GEAR Review

Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest – Review

I checked out this minimalist running pack in Portugal and put it through its paces on 120km of trails ...

I got my hands on the Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest recently, and took it on a 120km 3 day trail run along the Portuguese coast and put it through its paces .. Let’s see how it got on:

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As you can see from the profile above, the pack really hugs the body very well, and sits nice and high so not to bounce and move around.

Why The Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest In Particular?

I was looking for a pack which would see me good for up to 10 hours on any particular day whilst on the trails in Portugal. I also wanted one which was super-lightweight, fitted like a glove, and had just enough (but not more) capacity to hold some snacks and hydration salts, a good amount of fluids, a windproof jacket, spare buff, first aid kit and SPOT tracker. The options I was considering within the Camelbak range were the Circuit Vest – this is actually the same weight as the Ultra Pro Vest, but it lacked the support and grip around the side which I always look for in my rucksacks. And then there was the Ultra 10 Vest which did look really sweet. But weighing an extra 100grams (280g total) this was a minus point, plus I didn’t need nearly this capacity for my trip, and I wanted to be super minimal. So the Ultra Pro Vest it was.

Photo 13-04-2017, 08 57 34
The back storage sections offering 3.5L (arguably more as the fabric is stretchy) which is perfect for a full day’s trail running.

Quick Facts

  • Price: £84.99
  • Weight: 192grams (see photo below, as this is the weight as weighed by me, so what I would suggest is the ‘true’ weight. It is advertised as 180grams)
  • Water storage capacity: I would suggest a max of 2L. This is comprised of 2 x 500ml “Quick Stow flasks” in the front pockets (which come with the rucksack), and then I fitted my own 1 x 1.5L Crux bladder in the rear (note, this doesn’t come with the rucksack, this is purchased separately). I would say this is the max it would comfortable store whilst leaving a little extra space for other items
  • Storage capacity: 3.5L in the main compartment in the rear
  • Number of pockets: 9 in total
    • 2 large ones on the rear (3.5L capacity);
    • 2 smaller stretchy ones on the size;
    • 3 on the front right (two smaller ones at the top for a gel or two, a compass for example, and one for the 500ml Quik Stow flask at the bottom); and
    • 2 on the front left (one for your phone at the top, which fits an iPhone 6 with case, and one for the 500ml Quik Stow flask at the bottom)
  • AdventureFerg size recommend: Medium (I am 6’2″ and 70kg)

Fit & Comfort

It is unisex sized, and offered in 3 sizes: small (28″-34″), medium (32″-40″) and large (39″-46″). I chose the medium, and this fitted really really well, following the contours of my back, ribs on the side and round onto my front. It has two adjustable sternum straps across the front which I left on a fairly middle ground – it wasn’t necessary to have this absolutely pulled tights as the pack sits snugly without unnecessary tightening around here. Actually I found if I tightened it a bit much, it would rub on my ribs.

Any part of the backpack which is in contact with your body is constructed of “3D vent mesh”. This is actually really a really neat and lightweight material, and provided a really comfortable fit, even when the backpack was fully loaded and I had it on my back for 8 hours + .. There is also a good strip of this material, around 3″ or 4″ high, around the side connecting the front part of the rucksack to the back part, and I always really like having this solid rather than just a flimsy strap or two – I find it grips the body that bit better and less prone to moving around.

Photo 13-04-2017, 08 56 51
The “3D Mesh” inner lining, clearly shown all the way round the backpack in those areas in contact with the body.

Storage

At the rear of the backpack, there are essentially two main areas offering a total storage of 3.5L. Firstly, there is the area which is right up against your back, suited to place a 1.5L bladder (as I did, note this isn’t included when you buy the pack), complete with a hanging loop to hook the bladder onto, and also access for the hose to come out and over the shoulder. Even when the bladder was placed in here full, I found there was space for some energy balls, a small first aid kit and windproof jacket. And the second storage space is a stretchier area which surrounds the primary storage area I just mentioned, and it is comprised of more stretchy and expandable material, great for stuffing extra items of clothing / buff for example.

Photo 13-04-2017, 08 58 08
You can see here the main storage area in the back has a loop to hang your bladder from, plus access over the shoulder for the tube to run through.

On the sides there is one small compartment on either side, which has been formed by placing a layer of stretchy mesh which would be good for stashing bars / gels / smaller items which you needed to hand.

The front pockets are good, with 2 larger ones at the bottom which are designed to house 500ml soft flasks in each (total of 1L of liquid), and these ‘Quick Stow’ bottles are included with the bag. There is then an additional two pockets on the top half of the right hand side, and a larger zip pocket on the left hand side which is ideal for your phone. I stored my iPhone 6 in here which has quite a chunky case on it, and it fitted well. I would say an iPhone 6 Plus or larger equivalent wouldn’t fit.

So the total advertised capacity of the rucksack is 4.5L, but I think with the expandable sections on the back and side, it probably pushes up to more like 5L or 5.5L which is great.

Weight

This was the main reason for being drawn to this vest, that weight was super light. Here is how it stacks up:

  • Ultra Pro Vest The advertised weight is 180grams (without the flasks). However on placing it on my digital scales, it comes in at 194grams. Still, that’s super light and you really do barely feel you have anything on your back.
  • Crux 1.5L Reservoir I used, plus tube weighed 197grams
  • Quik Stow 500ml Flasks x 2 came in at a total of 73grams
Photo 13-04-2017, 09 26 21
Although the dry weight is advertised as 180grams, my weighing check came in at 192grams. Still, it’s a very light pack for what it offers.

So the total base weight of the above rig (backpack, reservoir and 2 x flasks) comes in at 450grams. I think you will struggled to get this much lower. You could of course shave off 200grams by not using the Crux reservoir, but this will no doubt decrease the mileage you will be able to cover without a re-supply.

Verdict

I really enjoyed using this rucksack over the 3 days and 120km of trails. It was barely noticeable, and performed as I had wanted it to. For sure I will continue using this for day long trail running where just a few small items / energy snacks need to be stowed, and 2.5L of water suffice. This is a top recommend from Adventure Ferg, and will be a great piece of kit for the hot running season to come.


The Camelbak Ultra Pro was trialled during a 120km run, click here to read more about that, and see some epic pictures and video clips. 

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