It’s 2020, and a difficult year for us all. This means it probably wouldn’t be all that surprising if you stumbled upon a product where the reviewer ended up being completely underwhelmed or even unhappy with a particular piece of gear. Maybe something went awry while testing the product or they received a lemon and the construction was all wrong. Could it be that even the latest running gear is “meh” this year? Not at all!
Thankfully, I found myself pleasantly surprised with the comfort, performance, and features of the CamelBak Ultra Pro Vest ($120). After three seasons, all the elements, and variety of distances on the trails testing out this running hydration vest, I’m happy to report that it would be a welcome addition to your quiver of running essentials. I found myself reaching for the Ultra Pro Vest no matter the distance or anticipated time spent outdoors. This is a solid do-it-all run vest for the run-it-all type of runner.
CamelBak Ultra Pro Vest Construction and Fit
I tested the women’s-specific version of the CamelBak Ultra Pro Vest, which has all the same features as the men’s version, but is optimized for a women’s frame. The men’s and women’s vests each have two colorway options. The men’s and women’s vests both weigh 5 ounces, though the men’s is 160 grams and the women’s 150 grams.
The materials used, including a soft 3D Micro Mesh, result in a pack that is highly breathable and comfortable without sacrificing durability. The construction is top notch. I foresee being able to use this pack for many years to come.
The Ulra Pro Vest sits high on the back. The front straps, while offering a substantial amount of storage, do not feel bulky. The only place that offers fit adjustment are the two sternum straps. These clip together easily and help the pack stay secure while dialing in fit for a snugger experience. I had no issue regardless of the air temperature or elements adjusting, clipping, or unclipping the sternum straps. In the past, I have had issues in cold temperatures–read: frozen fingers–adjusting other packs, so I was pleased with how easy this was on the Ultra Pro Vest. My one grievance was that the chest straps didn’t allow me to tighten them as much as I wanted to in the summer months when wearing minimal clothing. The sternum straps are also very stretchy–I imagine this would make for a very comfortable fit for a larger chested woman.
In terms of sizing, the Ultra Pro Vest is available in extra small to large for women and small to large for men. I’d say this particular pack runs a little large. This is fine for months where you are layering but could be improved upon during hot months. I wouldn’t let this deter you from ordering, but if you are between sizes I recommend ordering a size down. For reference, I’m 5’3” with a small chest and broad shoulders. I typically wear a women’s size small or 4 in tops. The Ultra Pro Vest I tested was a size small and while wearing minimal attire this summer, it was just a bit too big.
CamelBak Ultra Pro Vest Storage and Hydration Options
The CamelBak Ultra Pro Vest pack has a capacity of 6L/360 cubic inches and can carry a 1.5-liter reservoir (not included) in the back. The back pocket of the vest is not roomy by any means and would likely not hold anything extra if used with a bladder. The vest comes with two 500-milliliter Quick Stow soft flasks that fit easily into the pockets on the front.
Speaking of pockets, they come in abundance on this pack and for the most part they are all really useful. The additional pockets and ease of access on the front and sides of this pack, along with a stretchy pass-through pocket along the back are where this pack really shines. The pockets are deep and super secure without being difficult to manipulate.
The one pocket that may have missed the mark was a front zippered pocket designed to store a phone. My phone, a Samsung Galaxy that’s 6 inches tall and 3 inches wide, just didn’t fit, but it was nice to zip my keys in there securely.
I really appreciated the pass-through pocket noted above along the back of the pack which allows you to slip layers in and out without having to deal with zippers or take your pack off entirely. The pocket is not huge but large enough for a rain jacket and gloves or even trekking poles (though I didn’t give the trekking-pole storage a shot).
There are two sets of two deep–like Mary Poppins’s carpet bag deep–pockets on both front straps. You read that right, there are four deep pockets in total along the front, all of which can carry the soft flasks that come with the pack. There is just no way I could ever fill them to maximum capacity but it was fun to keep trying.
There also two stretchy quick-stash pockets that run along the sides and toward the back of the pack. They are great for trash, a headlamp, a beanie, buff, and similar. I thought these might interfere with the pass-through back pocket, but they did not at all and came in pretty handy when I felt like storing something I might want later on, but didn’t necessarily want to take up real estate in the front of my pack.
A quick note about the Quick Stow soft flasks that come with the purchase of the Ultra Pro Vest: I really like them. They never leaked, had an easy locking mechanism near the spout, and the quality of the materials used just seem a lot more durable than other soft flasks I have tested. Right off the bat, I was and still am really pleased with these bottles.
Lastly, there is a bungee system on the low back and upper right shoulder that are intended for trekking-pole storage. As noted earlier, I did not use this pack to store my trekking poles so I cannot speak to the reliability or ease of use when it comes to carrying poles. Testing this feature now, in my house, they seem to do the trick but as we all know that can definitely change when out on the trail.
CamelBak Ultra Pro Vest Overall Impressions
Overall, I give the CamelBak Ultra Pro Vest high marks. I found it to be comfortable throughout the seasons, the construction to be top quality, and all of the features just really made sense. This is a solid and practical running hydration vest!
As stated, this vest does run a little large and there is not a ton of storage in the back compartment regardless of whether or not you choose to carry a bladder. But, there are a ton of useful pocket options throughout and despite the roomy fit, this pack was super comfortable for hours on end.
I presently have seven different running vests at my disposal and I choose the Camelback Ultra Pro Vest more often than not. If you’re looking for a versatile and dependable running hydration pack that isn’t going to break the bank, I recommend giving the CamelBak Ultra Pro Vest a try.
Call for Comments
- Do you run in the CamelBak Ultra Pro Vest? Can you share your overall thoughts on the pack for the type of running you do?
- What do you put in the various pockets and what do you think about the storage features in general?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]