Monday, March 5, 2012
Ultimate Direction Katoa II: A review
I was doing some Spring cleaning in our garage a few days ago, and I finally made it into our storage/utility room that serves as my "Man Cave" of sorts. No, I don't have a theater system or surround sound, it's actually just a storage room where I can stash all of my running gear without fear of my wife reminding me of how badly it stinks. With a wife and three boys, I don't get much storage space around the house, so this is a shrine for me.
While cleaning my "shrine", I came across a medium-sized box that contained many (and I mean MANY) different handhelds, waistpack carriers, fuel belts, one bottle systems, two bottle systems and even a hydration bladder setup that I recently won from Nathan Performance Labs. I don't think there is a single hydration option on the market that I don't already have at least two of. With the exception of the Nathan bladder system, I've used all of these bottle systems many times over, and I've come to know each of their strengths as well as limitations. The setup I choose on race morning greatly depends upon which options fits best for the race I'm participating in. It's all about dealing with the race-day variables for hydration.
At least, that was the case until the Katoa II. From my perspective, this particular pack from Ultimate Direction, has changed the way I think about hydration packs. The long and short of it is that the Katoa II may be the perfect waist pack. In fact, I'll go even further and say that I can't think of a single thing in which UD could improve upon. Seriously, it's THAT good.
Having used several single bottle waist packs in previous races over the last 7 years, my complaints are the same as many other runners:
* too bulky
* fit is not secure
* not enough storage pouches
* "slosh" around during running
UD has addressed each of these former problems with the Katoa II. Because it's a 2-bottle system, it doesn't feel bulky at all. The bottles serve to counter-balance one another, and the result is a more minimal feel in terms of weight and where it sits on your hips. The Katoa also has a thick waist strap and buckle that do not slip during the run. In this design, that snug fit helps you focus on your running and not on how much your waist pack keeps sliding down your hips. The Katoa also provides ample storage space for gels/nutrition, cell phone, a shell/jacket and small foot care kit. In all honesty, there is more storage capacity in this pack that I've ever seen in a hydration bladder setup, which is pretty impressive.
And the biggest selling point of the Katoa II is it's hydration capacity. Two 22-oz bottles give you enough fluid capacity to get you from one aid station to the next, and that's really all I ask of a pack. The storage and pockets/pouches are icing on the cake, but the fluid capacity is the reason we're here. Based upon my experience in the recent 100k, a couple of marathons and numerous training runs, the UD Katoa II waist pack is a piece of must-have gear for any ultrarunner needing to care for himself on the trail.