I’ve been using the HydraPak SoftFlask for about a month now and have really enjoyed trying this new approach to water bottles. If you haven’t seen them, or a similar product, the SoftFlasks are made of the pliable, soft material that you’re accustomed to seeing inside your hydration packs. Here’s a quick shot of the 350mL and the 500mL (750mL also available) versions that I’ve been testing:
Here are the same bottles collapsed for storage or travel:
So, my initial response to these SoftFlasks was pretty good. I started using them everywhere I normally used a hardside water bottle, including in my bike jersey, on longer runs, in the car, traveling, and a few other common places. Here’s what I discovered:
These bottles are not great for cycling: the collapsing nature of the bottle makes it hard to get them back in your cages, if you use them, and putting them back in your jersey while riding? Fuhgeddaboudit!
I’m not really into handhelds when running, but I think this was one of the strong points of the SoftFlask: As I drank water, the bottle slowly collapsed, making it easier for me to carry. You need to make sure you’re actually collapsing the bottle, though, because if you just squeeze it, the bite valve and top of the bottle will just flop around, making it a bit hard to drink. I haven’t been doing much distance trail running, but I know this would be a great use for these flasks too. It all comes back to the ability to collapse these when you’re done, so if you’re into ultrarunning, especially where you have to pack a bit of water and gear, these are certainly useful
Where this bottle really shined, though, was in all the non-sport applications, like driving and traveling. In cooler months, I keep a case of water in my car because I’m always thirsty when driving. These bottles do a great job for car travel, they’re easy to stuff or stash in small spots and since they collapse when you’re finished, they take up almost no room. Really useful. The downside to car travel is the bottom of the HydraPak SoftFlask isn’t flat, so it doesn’t fit into cup holders. Where I found this most useful was for air travel. I hate paying $5 for a bottle of water after airport security and with many airports now having water bottle filling stations, these flasks were a perfect fit for air travel. Because they are collapsable, they take up almost no room when empty. I easily put both the 500mL and the 350mL bottles in the small front pocket of my Timbuk2 bag.
Overall, these are a well-made and useful product, if you have a use for collapsible water bottles. A few recommendations and other observations:
First, if you’re using this for running, take the valve cover and finger loop off. The cover just gets in the way and the finger loop is really unnecessary, as the bottle grips really well, even when wet.
Second, be careful with the threads that hold the top on. They are made of the same flexible material that the bottle is, so it’s easy to bend them, resulting in leaking.
Finally, if you need the bottle to keep it’s shape, just blow it up like a balloon as you drink water. The air will keep the bottle more rigid that way.
My final verdict is that this is a very well made product that appears to be very durable. I don’t recommend them for use when cycling, unless I’m just missing something, but they’re good for runners and excellent for travelers. Honestly, I have recommended these to more of my traveling friends than triathlon friends, so if you see these at the airport in the future, remember you heard it here first.
Here’s one of our first video reviews. We’re pretty new at this, so be gentle. In the future, we’ll try to include these as frequently as possible.