Monday, July 21, 2014

CamelBak Partnership and Product Review: CamelBak Marathoner Vest

Full-disclosure: I hate wearing hydration packs, bottles or anything of the sort.

I am, for the most part, a roadracer who enjoys having water handed to him every mile. Call it pampered or lazy or what have you but it is true. So when I do find a product I like that falls into this category, it is a small miracle. Fortunately for me, I found it years ago with CamelBak.

When I attempted my first 100 miler back in 2007 (The Old dominion 100), I was wearing a CamelBak. Even though I ended up DNFing this race at mile 87, at no point was I anything but happy with the pack and CamelBak has come a LONG way in seven years. Of course, as runners, we find a product we like, it pleases us, and then for some reason we try to find something better. I flirted with a few other products but couldn't really find that same marriage of comfort, ease and design. Then I was burglarized.

Four days before Christmas a few years back my loft was broken into. I lost a great deal of important things; more important than any running gear. But in the list of times it would have been just great if the thieving meth-head bastard had not stolen were my CamelBak products. So to say I am excited to be announcing my partnership with this fantastic company would be quite the understatement.

As such, I, the quintessential wanting-nothing-on-my-body-at-all runner, will be reviewing a slew of Camelbak products and giving my honest assessment of how they work over the next few weeks. I will be starting with the newly designed CamelBak Marathoner Vest.

I took this new vest on a small run just to see how it felt initially. I also consciously made the rookie mistake of not burping the bladder so that it would slosh around inside. I wanted to see how it would perform under less than optimal conditions. Let me say it did a stellar job. But that was a 5 miler. Anything can go right for half an hour.

So I decided to take it out on a full length run of the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park here in Portland, OR. Well, that run was aborted do to the combination of a humid day in the park, my supernatural ability to sweat liquids that I haven't even drank yet, and a seam on a pair of shorts in a place where a seam should never, ever, ever be. But prior to that second degree burn from chafing (I am serious. It was bad), I put a solid 21 miles of running, fast hiking and twisting and turning through the park. The pack was simply stellar for the entire three hours.

Even jammed packed with the provisions I thought I might need for a 50k of traipsing through the forest, it felt light as a feather. The 70 ounce bladder (2 liters) was snuggly in place in the back. It sits very lightly on the shoulders and doesn’t swing around. There are two clips to hold the drinking tube along the right shoulder pad. The mesh pocket on the back can even carry an extra piece of clothing, and I almost shed my soaked shirt in the forest to put it back there. I also noticed when I took some pictures there were ample reflective bands in the front and the back of the vest. The cushioning on the pack itself was not only airy but extremely comfortable. I assumed a pack had to be one of the other, either cushy and hot or breathable but non-existent.  This married the two excellently.

Even when I was getting increasingly irritated from my chafing, and everything should have been bothering me, the pack was top-notch. When I tried to alleviate my growing "problem" I simply reached into one of the ample pockets to grab some BodyGlide. As I attempted to keep my mind off the pain, I grabbed some of the Shurky Jurky I had stashed in another pocket along with some PowerBar Gel Blasts.  I remember thinking that I had more food in here than I had eaten during my 50 miler course record at the Iron Horse 50  a few years ago.  Yet it still all seemed to be in its proper place. My camera and phone (separate items) were also in store and easily accessible. I wouldn't want to deprive you of these lovely pictures of my sweat-drenched self.

When the run left the park and I took to the city streets, I realized I had depleted all 70 ounces of water. So, I simply slid the pack off, and with CamelBak's proprietary Antidote system,  easily undid the huge screw valve and filled the bladder halfway again at water fountain I came across in town. (NW Couch and NW 18th Ave if you are curious and need one.) If there is an easier or better bladder out there than CamelBak's I haven't found it.

Simply put, I was blown away with how wonderful this pack was. Even the little things like excess straps rubbing against my arms, or swaying as I sprinted down the switchbacks did not occur. I don't know how Camelbak did it but they made this road runner enjoy a relatively large running pack. My hats off to you, guys and girls.

Quick stats:
Price: $100 (a virtual steal)
Total Weight: 1.13 lbs / 513 g
Color : Skydiver/Egret  (Or blue and silver. I speak color wheel)

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