The Hydration Z-Bra must be a truly unique product, and it has to be said that it does fill a gap in the market for running junkies. The bra includes an elasticated lightweight material back pocket with removable foam padding and a ‘Source’ hydration bladder and hoser.
Firstly, I had to get over the innuendos and useful suggestions from friends – no, it would not be good to have the water at the front (enhanced cleavage that then shrinks as you drink?!), no it isn’t a stag do prop, and no, it isn’t pervy to have a zip at the front of the bra (although it does have the potential to provide boyfriends with hours of fun…).
The bra carries one litre of water when full, and the bladder and hoser are completely removable, with a large cap opening for easy filling. Unless you have the help of a friend, you will need to fill the bladder and load it into the bra before putting the bra on, however the front zip and handy Velcro fastenings for the hoser mean that tangles of arms, hoser and armholes are rare.
I tested the hydration Z-bra in a variety of situations, with mixed success. The huge advantage of this hydration system for women is that there is no rubbing – traditional hydration packs always leave me with attractive love bite type marks around my neck due to movement around the shoulders, no matter how tight the straps are. This bra presents none of these problems, as the water bladder is held very tight to the body. But this in itself does throw up different design challenges. With the foam padding and bladder on my back, things naturally got a little sweaty. However, this wasn’t the main problem: when running, as you drink the water (through the excellent bite hoser – definitely the best I have used), the bladder does start to move around a little in its pocket, making an attractive sloshing sound. I then found that both the bladder and foam padding worked their way up out of the pocket – this resulted in me looking very peculiar on the side of a mountain, trying to reach my back to sort it all out – as an inflexible runner this wasn’t very successful, and the option of taking my bra off wasn’t very attractive. This problem is definitely not insurmountable, and could be very easily solved by some strategically placed Velcro. I also found that I didn’t encounter this problem when biking, probably due to less movement in my back.
When both running and biking, I found it easiest to use the bra in conjunction with a bumbag to hold items such as a cagoule, although a small lightweight windproof could probably be squeezed into the water bladder pocket if you didn’t want to do this. Bumbags are certainly a lot more comfortable when they don’t have your water in them.
The bra itself was fine for a person of my build (that is small but perfectly formed!), however, I am not sure how comfortable it would be for larger cup sizes – the crop top design and lack of reinforced structure may not provide sufficient support. I also encountered a slight problem when washing – being someone who doesn’t really read instructions, I put the whole bra including foam padding (but minus hydration bladder and hoser) in the washing machine – and came out with a whole bra and two bits of foam padding. The padding does need to be removable (the bra is then usable as a normal sports bra), but I do feel it should also be washable with the bra – especially due to the back sweat problem mentioned above.
I have one more gripe about this product before I sing its praises – the fact that the hoser can be secured to the front of the bra with Velcro loops is useful when putting on, but a completely stupid idea when you want to actually put the hoser in your mouth – perhaps a loop and clip that could attach to your t-shirt (but a better design than those provided by platypus please) would be a positive addition.
Finally, I have to say that I do think this product is fantastic. Yes, there are a few teething problems, the capacity of the bladder means that it has a fairly limited and specialist uses, you do look a bit peculiar when wearing it, and you can’t really wear a rucsac with it, but it is comfortable and I am now looking for excuses to use it on all my runs. It is a brilliant product for all female runners and cyclists, and definitely worth a try. I anticipate a male version coming soon…
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