OrangeMud HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2 Review

Another bright IdeaLike all my reviews, this is a down and dirty, no mumbo jumbo review using my real world experience. Continuing in a new direction today, this will be a non-tech gear review. Today we will be looking at the OrangeMud HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2

So, you’ve never heard of OrangeMud (www.orangemud.com)? Yeah I hadn’t either until last year when a good friend and fellow runner (Yeah you, Ed) introduced me to their stuff by giving me his Double Barrel HydraQuiver.

I will say this before I get into the review, if you are into buying American designed and American made (As a note, OrangeMud is based out of Corona California) products, like I do, you need to check them out. OK enough chit chat let’s get to it.

Disclaimer: None, the manufacturer did not provide this to me, though I wouldn’t turn down anything from them (hint, hint Josh).

Pros:

Breathability: The VP2 is made from a mesh patterned synthetic material. It’s lightweight, allows plenty of airflow when in use and so far has proven to be extremely tough.

Weight: Weighing in at 9.4 ounces without the included bottles, and 14.7 ounces with them (that’s 264 and 416 grams respectively for my metric friends). This thing is light. Which aids in the comfort aspects

Durability: I’m not going to lie, I’m rough on gear, but the VP2 has proven to be just as rugged as the Double Barrel Quiver it replaced. I’ve had it for a while now, and put well over 500 miles in while using it. It’s been in the woods, and the city and has had zero issues.

Storage: The VP2 has plenty of storage space (198 cubic inches). Two (2) shoulder pockets that can accommodate smaller items like protein bars, gel packs, and energy chews and two (2) front pouches that are big enough to hold items like my phone (I use either a Nexus 6 in a case or a Note 4 in a case) with no issue. All of the pockets are made of a nice stretchy material so you can jam-pack them if you want. I routinely carry 3-4 gel packs in each shoulder pocket, my phone in a front pocket and whatever snack I want quick access to in the other front pocket. If that isn’t enough space for you you can buy an optional accessory pocket that can go in the elastic lashing straps between the bottles.

Hydration: The VP2 comes with two (2) 20-ounce bottles but can fit bottles up to 24 or more ounces thanks to the adjustment straps on the bottle sleeves.

Adjustability: The VP2 has 2 adjustment points. The side straps ,which you should set & forget and the chest strap which you should use for your fine tuning. Basically you put the thing on and make the side straps snug, really snug. Then you use the chest strap to find the right tension to keep it in place.

Comfort: The VP2 is very comfortable to wear, like the Double Barrel I have worn it for hours at a time and never had any issues with discomfort or chafing. The design of the mesh allows plenty of air flow and does not retain moisture.

Neutral:

Fit: OK, I’m a big guy; more than a couple of people have called me a Sasquatch. I’m 6’3” and anywhere between 235 – 250 pounds depending on the time of year. The VP2 fits me but it’s a little small in my opinion. Not small as it it’s hard to get on and off or adjust; small as it the bottom of the pack falls in a spot that feels a bit awkward for me. I’ve let OrangeMud know that I would like to see a Plus sized version of the Pack and Josh Sprague (the owner and all around nice guy) has said that it is on the road map. If you’re 6’ or under and of a medium or slighter build this will be great for you. If you’re bigger in the chest region, or of a larger build, like I am, you may want to look at the Double Barrel HydraQuiver, though you do lose the front pockets with that model.

Bottle Placement: I’ll admit it took me about 10 runs with the first HydraQuiver I had to get used to it. It takes a bit of finesse to reach behind your head and grab or place a bottle from the sleeve, though once you get the hang of it, it’s no big deal at all. In the beginning I probably dropped the bottles half a dozen times trying to put them back. They held up and are still in use today.

Bottle Sleeve: I’m listing this here because the Double Barrel had a fit that held the bottles a bit snugger than the VP2 does. I’ve been told that people requested a looser fit because they wanted it to be easier to get the bottles out. OK I can deal with that; I use a spray on adhesive (the stuff used to make rugs less prone to slipping) to make the sleeve grip the bottles a bit more.

Cons:

Price: At $149 MSRP the VP2 is expensive, but like most things you get what you pay for. The VP2 is well constructed, and is made by a small American company. Factoring in that I’d say that it’s a little high but not outrageously so.

Other:

Warranty: OrangeMud provides a 90-day money back guarantee, a one (1) year warranty on the workmanship of their accessories and a limited lifetime warranty on the packs.

Summary:

So looking at the HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2 , you can see the PROS outweigh the CONS. The pack is durable, lightweight, and good for road running & for trails. It has plenty of storage, and won’t chafe you, even after hours of sweaty use. Sure it’s a little bit on the expensive side, but you get what you pay for. Also your purchase is with small company designing and manufacturing quality products here in the USA, and that’s always a good thing. I can wholeheartedly say that the VP2 is Rob approved.

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AfterShokz Bluez 2 Review

As always this will be a down and dirty type of review. It will be based in real world terms, not fancy marketing hype. Ready or not, here we go.

 

Common background information: I workout a lot, I sweat profusely and I have shorted out at least two dozen headsets in my pursuit of sweat-proof earphones/headsets to use while I run, lift, and bike. If you have read my previous reviews, you will remember that I reviewed other Aftershockz products last year. Well my friends at Aftershokz have graciously provided me with a pair of their newest headset to torture. Iam happy to say that, I have found another great headset that I can recommend. Like their predecessor these are a bit different than standard headsets/earphones in that they are an open ear, bone conduction type of headset. That means they sit on your cheekbones and send sound to your inner ear, not like tradional heatsets that go in your ear. So without further rambling, I present the AfterShokz Bluez 2. http://www.aftershokz.com/collections/wireless/products/bluez-2

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If you are unfamiliar Aftershockz, I can say I’m not that surprised. Though I expect that to change any day now. When I first came across Aftershokz, I was looking for bone conductive headsets. I knew they were out there but hadn’t ever found any Bluetooth ones before. Anyone who knows me knows I HATE, and yes that is a strong word, but I absolutely hate wired headsets and earphones when I exercise. My gorilla arms tend to flail about and get tangled up in the wires and rip things off my noggin. I was happy to find that someone had stepped up and created a Bluetooth BCH and couldn’t wait to try them out.

Good:

Price: The Bluez 2 MSRP is $99 but I imagine that street price will vary a bit once they are publicly available. The price point is not too outrageous for a Bluetooth stereo headset of decent quality. It’s great when you take into consideration, that bone conductive sets are usually higher than this when wired.

Comfort: Like my review for the Decibullz (http://aosp.us/?p=799) and the original BLUEZ (http://aosp.us/?p=862) , I cannot stress this point, enough, because they do not go in your ears, but rather sit on your cheek bones, they are extremely comfortable. I wore them for about 8 hours the first day I had them, and just like the previous model, I almost forgot they were there, except for the constant rhythm I had in my head.

Fit: The Bluez 2 fit like, most other wrap behind headsets, but are most similar to the Motorola S10/S11 headsets, in the fit department. If you’re worried about them falling off while you workout, don’t. I know some of you out there are going to be like, “But I really workout hard/fast/violently/whatever…” Yeah I do too. I do 60-75 minutes of cross-fit style training followed by 60-90 minutes of trail/road running. In the course of my workout my head gets flung into many different positions, sometimes with a fair amount of force. Guess what, they stay in place just fine. They fit securely in front of your ears and have a band in the back that helps keep the tension on them. They have stayed in place so far for me, in excess of 8 hours of workout time so far. A small change from the original is that the tension strap is not adjustable. So far that has not been an issue because it fits snugly and has some stretch to it.

 

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Sound Quality: If you’re looking for a headset that can be an audiophile’s wet dream, I’m going to ask you to kindly move along, as these are not the headphones you are looking for (Jedi mind trick active).  OK are those guys gone? Good. OK, for the rest of you out there who are looking for a headset that has great audio, phone capabilities, and decent battery life, I’m talking to you. I was surprised by the sound quality of the Bluez 2, even compared to the originals which were good. I had tried bone conducting headsets a few years back and was, let’s just say, underwhelmed by them. The Bluez 2 do a great job of reproducing the sounds that you would normally have going into your ears. The bass was bassy but not overbearing, the mids and highs were there and represented well. If you have them cranked all the way up you can hear the music coming out of them from a distance, but if you set them down on a hard surface they will shake and rattle all over the place, letting you know it’s not sound but vibration that you are hearing. They have implemented a new feature called “Leak Slayer” which helps cut down on audio leakage, which was an issue for the originals. As far as call quality I have made a few calls with them and people say they can hear me nice and clearly and I can hear them very well too. The Bluez 2 have an additional microphone for noise reduction, and it appears to work as advertised So they actually do perform very well as a phone headset.

Packaging/Accessories: when most companies are trying to give you as little as possible when you buy their products, it’s refreshing to see one going a bit better. The Bluez 2 are packaged well in a nice box. Inside that box is a soft carrying case, a charging cable, a warranty card, a quick start guide, a multi lingual instruction sheet and the tension band. Unlike some of the other brands that give you throw away packaging and the headset, it’s nice to get the carrying case included. That being said, I’ll never use it. I never used the rigid case that came with the Bluez.

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Controls: The power, volume, and multifunction buttons are rubber coated/booted physical buttons. They work as intended and are easy to use. To answer a call you press the multifunction button on the left “ear” piece (when you are wearing them), this will pause any media you have running. To end the call you press the button again. To make a call a double press of the button gets you into the dialog for that. To play/pause your music you single press the multifunction button. Dead simple.

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Battery: They claim a 6 hour battery life. I was able to get almost 8 hours out of them the first day I had them. The first couple of hours were at about 90% volume, while the rest was at 50% or a little below. I’m not sure what volume they have their number spec’ed for but, as always,  your mileage may vary.

Warranty: They come with a 2 year warranty, that covers defects in workmanship and sweat damage. As a side note, they truly stand behind their products. I destroyed 12 pairs of the originals with my overactive sweat glands. They happily replaced them no questions, no qualms. This is a company that I can say honestly really cares about their customers. The customer service staff that I have worked with have all been great. Always courteous, always genuine, and always eager to help me get my issue resolved.

 

 

Neutral:

Sound Quality: I know I just said this was in the good column, but there is something I need to tell you about that is neither Good nor Bad when it come to the sound quality. Remember these are an Open Ear style headset. That means you can still hear outside sounds/noise when you use them. For me this is a good thing, I often run along roads and busy streets, and being able to hear approaching traffic is always good. While I enjoy the solitude that my in ear headsets give me, the safety factor takes precedence when running outside. Being able to hear ambient noises can be a strange experience at first, but you’ll adjust quickly.

 

BAD:

Comfort: Again, I know I just said this was in the good column, just hear me out.I had no discomfort with the Bluez2 but the foillowing goes out to anyone who is new to bone conduction headsets. You will likely have no discomfort while wearing/using the Bluez2. You may notice a strange sensation when you take them off. After being on your head for a long time, you may notice a weird tingling sensation on your face (no doubt from being shook all day) and you will likely notice a sense of relief when you take them off. Because they put pressure on your face, it apparently build up after a while. Like I said I only noticed it after taking them off and only the first few times I wore them.

USB Flap: In order to maintain the Water resistance/Sweat Proof-ness they have a small flap that covers the usb port. It’s made of plastic and is held in place by a flimsy little, for lack of a better word, tether. I would have rather seen a rubber plug style door that is welded to the plastic than what they are using. It has been ok so far but we will see how it holds up. The original Bluez had the same type of connector and it was surprisingly resilient.

 

Conclusion:

Conclusion: No bones about it (see what I did there?), well excluding your cheek and inner ear bones (you do know you have bones in your ears right?), the Aftershokz Bluez 2 are a good buy. Even if you have to pay full retail price, but who does that. They have performed well for me so far and will most likely become my daily driver (replacing the original Bluez) for working out and running, assuming I don’t prove the sweat-proof claims inaccurate.

 

UPDATE 5/30/2014:

So, I have put these things through the wringer. Over 20 hours in the gym, and 200+ miles running in conditions ranging from light rain to high humidity and heat. They have had more sweat and moisture on them then should be legal and all the while they have performed great with nary a peep of complaint. These are by far one of the best headsets on the market today.  I can finally say that the Bluez 2 are Officially Rob Approved.