Camelbak Chase Bike Vest NSMB AndrewM (4).JPG
REVIEW| EDITORIAL

CamelBak Chase Bike Vest

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Jun 14, 2019

Chase Trends

It weights 330 grams empty, holds 1.5L of water, has a pile of pockets, and it's easily the most breathable pack I've ever worn. I can't say the CamelBak Chase is the perfect pack for its intended use, but from a baggy shorts & merino t-shirt perspective, I'm very sold on this piece of kit.

Before I get into how I use the 'Bike Vest' and the little changes I'd love to see, there is some house keeping that I need to take care of:

  1. I get hip packs. I mean, I don't get the huge ones with hydration bladders, but in general I'm sold on the idea of putting weight on my bike, carrying my stuff in a little pouch, and letting my back breathe. But they don't work for me. Yes, I've tried lots.
  2. Yes, random Enduro-bro on Fromme, I do recognize that the CamelBak Chase Bike Vest makes me "look like a trail runner." I'm wearing knickers and a helmet without a visor. Does it look like I care?
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I tested the Chase vest with the 1.5L bladder full - for science - but for most the test I just used it to carry my stuff with water on my bike.

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Nature doesn't give a sh*t how things look and neither do I. The Chase is one of those things that looks weird and is awesome.

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All. The. Venting. I can carry all my regular stuff in the CamelBak, it doesn't move around, and it breathes like no other pack on the market.

When lumbar-oriented hydration packs first came out I was positive they would be my ticket to happy-back land. I was wrong. Putting all that water weight low actually made things worse. My experience with the USWE Airborne 9 taught me two things. One, when I carry a hydration pack I prefer it higher on my back.

Two: more importantly, with or without bladder, I now have no tolerance a pack that moves around on my back. Zero. Like the USWE, the Chase has no waist strap and it doesn't move around at all while I'm riding. It's lovely. Even overloaded it balances weight nicely without affecting my breathing, like the Airborne 9 can if I absolutely pack it full.

Unlike the USWE, I cannot drop my 4/3 camera in the Chase in a pinch, but I prefer to carry that in my Acre Hauser anyways.

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I strap my chin bar on the outside with Velcro and through combined magics of shape and gravity it doesn't bounce around at all during out of the saddle on tech climbs.

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"WAIT!" you say, "what if I roll by a Knolly demo day and they give me a bag of BBQ Salami bites?" Good news, there's room to stuff a tall can and meat treats in there too.

I don't know anyone who loves riding with a pack. Given the combination of visible local wealth and a transparent willingness to divorce hard work from mountain bicycling, I'm actually surprised local guiding outfits like Endless and Essential aren't offering a Sherpa service. I picture some hot foreigner riding in the back on a clapped out 26" suspension bike wearing a Yeti Cooler full of supplies and shouting encouragement about how F***ING RAD their pack-less clients are shredding.

The reality is a grab-and-go pack* setup of some kind is at worst a necessary evil and at best a happy convenience in a busy world. Folks hitting shorter (1.5L) rides on bikes without convenient bottle mounts and/or looking for a light and breathable non-fanny pack option to carry their essential gear, have to try on a CamelBak vest.

*Waist or back

Chase Solo

I ride solo a lot, which leads me to my favourite feature of the Chase - cell phone access. Trails gods forbid I need to call emergency services for myself, but if I do I can't think of a better place for my phone than the front of my back pack strap.

The slightly elasticized pockets on both straps are easily accessed via a zipper tab, or by just reefing open the flap. Despite the easy access it holds my phone like a vice when I'm riding. And while my #dadbod is not the target shape for the Chase's cut, the flared pockets are unnoticed when riding the bike in or out of the saddle.

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Easy phone access whether snapping a photo or trying to make an emergency call. I wish every pack had these mesh straps.

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With judicious packing there's enough space for a spring/summer adventure. Photo: Crash Test Kevin

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Pockets on both sides mean my phone can go on whatever side is most convenient. I'm still playing with what I like to carry in the other.

With a little help from my bike - carrying my tube and water - the Chase easily sports enough space for a lengthy spring/summer adventure where breathability is more important. I like to carry a bunch more clothing, food, and lights on fall/winter rides and as much as I'd like to make the vest work all year round, I imagine I'll be back wearing the hot-and-heavier USWE for the cold-and-wet months.

Chase Trail

Or maybe a few modifications to the Chase Bike Vest will add some year-round-ability?

I really like where the Chase sits on my back, but to some extent that's by accident. One of the key design goals here is the ability to access jersey pockets on the go. I ride in a merino t-shirt so there's a fair amount of wasted space between the bottom of the pack and my saddle.

I'm planning to get some straps sewn on the bottom of the Chase so I can roll up a rain jacket when it's not in use (or possibly stuff it in a lightweight dry-sack that I'd then clip on). At the same time I'd like a little clean pair of visor mounting straps since I routinely wear a full face* for Shore solo rides.

*Of the removable chin bar variety

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If you sweat, like I sweat, these waist pockets are not a great place to keep spare gloves. Swapping sweated-out gloves for fresh also-sweated-out gloves isn't winning.

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Shout out to all the folks spending a lot of time preserving the old school Shore trails. One rider's gnarly jank is another rider's paradise and there's room for everyone.

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I'm planning to add a couple of clips up top to attach my chin bar and a couple straps at the bottom to strap on a jacket. I wouldn't change anything else.

I'd argue that my 'trail' version of the Chase Bike Vest is a logical extension of the XC Race Bikes that are being sold with 120-140mm travel forks or flexible multi-shock-stroke platforms - like the meaty Knolly Fugitive. CamelBak could add a few grams and a lot of usability without making any changes to the standard product.

My future mods aside, and realizing that some folks are too cool to consider this pack, I think CamelBak has a killer product in their Chase Bike Vest. It's one of those things that I happily hand over at a beginning of a ride for friends to try because I think it's the answer to a lot of riders' storage needs.

It comes in three colourways and it's a bargain at 100 USD including a bladder: The Chase Bike Vest.

Comments

kekoa
+1 Andrew Major
kekoa  - June 13, 2019, 11:20 p.m.

Ohhhh. I've been looking at this. Usually with side eyes so no one actually notices but I think it has merit. Maybe when the fanny pack (sorry can I say 'fanny' or is that one one of George Carlins' 'can't use on the internet' words?) dies or the urge to buy something overwhelms me.

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kos
+1 Andrew Major
Kos  - June 14, 2019, 7:07 a.m.

I see a surprising number of these among the "go fast and long through the forest crowd", considering Camelbak doesn't really market them to bikers very hard.

But let's talk about contradictions for a moment, Andrew.  You're all about practicality, regardless of appearance, yet eschew the classic 3-pocket cycling jersey?!  Hmmmm......

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 14, 2019, 1:47 p.m.

So hear me out - I’ve tried a couple of different three-pocket merino jerseys over the years and never found one where the pockets don’t suck. 

At the same time, I generally ride in a super light merino T (looks sweaty as but remains pretty comfy) vs jersey material. 

I get it though, maybe time for some hybrid jerseys using different natural just for the pockets?

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andy-eunson
0
Andy Eunson  - June 14, 2019, 8:34 a.m.

I’m so with you on the giant bum bags being absolute shite. I theorize that people who spend big bucks on them (or other stuff) will not say anything negative about them. There is even a bum bag out there with shoulder straps and a back panel. Wow. Isn’t that clever. Right up there with coil zippers that convert a jacket into a cape. Genius. I’ve been looking into these vests a lot. The Salomon ones seem overly complex with respect to chest straps. The Arcteryx ones look better but pricy.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Chad K
Cam McRae  - June 14, 2019, 10:49 a.m.

My CamelBak Repack LR bumbag is actually pretty compact despite having the ability to carry water. For most rides I have a few small tools in there and maybe half a litre of water or less. That along with my bottle does me just fine. I have ridden with more water and it works fine but I prefer to keep it relatively light for the sake of performance. It stays put and is very comfortable. Having anything on my shoulders however, is what I prefer to avoid. Having ridden without a backpack for a year or so I'd prefer to never do it again. I even tried an USWE but I found it moved almost as much as other packs I've used. Different strokes!  https://nsmb.com/articles/2018-camelbak-repack-bum-bag/

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neologisticzand
+2 Cam McRae Andy Eunson
Chad K  - June 14, 2019, 11:34 a.m.

I'm with Cam on the repack LR, when it isn't totally packed full, the pack does an excellent job of staying put. That said, I'm pretty thin and can really cinch the pack abound my hip bones to keep it in place.

At the end of the day, I still like storage bibs more than anything else.   Life is good with a bottle on my back and a bottle on my bike

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andy-eunson
0
Andy Eunson  - June 14, 2019, 12:31 p.m.

I had the Palos and it was awful. It was OK with no water though as long as I didn’t load it up too much. I use a High Above bum bag now and it’s better. Although I crashed last fall because the bag came off on a drop and went into my fork. The buckle is easy to partially latch and I think my saddle struck the partially latched clasp as I dropped. I only figured that out last week when my saddle clipped the buckle on the same drop. Aha moment. Instead of extra water now I carry an MSR Trailshot filter.

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neologisticzand
+1 Cam McRae
Chad K  - June 14, 2019, 3:26 p.m.

Thankfully the strap design is different on the Repack. It's absolutely a step up from the Palos.

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sanesh-iyer
0
Sanesh Iyer  - June 14, 2019, 1:56 p.m.

Thanks for reviewing this one Andrew, I'm sold now. Venting was my concern and I haven't had the chance to try one on. I like my bum-bag fine, but I want something bigger for riding w/ a first aid kit, a running bag/vest of some sort, and ideally something which fits underneath my rainshell. Looks like this checks all the very particular boxes. 

Also, I like this Sherpa idea. I can see it already: Client rides e-XC bike up hill while the Sherpa lugs up an enduro bike and a backpack full of snacks and gear. They swap bikes (but certainly NOT packs) for the descent. This could go very far. Maybe it's a way for the LSCR Equestrians to make some money too....

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AndrewMajor
+1 Sanesh Iyer
Andrew Major  - June 16, 2019, 7:53 a.m.

I actually haven’t tried the vest under my rain shell. Interesting. My RF jacket is a 1/2 size too big so that would fit for sure without my chin bar strapped on. Might make the pack next level sweaty but in the name of science... 

I truly think every pack should be looking at the mesh straps as that and the small footprint (backprint) are the only reasons I think the pack can breath as well as it does. Hey, it works for runners.

Poor Sherpas... I bet the tips would sh*t too.

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sanesh-iyer
+1 Andrew Major
Sanesh Iyer  - June 18, 2019, 12:54 p.m.

Looks like you've got some rain coming next week, looking forward to hearing the sweat stories. On rainy days just throw the cell phone in a plastic bag anyways I guess.

I'd like to see the phone in a different place I'm constantly wondering about safest place for a phone in terms of it a) hurting you in a crash, b) not breaking in a crash, and c) being accessible in an emergency. This pack seems to fail all three categories. I've never had my phone in a place where all three of those would be the case, especially the access in an emergency where my mobility has been reduced. Maybe I'm overthinking this as a procrastination tool. Would love to see some sort of top-load firmly sealed velcro pocket on each shoulder blade... or maybe I need to just stop eating dirt.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 18, 2019, 5:26 p.m.

I have a waterproof soft case my phone goes in when it’s moist and that also fits in the shoulder holster.

I really like the phone location specifically because I ride alone and that’s as accessible as it gets?! I can remove it with either hand. 

On tops of the shoulder I’d wonder about visibility (maybe I look around too much whilst riding). 

In the pack on my back is undoubtedly the safest (and least accessible) spot for the phone but I get off the bike too often and, hopefully I have enough built up trail Karma for it not to come back on me to say that, as accessible phone spots go I’m content that where it sits isn’t in my top ten first-contact points.

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DemonMike
+2 Jerry Willows Andrew Major
mike  - June 15, 2019, 8:38 p.m.

Man have not riding Sawblade since the 90,s. Used to ride it on my DH bike clipped in.Have to check it out again.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 16, 2019, 7:45 a.m.

Folks either love the west side of Burke or they don’t. I love those trails as much as I did 20-years ago. 

I like to start off with Upper Vic’s or Bean, then hike-and-bike up to Sawblade. Then jump on Lower Sawblade just to where it ~ touches Nescafé and pop over and exit that way.

They’re the kind of trails you can ride on any bike with good rubber - just your speed will vary. Between my Explosif and then my Walt it’s been years since I road Sawblade on a bike with any suspension - rigid fork ftw.

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DemonMike
0
mike  - June 16, 2019, 7:55 p.m.

Does it still have the baby head section??And lower I always enjoyed that part , some huge ass tree stumps in spots. We started riding it after a bike magazine did a write up on it. At that time they had never ridden anything like it. I am doing the 5er race there on the 18th of this month. Should be fun , hitting most of it blind :). Did a 5er there last summer and ridden there a couple times since the 90s. I live in East MR and have 5 hills within 15mins so I don,t travel West much.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 16, 2019, 9:22 p.m.

Sawblade has had exactly the right amount of work done on it. You wouldn’t even know it had been done if you didn’t ride the trail semi-regularly.

Can’t blame you. Traffic West sucks. Traffic in general. Hence why I normally leave the car at home and pedal to Fromme. If I lived close to Red/Bear/Woodlot I wouldn’t journey away often.

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DemonMike
+1 Andrew Major
mike  - June 17, 2019, 8:07 p.m.

Come out one day , I ,ll show you some local stuff . Monday thru Thursday works best for me.

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AndrewMajor
+1 mike
Andrew Major  - June 17, 2019, 8:29 p.m.

Cool - fire me a PM and let's see if we can make it work.

legbacon
0
legbacon  - June 16, 2019, 7:13 a.m.

With tube, tools, pump, CO2, and bottle on my bike and a pair of Swat bibs I haven't worn a pack in 3 years.  I have a 1l Hydrapack flexible bottle that carries in the bib pocket better than any fanny pack ever could.

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AndrewMajor
+1 mike
Andrew Major  - June 16, 2019, 7:43 a.m.

Once you go Saxx you never go back...

I dropped the chamois years ago, so unless I was going to Tinker Juarez a pair of stash bibs it’s not something that would work me. The only time I wear them is longer road rides.

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goose8
+1 Andrew Major
goose8  - June 16, 2019, 7:41 p.m.

This is going to sound odd, but would you mind sharing more about this? What model Saxx seem to work well? Do you have to be selective about what shorts you ride in? Thanks!

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 16, 2019, 9:17 p.m.

No odder than discussing chamois butter with random strangers when working in a shop!

I’ve tried a few models and the Saxx Kinetic in the regular or long length is what I recommend as a starting point.

I have a pair of the Strike model which has a more lycra/compression feel and I like them - and know a couple riders who prefer them - but I like the looser-but-supportive Kinetic.

I haven’t tried the Volt yet to see if the breathability is better.

In terms of over shorts, I wear them with lightweight Race Face baggies, mid-weight soft shell knickers, and Race Face Agent pants - all good. 

Saddle, and saddle adjustment, are maybe more key. Any saddle I’ve tested for NSMB has been sans-chamois. These days I’m usually on a WTB Deva Race (top end padding and cover but Chromo rails instead of Ti on Team to save $$).

Reply

goose8
+1 Andrew Major
goose8  - June 17, 2019, 6:54 p.m.

Thanks for the assist Andrew! I'm going to give those a shot, there has to be a better way.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 17, 2019, 8:28 p.m.

HA! Anytime. I've worn some premium f'ing chamois in my day and ditching the diaper paid dividends for me. 

It's a zero-lose situation anyways because even if you decide you prefer the padding for any longer rides the Saxx are comfy for daily use.

Anyways, let me know how they turn out for you on the bike.

goose8
0
goose8  - July 6, 2019, 10:32 a.m.

I followed Andrew's lead and wanted to report back. I picked up a pair of the Saxx kinetic long and added them to the rotation. So far I have three rides on them (SQ Lab 611 Active saddle). First ride was a short ride just to see if it was viable. Second ride was about 2 hours, and afterward I definitely felt sore- kind of an early-season-getting-used-to-saddle-time-again feeling. Third ride was much better. I used some chamois butter to stack the odds in my favor but didn't feel any discomfort during the ride or after. And the feel is so much better than chamois! Thanks for the suggestion.

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - July 25, 2019, 6:33 p.m.

Very welcome and thanks for reporting back. 

Pissing rain, the recent heat, four-hour double hit of Seymour and Fromme... I'm a big believer in Saxx every ride.

DemonMike
+2 goose8 Andrew Major
mike  - June 16, 2019, 7:57 p.m.

Saddle plays a big roll in #ironbutting. No liners or pads for me since mid 90,s.

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TX_CLG
0
TX_CLG  - July 11, 2019, 1:49 p.m.

What Hydrapck works best in the Swat bibs?  There website has a Stow and a Stash, where the Stow looks like a smaller opening so less plastic to dig into my back maybe.

Reply

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