Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest Review
The Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest is the latest minimalist pack offered by Camelbak, with a 1 liter storage reservoir, one large zippered pocket, two large front fuel pockets for Quick Stow Flasks or gels, and two smaller pockets on the right hand side of the chest.
While the vest is minimal, the small pockets are a wise use of space for keys, salt pills, and other items that tend to go missing in larger spaces. The Quick Stow Flasks, which come with the pack, are a great option for runners who dislike the sloshing of water bladders and the pain of refilling during a hard effort or race.
This minimalistic pack is light, bright, and great for medium to long runs and races. The mesh back provides breathability, while the Quick Stow Flasks are a nice change from using a reservoir/water bladder with straw. While fitted properly, the flasks tend to bounce a bit. This can be remedied by keeping weight in the back, such as extra bars, jackets, etc. The silicone bite valve works without unnecessary twisting or pulling, and the caps screw on without fuss. The color of the vest, though bright, ensures safety while the reflective tape on both the front and back is an added bonus. Overall a fairly clean, minimalistic-looking pack.
Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest Specifics
Hydration Capacity: 1L/34 fl oz
Gear Capacity: 3.5L/200 cu in
Pack Weight: 180 g/0 lb 6oz
Dimensions: 35 x 24 x 12.5 cm/13.8 x 9.4 x 4.9 in
Number of Exterior Pockets: 9
Quick Stow Flasks (hydration capacity): 500 mL/17 oz
More info on the Camelbak page right here.
The 2017 Ultra Pro Vest doesn’t look vastly different from the 2017 Circuit Vest, which is nice–it means the same features the Circuit Vest has been lauded for (versatile, low-profile, and with good storage) are in the Ultra Pro Vest–with better upgrades. Also, despite the storage available, the Ultra Pro Vest is very, very light.
The 2017 Ultra Pro Vest weighs in at a mere 6 ounces, compared to the similarly sized Nathan Sports’ Women’s Intensity Hydration Vest (14.6 ounces) and Ultimate Direction’s Ultra Vesta (8.6 ounces).
I received the Lime Punch/Silver color, which was a bit bright for my liking, though it serves a dual purpose for early morning runs when wearing something easily seen for safety reasons is necessary. I immediately liked the storage available with the front two fuel/gel pockets, in addition to the two small pouches that sit on the right sternum. There are also two pockets on either side of the vest, although these are left open and thus probably impractical for keeping items safe and secure. These side pouches, which connect the back of the pack to the front vest straps, are one of the additions that separate the Ultra Pro Vest from the Circuit Vest.
The Quick Stow Flasks are blue (which, in my opinion, is a better color than white or clear that can look pretty funky following a long race…) and collapsible. For what they are, they look fine.
I’m often dubious of unisex sizing, especially when it comes to hydration packs. I am 5’5 and 108 pounds with broader shoulders and narrow hips, but this size small pack fit snug against my body. The two sternum straps fit below and above my chest, although I can imagine that bigger busted women might have difficulty with the unisex fitting here. While the vest stayed secure even when moving at a fast clip downhill, the Quick Stow Flasks bounced against me and the vest straps rose up when no weight was placed in the back. No rubbing or chafing so to speak, which can sometimes be an issue for me around my armpits and atop my shoulders.
This pack is pretty ideal for most distances, although for those who prefer running with extra food, headlamps, or gear, it might be too small. The zippered phone pocket is handy for those who like running with their phone or iPods, while the Quick Stow Flasks are designed well to decrease bulk and weight, flattening to lay smooth across one’s chest.
Consider this a great 50K to elite 100-mile vest, or for a lightweight option when running at night or in the early morning. For runners who prefer longer ventures or tend to be back-of-the-pack runners, this vest won’t meet your hydration requirements.
The Quick Stow Flasks are a nice concept, and I prefer them over typical hard-plastic bottles. While a bit awkward to fill, the bite valve works well. Bonus that the flasks can be run through the dishwasher.
When filled to near-capacity, I was able to carry (in addition to the two 500 mL Quick Stow Flasks): two gels, several bars, a jacket, gloves, a Samsung Galaxy S6, salt tablets, electrolyte tablets, a headlamp, with enough room for an extra gel or two. That said, would I run like this? No. The items didn’t feel secure enough in my pack, and the gels in the side pockets would have likely fallen out. Can it be done, albeit uncomfortably? Yes, indeed.
I was fairly surprised at how much I liked this vest overall. I wasn’t previously aware of Camelbak’s popularity in the ultra/trail running world but can see why this is one of their most popular options. I’d love if the vest came in a quieter color (other options are Black/Atomic Blue) and would prefer that the flasks be usable without having to add items into the back (at least on my body).
Runners looking for a light, bright, and comfortable pack. The Quick Stow Flasks are nice for runners who prefer bottles over bladders while also eschewing the typical bulk of empty bottles. I would likely purchase this for myself if looking for a very minimalistic-type pack, but I would more likely buy it for the Quick Stow Flasks themselves, which I found to be a nice change from the water bladder and the slow task of refilling during a race. Similar packs include Nathan Sports’ Women’s Intensity Hydration Vest ($99.99), Ultimate Direction’s Ultra Vesta ($134.95), and UltrAspire’s Spry 2.0 ($69.99).
If you’re interested in purchasing this pack, please first check availability at your local, independently owned running specialty store. They need your business and are a great resource for the community.
If that’s not an option, please consider using this link for Amazon. The return policy is great, and it’ll drop a few nickels into URP bucket if you decide to keep it. Thank You!
Meet Your Reviewer:
This review was written by Jade Belzberg from San Diego, California. She has seven ultra finishes from 2016 and is preparing for Orcas Island 100 in late February.
Jade appeared on URP in this interview about her first hundred miler, wrote this review for rabbit apparel on URP, and blogs/writes on her eponymous website right here.
Disclaimer: This pack was provided to URP/Jade for review purposes. No payment was made, and all words are Jade’s.