This summer there were a few trail races on my schedule. They were slightly longer races that would require me to carry some stuff in order to be self-sufficient and ready for whatever the trail threw at me. So I bought a hydration pack.

I love the concept of a hydration pack. A backpack with a large bladder that will allow one to carry water and other critical necessities along the trail with them. The running-specific models are loaded with features like convenient drinking hoses, pockets, and gear straps. They’re even designed with enough adjustability to let a person fine tune the fit and prevent the pack from bouncing all over the place while running.

Great stuff. A few problems, though….

These things are expensive! They seem to be priced the same as high-fashion, designer-label bikinis: a whole lot of cash for not a lot of fabric. The one that I settled on buying (hydration pack, not bikini) set me back right around eighty dollars – and that was on the discount rack at the outdoor store.

To add insult to the injury on your pocketbook, these packs appear to be sized to fit Lilliputians. At just under 6’ and 220 lbs, I am a “member-in-good-standing” of the Big Boys Running club. I found an XL-sized pack, which should accommodate my girth. In reality, donning this pack is the functional equivalent of dressing a walrus in a wetsuit. By the time I’ve managed to shoehorn myself into my pack, I’m sweating like a pig. Putting my pack on has replaced a light jog as my pre-run warmup.

The ultimate insult, the question that comes to me with each use of the pack is: “Where the hell am I going to put my snacks?” While it is true that trail races have aid stations to provide water and fuel, they are usually spaced between five and ten miles apart along the trail. Big Boys are quite aware that five miles is too far to trudge, waddle, or crawl without nutritional sustenance. We burn some serious calories just trying to keep our bulk on the move. Between those aid station buffets, we need snacks. For a trail race, my typical load-out looks like: five stroopwaffles stuffed into the pocket on the right strap, seven pouches of energy gummies jammed into the left pocket, and Tailwind packets tucked under every other fold of fabric and mesh panel. In the few months that I’ve been using this pack, I have yet to find space for the Oatmeal Creme Pies, Snickers bars, and burritos that I should carry to truly fill my race-snacking needs.

So let’s recap:

Expensive. Tiny. Inadequate. Makes my fat ass look silly.

Also, totally indispensable.

I thought that the running part of trail running would be the toughest part. Turns out it’s dealing with the gear that’s gonna kill me….