It's a rarity that a new "groundbreaking" technology gets released in the ski industry that I'm not initially somewhat wary about. They usually involve solving an issue that was never really an issue in the first place, are pretty gimmicky, and normally just seem like an excuse to sell more product.
Not the case with the latest innovation from 686. Rather than stopping at the lodge to run in for a drink of water, or lugging around a backpack or camelback all day, the new 686 GLCR Hydrastash Reservoir Jacket has the equivalent of a full bottle of water immediately accessible all day long. After a day of testing at Copper Mountain this week, I was thinking, ‘Can all my jackets be like this?’
The world's first built-in apparel hydration system, four years in the making, the Hydrastash system was first imagined by 686 founder Michael Akira West while riding around with a group of friends. "Mike really wanted to do something outside of the box," said Michi Bretz, innovations manager for the heritage snowboarding brand who ventured into skiing this past season. "He wanted to answer the question, 'How can I bring less but still have all the essential things?'"
The Hydrastash built-in hydration system will hit the market this fall in 686's GLCR Reservoir Jacket. It utilizes a 25-ounce bladder similar to that of a Camelbak, but rather than being secured across your back, it lives zipped inside the powder skirt of the jacket. "We basically had to redesign every component that was on the market," says Bretz. "All of the backpack tech was too big and bulky, so we just had to make it ourselves."
To get water from the bladder around your waist up to your mouth, 686 relies on a 4mm hose (your average hydration pack uses one that's around 10mm) that is concealed along the inside of the jacket near the zipper. The bite valve is accessed via a small zipper at the neck of the jacket, which I found never got in the way, even with the jacket fully zipped.
When I first put it on, my biggest concern was that I was going to have a loose, heavy camelback bladder bouncing around in my jacket, weighing down my back, and sloshing around in the bumps and turns. Parker White, the first skier to get signed by 686, had similar qualms in the development stage. "I thought I would feel the water more than I did," says White. "Once it was on my back, I completely forgot about it." Me, too.
Still in its first iteration, 686 is pushing the Reservoir as a jacket for resort skiers who are tired of lapping the lifts with a backpack. "A lot of times I'll wear my backpack around the resort just to have a water bottle," says White. "This jacket just totally eliminates needing to do that."
The Hydrastash jacket will available in early September.