Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Camelbak Powderbak review

I am trying to fit a lifetime of running into a short period of time.

Starting running later in life, I am happy to not be burnt out or possibly suffering from an overuse injury by the time I was 30. However, it leaves me wishing I could do more, see more, and run more as soon as possible. That is why I cram in lots of cool races in a short span of time, even though I know it won't produce the best results possible. (See Cooper River Bridge Run, Around the Bay Race, Crescent City Classic and Cherry Blossom Ten Mile)  But thems the breaks.

Similarly, I would love to product test all the products in the world but my running still is, for me, a means to produce the best race results possible. I can't do that while simultaneously trying out every new product under the sun (be it supplement, shoe or what have you.) That said, if I can fit some products in without being too obstrusive to my schedule, I am glad to do so. That's why last summer, even when the heat was high and not really conducive to what the product was meant to convey, I tried out the Camelbak Powderbak.  I wore it a few times and was quite pleased.  But I wanted to wait until winter to give a full test since that was what the product was designed to be used.

Then Portland never had winter. Hell, we barely had a chilly fall. As such, I never really got an opportunity to put it to the full test. Then I realized using a product for its not-intended purpose is the perfect way to give something a proper test. If it performs where it shouldn't, it most assuredly will do much better where it should.  (As always, in the interest of disclosure, I am a Camelbak sponsored athlete.  However, nothing I get from Camelbak is predicated on me reviewing it, positively or negatively. So take what you read, as all things, on a "This was his opinion. Let me try it out for myself" line of thought.)

At 6'1'' 180+ pounds, many things don't fit me that well. I am not a huge guy but bigger than many, especially runners my speed. In addition, I have a long torso, so many products just don't fit me well. I live with it and move on.  The Powderbak, however, seemed just long enough to feel nice and snug.  That snugness is on purpose, as well, considering the product is meant to work as a compression-type shirt. Hugging close to your body, it uses your body heat to keep your drink from freezing. Again, I never got to test how effective that was during SunFest 2015. However, the insulated pack and hose kept my drink cold even in the warm temps so I think that is a good sign.

The reservoir is completely removable from the back pouch for easy filling and cleaning of both the reservoir and vest. The pouch gives you a little bit of a hunch, especially if you are wearing it as a baselayer with other clothing on top of it. But who cares? Are you out there for a fashion show or do you want a product which works as it is intended.

I was told this was not the best-selling product they had and I am not exactly sure why. The full-zip vest is made from a very thin and breathable polyester/spandex mix. It has a shorter bladder hose which I wish was in more of the packs I have. It's wicking, quick drying and is the perfect definition of "wearable hydration."  Was it tighter on my body than expected? Well, yes because I had nothing to go by in forming that opinion. Plus on my initial test runs I wore it over my Skins compression top in order to try and see how uncomfy it would be.  (Look at me sacrificing for you. I should win a Nobel.)

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by the Powderbak.  Looking at cons sections I saw some say it sized a little small or that it could do with a small zippered pouch. I think a small pocket on the vest couldn't hurt too much but it is not a make or break type of thing. It is not supposed to be the outermost layer you are wearing, or if that, the only one. Pockets should come in some other form, for the most part.

In reading other reviews I found some runners wearing this in California in the heat and they experienced the same problems I did with finding cold weather to test it out in. Like me, they also were surprised to see how well it kept their drinks cold in the insulated pouch and tube.

Retailing for an even $100 (and I am sure you can find it cheaper online) this is a tidy little product. I think you would like it.

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