Camelbak wants to stop the sag. Its new Chase Bike Vest is meant to win over roadies who’d ordinarily stuff their jersey pockets to the limit. Designed with help from Dirty Kanza 200 winner Yuri Hauswald, it is meant to help riders carry fluid, food, and gear more comfortably on big days in remote country.
Mountain bikers have known for years that packs are best for rides over two hours (and sometimes less). But this Camelbak isn’t quite like an ordinary trail pack.
Instead, the Chase Bike Vest resembles the packs and vests more common in the ultra-running world. Right away, you’ll notice significant storage pockets right on the two straps. The pack offers an elastic mesh pocket and a zipper pocket on the right, as well as a larger zipper pocket on the left.
Hauswald’s experience racing five editions of Dirty Kanza (and winning in 2015) shaped this design. On rough terrain, it is much easier to reach up for a gel when it’s in quick-draw pockets on your chest. Plus, you can then stow that wrapper away without reaching behind your back or stuffing it up your shorts.
Even when the pockets were loaded with snacks and an iPhone, they felt comfortable and snug. That may be due to the two sternum straps that cinched the load, although we have to wonder if we could get by with only one.
The Chase Bike Vest’s main compartment holds a 1.5-liter bladder with a bite valve that opens and closes with a simple lever. Combine this with two bottles on the bike, and you’d be set for a long day in the saddle. There’s one main zippered pocket next to the bladder pocket, as well as two stretchy mesh side pockets.
Lightweight 3D Vent mesh is used throughout for better breathability. The nylon material is thinner than the average trail pack, helping keep the pack’s weight down. The wide shoulder straps help evenly distribute the weight.
Thanks to the construction and materials, the Chase Bike Vest feels less stifling than the average hydration pack. It’s still there, and you’ll still get a bit sweaty, but the only cooler alternative would be a hip pack. The Camelbak also sits high on your back to allow access to jersey pockets in case you’re doing a really, REALLY big ride.
As is the case with all hydration packs, this one encourages more frequent drinking, especially on bumpy terrain or trails. Similarly, we found ourselves eating more often with easy access to snacks in those pockets on the shoulder straps.
So who would wear this pack? Gravel racers? XC mountain bikers? Roadies who shirk the Velominati’s “style rules?” Potentially, yes to all.
The Chase Bike Vest really shines in long days on dirt when you don’t have the opportunity to stop and refuel. This is probably why Hauswald likes it so much. But for that matter, this Camelbak would be great in a marathon cross-country mountain bike race, especially if you aren’t inclined to shop around for snacks and drinks at aid stations.
We won’t be wearing this pack on most rides — especially short ones — but it will be a valuable piece of gear to have in the closet for big days.