First Look: CamelBak Hydration Vest-Pack

The Ultra 4 from CamelBak was built for people gearing up to run a marathon or longer. It carries water, a light rain shell, energy food, a phone, gloves, hat, keys, and not much else — perfect for long days on the trail where you don’t want a normal pack weighing you down.

I reviewed it while training for the Red Rock 50 Ultra-Marathon, including a multi-week trial on runs around southern California. Here’s a first look from my test.

Camelbak Ultra 4
Slim and light when not loaded with water

The Gear: CamelBak Ultra 4 hydration vest ($115)

Test: During about 200 miles of trail running I put the pack to the test on outings varying from one to several hours in length. I also ran a marathon in it last month. Once you dial fit with the vest straps it feels great for hours on a run.

Details: The vest-pack comes with a GearJunkie-approved Antidote reservoir. Two pockets in front can hold water bottles (not included). That adds up to more than a gallon of water on this vest at its max. Extra equipment is carried in zippered compartments on back. Trekking pole straps on back. A sweat-proof storage compartment is made for keys and a phone.

Easy access to reservoir for re-fills (without removing from pack)
Easy access to reservoir for re-fills (without removing from pack)

Let’s run! I took the Ultra 4 on some long, hot-weather runs. Loaded to its capacity with water — the reservoir full as well as two 32-ounce bottles — I made it nearly 20 miles before going dry. Even with all the water weight, the pack never got in my way and did not throw off balance while cruising downhill on technical trail.

Chest Straps: The vest design has two sternum straps that slide, adjust, and buckle to fit varying body types. The company cites fit for 30″ – 46″ chests.

Shirtless: A lot of trail runners like running shirtless, so I tested the pack sans T-shirt. I was a bit worried about chafing, but after more than an hour and a half had not even a hint of irritation. Meshy, padded straps and soft material all around give next-to-skin comfort.

Always in reach... Pockets for phone, keys, sunscreen, lip balm, energy gel, and more
Always in reach… Pockets for phone, keys, sunscreen, lip balm, energy gel, and more

Positives: Great fit. Modular design for different length runs. Front pockets great for storing quick-access trail food. As noted, for long adventures in hot areas you can carry up to a gallon of water with little notice of its liquid bulk.

Negatives: During ultra-length runs I did wish for pockets on the side to access more items. Upgrade to the company’s Ultra 10 model for more storage.

Who should buy it: Runners in need of a solid vest-pack for self-supported spring and summer feats. Ultra racers. Hikers will like the minimal design for short treks where you carry water, food, and a rain shell, and little else.

More Info/Contact Brand: Ultra 4 from CamelBak

tagged: #firstlook

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