DripDrop hydration

Back in the (good) old days.


Spitzkoppe South West Wall – the diagonal crack above the big shadow line

I am lying under a thorn tree in the dirt of the Namibian desert.

Pretending that the thin branches actually contribute some shade and relief. Ross hands me a 2l Coke bottle filled with a mixture of salt and sugar. I get told to finish it. I don’t feel well.

Our day starts like this:

At first light we walk up to the base of the soaring and blank expanse of South West Wall of Spitzkoppe. The first pitch is scary polished little edges to the base of the long crack system. A few rope lengths later we watch our only water bottle for the day disappear into the depths of the crack system. The sound of it bouncing down the crevasse like darkness echoes in my ears still.

We continue upwards as fast as we can, trying to beat the sun. Sometime on our upward journey the sun catches us and on the last scary, run out hard move before the summit our resolve and strength melts away.

The only alternative is to descend.

Several stuck ropes later. One resulting in both of us tugging on the stuck chord and not being attached to anything else. Consequences of brain fry. Potentially fatal consequences. It did not seem so serious with our back up water glistening on the ground 30m below. Those 30 m are enough to kill. To say we were stuffed by the time we hit level ground is an understatement.

Subsequently I have used very diluted juice as a post exercise re hydrate solution.

I never feel that water alone does the trick.

I have also used Nuun, Zym, Rehidrat, Hammer electrolytes, Gu Brew, Concentrace and more recently Dripdrop. Thanks to Willie at John O’ Connor to give me a box to test.

The science:

All agree that we need to consume trace elements and minerals for optimum hydration. Water alone is not good enough.

What concentration and exact mix is required is science that is beyond me.

I do know that it works. Which one of the above works best I can not tell you.

Dripdrop is offered in sachets similar to Rehidrat. Two sizes of sachet are available 225ml equivalent or 450ml. So it is super easy to mix either at home or while on the go. I prefer to mix mine fairly weak. About half the dosage when I am exercising. But if I have to get my hydration levels back to normal after a day out then I consume it pretty concentrated. This does wonders!

I believe it is best to separate electrolytes from nutrition, caffeine and glucose etc.

This way you can dose each in a variety of conditions without affecting the others.

The problem with energy drinks is that they offer you caffeine as a quick fix to fatigue without addressing the underlying issue which is often dehydration. Fix that and the theory goes that you won’t need caffeine.

A matter of taste:

I only got to try the lemon flavour of Dripdrop but it is fairly pleasant if on the sweet side.


I would prefer to have a large bucket or refill pack that I can choose my concentration from. This for me was a great selling point of Rehidrat when they still sold refil packs. But they have seemed to discontinue this offering.

Dripdrop seems to have the medical grounding and be deeply involved in humanitarian efforts. Dehydration is a massive problem. Especially in developing communities where water quality and related pathogens cause huge issues for infants, and compromised individuals. The potential performance problems for us athletes is one thing but infant mortality due to dehydration is another level.

We can all strive for optimal health despite the consequences being on a different scale.

On your next ride or run try to play with nutrient levels via one of the above.

Try use DripDrop it might just improve things


Full Disclosure:

I was given a box of DripDrop by John O Connor to try out.

The opinions here are my own.

I did not receive any financial reward for writing this.

FAQ Hydration bladders

What hydration bladder should I buy?

My advice to first time buyers is to buy the best bladder you can afford. Go with the brands that have the biggest market share not necessarily what your favorite sponsored athlete uses. The first bladder I bought left a bad taste in my mouth and I did not believe all those that raved about hydration bladders. Buy the best and you will enjoy your piece of kit often and enjoy the experience. Cheap models leave an aftertaste, leak and the bite valve is not nearly as comfortable as better (and more expensive models). Below I will assume that you have purchased one of the dedicated brands with a quality hydration system.

Can I transport juice or beer in my bladder?

Sure you can (in theory). Check that your bladder has an anti microbial lining. However if you leave Coke or other juice in the bladder without rinsing thoroughly then bacteria will grow irrespective of what lining the bladder has. The hose will become grey and murky! My personal preference is to only carry water in the bladder and if I need energy juice then I will transport it in a separate bottle. Also see here for my ideas on  keeping hydration and nutrition separate.

What maintenance is required?

Irrespective of what brand of hydration bladder you use this item of your kit will require some level of maintenance in order to remain hygienic. Here are some tips that I have learnt. They can be used on any reservoir no matter what the brand. So next time you have used your Camelbak®, Osprey® Hydraulics™ Reservoir or Source™ bladder  don’t just leave it in your pack but take a few minutes to store it correctly.

How do I clean my bladder?

Rinse out with warm water as soon as you can. Don’t let your energy juice get sticky. You can use soap, bicarb of soda or lemon mixed with water to get rid of residue taste. For more thorough cleaning use a bottle brush and thin brush to clean the hose, remove and dismantle the bite valve and clean and rinse separately.

How do I store my hydration bladder?

The crux is to get the residue water out of the corners of the bladder.

IMG_1674Here are several little tricks that I use: Cut up an egg tray and insert into the opening of the bladder. This lets some air get into the bladder and allows it to dry out.

Hang the bladder up above the bath to drip dry. Make sure to release the water out of the drinking tube and bite valve occasionally.

The other trick is to dry it as best you can and then pack inside your freezer compartment (with no water in the bladder). The idea is not to cool your drink but to stop bacteria from growing in it in the sub-zero freezer.

How do I stop the sloshing in my bladder?

Once you have filled your hydration bladder, turn it upside down and squeeze all the air out while releasing the bit valve. Now when you drink you will only get liquid and no air coming out. Also you wont feel the irritating sloshing when running.

How much water do I need to carry?

That is the million dollar question and it really depends! According to Tim Noakes and others the best practice seems to be to drink to thirst. For a bike ride of around 3 – 4 hours I might need less than 750ml of water. But then I have some catching up to do if it has been hot. However for the first section of Skyrun I carry 3l as it typically takes about 5 hours to reach the first refill point. And more importantly I am hydrating not for that section of trail but for the 20+ hours of running that I am undertaking. Practice to see what works for you!

As an aside Andrew Porter carried only a 500ml hand held water bottle on his solo Drakensberg Traverse. He goes super light and refills often.

Hydration Bladders are great but just need a little maintenance and care to give you long service. enjoy.

If you have any other questions please post them below.


PUFfer Preparation 301

I have had an interesting email conversation with a fellow trail runner on gear and how to best use it stretching over the last few weeks. This conversation and my presentation at SSISA prompted me to put expand on ideas here. My comments are aimed specifically at PUFfer runners but are universally applicable. Let me know your thoughts.

Basic Action Suit:

The extreme alpinist Mark Twight coined the term Action Suit for alpinism. It is equally applicable here with some adaptations. I encourage you to observe other sports closely and see what you can learn. (on Giro a few weeks ago the boys all got to the top of a snowy Col only to be handed a newspaper and surgical gloves….)

DSC00371I prefer to be on the cold side of things. Heat is your enemy. (the more you sweat into your clothing, the more you will get cold when you stop) This is something that you can train. A few years ago I went to climb Mt Rainier with a colleague. We walked up the lower snow slopes to get to the camp. I wore a base layer and a wind breaker and a Buff® on my head. I was super vigilant to keep cool. My colleague however wore a base layer and an insulated waterproof breathable jacket. He was sweating buckets and when we stopped to eat some snacks he was instantly cold. I just layered over the top of my kit and was comfortable.

PUFfer runners on the bus www.jacquesmarais.co.za

PUFfer runners on the bus http://www.jacquesmarais.co.za

When you get off the bus in Cape Point you want to be cold and even shivering. Anything more and you will overheat within a few minutes of running exertion.

For  legwear it is either shorts or tights – really your call. Tights can help with chafing and will dry quicker as they are closer to your skin. Shorts tend to have more pockets to put stuff and rubbish.

Stevie doing in race kit

Stevie doing in race kit

On my body I wear a light polyester t shirt. A short zip really helps to regulate heat.

I do most of my temperature regulation by wearing a Buff® at the start in a beanie. I will remove this and replace with a cap. A running cap is awesome in that it keeps the sun (and rain) out of your face. I need all the head coverage and it works well to scoop water from a stream later to cool you down. M like’s her running visors but then she has loads of hair.



Comfort layers: Warmth, Water, Wind


Staying warm is relies on many things. One of them is insulation from the elements. That is actually quite simple. You need to trap air next to your body. This trapped air acts as insulation and is heated by your body. The more effectively that air is trapped the better that garment will work.

This comes down to two factors: Fit and fabric.

You want a snug fit so that you can effectively trap air next to your skin.

The fabric of the garment also plays a huge role here. You have three choices. I am not going to go into each in detail. You can read all the marketing gumf on each manufacturers web site. The basics are:

Polyester great at moving moisture.

Polypro (great cold weather base layer),

Wool (great natural fibre) Merino Wool has the ability to hold a bit more moisture so that it does not feel damp so it feels drier. It also does not feel like a plastic bag next to your skin and does not stink! We distribute Icebreaker in South Africa so I am a fan.

Some races have a fleece layer as part of the required kit list. Personally I prefer carrying two base layers. The outer with a short zip to regulate warmth. These are more effective at trapping heat and as a result will keep me warmer. The First Ascent Derma Tec is super warm. In fact I can only wear it when I am stationary (evenings when camping) I have never exercised in it but I am pretty confident that it will stand up to anything you throw at it in SA.

We have seen a few triathletes migrate up to the trail scene and with them compression gear in the form of spandex and lycra. These items work fantastically well but are no good in offering warmth. Spandex just does not have the same insulation properties as polyester, polypro or wool. You have been warned!

Waterproof breathable:

Last week I was in a new running shop and I was told that customers want cheaper waterproofs. I was shown a jacket with no hood, not seam sealed and about a quarter of the price of anything else. You get what you pay for!

Personally my waterproof BREATHABLE jacket forms part of my emergency kit. I have never run in one. But when the chips are down and you are moving slow or not moving at all you want one and you want it now!

OK so what constitutes a waterproof BREATHABLE?

A decent jacket should be waterproof (obviously) but also allow moisture to pass through the membrane from the inside out. A plastic bag is fantastically waterproof but does not breathe! You can look at the claimed numbers by manufacturers all over the net. If a jacket breathes well enough it should not need pit vents.

One thing you want to be carefull of is when you put the jacket on you are pretty committed. If you later overheat (or produce too much moisture on the inside of your jacket) and you take it off then you will cool down massively. So when you are putting your waterproof breathable on you are making a big commitment.


One of my best garments is my windproof. Each company makes one and they all work on the same principle.

I prefer something super light made from Pertex or similar. The fit is not as crucial as on a bike where you want a super snug fit.

Remember to treat it with Nikwax or similar in order to keep its DWR. In fact this layer will keep you comfortable in most conditions. This is due to the high breathability and the windproof fabric.

Emergency Gear:

I keep my emergency kit separate to my running gear. It contains:

Waterproof breathable jacket and base layer as a minimum;

Myprodol (I am in no way advocating using pain killers during a race. But when you have an accident you have two choices: either wait for a rescue, which will take hours or you can get yourself out of the worst of it),

latex gloves (I don’t plan to operate on anybody but to protect my fingers from the cold wind),

blister plasters,

space blanket (anybody who has finished Ironman and si wrapped in a space blanket will know how well it works),

whistle (Is more audible and distinctive than a shout and takes less effort to make a sound)

Nutrition and Hydration:

I like to keep Nutrition and Hydration as separate as possible.

What happens when you are low on nutrition but feeling bloated from drinking too much?

What happens when you want liquid but not nutrition?

Separating the two gives you more options.

Currently I am using 32Gi products as they suit my objectives and general nutrition right now. See my previous post here. Variety works for me. I don’t use gels early on as it blocks my stomach later. I would like to experiment with a concentrated mix of 32Gi going forward to see how that works. I regularly read what Allen Lim has to say. I find that eating solids definitely helps in keeping my stomach happy. It does clog up my throat a bit for hard running efforts though.

I put pure water into my hydration bladder or bottles.

I have both planned out before hand and my second knows exactly what to give me when. I have two bum bags that I swap at every check point and they have right hydration and nutrition pre packed.

In order to carry the above hydration and nutrition you have a couple of options:

Me wearing a bum bag only while other runners have their torso covered with back packs

Me wearing a bum bag only while other runners have their torso covered with back packs

Racing vests are very popular at the moment. They carry a lot of kit and are least restrictive on your running style but I do feel that they are pretty hot and prevent shedding heat.

If I can then I use a bum bag. This does put more weight on your hips and thus influences your centre of gravity more noticeably. But the advantage of staying cooler is huge. It is also super easy to refill bottles compared to a hydration bladder. Downside you can’t carry as much kit.

Please understand I am not claiming any of this to be the right or only way. It is working for me, right now. Let me know your thoughts.

Now go and enjoy the race!

Dry shandy- Best Recovery drink ever!

I have been doing a lot of thinking recently about nutrition in general. All this sweet artificial stuff we put into our bodies is not cheap. Energy Bars at R25! What? I just can’t stomach that no matter how good it tastes. I use Hammer Perpetuem and Recoverite for longer adventures. After my little adventure up the hill this morning I discovered the best tasting recovery drink available in most SA fridges! 1 part Windhoek Lager, 1 part Schweppes Dry Lemon! Easy

The zing from this baby made my mouth tingle to a higher level. I had my brunch and then snoozr time. Perfect recovery plan I would say!