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CamelBak Octane XCT Hydration Pack – Trail Running Gear Review

Using your hands to carry three handheld water bottles, camera, and nutrition while running requires a skill few have any desire to master. Welcome the hydration pack!

I had been a fan of CamelBak hydration packs during my focused mountain biking days and I was curious to try out one of their run designed packs on the trails. The seemingly versatile pack that immediately caught my attention was the CamelBak Octane XCT. And with a name like Octane, you can’t help but think your legs will turn over just a bit quicker. Individual results may vary! 😉

After a few months of slurping on the Bite valve, I thought I would share my hydrating pack experience so far.

Glamour Shot

Out of the Box

My first encounter with the Octane XCT guided my eyes to both obvious and subtle features.

Hour glass shape

Looking at the pack I immediately noticed its tapered and streamlined design. It just looked clean and efficient.

Backside

Frontside

Load me up, but not too much!

The storage opportunities consist of one low volume pocket in the upper back, external tie-down straps, and two nicely sized waist pockets.

The upper back pocket would seem like a great place to stash lightweight stuff that you will use infrequently or not at all. A few things the come to mind are a few just-in-case items;  trail/course map, identification information, and the grateful when necessary TP.

Upper Pocket

The coolest thing I notice with the tie-down strap is the lock-down adjuster to keep a lightweight jacket (or whatever) securely snugged against the pack.

Tie-down straps with lock-down adjuster (upper right)

The waist pockets have a very functional size. They taper towards the front of the body and can comfortable hold a small camera (in a little case), energy bars, gels, headlamp, and spare batteries – all at once. The pockets contain a significant amount of available space if needed.

Waist pocket filled with two food bars and two gels

Detail alert – Gotta love that the zippers close forward. Simply easier to know when on the move, that the zipper is fully closed. Leaving your goodies (used and unused) scattered along the trail – no fun for you or the environment.

Got bladder

The 70 oz (2 Liter) bladder will keep most hydrated for 3+ hours depending on conditions. Enjoy the fluids by gently nibbling on the Bite valve.

No bladder problems here!

Refill with water, ice, or nutrition by simply unscrewing the wide mouth cap. This can be done with the bladder in or outside the pack.

Bladder access

I like the little bladder clip to keep everything properly aligned. No sag in this bladder!

The bladder loop

Body fit

To customize the fit, there are adjustable shoulder, chest, and waist straps. The chest strap is also adjustable in the vertical plane to provide additional fine tuning.

Chest strap – Horizontal and vertical adjustability

Detail alert – I like the excess strap guards used for the waist strap. This keeps any excess strap from dangling and flapping around.

Please see me

For additional here I am safety there are reflective strips on the front (shoulder straps) and back (base of the pack). Nice!

Front

Back

The amazing key clip!

Simple but nerdy coolness. I like these things! In the right waist pocket, clip in your key and you can forget about having to retrace your entire 10 mile run because the darn thing hopped out when you got something out of the pocket mid run.

Coolness Clip

Test Drive

Bladder filled. Time to get some trail time!

The first thing that is obviously apparent when the pack is on with a full bladder, you are carrying a bit of extra weight (~ 5 lb per spec), mainly due to the water. Had to remind self that I was carrying nearly 70 oz of water. The pack itself (without a bladder) only weighs about as much as a pair of moderately light trail shoes (10.7 oz).

After a couple clicks and simple strap adjustments, the pack was snug up against my body. The pack definitely felt integrated with the body and did not have a top-heavy feel.

Time to run!

Once running the first thing I notice is…a sound. It’s the water moving around and crashing into the sidewalls of the bladder. Initially it had this stereo affect that sent my imagination to frolicking in the beautiful shallow shoreline waters of Hawaii. I was quickly brought back to reality as my big left toe pegged a tree root. [update 11/01: Here is a great tip to stop the bladder slosh.]

Eventually I began to focus on the run, the sound fades into a subtle background noise and even completely disappeared after some of the fluid is enjoyed. Bummer, Hawaii was a pretty nice place to be.

Observations

I have ran easy and some fairly hard efforts with the pack. Here are some of my biggestobservations:

  • Hands-free running – I don’t mind carrying handhelds but it can be nice to have the hands empty of stuff.
  • Low stomach pressure – As compared with my waist pack system (Nathan Elite 2V Plus (review)), the Octane XCT obviously put a lot less pressure on the stomach area with most of the support/weight spread across the shoulders.
  • Connected – Hard or easy running, the pack was integrated with the body and didn’t affect balance.
  • Extra heat – Since the pack covers up a fair amount of your back, you will trap a bit more heat in the summer months. Of course you will have access to much more fluids as well. 🙂
  • Easy to rehydrate – Grab the Bit valve. Take a few pulls. Bam – done!
  • Periodic snug – Every few miles, I would have to re-snug up the straps. Pretty common among packs.
  • Low waist pocket chatter – Since the waist pockets are not externally bulgy thanks to that mesh siding and general design, it kept most things inside the pocket fairly snug up against the body so items don’t bounce around.
  • Waist pocket access challenge –  Since the heart of the waist pockets resides at about the kidney area, you have to reach back around you body a bit in order to access the entire pocket. This can feel a bit awkward and also tough to see everything within the pocket. Access by feel is probably the easiest method. One plus to this design, your arms aren’t having to adjust to a filled pocket when moving through the running motion.
  • Stealthy waist pockets – I really like the size of the waist pockets. A very functional size that doesn’t become too bulky when filled. Also when the pockets are empty they remain fairly snug up against the body. No empty pontoons hanging on your side although those could be useful for river crossings.

Overall Impressions

Dude – sweet pack! The CamelBak Octane XCT is solid on the trails and I really dug the nice sized waist storage pockets even though they were a bit cumbersome to access.

The pack may not fill every runners need (ex: more/less water or more/no storage space) but it definitely can support many a running adventure.

The trail runner that may like this pack?

  • desire a hands-free hydration system
  • desire low stomach pressure from straps
  • desire the ability to carry up to 70 oz (3+ bottles) of fluid to support longer runs
  • desire moderate amount of streamlined storage and can accept the partially blind access (unless you are real twisty)

Anyone else use this pack? What are your thoughts?


The review above was based on the 2010 model. You can check out the 2012 CamelBak Octane XCT at Running Warehouse (Shoes, Packs, Clothes, Lights, and more…plus 2-day free shipping!).


Be active – Feel the buzz!

David – EnduranceBuzz.com

[This article contains links that may support Endurance Buzz.]

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

24 Responses to “CamelBak Octane XCT Hydration Pack – Trail Running Gear Review”

  1. on 25 Oct 2010 at 7:20 pm Mark

    I love this pack – perfect for training runs during those dog days of summer, a nice amount of storage, and very lightweight (though I think I have last year’s model). On the downside, I’ve had some bad luck with a few of the bladders (one of which burst on me in the middle of a run), but I tend to destroy so much running equipment I should be a beta tester!!!

  2. on 26 Oct 2010 at 10:16 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Mark – Thanks for sharing your own experience with the pack!

    The bladder bursting is crazy. I think I still have some 10 year old bladders hanging around the house. Although, I don’t know if I would be too interested in drinking out of them any longer.

    I think the bladders have a lifetime warranty if one spontaneously combusts on ya.

  3. on 31 Oct 2010 at 10:15 pm Eric

    Thanks for the review, and this may not help, but I always flip my bladder upside down and suck the air out through the bite valve before starting my run. I dont usually get any slosh, or water sound. Maybe give that a try, and again thanks for the info!

  4. on 01 Nov 2010 at 12:05 pm David Hanenburg

    Hey Eric – I used this exact method last week (thanks to an email tip) and it simply – worked. I also just created a new article/video sharing it with everyone. Too cool, not to share.

    Thanks for visiting and sharing on EB!

  5. on 16 Nov 2010 at 10:54 am Kevin

    I need a hydration pack but I’m so conflicted! I’m considering the Camelbak XCT, Nathan HPL 020, or possibly waiting for the Salomon XT Advanced Skin 5 S-Lab out early next year. I need at least 70 ounces for extra long, hot runs. Can I fit an extra bottle into the XCT somewhere? Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions? Right now the Nathan is the cheapest, followed by the XCT. The Salomon will be pricey, somewhere around $180.

  6. on 19 Nov 2010 at 2:16 pm David Hanenburg

    Kevin – The XCT mentioned in this review is 70 oz. I would say “no” to an extra bottle on the CamelBak Octane XCT. The Nathan is a ~70 oz bladder as well. No difference in volume than the XCT. I am not completely sure on the Solomon bladder size.

    You could carry a handheld for extra water as well. You could drink that first to eliminate the extra weight on the hands/arms.

    At Running Warehouse (which you can access through the banner at the top of my site and receive an additional discount at checkout), the CamelBak Octane XCT is the least expensive, followed by the Nathan pack. Just depends on what you want. You could also pick up a handheld running bottle for a fairly inexpensive price if you don’t have one already. I have reviewed a few of them as well.

    I just noticed the Salomon XT Wings 5 pack can accept a 2L (~70 oz) bladder and has two side bottles that can give you an additional 40 oz of water if that is what you need/prefer. The bladder is not included and would have to be purchased separately. (You could simply purchase a CamelBak 70oz bladder.) This would be the most expensive (at just over $100 for the pack and bladder at Running Warehouse) of the options noted above. The Endurance Buzz discount would reduce the cost some. If you really want to be hands free, this would be one way to do it. Note, any storage needs would be accessible on the back of this pack.

    I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  7. on 05 Jan 2011 at 8:11 pm Kevin

    Hi David. Thanks a lot for responding. I decided to go with the Nathan HPL 20 Vest. I’ve been using it for a while and I’m happy with it. I’ll just have to pack an extra water bottle on those extra hot Tucson summer days. Happy trails!

  8. on 06 Jan 2011 at 8:00 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Kevin – No worries. Great to hear you found something that will work for you. Enjoy the journey!

  9. on 26 Feb 2011 at 9:58 pm Alex M

    http://philosopherrunner.blogspot.com/2011/02/camelbak-2011-octane-xct.html

    I def liked this pack, but for sure its for the minimalist crowd, only what you need.

  10. on 01 Mar 2011 at 8:54 am Brian

    David, it looks like you’ve tried out the XCT and now the LR. I am looking to pull the trigger on ordering one of these from the runningwarehouse for trailrunning in northern NM, but am having a hard time deciding which one, though am leaning towards the XCT.

    Any thoughts on them, now that you have run with both? What do you think of the 70 oz. lumbar bladder?

    brian

  11. on 03 Mar 2011 at 8:49 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Brian – Nice to hear from you! Yes, I have used both the XCT and the LR. I will have a full review of the LR within the next week or so but here are some comparisons between the two.

    In general the XCT is less pack (more minimal) than the LR.

    Some of the more notable details:
    – The LR has more storage opportunities/volume.
    – XCT now with 100 oz bladder, LR 70 oz.
    – On the fly (race environment), the standard XCT bladder is quicker to fill and easier to handle.
    – The LR Lumbar bladder does fill up some of the space available in the waist pockets.
    – With pack on and full bladder, you notice the most pressure in the bladder areas. For the XCT – mid back. For the LR – around the waist/lower back.

    Both are solid packs, but it will likely depend which details are of more interest to you.

    I hope this helps.

    Happy Running!

  12. on 01 Jul 2011 at 3:13 pm Megann

    I just bought this! I love my hydration pack. I always wear it when i go on my long bike rides. It helps keep me hydrated throughout the long ride. I love the bite valve on all Camelbak products. It makes them different from other companies. Its lightweight too!

  13. on 28 Aug 2011 at 11:01 am Jay

    Hi David,

    running my first half maranthon in three weeks and want to get something that can carry some water, phone, keys and gels – thinking of the XCT, so thanks for your review, but as I’m 6’2″ and weigh around 220 lbs, I was wondering about the fit – will the waist strap sit on my belly or on my waist! 🙂

    How tall are you?

    cheers,

    Jay

  14. on 28 Aug 2011 at 6:43 pm David Hanenburg

    Hey Jay! Great to hear from you. I am 6’1″ / 170lb.

    Belly or waist?…There is some variability to this based on how snug you set those shoulder straps. You can have the pack sit lower down your back which means the waist strap will be lower as well (closer to waist)…by reducing the amount of tightening in the shoulder straps. (hopefully that makes sense)

    In the real world, the strap will likely dance between waist and lower stomach area.

    Which half are you running?

  15. on 08 Sep 2011 at 5:02 am Jay

    Hi David,

    thanks for the feedback – I got the pack, it just about fits! 🙂

    I’ve got wide shoulders and its a tight fit at the top so can’t really adjust it up or down – in fact the shoulder straps sit high as thats the only way I can get my shoulders in, so the pack sits low, and as you said – the strap kind of dances between my waist and stomach.

    I’m running the Stockholm HM next week – feeling very nervous about it all! But I’ll take it easy and just look to finish.

    cheers,

    Jay

  16. on 12 Sep 2011 at 11:34 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Jay, Have a great HM experience! Would love to hear how it goes. Smile and soak up the journey.

    Best of luck!

  17. on 11 Feb 2013 at 1:43 am Irish

    David,
    I’ve had the pak awhile and like everything about it except the tie in the back. When removing a layer and using the tie strap in the back, eventually the item will works it way out. Any tips here?

  18. on 13 Feb 2013 at 10:52 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Irish,

    Great to hear from you!

    A few thoughts…

    Likely you have already tried this but you can snug up the strap system buy pulling on the strap midway up the pack. This may help a little bit.

    Maybe weave (in and out) the item through the straps, all the way around the strap system…then snug up.

    Another idea, depending on the thickness of layer (thin shell versus thicker jacket for example)…you may be able to stuff it with the water bladder.

    Anyone else have ideas on this?

  19. on 19 Aug 2013 at 11:20 am Mark

    Hello David

    I am looking to upgrade to a backpack from a waist pack so to carry more water. For how much I sweat running in the hills here in Southern Cal., I need to carry more water. I wear a tank top so was wondering if I will have any chaffing problems with the Octane XCT 100 ounce pack. When wearing it, how comfortable is it? I am getting real tired of my waist belt.

  20. on 03 Sep 2013 at 12:29 pm David Hanenburg

    Hey Mark,

    I haven’t had any chaffing issues with the XCT pack…but I also don’t generally wear tank tops. Looking at the pack I have though, the outer edges of the shoulder straps have have a very soft fabric material which may provide a comfortable skin-to-pack contact area.

    Other thoughts – Keep the pack snugged up against the body to help reduce/prevent potential friction spots.

    How comfortable: I personally feel the backpack style is more comfortable than the waist pack style. Less pressure on the stomach is nice.

    Also note carrying 100 ounces of water (If you choose to fill it fully) as apposed to 40 ounces (two bottles, waist pack) will add a few additional pounds (~4 lbs) of weight to the adventure (initially). So you may notice the extra weight.

    One thing with all CamelBak packs I have worn, they do require periodic snugging of the straps to keep the fit dialed in.

    Happy Running!

  21. on 09 Dec 2013 at 4:18 pm Rob

    Hi David,

    I also recently bought an Octane XCT (3.0l version) and am very happy with it. I did have a similar issue to Irish with a rain jacket working loose from the back tie-downs. What I am experimenting with at the moment is putting gear for external stowage in a simple nylon mesh stuff-sack before stowing it under the tie-downs, and securing the bag at the top with a small alloy carabiner so it can’t fall off.

    There are all kinds of little inexpensive sacks and bags of different shapes and sizes sold by outdoor and travel shops (like the packing organizers and so on) that have potential. It may just be a matter of trying different options to see what works best.

  22. on 17 Dec 2013 at 1:39 pm David Hanenburg

    Hey Rob,

    Thanks for sharing your experience and a possible workaround for those pesky tie-downs. I like the stuff sack idea to help keep the jacket “contained”…and the small carabiner add a nice bit of insurance. Sweet!

  23. on 16 Jan 2014 at 4:05 pm Rob

    No worries, it’s been working well for me so far.
    The stuff sack has a webbing loop at the bottom that I am attaching the carabiner to and clipping it to the little high-vis loop at the bottom of the XCT.

    I push the sack up under the tie downs and then take the drawstring from the sack up and secure it with a half-bow hitch to the hanging loop at the top of the pack.

    The one I am using at present holds about 1 liter of stuff. Perfect for the raingear and a ziplock bag with the PBJ sandwich!

  24. on 22 Jan 2014 at 10:14 am David Hanenburg

    Rob – Cool man! Thanks for the update!