The women's CamelBak Chase Bike Vest is a 1.5L hydration pack with 2L of storage, and it's designed to be worn – yes – like a vest, rather than a pack. The result is a secure, stable and roomy alternative to a bumbag or waist pack, and ideal for shorter mountain bike or gravel rides.
We previously reviewed the men's version of the Chase vest and really liked it, with our editor Jon calling it an "innovative and minimalist pack that's superb for fast and light rides". On testing the women's version, I wholeheartedly agree.
The difference in this Women's version is purely that it's engineered to fit female shapes better. The straps and across the front are cut and curved differently to boost comfort and security.
The pack takes 2L of gear and a 1.5L bladder, and holds it all pretty flush to your back. The bladder gets its own pretty well-ventilated compartment (I found I could also stuff some snacks or a minipump in there too), and features the familar twist and lock filler cap and QuickLink hose. This dry break allows bladder removal without having to unthread the hose, which is handy.
Unfortunately, the bag doesn't get the magnetic Tube Trap to secure the bite valve – instead, it gets two p-clips that are tiresome to use on the go. They're secure, but I'd much rather see a simple magnet for easy use in rough terrain.
The pack wraps around the body and is secured by two chest straps. This front section is larger than a normal pack's, but it forms a very useful proportion of the storage: it took my large iPhone 8 Plus, tools, bars and gels, and kept them all within easy access.
All straps are adjustable for length and the chest straps can be altered in height, with the excess tucked away in perfect CamelBak style.
With a full bladder (in the bag...) and a small pump stuffed down the side, the main compartment still has room for a couple more snacks, keys, money and small tools (think tyre levers and the like) in its internal pockets. The opening to the main pocket isn't that big though, so once you've stuck your hand in you have to feel for an item rather than look for it.
The two outer pockets at the rear will hold a multitool or similar, while the small stuff sack takes a thin packable jacket or a stripped-off baselayer. That's quite a lot of kit given the size of the bag! You could also, of course, ditch the bladder if you have enough water on your bike and use the entire bag for gear.
The Chase is supposed to sit above the pockets of road-style jerseys, which is thoughtful, although what you'd want to put in there after cramming the Chase vest full, I've no idea! In reality the pack can still block rear pocket openings, though longer-bodied riders may have less of an issue than I did.
One thing that doesn't play nicely is an inner tube. Cramming too much bulk in the outer stuff sack distorts the pack's shape, making it less comfortable to wear. There's no ideal space for one.
Riding in the Chase Vest is, dare I say it, better than riding in a bumbag. It holds more kit, it's more stable, it doesn't pull on the waist and it's not any heavier. It's easier to access and the weight is better distributed.
OK, if it's a sweat-free back and freedom in the shoulders you're after, then the Chase Vest might not be for you. But if you simply want a light and useful cargo-carrier, you should take a look.
The Chase Vest is a secure pack that doesn't move an inch when riding either gravel or more technical trails. It's well suited to both for fast or short mountain bike rides where you don't want a hefty trail pack, or for longer gravel rides where you want to take more water than you can carry on your frame. I did have to cut the hose down pretty short so it didn't get in my way or catch on clothing when riding a drop-bar bike, however.
It's also rather warm to ride in thanks to that large frontal area, and can feel a tad restrictive (though it isn't actually physically restrictive) as it compresses the chest. I forgot about it, personally, after a brief acclimatisation – and seeing as I tested in winter, the extra warmth was easily accommodated. It's likely to be noticeably more sweaty in summer than a regular pack, though.
This is a well-designed pack for gravel grinders and mountain bikers alike. It won't replace your trail pack as it's really only for the bare essentials, but it might make you think twice about a bumbag (if only the 1980s had done the same...). What's more, at just £20 over the CamelBak Repack LR4, it fills the gap between bumbag and full-on pack very well. That might be a small niche, but it's potentially an extremely useful one, too.
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