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May 24, 2010

Nathan QuickDraw Elite Review

Before today’s review, let’s take care of some business … fgump and msimpson, email your address to me at info@runningandrambling.com – you’ve won the GU sampler pack! To everyone who didn’t win … better luck next time, I guess. I’ll try to keep these sorts of giveaways going periodically.

Today’s post actually ties into the story I told as part of the GU giveaway, in that my nutritional strategy for ultras this year has changed compared to 2009. Last year, I felt like hydration packs were a necessity for me; I didn’t want to face long, hot stretches of trail without a lot of fluid on board at all times, as well as adequate cargo space for any layers or random accessories I might want along for the ride. The timing also worked out rather nicely in that I happened to receive a lot of packs to review last spring, so I figured it was just a matter of finding my favorite one, and I’d be ready for anything on the trail.

For the most part, the approach worked fairly well, with a few exceptions that I noticed in races:

1) Hydration packs add a bit of extra weight (over a pound, in some cases) that takes some accommodation to wear comfortably.

2) No matter what kind of fluid reservoir you have, the amount of time required to remove your pack, hand it to an aid station volunteer, explain how the opening works, pack everything back up while double-checking to make sure there’s no leaks, and get on your way is significantly more than with standard water bottles. And …

3) You often end up carrying more fluid weight than you need between each aid station.

Item #3 I experienced quite vividly during Western States last year, when I couldn’t stomach any fluid whatsoever, but kept a half-filled pack on throughout the night so I could keep attempting sips whenever I got brave enough to try again. There’s a good chance I carried the same 40 ounces of fluid more than 30 miles that evening. As if I needed to make the race any more challenging.

So this year, I wanted to travel lighter, a philosophy that tied in rather well with the whole minimalist thing I’ve been doing. Less shoe, less gear, less weight, less complication … and hopefully, more enjoyment. At Quicksilver last month, I also knew that my moccasin-wearing stunt would handicap me somewhat from a time standpoint, as I wouldn’t be able to fly down the descents like I do with standard shoes. So part of my “less is more” strategy was to spend less time at the aid stations than I did the year before, to make up for the time I was giving away on the course.

Enter Wilderness Running Company. I told Stacy (the owner) about my plans, and he set me up with two key pieces of equipment: the Nathan QuickDraw Elite handheld, and an Ultimate Direction waist pack that I’ll review later this week. These two items together provided all the fluid and cargo capacity I needed, and helped me move lighter and quicker through the 50 miles.

Nathan QuickDraw Elite

The QuickDraw Elite looks pretty basic, although it’s officially an upgrade to the QuickDraw Plus, which is Nathan’s bare-basics hand-held model. The Elite costs $8 more ($25 compared to $17), but the advantages in comfort and performance are well worth the extra dollars.

(Plus, as with all items from WRC, you can save 10% by entering coupon code R&R10 at checkout. And you get free shipping on orders over $50. Every dollar counts, right?)

Nathan’s primary intent with the QuickDraw Elite was to eliminate the need to actually “hold” the bottle in your hand, which is accomplished with a technical hand strap that keeps the bottle secured to your palm even with your fingers relaxed or extended. Security of the strap is adjustable with a Velcro attachment on the bottom, and the fabric is a ventilated, moisture-wicking Wall Mesh material that feels comfortable even with multiple hours of use.

On the “body” side of the pack is a zippered pocket with key clasp, as well as a mesh trash pocket to stash your gel wrappers between aid stations. The zipper pocket is an ideal size for gels, or in my case, my “pharm bag” of Tylenol and electrolyte pills that I was reaching for once per hour. Between the pocket and the hand strap is an elastic collar that holds your bottle securely; the Elite comes with one of Nathan’s patented BPA-free 22-oz bottles, but it can be used with any standard-width 20 to 24-oz cycling bottle.

The whole pack weighs just 6.4 oz, and the convenience of having a bottle at hand during a race is impossible to beat. Access to fluids on the run is easy, and refills at aid stations are a breeze. Running with a hand-held takes a bit of getting used to – and I did have a mild knot in my left shoulder the day after the race - but the learning curve is pretty steep, and the performance benefit of having the Elite was definitely worth making the adjustment.

As I mentioned, the Elite was only one half of the fluid equation; the second part (my waist pack) will be discussed later this week. In the meantime, the QuickDraw Elite is available at Wilderness Running Company, with a 10% discount for using coupon code R&R10.

*Product provided by Wilderness Running Company.
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at


Barefoot AngieB 5/24/10, 9:04 PM  

I love my Elite handheld! My phone fits in the mesh pocket perfectly and I can put some GUs in the zipper pocket.
Looking forward to the waist pack review!

Ray,  5/25/10, 6:18 AM  

I have used the Quickdraw Elite for almost a year, and love the hand strap. I think it's the best there is. The problem I run into with all Nathan bottles though, is since I started using Nuun, I find the tops leak to a point where they are useless. I switched to standard cycling bottles though, and this solved the problem! It seems the Trek bottles fit the best of the few I've tried, as the bottom of the bottles are slightly tapered. The Specialized ones, on the other hand, take some patience to fit, and actually came off a couple times in the 50K I ran over the weekend.

UrbanSage 5/25/10, 7:58 AM  

Nice review, I just purchased the Elite a few weeks ago as I wanted a bottle for my first marathon while not wanting to bring belt or backpack along.

I agree it is a very nice hand held solution. I'm curious though, did you really mean "the learning curve is pretty steep"?

NJ 5/25/10, 8:47 AM  

I've been using a Nathan bottle for a while now and love it. I have the QuickDraw Plus because I felt that it fit my hand better. Something about it is a bit more snug...but then I have a feeling that my hands are a bit smaller than yours (me being a female and all). I love Nathan products...feel they are superior to much that's out there and I've tried a few!

Donald 5/25/10, 8:50 AM  

Hi All ...

Ray: In my experience, the leaking is an issue with Nuun tabs in whatever bottle I use. In fact, that's the primary reason I don't use them anymore: as soon as there was any sort of asymmetry in the bottle's nozzle, the Nuun tabs would leak out. Too bad, because I really like their taste. Good point about the Trek and specialized bottles as well.

Sage: Steep learning curve = rapid adaptation, no? Do I have this mixed up? Whichever way means "easy to learn" is what I meant.

Andy 5/25/10, 9:54 AM  

Of course, carrying your water in your hand is going to be less efficient than running with your water stored near your CoG. It would be interesting to see a cost/benefit of hydration packs and handhelds in terms of weight vs. performance vs. utility (in terms of water/storage space). There was some research done on exactly HOW much more efficient weight carried on your back is compared to on the hand, but I'm having a tough time tracking it down.

UrbanSage 5/25/10, 11:35 AM  

I guess it all depends. I always thought it meant something requires effort to learn.

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_curve

"This difference in emphasis has led to confusion and disagreements even among learned people."

Stacy,  5/25/10, 11:42 AM  

The research you were thinking of may have been this study involving Duncan Callahan. But it seems to me that the different combinations of runner, terrain, and duration are so variable it would be pretty hard to say conclusively which alternative is best or most efficient across the board.

Michael Shane Helton 5/25/10, 8:47 PM  

I carry a hydration pack for solo runs, but have been experimenting with 2 10oz Nathan sprints (from Wilderness Running Co).

20oz is good for the distance of most aid stations and I feel more balanced with 10oz in each hand vs 20oz in one hand.

However, for the heat of the summer when 2X 20oz are needed I will definitely look at the elite.

Chris 5/26/10, 5:49 PM  

I have a Nathan Elite and so far prefer a hydration pack to the bottle because of the sloshing of a partially full bottle - does that not bother the rest of you?

Thinking of going to a waste pack as the middle-ground. Looking forward to that review.

Barefoot Tyler 6/23/10, 6:21 PM  

I dig the whole minimalist thing. I like the ideas of movnat as well. I end up drinking two liters of water during my ten milers, so I don't know how I would do with less water.

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