I’ll make a bet. If you were drawing up a shopping list for new bits of body armour right now, I reckon it’d be highly unlikely that you’d have ‘sternum protector’ written down on that post-it note. (If you’re the one person who did have that written down on their post-it note, then please allow me to give you a warm welcome to our humble website, Mr Josh Bender).
It isn’t as if our body’s sternum isn’t a delicate part – it hurts to absolute buggery to take a solid hit to the chest (*giggle*). But at least in normal riding circumstances, it isn’t as commonly in the firing line as say your knees, elbows, or head. It’s also an awkward part of the body to shield – in most cases you’d need a full pressure suit, or at least some kind of protective vest to get any coverage over your ribs and sternum. And have you ever tried pedalling uphill wearing one of those things? No thank you ma’am.
For those reasons, Camelbak’s Sternum Protector presents as a very compelling option. As it turns out though, the reason I’ve been using one of these isn’t for the protection.
Camelbak Sternum Protector Features
- CE Level II certified sternum protector
- Flexible and perforated design
- Action camera compatible
- Adjustable shoulder and chest straps
- Compatible with backpacks
- One size: 71cm – 116cm
- Claimed weight: 328g
- RRP: £89.99
Constructed of the same material as Camelbak’s spine protectors, the Sternum Protector is comprised of a thick, slightly flexible, rectangular-ish panel that covers your upper chest. Utilising a sandwich construction with two grey panels playing the brioche buns, and a blue layer as the juicy meat patty, the protector is designed to flex, bend and contort to help absorb impact shocks. Though it’s perforated for ventilation and quite light, it is certified to CE Level II standards, and Camelbak reckons that’s good for minor chest injuries. Not sure about heartbreak though.
An adjustable shoulder harness holds it in place, and a single nylon buckle locks it down. There is one-size only, and Camelbak claims this will work for torsos between 71cm to 116cm in circumference. For my partially-developed adult chest, I run the straps nearly as tight as they’ll go, but mostly for steadying purposes.
The reason for this is that the Sternum Protector has a camera mount on it. So instead of using the crummy chest mount from GoPro or *insert other non-GoPro camera brand name here* , you can instead clip your camera directly onto the Camelbak Sternum Protector. I really like this, because the protective panel has a significantly broader surface area than the stock chesty mount, and that keeps the whole platform much sturdier.
The result is smoother footage, with less wobbling and shaking. Perhaps not ideal for Blair Witch tribute videos, but I guarantee your family will object slightly less to being forced to watch eight whole unedited minutes of you and your mates getting stoked while catching high-5s and cornering vigorously down that red trail centre run.
With the main chest strap done up as tight as it’ll go, and the two shoulder straps tightened to about 80% of their range, the Sternum Protector does fit snugly. There’s also an open vertical loop on the front of the panel, which you can thread the sternum buckle from your backpack through to help keep everything in place just a little more. Combined with the in-built image stabilisation of a GoPro Hero5, on all but the bounciest trails I’ve gotten decent footage without need for a gimble. Though you’ll still have to make sure any flappy bits and your hydration hose are stowed securely before you flick the record button on the camera. I’ve lost some great footage from bloody flappy straps.
Here’s a recent example of some POV riding footage I shot with the Camelbak Sternum Protector;
I do notice the snug fit on long climbs, where there is some restriction on the lungs from taking heavy intakes. It’s nothing compared to a pressure suit or a vest though, and your belly is free to sweat and jiggle as it likes. If I know the trail will be going uphill for a while, unlike a pressure suit, it’s pretty easy to unclip the single main buckle and pop the protector in my backpack. Climbing footage is usually pretty boring anyway. Otherwise on more rolling terrain, you soon learn to deal with the slightly restrictive fit. Such are the efforts we go to to bring you such top quality entertainment.
The Sternum Protector does exactly what it says on the tin, and as of right now, it’s really the only product of its kind.
If I wasn’t shooting video though, would I wear it on its own just for protecting my sternum? Probably not. Then again, on a recent photoshoot I did end up painfully gouging my ribs on the stem bolts after a snagged pedal sent my torso onto the bars at full descending pace. In that scenario, this protector would have seen me laugh it off, rather than leaving me with a dubious under-nipple scar. But if I wanted that full-frontal protection for full-on downhilling, I’d likely still elect for a vest or pressure suit.
For me then, the main reason I use the Sternum Protector is for shooting video. And purely as a stabilising aid for smoothing out footage, it is superb. But, it is nice to know that if I do take a digger on the trail, that protector is likely to avoid me skewering myself with a small action camera. Because that would be a very sad way to go. Would be terrific footage though.
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 6 months|