Like a middle aged man starting yoga, it seems like Camelbak are on a bit of a journey of rediscovery at the moment - first bum bags, and now vests? They're taking things back to first principles, leaving the backpack baggage at the door, and coming up with some smart, fresh approaches to keep our kidneys functioning when we head to the trails on hot days. The Chase Vest is a brand new product in the Camelbak range, and we've been giving it a solid run this past few weeks.
The not-so-minor details
Camelbak Chase Vest
Sea to Summit
Really stable and secure.
Lots of handy stash pockets.
Easy access on the fly.
Great weight distribution.
A little warmer than expected.
Inspired by jogging. Yes, jogging.
We admit it, there are members on staff here at Flow who occasionally dabble in a bit of trail running. The shame. But as any trail runner will tell you, one of the handiest pieces of kit you can own is a running vest. It seems like some bright spark at Camelbak realised the same fundamental aspects that make a vest so good for running are equally applicable for mountain biking – ergo, the Chase Vest is born, sharing a lot of similarities with Camelbak’s Circuit running vest.
So what’s the idea here?
The idea is simple; spread the load, increase stability. Backpacks put the full weight and bulk of whatever it is you’re carrying way out there, dangling off your back. Every time you swing your hips or throw your weight about, you’ve got that extra mass of the backpack adding to the inertia and trying to yank you off the bike. In contrast, the Chase Vest is all about positioning the weight across the front and back of your torso, meaning more of the mass can be kept closer to your body and helping to alleviate some of the feeling of being pulled about by the moving weight of your pack and its contents.
How is the load spread?
The weight is split about 70/30 between your back and front when the pack is loaded up. The main section of the vest is where you’ll find a 1.5 litre bladder, along with a large zippered compartment, a deep pouch section, a smaller zippered pocket, and an another smaller stretchy pouch that will hold a jacket or flanno. This main section sits in the middle of your back, it doesn’t hang low on your hips like Camelbak’s new Low Rider range.
The ‘straps’ then both hold quite a lot of gear too – on your right you’ve got an external webbing pouch, plus a a deep zippered pocket, the left strap has another large double-zippered pocket that has further internal compartments.
What does it actually carry?
The Chase Vest will fit a solid amount of gear, it’s only the water capacity that’s a little limited at 1.5 litres. But in terms of equipment and nutrition, you can easily store enough for a few hours on the bike. Without feeling like we were overloading the pack, we stashed a multitool, Co2 dispenser, a bunch of bars and gels, phone, tube, mini pump, tyre plugs, sunnies, a vest and we still had nothing in the large pouch section.
Is it more practical to use than a backpack?
Yes, it’s very convenient. What we like about the Chase Vest is that it has a variety of small stash points, which is far more usable than having a large compartment you need to rifle through. You can keep all the small items you use regularly in the front compartments, things like your phone, food, multitool or CO2, which can all be accessed without needing to stop or take the pack off. Then bigger items that are less frequently needed can go out back. If you’re using a jersey with rear pockets, you can still get at them too without taking the pack off too, as the Chase sits higher on your back.
Is it cooler to use than a backpack?
We’d say it’s fairly comparable. While the construction is fairly minimalistic and the pack doesn’t cover up much of your back, there’s not a lot of airflow under the bladder and the front compartments do restrict airflow to your flanks more than a traditional backpack’s straps do.
Anything annoying about it?
We found out the hard way that the elasticised pocket of the righthand strap is very good at launching your precious gels and food! When the going gets rough, things can bounce out of this pocket. Only use it to stash items that aren’t going to bounce free, or that you don’t want.
The little hose clips are a bit fiddly too. They’re easy to remove the hose from, but getting it clipped back in takes more concentration than we like.
But what about how it rides?
Along with the convenience of being able to access the front pockets so easily, the biggest advantage of the Chase Vest is its stability. It really does hug your body snuggly, and even when we had a full load of gear and water there’s no feeling of it shifting, bouncing or sloshing about, which makes it the perfect companion for wilder riding. If you’ve shied away from regular backpacks because you dislike the way they can affect your balance, you really should give the Chase a look, it’s a very ifferent feeling to a regular backpack.
Yep, for sure! Over the past few years, especially since the arrival of storage bibs such as Specialized’s SWAT bibs, we’ve been using backpacks less frequently. But the arrival of new-school packs that are better suited to technical and rough riding (such as the Camelbak Repack, Bontrager Rapid Pack, Henty Enduro Pack or Camelbak Skyline LR) has been changing our tune once again. The Chase Vest ticks a lot of boxes for us. Who knew that the world of jogging could bring some good to mountain biking?!