Review of the Camelbak Ultra LR Vest
What It Is:
The Camelbak Ultra LR Vest, forthwith called “it” or “the vest” or “the hydration vest” or finally, the “very comfortable thing that carries everything while I run,” is a hydration vest built for athletes who have to be their own support. Meaning, if you’re going to be out a long time, and won’t be passing gas stations or peanut-butter and jelly sandwich trees (they look a lot like juniper, except that in late spring, PBJ’s drop from their crown), then you might want a pack that does it all.
There are multiple hydration vests on the market. I read reviews of several, including this one, on Ultrarunner Podcast. I won’t be reviewing the other packs unless (hint hint) their manufacturers send me one. Thus, I won’t be speaking to whether the Camelbak is the best, but only to whether it gets the job done comfortably.
The price tag is investment grade, $130, but comes in lower than many of the competing vests. The LR Vest is loaded with places to put things, among them, the pockets up front (which are sized to securely hold 16 ounce water bottles) as well as on the waist-level strap on the right photo, on each side. The yellow on the right photo is a Brooks windbreaker I rolled up and took along for the run, in case the wind started to pick up.
The lumbar reservoir carries two liters. It is accessible by unzipping the area where my yellow jacket is visible. Incidentally, the Camelbak website mentions that carrying your water at a lower center of gravity means ultimate stability and freedom of movement. More on that below.
One nifty thing, visible on the left photo, is a little red doohicky–which it turns out is an emergency whistle.
The LR Vest has five adjustments to help it fit, technically, six. The first I found is at the top of the shoulders. The straps that go over the shoulders, where they meet the back, tuck into a pocket and are secured by Velcro. They have handy thread markers to help ensure that if you have to adjust them, you can get them even. I’m 6’1” and had to elongate the vest a little from how it was hanging when I bought it.
Next, you have the waist strap. When I first put the vest on I thought I was way too fat for it, but the straps could accomodate a little more girth than mine. If you’re on a path to a slimmer you, and you’re 6’1″ and 220 lbs, it’ll fit. If you’re more than 10 pounds heavier, sure and try one on before you buy.
There are two chest straps which are adjustable, and two straps that connect the front to the belt.
The vest weighs 1.5 pounds.
Why I Bought It:
I have an older version of the Camelbak Marathoner Vest, which also has a 2 liter reservoir. The problem is that it won’t carry much, and none of what it carries is accessible on the go. For me, it’s ideal for up to fifteen miles or so in cool weather, or ten in hot weather. Beyond that I’ll run out of water. I probably drink more water than most runners, partly because I’m fairly slow. A year ago, I was able to sustain an eight minute pace for twenty miles, and even then, I ran out of water with the Marathoner Vest. On a hot day, I don’t like running out of water. When I first started running distance I lived in Arizona, and saw a man pass away on the trail. Hydration is serious business.
I also have a couple hydration belts, one by Amphipod and a lumbar bottle rig by New Balance. Both are good for short runs.
I spent a half hour trying to figure out a way to carry enough water for a thirty miler on the trails, while also having enough pockets to carry stuff. I could cover the water problem by wearing the Amphipod bottles on my New Balance belt, and also wearing by Camelbak… but that wouldn’t solve the problem of where to carry gear, food, my phone, keys, and laptop computer.
My Camelbak came from Fleet Feet in Chesterfield, MO. I tried it on, talked to a lady there who completed a hundred miler last fall, who raved about her Camelbak Ultra LR Vest. I asked what she liked and she said “all the places to put my stuff.”
How’d It Perform?
Today was supposed to be an off-day but there’s a new federal reg, enforced by BATF, that when you buy new, cool running gear, you have to try it out within twenty four hours. I won’t get into the politics of the rule (I’m more of a libertarian, myself) but I do my best to comply with the law, when I can, so I took my LR Vest for a spin this afternoon.
I went easy because I’m nursing what feels like a mild ankle sprain, and it’s supposed to be an off day. Plus tomorrow is probably going to be a 28 miler. I’ll update this post tomorrow with how the vest fares for a longer run.
For now, let me start off with this: IT ROCKS.
I thought, before starting out, that I had it adjusted for a good fit. It took about a mile of pulling various straps until it fit snug all the way around. Even when it wasn’t snug, though, it didn’t bounce. The water reservoir rests right above the hips, and there’s no sloshing feel. When I got it to conform to my body, which again, is just a matter of pulling a few straps until it feels right, the fit was perfect. The vest barely felt like it was there, and offered no resistance to movement.
Incidentally, I had a set of calf sleeves on that were bugging me, so I sat down after a mile, stripped them off, and tucked them into the generous netting on the front of the harness. That’s convenient.
One final note for now. A buddy of mine, John Beck, used to say in jest, that it isn’t important what you do, so much as how good you look doing it. We were rock climbing fanatics, and when assessing gear, of principal concern was how good it looked. If you follow the above link to the Camelbak website, you’ll see it flat kicks ass, in terms of looks.
I’m eager for tomorrow’s long run, and will report back with more about the vest after a true test of twenty eight miles.
Last, the Disclaimers: I’m not a rep of Camelbak. I bought my vest. The link above is not an Amazon affiliate link, and I won’t make anything if you buy a vest. The only way I make money is if you say, wow, Clayton sure knows his vest. I think I’ll buy one of his books. The link is to a 99 cent special going on until 1/31/14 🙂
All right. Time to make low carb sushi.
I took the vest out for a 24.7 miler. I thought the trail was 28 but Garmin disagreed. Anyhow I shot video to demonstrate the vest.