bite valve leaking just a little. The pack has a separate pocket for the hydration pack.
In addition to using on runs from 8-20 miles, I've taken this pack on day hikes. I was able to cram in my lunch and snacks, a couple layers, map, cell phone and keys without a problem. It is not the coolest looking pack, so I wouldn't necessarily wear it out on the town.
As autumn wanes and the local water fountains are shut off, I'll be happy to comfortably carry my own water and have a place to keep all my snotty tissues. For a smaller woman, the Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E. is a great alternative to the more expensive hydration packs.