Innovative and minimalist pack that's superb for fast and light mountain bike or gravel rides
Nov 14 2018
Sits comfortably and allows access to rear jersey pockets
Excellent, high flowing bladder
Just about enough space for all the essentials with well-organised storage
Reduced airflow on your front can make it quite warm in hot weather
Overall storage is limited so you'll likely need a bigger pack too
You want a lightweight pack for taking just the essentials on gravel or mountain rides
Camelbak’s Chase bike vest is designed as a lightweight minimalist pack for runners and riders, with a 1.5L bladder and a unique design that allows you to still access jersey pockets. I've found it to be perfect for fast mountain bike blats or enduro races as well as being ideal for longer gravel bike rides.
The pack uses a rather neat design that keeps the bladder-containing main section of the pack high on your back, with the broad straps on the front then housing some extra storage. This means that you can still access the pockets on a standard road-style jersey while also carrying almost as much as a normal hydration pack.
The bladder contains 1.5L of liquid and, as with all Camelbak bladders, uses their easy access wide screw top opening with broad handle. It's easy to fill and means you can get a whole hand in there to clean it. The bite valve is superb, flowing plenty of water with little effort, while the lock switch is simple to use. A car-style connector means it's easy to extract the bladder when needed too and a special treatment means it's highly resistant to anything growing in there too.
In terms of outright storage, there's just about enough to get the essentials in there along with a full bladder. The main compartment on the back has some nicely organised mesh pockets plus a key clip, while externally there are loads of nooks and crannies to stuff extra kit, including some neat loops to hold a pump secure.
I'm a big fan of the decently spacious sections on the front straps that allow you to keep a multitool, phone, gels/snacks and other middlingly sized items easily to hand, with one designed to work nicely with one of Camelbak's collapsible gel bottles.
Even when fully stuffed with kit, the pack sits comfortably and despite it sitting relatively high on your back compared to a normal design, I didn't have any issues with it hitting my helmet, even on steep descents. In fact it's really solid, secure and comfortable whether you're hammering down descents on a mountain bike or head-down grinding on a gravel machine.
The only real downside - despite the obviously limited carrying capacity such a small pack entails - is that those broad straps noticeably reduce airflow to your body on hotter days, with the pack acting rather like a skimpy gilet. Dress accordingly at the start of your ride and you'll be fine anyway.
The Camelback Chase has become a firm favourite for everything from enduro racing to gravel rides, being a nigh-on perfect companion for both, assuming you don't need to pack much more than basic kit and maybe a small water/windproof jacket.
If relatively short and fast rides sum up the bulk of what you do, then it'd make an excellent main choice, or a very useful addtion to your options if you already have a larger daypack.
Jon is the editor here at off.road.cc. Whether it's big days out on the gravel bike or hurtling down technical singletracks, if it's got two wheels and can be ridden on dirt, then he's into it. He's previously been technical editor at BikeRadar.com, editor at What Mountain Bike Magazine and also web editor at Singletrackworld.co.uk. Yes, he's been around the houses.