I remember growing up as a runner thinking that hydration backpacks were a bit ridiculous. I never saw the need before I started training for Ironman. In 2014 I wrote about how I began using a Camelbak in my training and reviewed the Camelbak Dart (Camelbak Dart review).
I save time in my training schedule by combining my long run as part of my commute home, one day a week. This way I can get home to hang out with the family before Ethan goes to bed and I eliminate travel time. To make my long run of the quality I need I have to be able to carry a bit of nutrition and hydration as well as some essential items like keys and wallet. Camelbak are the gold standard of running packs and after 2 years using the Dart I was excited to try the lighter Circuit model.
I previously used the Camelbak Dart in four of my Ironman training builds. While the Dart is a super pack I wanted to try the Camelbak Circuit as a slightly smaller and more compact vest. I thought I might be able to squeeze some additional quality out of my runs with this vest and I never use to use the full capacity of the Dart model. Check out what I found:
Camelbak Circuit Highlights:
- Quickly accessible external bladder fill - the Dart was on the reverse side.
- Sweat-proof phone pocket - easy to check strava ;)
- 1.5L reservoir - ample size for my run durations.
- Lightweight: 0.27 kg
- Slimline: fits 30"-46" chest
This pack is the lightest in the Camelbak range and holds up to 1.5L with easy to access external fill (great for racing if you need to refill quickly). 1.5L is plenty for my long run and I probably only use up to half of that. It has easily accessible pockets on the front of the vest for gels, keys or anything you might need to access on the fly. The sweat proof pockets store your more sensitive items safely and the dual strap gives a secure fit and adjustability compared to a single strap.
My favourite 3 things:
The greatest challenge I had over the weeks testing was to get the fit right. This isn't an issue with this packs dual straps, but I've found that I need to get just the right tightness across my chest to feel comfortable. Too tight and it feels restrictive to breathe and too loose and it moves about when running. I found that a tighter bottom strap and looser top one gave me the ideal fit. It keeps the vest secure but allowed for my chest to be open when breathing. I also use some elastic bands to hold the excess strap.
The second most important thing to me are the side straps. I want the pack to feel secure, but too tight and I often get chaffing on the side of my ribs. Also any excess strap length that flaps around by my arms when I run causes chaffing too.
Finally its the positioning of the straw so that the mouth piece is easily accessible. You don't want the mouth piece to have to be pulled causing any potential kinking in the tube, or too loose so that it moves around on your chest. This is easily adjustable using the attached clips.
I definitely train smarter as I've aged and raced over longer distances. Not all athletes have the luxury for water stops or aid stations on their longer training runs, so a vest can be a great addition to your training kit. If you are new to it I recommend a really light and efficient vest like the Circuit that will work for any longer distance trail races too. The quality of your run can only improve with adequate hydration and saving time with a commute is a great way for an age group athlete to free up some time in the week.