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CamelBak Ultra Pro - Women's Review

A breathable and weather-resistant hydration pack that offers basic gear-hauling for a reasonable price
CamelBak Ultra Pro - Women's
Photo: CamelBak
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Price:  $120 List | $119.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Breathable, water resistant, lightweight
Cons:  Less comfortable, hard to use hydration system
Manufacturer:   CamelBak
By Ally Meller ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 20, 2021
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54
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 9
  • Comfort - 30% 5
  • Features - 25% 6
  • Hydration System - 15% 4
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 7
  • Pockets - 15% 5

Our Verdict

The CamelBak Ultra Pro running vest is a classic take on a running pack. It comes equipped with two soft flasks, a basic pocket structure, and plenty of mesh to go around. This breathable and water-resistant vest is a good choice for days when you mostly just want to pack water and a few other small items. However, it isn't the most comfortable when loaded up with all of your gear. That said, the Ultra Pro has a surprisingly good volume to weight ratio for its reasonable price. If you're looking to buy a running hydration vest on a budget, this one might suit your needs.

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Awards  Top Pick Award Best Buy Award   
Price $119.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$123.96 at Backcountry
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$90 List
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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58
Star Rating
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Pros Breathable, water resistant, lightweightIncredibly comfortable, great pockets, breathableAffordable, ample water storage, user-friendly, durableRugged, affordable, comfortable, intelligent hydration system, solid pole holdersSimple, compact, easily navigated pockets, affordable
Cons Less comfortable, hard to use hydration systemStrange hydration straws, average storage capacityLess gear storage, less frillsPoor volume to weight ratio, less softPoor volume to weight ratio, less comfortable
Bottom Line A breathable and weather-resistant hydration pack that offers basic gear-hauling for a reasonable priceA storage-oriented hydration vest that wears like a silky-smooth second skin and packs all of the essentials with easeThis is an affordable pack that offers ample storage with enough room for your trail running essentialsAn affordable running partner with a great design, built for the grittiest trails you can findThis 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
Comfort (30%)
5.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Features (25%)
6.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
5.0
Hydration System (15%)
4.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)
7.0
6.0
7.0
3.0
4.0
Pockets (15%)
5.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
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
Pole Holders? Yes Yes Yes Yes No

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.

Performance Comparison


The CamelBak Ultra Pro can accommodate enough water for a short day...
The CamelBak Ultra Pro can accommodate enough water for a short day hike in the forest.
Photo: Ally Meller

Comfort


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.

The neck rides high and the side panels are not adjustable so we...
The neck rides high and the side panels are not adjustable so we found this vest to be quite restrictive.
Photo: Ally Meller

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.

Gearing up and getting ready to run in the Ultra Pro.
Gearing up and getting ready to run in the Ultra Pro.
Photo: Ally Meller

Features


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.

We love the thoughtful addition of a safety whistle on our hydration...
We love the thoughtful addition of a safety whistle on our hydration packs.
Photo: Ally Meller

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 upper pole-securing bungee is easy to adjust.
The upper pole-securing bungee is easy to adjust.
Photo: Ally Meller

Hydration System


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.

This hydration vest comes with two included 500mL soft flasks for...
This hydration vest comes with two included 500mL soft flasks for hydration on the go.
Photo: Ally Meller

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 tops of the bottles offer an easy to read open and close valve.
The tops of the bottles offer an easy to read open and close valve.
Photo: Ally Meller

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.

We spent a lot of time trying to stuff the full flasks back into...
We spent a lot of time trying to stuff the full flasks back into their pockets.
Photo: Ally Meller

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.

When empty, the Ultra Pro is sleek and light.
When empty, the Ultra Pro is sleek and light.
Photo: Ally Meller

Pockets


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 pockets are much easier to access when running with a hydration...
The pockets are much easier to access when running with a hydration bladder instead of full bottles in the front pockets.
Photo: Ally Meller

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.

The front pockets are deep enough that you might end up losing small...
The front pockets are deep enough that you might end up losing small items down in their depths.
Photo: Ally Meller

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

While the Ultra Pro isn't one of our favorites, it does give you a...
While the Ultra Pro isn't one of our favorites, it does give you a lot of front storage for a lower price and weight than some of our other hydration vests.
Photo: Ally Meller

Ally Meller