Monday, August 24, 2015

Camelbak Circuit Review

This marks the 187th Camelbak product I have reviewed. OK, not really. It just feels like that because I love talking about products that are awesome.  So much running gear is just "meh" that when someone repeatedly makes good stuff, you wish to share it with everyone. For your reading pleasure, in no particular order, here are some of the other products of Camelbak's I have reviewed:  The Rogue; the Powderbak; the Quick Grip and Arc Grip handheldsthe Cloud Walker18 and Fourteener 24 and the fantastic Marathoner.

I admittingly do not put all the products through hundreds of miles of testing before giving my reviews. While an ideal way to review, I only have one back and can only wear one at a time. I do, however, wear the products in race situations which is where they matter the most or more likely, where a fussy runner like myself will notice all the things that go wrong with them. While I currently have a partnership with Camelbak, know I have been wearing their products for almost a decade, including my first 100 mile attempt back in 2007 at Old Dominion.

The latest product I will be reviewing is the Camelbak Circuit (roughly ~$80). The outside-the-norm testing I did for this pack included my running to the top of Corcovado in Rio De Janeiro and winning the Dam 15 Miler in Utah.

Here are some of the basics:

The back pouch holds a 1.5-liter Antidote reservoir, included as part of the product. a 2-liter reservoir will fit but defeats the point of efficiency with the pack.  On the front there are two stretch pockets which can hold additional water bottles for longer runs.  I can see how that might be handy in a race where time is of the essence and you want a fast change of bottles.  For me, this is where I store my Shurky Jurky, Body Glide or a few gels and the like.

It also has a smaller “envelope” pocket for quick-access items and a secure zippered sweat-proof pocket for a phone or MP3 player. I found it just barely did not fit my iPhone 6 with a bulky cover all the way but it did zip 90% of the way. At a total weight of 9.5 ounces sans bladder, the Circuit is minimalistic in design. It is not meant to carry all your other gear and socks and kitchen sink. Use this for a race or a run, not for hiking the Appalachian Trail.

On the runs I used above in Utah and Brazil, I was drinking my fluids at ridiculous speeds.  As such, I was curious how the sloshing would be in the pack. I found however, when you drink the liquid the elasticity of the bladder pouch retracts to cut down on sloshing! How ingenious! If that isn't enough to battle the watery motion just grab and adjust the side compression straps.

The pack sits perfectly between the shoulder blades, high up on the back and completely out of the way of your elbows as you run. It is almost as if you have cutest hunchback possible. Furthermore, and most importantly for someone who sweats like I do, is the ventilation pad with sundry and large holes where the pack meets the back. If you happen to have ice in your pack, even better as it helps keep you cold. As I sweltered in the dusty hot Utah sunny and humid Brazil "winter" this was beyond appreciated.

The dual chest straps were a major plus as they kept the pack snug on my oh-so-big runner chest. they adjust quickly, even on the run which I found I wanted to do when my breathing got a little ragged at 6,000 feet going up a hill. While I mentioned it above, I want to go back and talk about the waterproof pocket. Many things say they are waterproof but I was astounded how dry this pocket kept my phone.Battling my sweat is like a war of attrition with any product where the product loses.  This time, however, dryness prevailed.

All told, this is one fantastic product that you most assuredly need to add to your repertoire.   Lightweight, inexpensive, efficient and useful.  You can't ask for anymore in a pack!

(If you want to see a video of the product in motion, check out this little one here.)

    Hydration Capacity: 50 oz / 1.5L
    Total Capacity: 1.5L Reservoir
    Total Weight: 9.5 oz / 270g (pack only)
    Dimensions: 17 x 13.5 x 2 in
    Torso Length: 30 cm
    Back Panel: Air mesh
    Fabric: 70D reverse chain nylon.
    Harness: Fixed harness with cargo pockets and dual 
    slider™ sternum strap. Fits 30″—46″ chest.

Update: I have won four separate races in this pack, including two 50ks, a trail 15 miler mentioned above and a 16 mile trail race just this January.  To say it has held up well would be quite the understatement.

Me, on the other hand...

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