The Camelbak Chase 8 Minimalistic Hydration Vest Maximizes Space for Short or Long Bike Rides [Review]

The number of friends and riders I see on the trails that don full hydration packs for rides short and long has dwindled to a small minority. For most of us who are heading out to the trails on an after work ride, we don’t need to pack a Lifestraw, a space blanket, or an emergency burrito and four gallons of water. We just need a tool, an extra tube, pump or Co2, and maybe a stroop waffle to survive an hour-and-a-half ride.

While there have been plenty of fanny pack converts, there is still a segment that has clung to their massive hydration packs in spite of smaller options. These minimalistic endurance packs like the Chase 8, and the Orange Mud pack I tried earlier this year are turning out to be a great option for anyone avoiding lumbar packs who still want to maximize mobility and cut down weight.

About the Chase 8

Even though the Chase 8 is a slimmed down hydration pack or “hydration vest,” there is a lot of usable space. The pack comes with a 70oz hydration reservoir, and has six liters of room for storage, with a main compartment and an external compartment, as well as a smaller pocket for accessories.

On the front side of the pack, the ventilated shoulder straps double as compartments for a phone, snacks, or a little waste bin to stuff snack wrappers into. There are two sternum straps and the back panel is made from a soft and well-ventilated mesh.

The Chase 8 comes in two colors. Aside from this jet black option I tried, there is a grey option. The Chase 8 retails for $125, and Camelbak has more options out there, like the Chase Protector Vest, featuring a back protector, or the Chase Bike Vest, a smaller option with half the storage capacity and a 50oz reservoir. The middle child Chase 8 is the “quiver-killer” of the three and costs $125.

The ride

As I indicated above, I have become a pretty big fan of packs like this. They are much more comfortable than a full-on hydration pack, easier to drink from than a fanny pack or bottle cage, and don’t constantly tug at your waistline like a fanny pack.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t drawbacks. There is still a large panel covering your back during extended periods of exercise, so there will be sweat. That said, the Chase 8 does mitigate sweat pretty well, and it keeps air running along your back while it’s on, so after a ride you may be wet, but your back will be far from drenched.

The Chase 8 sits high on the back, far away from the waistline and keeps the weight centered on the rider’s back, so the hydration vest becomes unnoticeable on rides, whether climbing or descending. Fighting against the pack’s own direction is never an issue.

Neither is a swinging hose. With two clips that hold the hydration hose down the shoulder strap, it stays neatly tucked away during rides. Being able to hydrate while on the move can be key in XC races, or while trying to stay in the pack on a group ride, and it’s a nice option to have rather than trying to fish a bottle from a fanny pack holster or bottle cage.

The shoulder strap pouches offer easy access to important items like snacks. If you’re someone who eats on the go, which can also be a necessity for XC races, it’s pretty convenient to be able to dump a bag of gummy bears in the pouch, and pick from it as you need. Denser items like snack bars can pop up and out of these pouches on jumps or rocky trails.

I plan on using this bag for longer backcountry rides this summer. There is plenty of room for food, tools, and extras like a rain jacket. While 70oz in a pack is a little short for an all-day ride, it can be done with another bottle of water tucked on the frame, minimizing the weight on your back.

Closing thoughts

For after-work or lunch rides, the streamlined and comfortable Camelbak Chase 8 is a great pack as a lightweight alternative to a full hydration pack or a lumbar bag. It’s hardly noticeable, makes drinking water and snacking easier, and still vents well. The Chase 8 gets even better, since it can double as a pack for all-day rides.

Available at JensonUSA and REI.

Thanks to Camelbak for providing the Chase 8 for testing and review.

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