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November 5, 2013 Comments (20) Gear Reviews, Training

Camelbak Hydration Distance Series – Gear Review

It’s no secret that Camelbak owns the market on day pack and mountain biking hydration, but anyone who has been part of the running industry will know that their attempts to enter the hydration vest market for running has been a struggle. They’ve continued to be three steps behind other leading companies. With their new Ultra line, however, that might change.

We contacted Camelbak about doing a review and they were more than excited to get involved. A couple of weeks later I came home and found two very large boxes on my doorstep. What I didn’t realize until that moment was that they were sending us all four of the products in their line. Needless to say, we will be doing a give-away at the end of this article.

Ultra LR Vest – The 2L reservoir sits lower on the runners back due to their Antidote technology. This allows the center of gravity to sit lower on the runner resulting in better form and increased stability over difficult terrain. The quick-stash mesh pockets up front can carry a truckload of fuel or even two water bottles. Add in two higher chest pockets for electrolytes, keys, or even a smaller phone and you have a very comfortable and complete running vest.

Arc 4 – The Arc 4 offers four 8oz bottles that can be used to vary your hydration. Each bottle uses the Jet Valve technology (best invention ever) and TruTaste liner so that you never get that plastic water bottle taste in your liquids. Throw in a comfortable belt and key/phone/fuel pocket and you have a complete training belt.

Arc 2 – The Arc 2 is basically the same belt as the Arc 4, but with just two 10oz bottles. It continues to provide the same comfortable belt and advantageous pocket, but with only two available bottles. It offers less water, but can be a faster race belt or great shorter run training option.

Arc Quick Grip – “The Arc Quick Grip™ combines a 10oz Podium Arc bottle, contoured to fit your hand perfectly, in a lightweight, breathable strap with a small pocket for keys, energy gel or cash” (from their site). This is a great training or race handheld that is very easy to carry, but still offers enough hydration to get you where you need to go.


Our testing team put the Camelbak Distance series through it’s paces over a four week period, in all parts of the country and in every condition. The feedback we got back varied, but was extremely positive overall. Note that each category was ranked between 1-5, with 5 being the best possible score. Read to the bottom for your chance to win one of the Arc belts!

Ultra LR Vest –  4.0     


Our testers averaged over 90 miles on the Ultra LR vest

[learn_more caption=”Overall Comfort 4.0″]


Pete – “I was significantly impressed with the way the 2L bladder rested snugly on my lower lumbar and did not bounce of gyrate. The adjustable shoulder straps were wide and supple.”

Mark – “I really liked the way the water rode, not on my back, but around my hips. My shoulders were not as tired after extended periods of using it.”


Jerry – “While there are 4 individual adjustment points to correct fit, I found the shoulder straps remained too wide at the top of the shoulder giving me the feeling the straps were about to fall off.”[/learn_more]

[learn_more caption=”Available Space 3.8″]


T.R. – “The front pockets are great for a small camera, bottles, my rain jacket and even my gloves. With the change in conditions in ultra running I would love knowing my hat/gloves/jacket could be grabbed on the run.”

Nicholas – “If you like running with bottles up front, you can do this with the front pockets, which I did a few times. That gives you the ability to have them up front to use something like Skratch in one, Gatorade in the other, but also have plain water in your bladder.”


Mark – “The front 2 pockets hold a ton but there’s little or no storage on the back unless you remove the bladder.”


[learn_more caption=”Ability to fit to your body 4.0″]


Nicholas – “I played with the adjustments and it fit very well. Nice to have straps up high around the sternum and lower to get the desired fit. I ran with the pack snug and with it loose to see what the pros and cons were. Of course, I like it snug, but back to the low riding nature of the weight.”

T.R. – “On my runs I adjusted it so I had a great range of arm motion. I HATE having things around my waist. I was surprised the waist strap didn’t make me crazy.”


Jerry – “The straps required a lot of adjustment. Even after making these adjustments, I felt the straps remained too wide and still rubbed my arms while running.”



Arc 2 and Arc 4 – 3.3    

We reviewed both of these together since the sizing didn’t change, only the amount of bottles.

Our testers averaged over 50 miles on these belts

[learn_more caption=”Fit 3.0″]

We found that the sizing ran almost a little large for most of our testers (all belts tested were a medium).

Notice too that it uses a velcro closure, which means you’ll want to make sure you keep it clean so that it doesn’t loose its adhesiveness over time.


Craig – “While the Medium ran a little big for my 31 inch waist, I was still able to get it snug enough to not have it bounce while running.”


Nicholas – “If you use the velcro long enough it won’t be as adhesive and if you want a snug fit the additional strap will just hang.”[/learn_more]

[learn_more caption=”Bounce 3.2″]

Pete – “When fit perfectly, I did not notice any bounce, even with full bottles. I did occasionally have to readjust the belt. If I felt any bounce, I would simply tighten it and the motion was gone.”

Jerry – “The belt bounced less than I predicted it would.”


Nicholas – “This is the reason I’m not a fan of hydration belts. I can deal with the sloshing of water in a pack, but not the bouncing of bottles. Turning them horizontal did minimize it, however.”[/learn_more]

[learn_more caption=”Ease and use of bottles 3.6″]


Nicholas – “Although I don’t like hydration belts, I’ll say that the ease of use with these bottles was a lot easier than others. You could turn them in different directions and the bottles snapped back into place.”

Pete – “Like any gun in a holster, getting used to the drawing process. The bottles held a reasonable amount of water. I love squirting action!! Made me feel like a cowboy with short shorts.”


Jerry – “I had some issues with cross-threading the bottles while using them…I had to put more effort than usual into opening and closing the tops to avoid spillage. During my long run, I had little to no difficulty clicking the bottles back into their plastic receivers. Unfortunately, as I became more fatigued, I found it more difficult to find these locations or even feel the click of the receiver.”[/learn_more]


Arc Quick Grip – 4.4   

Our testers averaged 50 miles on this handheld over the test period.

[learn_more caption=”Overall use and comfort 4.4″]


Pete – “I loved this for short runs on hot days or runs between 8 to 20 miles. The grip held a Gu, or key, and a phone nicely. I liked the ergonomic positioning of the bottle in my hand.”

Nicholas – “It fit the contour of my hand better than other bottles that I’ve used. Once adjusted, it didn’t go anywhere. “


T.R. – “There needs to be more threads to the cap. Unless you get it just right is will leak. I think the spout is the best in the business. I just hope they make the top more secure. Sticky hands while running ultras make life miserable.”[/learn_more]

Final thoughts on the Camelbak Distance Run line:

T.R. –

“The vest surprised me. I tried one last year and it was awful. The belts kept coming lose and I felt like I was wearing a flotation vest. I came into the test with some negative feelings already but the runs put those fears to rest.”

Mark –

“I really like the Ultra Vest and any time it’s not too hot and I don’t have to be out for more than 3 hours it’ll be my go-to pack.”

Nicholas –

“I think the line has its place in the active community. Whether you’re a runner going out for a quick run, a middle distance run, or a long run, there is something in the line that should suit your needs.”

Jerry –

“The Camelback running line is one to consider for athletes in our sport. There are various types of races and events, so credit goes to Camelback for considering unconventional design methods for their hydration systems. There are definitely events where the small bottles and click-in belt receiver would be perfect. There are also situations where you can use a crew to work with the bottles and conduct the refill before you arrive at the aid station. Put Camelback on your list to consider when looking at the best way to stay hydrated on the trail!”


Leave us a Comment and enter for you chance to win an Arc 4 0r 2 of your own!

We will pick a random winner from the comments. We think you’ll be as surprised as we were with the new gear.

Comments will be counted until midnight on November 20!

Congrats to Camelbak, you’ve built some winners here! Visit Camelbak to learn more about the Distance Run line!


20 Responses to Camelbak Hydration Distance Series – Gear Review

  1. LukeD says:

    I use two 10oz Arc bottles on the front of my vest and really like them. Only weird thing is if you have them full, and are descending quickly, you may get some “projectile lactating.” 😛

  2. Super Beard says:

    I love the Jet Valve too! Although, after many months with it, I still fiond myself slapping the “top” after I take a sip to “close” the nipple… 🙂

  3. John Bryant says:

    I love the Camelback bladders, I use one in my Nathan 020 HPL. It’s exciting to see their taking an interest in runners now. I can only hope they’ll continue to design more.

  4. Heidi Nicole says:

    I’ve been eyeballing the Camelbak packs for running since we use Camelbak for everything else (hiking, biking, etc) but wasn’t so sure about the water on hips. Sounds like its a good thing – would make sense to put the hips to use and your back/shoulders a rest!

  5. Sarah C. says:

    Did you have a woman test the vest (or the other products)? I have been wanting a hydration vest, but I have the “typical” short torso that means I need womens-specific backpacks and would likely need a womens-specific hydration vest too.

  6. Sam Jewkes says:

    I’ve been using a Camelbak Mule for over a year now. It has served me well and I have been satisfied with it. However, it wasn’t really built for running. I’ll have to take a serious look at the Ultra LR Vest.

  7. Alan T says:

    I’m a long-time Nathan hydration vest fan, but I have to admit that I’m *very* impressed with the CamelBak Ultra LR vest. I’m going to find a shop locally where I see one in the flesh – and try it on. Thanks for the mini-review!

  8. Becka says:

    Need a new vest. Pick meeeee!! 🙂

  9. matt says:

    Interested in trying this.

  10. Kevin says:

    i won the ultra lr vest in a #runchat giveaway, but i haven’t got to play around much with it yet. i’m excited that my podium chills fit in the front pockets if i ever want to go with two of those instead of the bladder.

  11. Amy Dedic says:

    I need some new hydration gear, please!!! :-)))))))

  12. Dave Kantor says:

    The LR vest looks interesting. I have had trouble with belts in the past and have primarily used packs. Do the shoulder straps take some of the weight/pressure off the hips?

  13. Breanna says:

    I do think that Camelbak makes the best bladders out there, but their packs did have lots of improvements that they needed to make. I still use my Camelbak bladder in other packs (usually Mountain Hardware due to fit), but I’d be happy to try an Ultra LR Vest after this review – I like the fact that it has pockets in the front and sits lower on the back!

  14. Leah K says:

    I have my first 50k next month and have been trying to find the ideal hydration system to use! I have my small camelbak handheld but would LOVE some new hydration gear for the race!

  15. Braden says:

    I’ve been trying to decide between the Camelbak Ultra LR Vest and a UD Pack for awhile. Thanks for reviewing these to make my decision a little easier. The review was great as always!

  16. […] Camelbak Hydration Distance Series – Gear Review |Trail Running …'s no secret that Camelbak owns the market on day pack and mountain biking hydration, but anyone who has been part of the running industry will know that their attempts to enter the hydration vest market for running has … […]

  17. […] Camelbak Hydration Distance Series – Gear Review |Trail Running …'s no secret that Camelbak owns the market on day pack and mountain biking hydration, but anyone who has been part of the running industry will know that their attempts to enter the hydration vest market for running has … […]

  18. Geoff says:

    I really would like to try a good handheld. I have used a back pack style for long runs/races and it just gets heavy after so long.

  19. […] Camelbak Hydration Distance Series – Gear Review | Trail … – It’s no secret that Camelbak owns the market on day pack and mountain biking hydration, but anyone who has been part of the running industry will know that their …… […]

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