July 05, 2013

CamelBak Review (and a giveaway!)

I had 13 miles on the schedule today, and when I woke up, it was pouring rain. I started to think maybe I should run tomorrow instead, but then I looked at the forecast for the week:

Seriously?! It's been raining at least once a day for about two weeks in a row. So, I decided to just get it done this morning, rain or shine. Besides, I was excited to try out a hydration vest from CamelBak called the Marathoner.

Someone from CamelBak contacted me a couple weeks ago and asked if I would want to review one of their hydration packs. Since I'm just getting into the long marathon training runs, it was perfect timing! When I was training for my first marathon last year, I bought a hydration belt to carry a 20 oz. bottle of water. It worked just fine, but I really dreaded wearing it. After about 10 miles, it always makes my back ache, and sometimes it causes a cramp in my side.

So when I swore off marathons (hahaha!) I bought a handheld water bottle to carry 10 oz. of water. I like the handheld much better, but it has limitations--10 oz. of water doesn't last very long, particularly in the summer months. I would have to plan my running routes around places to refill my water.

I had thought about giving a hydration vest/backpack a try, but honestly, I had a hard time believing that it would be comfortable and not bounce around while I was running. However, I saw that the hydration vests/packs have a lot of great reviews; the people that use them seem to love them. I was excited that CamelBak gave me the opportunity to try one out.

They sent me a vest called the Marathoner, which holds 70 ounces of water. (ETA 8/2/19: The Marathon is no longer being sold, but the link above is for a very similar model). I have to admit, when I first opened the box and tried it on, I was very skeptical about whether I'd like it. My main concerns were chafing, the weight of it, and bouncing. But that's what a review is for, so I was open-minded and excited to give it a try.

I geared up in my typical clothes that I would wear for a long run. Then I filled up the "bladder" of the vest, which was very easy to do. There is a cap that you give a quarter turn, and it comes right off. It's really wide-mouthed, so you could easily throw in ice cubes (I really wish I'd thought of adding ice before I went out!). The wide mouth also makes it easy to clean.

Once I put the bladder back in the vest, the vest felt really heavy in my hands, which concerned me. But I put the vest on and tightened the straps, and it didn't feel too heavy at all! The weight was distributed very evenly, and it was pretty comfortable. Noah was nice enough to come out in the rain and take some pictures.

I would be lying if I said I didn't feel like a total dork wearing it. But comfort and convenience wins over pride any day when it comes to running ;)  Besides, I was thrilled that I was able to carry along a bunch of stuff with me--plenty of water, of course; ShotBloks; pepper spray; and my iPhone (in a Ziplock bag because of the rain). There was still a ton of room to bring more stuff, but I don't know that I needed anything else (although in retrospect, I should have brought a dry pair of socks in a baggie!).

There are two large pockets in front, as well as two small, flat pockets (the perfect size for my iPhone--it held the phone flat against my chest, so it didn't bounce). There is also a good sized pocket in the back, to tuck a light jacket or something.

The blue tube is where you suck the water out. It's held down with a little clip, easy to pull it up to your mouth.

This is the little pocket for my phone. The red thing is a safety whistle!

Anyway, I finally headed out for my run. The first thing I noticed was that the vest didn't bounce around at all, like I expected it too. The adjustable straps all held it right to my chest and back, so that it moved with me, rather than bouncing.

Also, I noticed that my arms didn't brush against the vest at all. Because the sides are so open, it didn't get in the way of my arm swing (a good thing, to avoid chafing). I was actually really surprised at how comfortable it was. I'm not going to say I forgot I was wearing it--I was always aware that it was there--but nothing about it bothered me at all.

By the end of my run, I was in love with this vest! Out of all the reviews I've done, this one surprised me the most. The vest is much more comfortable than the waist pack I wore last year, and I absolutely love how much storage it has. I didn't have a single chafe mark, my back didn't hurt, and I didn't have to stop running for even a second; it was very easy to drink while running.

My favorite long run route doesn't have a single spot to refill my handheld water bottle, so I was planning to have to find somewhere else to train; but with the vest, I can run my favorite route because I can carry everything I need. For my shorter long runs (less than 10 miles or so), I'll still use my handheld water bottle. But I'm definitely going to start using this vest for my long runs.

Overall, my favorite things about the vest:
  • Tons of storage for random "stuff"
  • Holds enough water for my longest training runs
  • Very comfortable, and it doesn't bounce
  • Easy to adjust the straps so it fits the way it is most comfortable for my body. The straps are pretty long, so the vest could probably fit many shapes and sizes.
The only drawbacks I can think of:
  • I'm not sure how well it would fit someone with actual boobs; mine are so small that it wasn't an issue for me, but I imagine it may cause a problem for someone with a big chest
  • I can't dump any of the water over my head, which is something I do during the summer when it's super hot

CamelBak very generously offered to give away not one, but FIVE of their handheld bottles called the Arc Quick Grip to five different winners! The handhelds hold 10 oz. of water, so they are perfect for short summer runs. To enter to win, just fill out the form below. I will use Random.org to select all five winners on Monday at 8:00 a.m. EST.  Contest has now ended. (Open for U.S. residents only; sorry, international friends!)

(Disclosure: CamelBak provided the vest for me to review in exchange for my honest opinion about it).

If you found this review helpful, and you plan to buy a CamelBak anyway, I'd appreciate your using my link to the Camelbak Marathoner Hydration Vest on Amazon. I get a small commission if you buy it through the link. I never recommend any product with the hope of getting commission, however. My review is 100% honest.

Anyway, overall I had a pretty decent long run today, minus the pouring rain. It was down pouring for a few miles, and after that, my feet were soaked. At around mile 10, my feet were really sore from running in wet socks and shoes. I was dying to get home and take my shoes off! But I kept my heart rate in the right zone the entire time, and my pace was better than last week.

Notice my bare feet--I didn't even take the time to snap a picture before taking my socks off!


  1. Wow thanks for the review. I might just have to get one of those. I hate the belts too.

  2. The first time I wore my old camelback (it's quite a bit bigger/bulkier than that one) - my husband said I should wear something over my sports bra. I ignored him cause I'm stupid. I had a hole in my shoulder by the time I finished my run (16 miles) that day - it was not pretty!!!

  3. AnonymousJuly 05, 2013

    I looked on the website, and it says the Marathoner vest comes in one size...how well do you think it would fit a plus-size runner?

    1. That's a really good question. I just got out my measuring tape to see if I could give you a rough estimation. I made the straps as far apart as they would go, and the circumference around the part where the bottom buckle is (in the picture, it's the buckle right above my natural waist) is about 46 inches. That's just a rough estimate, but at least it gives you some idea :)

  4. I just started using a similar vest by Nathan for my long runs. To answer your comment re: boobs (mine are a size D), even when I have the center strap pulled as tight as possible, the front pockets/straps do get pushed a bit to the side of my body rather than resting on the front, and I feel like I have to hold my arms out just a smidge farther than they would naturally fall to avoid brushing the vest with my arms while moving, but it's not enough to make it uncomfortable or cause chafing.

  5. Very cool! I had someone ask me about this yesterday...I will direct them to your blog for more info! :) This definitely seems to have a lot of "plusses." If I ever do marathon training, I might have to get one of these!

  6. What a great thing! Thanks for reviewing it. My brother runs marathons and usually has to "stash" water in different spots along his route when he does his long runs. I'll have to show him our post! As for the rain I'm worried about running in it tomorrow. I'm training for a half and Saturdays are my long run days. It's been raining all night and not letting up. Any tricks to running in the rain? A visor? Extra socks? It's only 5 miles but it's the longest I've done before so it might as well be 20!

  7. I've run with an earlier version of the CamelBak pack and it had a much less secure strap system with skinnier straps, so it would bounce up and down when I ran. This vest system looks MUCH better. Glad it worked for you. I've got tiny boobs too, so I will definitely look into one on your recommendations!

  8. Thank you for doing a review for this - I'd been curious, too. You should put a link on your "favorite things" tab for it for us to click through! :)

  9. So I am never really prepared for anything, but my mom fills hers up with water and ice the night before and leaves it in the fridge then just throws the bladder in her bag that morning! Her water always seems to stay nice and cool!

  10. I bought a CamelBak hydration backpack last year (Luxe model - because it came in a gorgeous purple which happens to be my favorite color)... anyhow, at that time, I was about 240 pounds or so and wore a snug size 1x (if memory serves me correctly). I'm very well endowed up top and in spite of my extra fluff and breasts - the backpack fit me. I wasn't on the last possible belt "setting" - so even if I had been a little bigger, it still would have fit.

    The sales guy at REI tried dissuading me against the backpack saying it was designed for cycling or hiking and not running. He said it would likely flop around too much and I would resort to holding on to the shoulder/chest straps while I ran. My instincts told me he was wrong... the pack comes with both chest and waist straps so I knew as long as it was tightened properly it wouldn't likely flop around - especially since I tried it on in the store and it felt fine. I'm SO glad I listened to myself and bought the backpack against his advice!

    In a nutshell - the pack has far exceeded every expectation. Mine has a 100 oz capacity - but I don't necessarily have to fill it all the way - so I fill it to suit my water needs. The newer CamelBak's come with a quick release/insert drinking tube - so I disconnect the drinking tube and store the bag in the refrigerator to keep the water cold before heading out for a run.

    I love that the backpacks are versatile for other activities too (bike rides, hikes, trip to the park, zoo, amusement park, etc...). I even bought my kids their own kid sized CamelBak (because they wouldn't leave mine alone).

    Ok, I think I've touted the CamelBak long enough - HAHA! I just wanted to provide my own personal feedback as a CamelBak user who was formerly plus sized.

  11. It always weirds me out when I see Newport lol I live in Newport, MN just south of St. Paul lol

  12. Winning a blue handheld would be great so Charlie doesn't have to carry around my pink one!

  13. I work outdoors for my job, and it involves a lot of hiking in fairly remote areas. We all swear by our Camelbaks!!! So I knew when I started running that I was going to use it then as well. My only recommendation? 120oz might be wise when you are out all day with no access to another water supply, but it's A LOT of weight when you're running!

  14. I bought a camelbak for hiking and biking and I absolutely LOVE it! I am glad they have a nice one for runners!

  15. Ohhh! I love the vest. I have just a regular Camelbak bag, but I don't ever use it. My mom got it for me for my birthday last year and I've only used it once. I feel like it just moves too much when I run. Plus, I haven't ran over 3 miles yet so I don't really need it. But I do love the vest!

  16. Wow be great to win one of these! Looks like it will be perfect for my next half :)

  17. Great job on your run! I had the same concerns about a hydration pack... I assumed it would be like running with a backpack bouncing around on my back, but I'll have to give one a try. It can be hard to stay hydrated on those 12+ mile marathon training runs in the heat!

  18. One of the best tips I got when I started running was how important your socks are! Almost as important as your shoes! I've never run with a vest...or anything. My really long runs (10+ miles) were all in the winter/early spring and I would just do a double loop that took me back past our house if I needed fluids (or to pee...). Now I just carry a bottle with me but that's not exactly comfortable!

  19. Okay--I'm gonna blame YOU when I order one of these and my husband say's, "REALLY--ANOTHER hydration gadget????" LOL!! Looks like exactly what I need!!

  20. Cool...I would love to have one!


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