For 1.2 ounces, one can carry a one liter (33.8 ounces) capacity Platypus Bottle. For 5.5 ounces, you can have a hard-sided one liter Nalgene bottle, the icon of heavyweight backpacking.
And for a seemingly inconsequential premium of 7.3 ounces, you can have a water bottle that … interacts with you?
The HydraCoach, by Sportline, claims to be the world’s first "intelligent" water bottle. In other words, it monitors your water consumption and then gives you feedback about how you’re doing and where you need to be with respect to your hydration level.
The HydraCoach is a 22 ounce capacity bottle with a silicone mouthpiece coupled to a straw, screwtop closure, and nifty on-board computer.
To start the game, you press the SETUP button and input your weight (e.g., for me, 160 lbs). Then, the computer suggests a daily water intake (e.g., half your weight in ounces, or for me, 80 ounces). You can adjust this intake manually, because well, you know, hydration is a personal thing.
Then, you fill up the bottle, press the start button (which starts a 24-hour timer ticking), and start drinking. The on-board computer monitors several variables, including total amount consumed during the day, average hourly consumption rate, elapsed time (so YOU can figure out proper "pacing"), and the amount of percentage of fluid consumed as a fraction of your daily intake "goal" that it calculated.
All this is monitored by a neat little propeller embedded into the straw. The propeller sends its rotation rate to the on-board computer as you drink to calculate fluid consuption volumes.
Not only is this water bottle interactive, but it appears to be motorized. I wondered immediately: is this going to be legal in Wilderness Areas?
And so, I filled up my HydraCoach with water from a dumb(er) bottle (the LEFT bottle in the photo, as if it isn’t already obvious, sheeya!), pressed the START button, and was on my way to an interactive hydration experience.
I immediately took many, many sips from the bottle, then scrolled through the monitoring variables of the on-board computer using the MODE button. Everything was working smoothly: Within 60 seconds, I had already consumed 6 ounces of water, my fluid consuption rate was a healthy 360 ounces per hour (~ 3 gallons per hour, which is about the rate of fuel consumption of a Hummer H3 on a paved highway), and I was already 7.5% on my way to reaching my daily goal!
This felt better than any success towards a New Year’s Resolution on January 2.
That was pretty much the high point of my HydraCoach experience.
I placed my HydraCoach (it sounds better to say my HydraCoach, doesn’t it? After all, this is a more interactive, and thus, more personal, water bottle, right?) into my messenger bag and spent the remainder of the afternoon walking the Salt Palace floor at Outdoor Retailer.
I wanted to give this water bottle a real test, so I walked, and walked hard! I walked everywhere – from Nemo in the 10000 aisle to Toray upstairs in the 80k’s. And then back! Miles of walking. I even walked outside to attempt further dehydration, by exposing myself to outside heat.
I also walked by a number of snack bars and coffee stands.
Where I drank several quarts of Diet Coke and Cappucino. Of course, all that fluid has to go somewhere, so I also made several visits to the restroom en route. Boy was I hydrated!
Then, I remembered why I was walking – and peeing – so much – I was testing a HydraCoach!
I pulled the bottle out of my messenger bag, several hours later, and it was empty. The bottom of my bag was full of water. All of the water leaked out of the bite valve. The folks at HydraCoach were well aware of several issues that these prototype bottles possessed and warned the informant who picked up our media sample not to have us write about them. This wasn’t one of them.
Of course, I was mad because all this water was just unnecessary pack (messenger bag) weight, which is a big deal when you need to save your weight for the far more valuable marketing brochures from all these companies.
So I decided to interact with the on-board computer.
It seems that I didn’t drink much water today. Nothing had changed, except my lack of progress towards my goals: the newly calculated metrics suggested by the computer sent me into a depressed state.
Just like a failed New Year’s Resolution.
So, I started over, determined to change my bad habits. I swore off Diet Coke and coffee, and pressed the RESET button.
I filled my HydraCoach again and drank a bottle full of water before stuffing it back in my bag, empty, so it wouldn’t leak everywhere again.
In other words, I tanked up.
When I reached the next drinking fountain, I pulled out the empty water bottle, and tanked up again. I drank the whole bottle as I watched the on-board computer boost my ego.
Not only was I having a better interactive hydration experience, I was applying lightweight backpacking techniques by drinking only at known pure water sources.
In fact, I had them all marked on my exhibitor map.
Then disaster struck.
When I reached my third water source (a snack bar at the NE corner of the Salt Palace), I unscrewed the cap, got dizzy (for reasons certainly unrelated to hydration levels), lost my balance, and my brain sent signals to my hand that caused me to drop the bottle. Pieces went flying everywhere.
I was frantic. I felt like I’d dropped my personal trainer. I gathered the pieces and inspected them. Nothing was broken! Boy, was I relieved.
Then, I was showing the snack bar attendant my new HydraCoach, and was just about to show her how well I’d been hydrating myself throughout the day by scrolling through the on-board computer’s various performance monitoring modes.
Everything was zeroed. No progress. Nothing. Nada. My legitimacy, in the eyes of the snack bar lady, was now seriously jeopardized.
The onboard computer had reset itself during the fall.
I can’t imagine how I’d have felt if I’d dropped this bottle on the trail. My Coach all of a sudden felt a bit too fragile for backcountry use.
Of course, it’s too heavy as well. And not quite smart enough.
And certainly not interactive enough. What I’d really like to have seen is an alarm reminding me to drink water. Better yet, a feminine voice encouraging me, "Time to drink, you champ (wink)" would have been really swell.
But I don’t know if they can figure out how to get on board computers to wink yet.