Nathan’s SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask reviewed by trail runner Laura Clark. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian. Flask provided free of charge by Nathan. Retail Price $36.95.
As an aficionado of longish snowshoe races, I have been on a quest to discover a hydration system that would not clog in sub-freezing temperatures. I have experimented with bladder/tube setups, vests with front-loading bottles nestled against my warm body and multiple handhelds. Bottom line is that I prefer handhelds as these remind me to drink even with the weather is chilly and drinking seems superfluous. This presents a conundrum since as an older runner, I have a touch of arthritis in my hands.
Enter the Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask. My first test run took place at The Endurance Society’s Frigus Snowshoe Race at Moreau State Park in the Adirondacks during a balmy 5-degree spell. All events were self-supported so it was vital that Nathan get me through a 15K mountainous loop. The flask’s 18-ounce capacity is larger than I am usually comfortable handling, but felt as light as my usual bottle. The ergonomic curvy last was a new experience for me, having been accustomed to straight up and down models and I am sure this helped considerably. The width is easily adjustable to accommodate necessary double gloving. Best yet, this first-ever double wall insulated flask functioned outstandingly well, with the contents becoming slushy but not really frozen despite my having forgotten to fill with hot water from the tap.
The only drawback was that despite frequent sips, the nozzle eventually iced up. Shrugging my shoulders, I relied on occasional fluffy snow treats. Had I not been in a race and perhaps thinking more clearly, I could have paused to unscrew the cap and drink. They say racing makes you stupid and I am living proof of that theory, because despite needing a drink before tackling the final three miles, it never occurred to me! On the plus side, the race cap intake valve offered the kind of quick bursts of liquid refreshment I like and is designed not to leak when tipped over during transport or held upside down.
According to Nathan, although the body is well insulated, the cap is not designed for such cold temperatures. Another model, the Nathan IceSpeed Insulated Handheld, is more suited to those temperatures. There did not seem to be a problem with outings in the 20-degree range.
The zippered carry pouch is more generous than most and easily holds a phone and a set of keys securely. Perhaps I am just a sloppy drinker, but I discovered that drops that did not make it to my mouth fell onto the zipper causing it to freeze. This would be a definite problem if after a long run you were looking forward to climbing into a nice warm car. I experimented with reversing the orientation of the strapping system and while this helped keep the cap in a more upright position, it did not make up for lost drops of fluid. On the plus side, I discovered that reversing the case provided a smoother grip and allowed for more room for larger mittens.
Bottom Line for me: The Nathan SpeedDraw is a definite improvement over my other handhelds and I look forward to using it in warmer weather where the insulation promises to keep my liquid from tasting less like bathwater. For sub-zero events, I plan on ordering an IceSpeed. Also using the zippered pocket on my tights for my car keys! Despite these drawbacks, this is the largest and most comfortable handheld I have used.