Endurance running, gravel racing and the original premise of the CamelBak converge in the Chase Bike Vest. If you are riding gravel events and like the concept of being able to drink with both hands on the bars, then CamelBak hopes the 1.5L Chase Bike Vest works for you.
Hydration high and tight
Of course, you can use the Chase Bike Vest however you like, but the concept came from Yuri Hauswald, winner of the 2015 Dirty Kanza 200 gravel endurance race. He liked the idea of having extra fluid-carrying capacity that didn't feel like a backpack.
Starting from CamelBak's Ultra 10 running vest, which sits high on the back and has storage on the chest, Hauswald and CamelBak fine-tuned the design for something that would stay in place while racing, wouldn't feel hot or heavy, and of course would provide an easy way to drink while keeping both hands on the handlebars.
With a total capacity of 4L / 250 cu in, the pack is on the smaller side, but still large enough to carry a couple of inner tubes, tools and food in the back pockets, plus more food and/or your phone on the chest pockets.
Two stabilizing straps across the chest slide independently up and down.
The material that touches the body on the back and under the shoulder straps is an open mesh with a fair amount of loft to it, to allow for more cooling than a solid material.
CamelBak Chase Bike Vest: how it feels when riding
As far as hydration packs go, the Chase Bike Vest is relatively light and airy on the back. It sits securely over rough terrain and can be adjusted for height on the back as well as tightness around the chest.
Still, 1.5L of water on your back plus supplies is a noticeable weight and presence. On a four-hour gravel ride in the Arizona desert, the Chase Bike Vest didn't exactly disappear on my back, but it wasn't annoying, either.
After going through the two bottles on my bike, I was happy to have the extra water in the CamelBak. And, of course, it is convenient to be able to drink while navigating unknown terrain, both hands securely on the controls.
The hose has a quick disconnect to the bladder, so you can quickly switch if need be. and the bite valve has a lock switch too.
As with all CamelBaks, cleaning the bladder isn't as simple as sticking a water bottle in the dishwasher. The large screw-on cap is wide enough to get a hand inside to scrub, but then you need to wedge something in the cleaned bladder (like the hose) to help the inside dry.
Ongoing testing: gravel riding and racing ahead
As a roadie, I like to travel as lightly as possible, using the bike for carrying water, tools and spares, whether I am riding pavement or dirt. That said, I also don't like to be stuck in the middle of nowhere without enough to drink.
As with some of my other colleagues, like multi-time DK200 finisher Josh Patterson, I'll be doing more gravel events this year, where I will continue to test the Chase Bike Vest. I'll report back here soon.