At a recent Endless Summer Trail Run, I won a prize in the drawing after the race; a Camelbak Octane XCT hydration pack. Up until this point I’ve been using a Mountain Hardware vest with a bladder, that works mostly OK, but I was excited to try something new, that was meant more for carrying a large amount of water.
I’ve had a chance to use it on a couple occasions now, and in particular at the Afton 25K race last Saturday.
One of the coolest things about this pack is the fact that it can carry a 2L bladder. This is more than enough for any of my runs, and the distances between aid stations. Despite being more water (and heavier) than my previous vest, the Camelbak rides better because the lower strap is at waist level. This makes it more akin to a hiking pack where you can tighten the waist strap and carry the weight on your hips. This didn’t impair my movement at all and kept the pack very comfortable on my shoulders.
Speaking of the waist strap, it holds two awesome pockets that are plenty large for modern cell phones, as well as a key clip, and some snacks for in between stations. It was very easy to get things in and out of the pockets, and they held tight against my body to keep things from rattling. There is also a small pocket on the back for less needed items. The entire bladder system is held tight by an system of elastic straps that you can use to keep everything tight.
There were only a couple small annoyances with this vest. The first was the length of the bladder hose. It was just slightly longer than needed, which meant I kept having to push more of the hose back into the pouch or the loop would be too big and annoying. It seemed to be a greater problem as the water supply depleted later in the race. I was able to tighten the elastic which helped some, but I may try and cut the hose down just a bit for the future.
My only other complaint was that some of the straps did not have cuffs to keep the ends from flopping around. This was easily rectified by tucking the ends around the straps and keeping them tight that way, but if you have to remove the vest you have to re-tuck everything back away. It’s not a terrible problem, but some people might be very annoyed by it.
I like the Octane pack, and I can see myself using it on long runs. It doesn’t have pouches for water bottles, so my old pack will still see plenty of use, but the Octane fits the bill for long races for sure. It rides comfortably and has the storage space that I need, along with a large bladder for longer jaunts. Since I received it as a prize I can’t really make a judgement call if it’s a good value, but I would encourage people to add it to their list to check out the next time they’re looking for a new hydration pack.