Nathan 4490 Elite 1 Plus Hydration/Gel Waistpack

Nathan Elite Plus 1 hydration pack

Nathan Elite Plus 1 hydration pack

As soon as I started running for longer than 45 minutes I knew I needed to drink whilst on the move, so I had to get me some sorta drinks holder thangy. I don’t like having to hold anything in my hands whilst running, so those grasp bottles were right out of the question. I plumped for the Nathan Elite plus 1 waist bag (Ok, so it’s actually a bottle-holding BUM BAG!) after mistakenly having clicked on  ‘purchase’ late one night whilst internet ‘window shopping’.

The pack is well made and well thought-out and even has a clip for a house key in the zippered pocket, which is just large enough to take a mobile phone. The belt is a little too narrow to be comfortable and also too long for my waist, which means I can have excess belt flapping about when I run.

The first thing I learnt about the pack is that it has to be worn around the waist, and not on the hips because it rides up. To stop it bouncing about too much, I have to wear it fairly tight, which can be a little uncomfortable if my tummy’s feeling sensitive. Grabbing the bottle whilst running is quite awkward, but still do-able. Grabbing the gel bottle is easier. I find I have to use two hands to replace them though, just to satisfy myself that they’ve gone in snugly. Both bottles fit well.

It does the job. If you find yourself in the market for a hydration pack then I’m sure you could do a lot worse than this. I don’t use the gel bottle for gel (I’m too tight to buy it) I just put 1 part squeezy honey to two parts water and a pinch of salt. Honey is almost 100% carbohydrate and the sugars give you and instant energy hit. Does the trick.

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Gelert Xtreme Lite 3/4 (self-inflating camp mat)

Height: 120 cmSelf-inflating Camping Mat
Width: 50 cm
Thickness: 4 cm
Weight: 520 g
£18 -20 (2009)

When I was preparing for my first camping cycle-tour, I took with me a foam roll-out sleeping mat, the sort you can pick up for £3 at Millets. OK it was bulky, but it weighed next to nothing and I had spent countless perfectly adequately comfortable nights camping in these mats, having used them since I was 10. However, I hadn’t properly comprehended 2 things:

1) You get really tired cycling 60+ miles a day and good sleep is essential for you to physically repair and psychologically refresh yourself. Do not underestimate the importance of sleep when you are pushing your body harder than usual.

2) The ground is strangely harder than then you were a teenager. No, really – it is.

After two really uncomfortable nights, I binned my old mat and bought the Gelert self- inflating mat from a shop in Aviemore. I am so glad I did, because it made the rest of my nights not just bearable but actually comfortable!
I bought the 3/4 length mat as I was trying to travel lightweight. I found that this was fine (it’s heavier than a foam mat, but smaller and the trade-off for comfort is very worth it). I used spare clothes to place under my lower legs to insulate them at night. I didn’t buy a Thermorest because they are disgracefully priced at over £60.
The mat packs away to 25 x 15 cm which is obviously much easier to carry than the rolled up foam mats. It came with a repair kit, 2 elastic straps and a wee nylon bag to put it in. The quality looks OK, but I haven’t used it enough to be able to say how durable it is. The twist valve never came loose and it is so easy to adjust the amount of air in the mat.

The down-side is it probably won’t last as long as a more top-of-the range mat and that it is also a little ‘slidey’ on the ground sheet of a tent compared to a foam mat. You also have to be more careful with it as using it on bare ground you could quite easily puncture the material.

But there is no way I’m going back to foam mats after having slept on this!