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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I like the little bladder clip to keep everything properly aligned. No sag in this bladder!
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.
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!
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.
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.
I have ran easy and some fairly hard efforts with the pack. Here are some of my biggest observations:
- 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.
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 and receive an Endurance Buzz visitor discount at Running Warehouse. The fluid bladder is now 100 ounces.
- Click Running Warehouse
- Submit the displayed Endurance Buzz visitor discount code. You will see the discount noted in your shopping cart.
- Then check out the 2012 CamelBak Octane XCT.
Be active – Feel the buzz!
David – EnduranceBuzz.com
[This article contains links that may support Endurance Buzz.]