Quick access to cargo makes this hands-free hydration system ideal for marathon training and trail running.
- Hydration Capacity – 2 Liters (70 oz)
- CamelBak Got Your Bak Guarantee – If we built it, we’ll Bak it with our lifetime guarantee.
- Reservoir Features
- 1/4 turn – easy open/close cap
- Lightweight fill port
- Dryer arms
- Center baffling and low-profile design
- Patented Big Bite Valve
- HydroGuard technology
- PureFlow tube
- Easy-to-clean wide-mouth opening
- Air Channel Back Panel
- Custom fit hook-and-loop adjust harness with cargo pockets and dual Slider Sternum Straps
- Safety whistle
- Quick stash overflow storage
- Designed to carry – Additional hydration, extra layers, nutritional supplements
- Dimensions – 39 cm tall x18 cm wide x 10 cm deep (15.5 in x 7 in x 4 in)
- Fabric Specs – 70D Diamond Box Rip with DWR & 1000 mm PU coating
- Torso Length – 39 cm (15.4 in)
- Measured Weight with empty reservoir – 543 g (19.1 oz)
- Retail – $100
CamelBak is a well-known brand in hydration backpacks and bottles. I personally have been using their products for over a decade. For the longest time, their products were aimed more at the hiking and mountain biking segments. In the recent year, they have been making some products aimed at runners with some innovative solutions. The Marathoner Vest is not as innovative as the similar but different Ultra LR Vest, but in order to fully comprehend those differences, I have been testing them side by side. This review will be on the Marathoner Vest and shortly down the road, I will review the Ultra LR.
The Marathoner Vest is a hydration carrying solution for long distance runs. As such I have been testing it on my training runs this spring and summer. My runs have varied from 15-25 miles and been on everything from road to rough trail. I have also been able to use it in temperatures ranging from 30 – 85 degrees.
The CamelBak Marathoner Vest is similar in style to many other running hydration packs on the market. They have taken the general design and given it a bit of a CamelBak tweak. The Marathoner has a run vest configuration to carry water high and close to your back. The pack comes with CamelBak’s 2 Liter (70 oz) Antidote Reservoir. The tube is removable by a clip mechanism and is routed up over the shoulder strap with several straps to hold it in place. On the chest harness straps, there are tube clips for securing the end of the tube. The Big Bite valve is made to be leak proof and easy to use. The Antidote Reservoir also features an easy open/close cap, lightweight fill port, and dryer arms for after cleaning. This system is quite an upgrade from many of the other reservoirs on the market.
The shoulder straps of the vest are attached to the main pack by an adjustable Velcro system. This allows the user to adjust the length and fit of the straps to their preference. The shoulder straps also connect to the main pack by a triangular shaped adjustable strap just above the hips. The shoulder straps are made of a lightweight mesh for breathability and moisture management. There are several pockets on the straps to store things large and small. Two small flap pockets and two larger drop in pockets to be exact. The large pockets are designed to fit a water bottle if you need to carry more liquid. These drop in pockets have bungee cinch cords at the top for security and are made of a tighter mesh so nothing can fall out. There are two adjustable sternum straps. These sternum straps are able to be adjusted vertically as well as tightened for a personalized fit. One last feature on the left shoulder strap is a small safety whistle. It is clipped to the strap and has a tether so it won’t get lost.
The main pack houses the reservoir under a zippered flap. There is an area to drop the reservoir into, and the plastic fill port on the reservoir hooks the inner pocket. To keep the reservoir even more secure, there is a Velcro strap over the top. Since the tube is detachable, it can be unclipped and the reservoir can be removed to be refilled easily. At the bottom of the main pack, there is a flap pocket that has a bungee cord adjustment and attachment system. This cord attaches on both sides and can stretch to fit different-sized items. There are several other loops that can be used if needed for other storage opportunities. The pack does not come with any add-ons but if you use your imagination, you can come up with some solutions. The pack has some reflective elements built in for better visibility on low light runs. The main pack is made with a ripstop nylon fabric that has been treated with DWR to resist soaking from rain or water dumped over the runners head. The backpanel is made of a lightweight mesh with an air channel for increased breathability. The Marathoner Vest is covered by CamelBak’s Got Your Bak Guarantee.
To my knowledge, none of the fabrics used are from green or sustainable materials. CamelBak however, has made a large push to be social responsible. They work with specific partners and suppliers. They also believe that a better made product will last longer and therefore, do not need to be replaced as often. CamelBak does say their packs are recyclable at the end of their functional life. Lastly, CamelBak has built their headquarters to be LEED certified, and many of their other operations use clean energy. Even if they are unable to always get the sustainable materials, at least they have made an effort in their business practices.
Comfort Next To Skin (20%)
Ease of Movement (20%)
Strap Comfort (20%)
Torso Sizing (15%)
I have now tested several hydration options, and I have been impressed by the Marathoners fit. I expected this as CamelBak has been making hydration packs for some time now and with all that experience I figured they would get it right. This vest has lots of adjustability. The main shoulder straps can be adjusted by a Velcro attachment to the main pack. This is a great feature not only for optimizing fit but also makes the pack great for adjusting to different people. Around the sides, the triangular attachment strap can be adjusted to tighten the lower section of the vest. I felt like it hugged my body very well. The sternum straps also help with this and can slide up or down on the straps to personalize the preferred location of these straps. The top strap is static while the bottom one is elastic. This helps balance the fit versus allowing you to breathe easier. One drawback I had with all the adjustable straps that they would loosen up over time. This was similar to my experiences with the CamelBak Delaney Plus hydration belt. I am not sure if this is because they are new or the buckles and webbing do not grip each other well. I hope with more use the sheen will wear off, and they will stay in place better. Towards the end of my testing, I noticed they were getting a little better.
All the fabrics used on the vest have been soft and there are no rough edges to this vest. When running long distances the worst thing you can have is an irritation or rubbing as it will not only drive you nuts mentally but hurt. I used this vest on runs up to 25 miles and in all temperatures with no issues. The shoulder straps are nice and wide to distribute pressure well. If I had a lot of fluids with me, I may have some soreness the next day but this is common for me. The great thing about a hydration vest is that it does not impede movement. The Marathoner sits high up on the back and does not impact my running, which is what I look for in my hydration. The only time I would notice it was when I had the extra water bottle in the front pocket. Then my hand would hit it on occasion. This also negatively affected the comfort of the pack which I will touch on below.
Ease of Use (15%)
Weight Distribution (25%)
To me, the CamelBak Marathoner Vest has a strange name. The reason I say this is because I can’t think of why anyone would wear this in a marathon and with the name “Marathoner”, that is what I think it is for. With aid stations every mile in a Marathon, the added weight of carrying all your gearnwould seem unnecessary. The pack however has performed great on long training runs this spring. This is what I think the pack is best made for: long training and long unsupported races. Thinking about it I have not come up with any better names so I guess the Marathoner will have to stay for now.
The vest can carry a lot of liquid. The reservoir alone can hold two liters (70 oz), and if you want to carry extra water bottles you can carry over another liter. With a full reservoir, the vest can feel a bit heavy. It also makes it feel a little tighter so being able to adjust the straps is a must. I did a couple runs with an extra water bottle in the front pocket, and I was not a fan. I noticed with the extra water bottle; the added weight on one side would pull the vest over to that side slightly more and would be less comfortable. The bottle also would bounce a little when in the pocket and became uncomfortable. I found this to happen on both sides until the bottle was nearly empty.
As with other hydration packs, when running I tend to get hot. No matter how breathable the back panel is I get sweaty and this was no exception. It happens with every pack I run with so it was expected. Apart from when I was carrying an extra bottle, the vest did a good job distributing the weight. I never had any rubbing issues over the whole time I tested this. I found the Marathoner relatively easy to use. Everything on the pack makes sense. The adjustable straps are great for a personalized fit and easy to adjust. Just Velcro them to the appropriate length. The one thing that was a bit more difficult to figure out was the safety whistle. It might have been that my clip was a bit tight, but I had a tough time getting the whistle off the clip on my first use. I hope to never need this whistle, but if I do I hope I can separate it quickly.
The Marathoner has some reflective elements so you can be seen. I did not find them to be over the top or lacking in any way. What I did struggle with was the pockets. The back pocket is kind of small, especially when you r reservoir is full. It can hold some smaller items, but the volume may be tested if you are on some long unsupported runs in poor weather. Compared to its competition this large pocket is much smaller than others. The front pockets have two small flap pockets and two larger drop in pockets. The small flap pockets worked okay for gels and such, but I found them to be pretty small and did not use them as often because of that. I have been trying to carry “real” food, and it would get all mashed up in the small pockets. I also like to run with my iPhone, and that did not fit well in there either. The drop in pockets were designed to hold extra water bottles which they can do. I did not like wearing the vest with the extra bottles as it pulled the pack to one side or the other. When not using these for water the lighter contents did not affect the weight distribution but did allow items to bounce a little inside the pockets unless the pocket was full. Since they have more volume to accommodate a bottle, smaller things will have room to move in them. The only annoying part about those are the sound gels and other food items make when they move around. The movement itself did not bother me.
Overall, the Marathoner Vest not only looks cool; it performs well too. The adjustability of this pack is arguably its best feature. It can easily be adjusted to fit different body types really easily. For my wife and I it makes it a great option that both of us can use, that is if we only had one hydration pack. I did feel like the stabilizer straps would loosen up over time. I hope that as they wear in more they will not slide through the clip as easily and therefore, will stay in place. If you need to carry a lot of gear with you, the Marathoner will probably not be the best choice, the main pocket is on the smaller side but there is a fair amount of room on the chest. I will be reviewing the Ultra LR soon, and that would be a better option. The biggest win on this pack other than the fit is the reservoir. It is easy to use, and I have had no issues with it. Truly, one of the best I have used. If you are looking for a good fitting running pack with lots of fit adjustments, then this is a excellent option. It is comfortable, not too heavy, and can carry a medium amount of gear. The CamelBak Marathoner Vest retails for $100, which is fairly priced with most of the competition. As always, your mileage may vary.
Pros [field name=iFrame]
- Adjustable fit
- Great reservoir
- Lightweight mesh backpanel and straps
- No rough edges, good finish work
- I had no comfort issues with the vest on its own
- Smaller back pocket
- Bottles in front pockets are not that comfortable
- Smaller items may bounce in large front pockets
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