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April 17, 2010

Hydrapak Gel-Bot Review

Hydrapak is a relatively small operation compared to the heavyweights in the hydration pack business, but they’ve made some impressive strides towards winning over endurance athletes by making high-performance systems for a wide range of outdoor activities.

They’re also the creators of the Gel-Bot, an innovative bottle that allows you to consume energy gels from the same container as your fluids, without the contents of either compartment getting mixed together. And while the name sounds like something more suited for a Transformers movie, the device itself is a pretty clever combination of design and functionality.

The Gel-Bot integrates a 3.2-oz gel canister (enough for 2 energy gel packets) into the body of either a 20oz or 24oz BPA-free fluid container. A piston below the gel canister creates pressure in the chamber to help push the gel out when called upon. The prep process is quite easy - but just to be sure, Hydrapak has also created a video to show you how to load the gel, which I’ve embedded below this review.

Both nutrients come out of the top spout: if it’s pulled up, the fluid compartment is open, and if it’s in the down position, gel can be squeezed or sucked out of the center nozzle. The biggest advantage of this setup is one-handed access to gels or fluids at anytime, which is perfect for cyclists. (Knowing this, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that Hydrapak’s roots and primary focus are in the mountain bike community – but they're beginning to diversify a bit, adding some ultrarunners and adventure racers to their roster of sponsored athletes.)

My preference for long runs is to carry unopened gel packs in a pocket of my waist pack – but that’s because I have the luxury of slowing to a walk while opening the things and tucking the wrappers away once I’ve finished. Cruising along on a mountain bike, that’s not really an option – so if you can suck down a couple of gels in the same fashion that you normally take fluids, that’s a major convenience to enjoy, not to mention a sweet competitive advantage.

Since it’s basically two separate nozzles combined into one, the spout has a slightly wider diameter than standard water bottles, but not so much as to be awkward. The gel container and screwtop cap are also compatible with any standard water bottle, so you can use them even if the original fluid container gets trashed. All components of the Gel-Bot are dishwasher safe - which is a good thing, because it’s fairly tricky to wash dried-up gel out of the nozzle by hand.

While this won’t take the place of my “every day, all the time” bottles that I carry in a waist pack - along with gel packs in a side pocket - for runs of 1-2 hours, it might be a good option for trail runners who don’t want to deal with getting their fingers sticky from handling gel packs mid-run. It’s also a great solution for mountain bikers or road cyclists who want a convenient way to take energy gels without sacrificing speed or aero position.

The 24oz Gel-Bot retails for $15 (24oz) from the Hydrapak website, and $13 from Amazon.com.

"Gel-Bot" by Hydrapak (click to play):

*Product provided by Hydrapak
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at info@runningandrambling.com.


don 4/17/10, 11:30 PM  

Ok, that is a very clever product. I could totally use that while cycling in an Ironman race. Thanks for that!

skinnyrunner.com 4/18/10, 6:33 AM  

kinda cool idea. i met a speedy runner at the LA Marathon who mixed 5 gels into a small bottle of water and then sipped that throughout the race. this bottle looks a little more upgraded

Al Nye 4/19/10, 5:57 AM  

What is the every day all the time waist pack that you use?


Richard 4/19/10, 6:42 AM  

Good idea. Another advantage for running is that there are no empty gel pack to carry which means that it will not dirty your pocket or bag.

Donald 4/19/10, 9:51 AM  

Al - I was actually referring to the standard 20-oz bike bottles I use instead of something more fancy like the Gel-Bot, but since you asked ... I use the Ultimate Direction Uno for just about any run of 1-3 hours. It holds a standard 20 or 24-oz bottle. More than three hours, and I use a hydration pack.

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