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Camelbak Ultra 10 Review

CamelBak says this hydration and running vest was designed specifically to meet the demands of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) where you might need to carry more gear.  So, if you don’t plan on running the UTMB, or even don’t run a lot of ultra races, is this pack still for you? In a word, yes. I have been using this pack since May 2017 and I love it for a number of reasons.

It is sometimes hard to strike a good balance of plenty of details in a review without getting too long and boring.  There are a lot of features to this pack so I will try to not get too long but give plenty of details of the good, and areas that could use some improvement, in my opinion.

Before I get into the specific items, let’s look at the specs.

  • Gear capacity: 8L / 480 cu in
  • Hydration capacity: 20L / 70 oz
  • Hydration type: CRUX™ Reservoir with
    Quicklink™ System
  • Pack weight: 8 oz / 250 g
  • Fit: Unisex with dual side adjustable
    straps to fit most sizes
  • Pockets: plenty; 13 exterior and 3
    interior in addition to the main area

Uses For This Pack

Although CamelBak lists this as a hydration vest, because of its storage capacity and features, it has far more functionality than just for running and I tend to refer to it as a hydration “pack” rather than a vest.  This might be semantics, but I think you get the point. I use the Ultra 10 for long runs, short runs, mountain biking, and hiking the trails.

Of course, having so much storage capacity can also work against you depending on your goals.  If you are a front of the pack runner and looking to get on the podium, you are probably traveling as light as possible.  You may not need this much cargo space for those uses. Me, however, even though I try to keep the weight down, I often run alone and in the woods.  For this reason, I am carrying plenty of water, first aid kit, snacks, jacket, and other supplies I might need in an emergency. Yes, I sometimes pack for my runs as though the apocalypse might occur before I get back home.  

The Good and The Bad, Inside and Out

Let’s start with the inside first.  You can see from the picture below that there is plenty of storage room inside the pack and pockets for organizing your gear.

When you open the main compartment of the pack you have the main storage area and three other organizing pockets.  The large organizing pocket against the main body of the pack is very useful and a good size. However, it is too loose for my taste.  I wish this pocket either didn’t open quite so much or was made of a stretchy type material to keep the contents a little more snug.

Although it is hard to tell in this picture, there is another decent size pocket in the bottom section of the outside flap.  On the top of the outside flap, there is a zipper pocket that also has a clip for your keys. These pockets are all see through mesh which is useful for knowing what it inside.

The outside, as can be seen in the pictures above has plenty of storage and adjustability.  The specs from CamelBak says there are 13 exterior pockets but dang if I can find them all. I only count 11 so I guess I am missing something.

Pockets

The backside has a stuff pocket and a zipper pocket.  Both of these are useful for items that you want to keep outside the pack but don’t need that often as you will have to take off the pack to get to them.  There are also stretchy side pockets on each side, but they can be hard to reach while still wearing the pack unless you can reach back pretty far.

The side pockets seem to be one of the largest negatives compared to some other packs.  However, the location of these stretchy pockets seems to be necessary to have the side adjustment straps accessible.  I like the dual side adjustment straps because it allows for unisex and different size bodies, as well as it accommodates changing needs depending on the amount of clothing you are wearing for the season or conditions.

Lastly, for the backside review, there is a loop for storing trekking poles which can fit into one of the stretchy side pockets.

On the shoulder straps on the front of the pack, you have plenty of pockets of various sizes.  Some of the pockets are very small for chapstick, salt tablets, or other small items that you need regularly.  There is a zipper pocket that can be used for phone storage. My biggest complaint here is that due to the ever-increasing size of phones, it might be hard to completely zip up this pocket.  Don’t get me started on my views of the phones looking more like tablets these days.

If you prefer to use front bottles for hydration, there is a pocket for a hard or soft flask on each side, or they give you plenty of room for snacks or gels if you don’t use the flask.  Note, the flasks are not included.

Other features on the front

There are two front/sternum straps on the front that are adjustable.  There is also a safety whistle attached to one of the shoulder straps.  Some people might not think this is very important, but I generally like to carry a whistle when on the trail.  I think this is a nice touch.

Hydration

There is a long zipper down the right side of the pack for storage of the hydration bladder.  The bladder is easy to insert and remove from this storage area. My biggest complaint about the storage area of the hydration bladder is there is a loop at the top for attaching the top of the bladder to keep it in place.  This loop is too short and hard to get on/off. For this reason, you either would not want to use this loop in a race when you need to do quick refills, or you should modify the loop to make it easier to get on/off. I have stopped using the loop and have not had a problem with the bladder sinking to the bottom of the pack.

There are holes at the top of the pack for having the hydration tube on either the left or right side.

The hydration bladder is what CamelBak calls its CRUX™ Reservoir with Quicklink™ System.  The bladder is a 2L reservoir that has a baffle inside to minimize sloshing of the water. The tube has a quick disconnect from the bladder.  The bite valve has a slide to turn the water on or off. This is a nice feature if, like me, you have ever set something on the bite valve while driving to the trail and drained the water accidentally and got everything wet.

And lastly, one small complaint is I wish CamelBak included a magnetic connector for holding the tube in place on the front of the pack.  I purchased one of these separate and attached it to the lower sternum strap.

Changes for 2019 and Price

I bought my Ultra 10 in 2017 and it still looks like new after many miles of use.  This is my go-to hydration vest or all around outdoor fitness pack. From what I can tell, there are no major differences between the 2017 and 2019 models.  The CamelBack website states the current weight to be 8 oz where the 2017 and 2018 models were 9 oz. All weight can make a difference over many miles, but with the price of the new model at $150 (same as I paid new in 2017) and older models on Amazon and other sources at $115, I would consider a slightly older model if available.

Summary

When it comes to hydration vest there is no shortage of companies, features, and prices.  I really like this vest/pack as a good all around fitness pack whether that be running, biking, or hiking. Check out some of Grady’s other adventures.

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