CamelBak Ultra Pro - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Breathable, water resistant, lightweight
Cons: Less comfortable, hard to use hydration system
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CamelBak Ultra Pro - Women's
|Price||$119.95 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$123.96 at Backcountry|
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|Check Price at REI|
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|Check Price at REI|
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Check Price at REI
|Pros||Breathable, water resistant, lightweight||Incredibly comfortable, great pockets, breathable||Affordable, ample water storage, user-friendly, durable||Rugged, affordable, comfortable, intelligent hydration system, solid pole holders||Simple, compact, easily navigated pockets, affordable|
|Cons||Less comfortable, hard to use hydration system||Strange hydration straws, average storage capacity||Less gear storage, less frills||Poor volume to weight ratio, less soft||Poor volume to weight ratio, less comfortable|
|Bottom Line||A breathable and weather-resistant hydration pack that offers basic gear-hauling for a reasonable price||A storage-oriented hydration vest that wears like a silky-smooth second skin and packs all of the essentials with ease||This is an affordable pack that offers ample storage with enough room for your trail running essentials||An affordable running partner with a great design, built for the grittiest trails you can find||This is a rugged and affordable pack that can stash all of your goodies for shorter mountain excursions|
|Rating Categories||CamelBak Ultra Pro...||Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set||Nathan TrailMix 7L...||Osprey Dyna 6 - Wom...||REI Swiftland Hydro 5L|
|Hydration System (15%)|
|Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)|
|Specs||CamelBak Ultra Pro...||Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set||Nathan TrailMix 7L...||Osprey Dyna 6 - Wom...||REI Swiftland Hydro 5L|
|Weight (without hydration system)||5.33 oz||10.16 oz||7.13 oz||10.69 oz||8.57 oz|
|Carrying Capacity (liters)||6L||8L||7L||5L||5L|
|Included Liquid Capacity (liters)||1L||1L||2L||1.5L||1.5L|
|OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!)||1.12||0.79||0.98||0.46||0.58|
|External Storage?||Yes- pole holding loops, underarm mesh pockets, front nutrition pouches||Yes- many bungees and one kangaroo-esque pockey||Yes- rear daisy chain, pole holder loops, and nutrition pockets.||Yes- back flap pouch, front external pockets, zipper pulls are bungee loops, plus a bottom loop that runs horizontally||Yes- back flap, mesh pockets,|
|Type of Water Storage||2 soft 500mL bottles||2 soft 500mL bottles||2 liter reservoir||1.5 liter reservoir||1.5 L reservoir|
Our Analysis and Test Results
This reasonably priced hydration vest is reminiscent of our very first days as trail runners. It is a functional vest with breathable mesh throughout and an almost up-to-date hydration system.
Upon its first wear, we noticed that the Ultra Pro offers a high-riding, snug fit with bare-bones adjustment options. This frameless vest has two front cinch straps with clips. The front straps are stretchy and soft, and the clips are unintrusive so as not to be cumbersome while running. The clips anchor to a cord daisy chain and are set up to be moved so you can adjust where on your chest the straps hit. The 70-denier nylon dobby and 3D polyester mesh are not the softest materials we've felt, but we didn't experience any chafing or extreme discomfort on our runs. The mesh backing offers a low-tech approach to ventilation, and, while functional, it strikes us as being behind on the times.
Our main comfort complaint about the Ultra Pro is how high it sits. We felt like the back collar of the pack sits too high on the neck, and there is no way to lower this. It never caused any chaffing during our testing runs, but we don't trust it to never rub. Additionally, the armholes are one size, and there aren't any cinch straps on the sides of the vest, so finding a perfect fit is quite a challenge. CamelBak does offer four size options, but overall, we found this to run small and be quite restrictive. If you are looking for a tight and secure fit on a budget, this one delivers, but it is far from the most comfortable vest we tested.
Our favorite feature about the Ultra Pro is its reflectivity. The logo and stripes on the back and the breast pockets are super reflective and significantly increase this pack's safety features. CamelBak also built in a whistle attached to a loop on the right breast panel.
Even though we are slightly critical of this pack's old-school approach, it does come with the option to externally stash your trekking poles. There are two adjustable loops, one on the upper back shoulder and the other in the lower center of the pack. You can conveniently reach behind and grab your poles if you need them in a pinch.
The hydration system on the Ultra Pro left us disappointed and wanting so much more. For the company that seemingly invented wearable hydration systems, this one doesn't stand out. Outdoor gear has come a long way in the last decade, and to us, it feels like CamelBak just hasn't kept up.
We'll start with the positives. The Ultra Pro can accommodate a 1.5L bladder, complete with plenty of hose-securing loops to hold it in place. A bladder, however, is not included. If you opt to just run with a bladder, you will have the option to load the front pockets to your heart's content, but there won't be much real estate left for stashing anything beyond a layer in the back storage area. We found that this is our favorite way to use this vest because we didn't have to bother with the unaptly named QuickStow flasks.
The Ultra Pro comes with two soft 500mL flasks that can be utilized in the front pockets. But this is where most of our problems with this system pop up. The flasks are incredibly difficult to stuff into the pockets when full but aren't accessible to leave in the pockets to drink while running. We cannot think of a situation in which it would make sense to remove your bottle for a swig and then spend 5 full minutes on the trail trying to squeeze it back into place. Furthermore, the threading on these flask closures cannot be trusted not to leak. We experienced two episodes of mild leakage, both while traveling with a full pack to the trailhead. Unfortunately, the second experience ended in a wet windbreaker and car seat.
Volume to Weight Ratio
The Ultra Pro can hold up to 6L of gear, including water. This may not seem like a large capacity (it isn't), but when stripped of all accessories, this pack weighs in at a low 5.33 oz. The weight distribution isn't the best when the pack is stuffed to the gills, but this hydration vest impressed us with its overall ratio in this metric.
The Ultra Pro has 10 external pockets, and all but one can be accessed while the pack is being worn. The back pocket is set up to house a hydration bladder. If you opt to run without a hydration bladder, the only other sensical thing to stow here would be a layer. The mesh is not very forgiving, so anything you load into this pocket will ultimately be pressing up against your back. If you're anything like us, you work to avoid any type of lumpiness on your back for long runs.
The underarm areas offer two accessible and surprisingly secure mesh pockets beneath a full kangaroo pocket. The kangaroo pocket is the perfect place for stashing your raincoat if you're out on a potentially wet day. Each breast panel has a deep pocket for a soft water bottle closest to your body, with additional pockets atop those. The middle breast pockets are actually pretty big and have a bungee close, which is more secure than the closures of other packs we've tested. The most superficial pockets are not matching. The left breast pocket has a zippered closure and is mildly water-resistant. There is a small pill pocket inside, which we found to be the safest place for keyring storage. The right superficial pocket is made of mesh and has a less-than stretchy elastic closure; we stored our trusty handkerchief here, and that worked well enough.
We love a good value — who doesn't? Unfortunately, when it comes to the Ultra Pro, we tested other vests with lower price tags and higher performing attributes.
CamelBak made our first-ever hydration vests, and we loved them for years. Unfortunately, the technical elements of running gear seem to have far surpassed the level of the Ultra Pro. Though this vest boasts a low price point and some great safety features, we think anyone looking for a budget buy should keep looking. If you're a new trail or long-distance runner who is tentative to spend gobs of money on a hydration pack, trust us. Once you discover how incredible long-distance running is, you'll want a hydration pack that offers more in the way of comfort and features than this one does.
— Ally Meller