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Hands-on Gear Review
CamelBak Ultra 4 Review
Cons: Awkward to fill bladder, small, lacking storage capacity
Bottom line: The Ultra 4 is an awkward yet inexpensive pack with a sleek look and small storage capacity.
The CamelBak Ultra 4 is exactly the kind of product that you would expect from CamelBak. It is well made, sleek, good looking, and features the Quicklink bladder system, found on virtually all CamelBaks. This is a great running vest that will serve you well on your long runs, but at the same time doesn't have some of the features we loved from other hydration packs, and has minimal room for clothing storage.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
While the CamelBak Ultra 4 is indeed a great hydration pack designed for running, we expected a little bit more out of a pack designed specifically with ultra running in mind. Simply put, the pack is small, and doesn't offer many of the features found on the other running vests. This pack feels like a regular old CamelBak hydration pack with some chest pockets added on, although we must say that the chest pockets are huge and versatile. This pack will work well when you don't need extra layers, but if its cold outside, then you better consider the Nathan Vapor Air 2L instead.
The Ultra 4 is comfortable and highly adjustable. We liked the Velcro shoulder strap adjusters. However, they are not adjustable on the go, you must take the pack off, then put it back on to see if you like the fit, and repeat. While the side straps make for a great fit, they are not as comfortable as the elastic sides found on the Nathan Vapor Air or the Salomon ADV Skin 12 Set.
Features & Design
This pack has a key clip in the back pouch and some nice reflective taping, but lacks a whistle or pole holders. We found that the mesh back is not very breathable and caused a lot of sweat build-up in hot weather, and we would have loved to see some external bungees since the internal storage is so small.
The Ultra 4 uses a CamelBak bladder with a two liter capacity. We like how refined the hose setup is, it sits perfectly still and tight on the shoulder strap, is the perfect length, and the attachment clips work great. It is easy to access to bladder opening for refills in this pack, and the bladder itself never needs to be removed. That said, we don't love the bladder's open and closure system. We find that the oversized screw lid results in awkward filling and easy spilling, which isn't ideal for quick aid station refills.
Our biggest complaint with the Ultra 4 was its storage capacity. It is simply not big enough to hold a rain jacket and warmth layer, and doesn't have extra bungees to help with its small size. CamelBak says that the stretch mesh pockets expand to hold extra items, but that isn't true. We just need a bigger pack for running ultra distances in the mountains.
The pockets on the Ultra 4 are located on the chest straps, and there are no side pockets. The configuration includes two large breast pockets big enough to hold a ton of food or accessories, and also big enough for water bottles. There is a large zippered pocket that IS big enough for an iPhone 5, and also one medium sized accessory pocket.
At 19.6 ounces, it was the heaviest hydration pack we tested. Considering it is also the smallest, we aren't sure why it is so heavy.
This pack is best used as a running pack where extra clothing is not necessary. It seems too small to be functional for ultra distance events. It would also make a great hiking pack.
The MSRP for the Ultra 4 is $115. This makes it the most affordable pack that we tested. We believe it is a bit mis-marketed as an ultra pack, but as long as you know what you are getting, it's a good value.
The CamelBak Ultra 4 is a good running pack at an affordable price. It is well-made, durable, and uses CamelBak's tried and true bladder and hose system. It has large pockets and fits well, but does not have room to carry very much clothing or other ultra accessories. While we think it is a good pack, we didn't enjoy it as much as some of the others we tested.
CamelBak Cleaning Kit
— Andy Wellman
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