Note: Photo above is of a modified version of the 2006 pack.
There are three basic choices for running hydration: hand bottles, a waist pack, or a back pack. There are also various combinations of these basic themes. If you do much off-road running, chances are good you have at least one version from each category.
I’ve used 20 oz. hand bottles, single and double 20 oz. bottle waist packs, a 50 oz. reservoir waist pack, a 60 oz. reservoir hybrid waist/back pack, and a 70-100 oz. reservoir back pack. Until recently I had not tried any of the waist packs with a horizontally oriented bottle.
Why not? My concern was probably the same that most trail runners would have – would the bottle tend to slip out of the holster while running? Having the bottle fall out on a dirt road might be inconvenient, but on steep-sided trail the bottle might not be retrievable. When I saw the Solitaire on sale I decided to give it a test and see how it worked for me.
Putting aside the question of the bottle slipping for the moment, there are many things I like about this pack. Nestled in the small of your back, the Horizontal Holster System (HHS) carries the weight of the water bottle much better than a diagonally or vertically oriented bottle. There is far less bouncing of the bottle, and sloshing of it’s contents. In addition, the waist belt does not need to be as tight, and the pack has no tendency to rotate.
For me, the extra capacity of the 26 oz. bottle makes a big difference. I can think of several 50Ks in which the bigger bottle would have been very welcome. In the HHS configuration, a full 26 oz. is more comfortable when running than a full 20 oz. vertically oriented bottle.
There’s enough room in zippered top compartment for an ultralight rain shell, a compact digital camera and a bit more. By itself, a 16 oz. convenience store water bottle will also fit in there. The pack can also be extended using add-on belt pockets, and other accessories.
So what about the bottle slipping? Before being modified, the bottle would work its way several inches out of the holster. The rougher the run, and the more downhill, the more the bottle slipped. Although the bottle never actually fell out of the holster, it required frequent attention.
The bottle “almost” stays in place, so the amount of force required to keep it in the holster isn’t much. My solution was to attach a small diameter elastic cord across both ends of the holster. It doesn’t need to be tensioned and can be easily manipulated when removing or replacing the bottle. I ran with the Solitaire in the Mt. Disappointment 50K, and with this modification, it worked great for me.