Camelbak Chase Protector Vest review: back protection in a small package

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The Camelbak Chase Protector vest is a small capacity backpack of the vest style you might be more accustomed to seeing on the back of some sinewy long-distance fell runner making their way through tussocks powered only by rice pudding. However, this is one that is specifically designed for mountain biking and comes fitted with a Level 2 back protector.

Editors’ Choice 2021

This product features in our Singletrackworld Editors’ Choice 2021 round-up.

Hannah: “I have to admit I’ve never really got on with hip packs – their tendency to ride up, or down, or just under your T-shirt is a frustrating distraction I find inevitably hits just as you’re on that descent that really needs your attention. So I’m a fan of the backpack that stays in place. I’m also a fan of my back, and a bit of a tumbler, so backpacks have an added benefit of providing a soft landing – providing you’ve not packed your pump beside your kidneys. This pack gives me all the back protection of the big certified enduro packs, but in a nice small package that doesn’t prompt questions of what on earth am I carrying in there. It’s narrow enough to be pretty cool to wear in the summer, and the strap mounted pockets are incredibly useful, especially the giant zippered phone pocket that lets me access my phone without having to stop to take off my pack. It’s light enough – and stable enough – that I’ve even used it for the occasional run. It’s only just big enough for essentials, but for rides that don’t need sandwiches or a couple of spare layers it’s just right.”

Camelbak Chase Protector

Camelbak Chase Protector Vest review

You get 8 litres of carrying capacity. This is divided between a bladder pocket (you can add a bladder up to 2 litres but it doesn’t come with the pack), and 6 litres of carrying capacity across a main pocket, and a small fleece-lined top pocket. The main pocket has a couple of net dividers in it, and in any event, you shouldn’t be carrying enough here to be losing items in its depths. There’s a useful elastic loop to keep your pump handy – but only one loop, so your shock pump will need to float free if you’re carrying one.

There’s an outer pouch that’s really part of the helmet carrying arrangement, though you could stuff a muddy jacket or some such in there if you wanted. The helmet carrier fastens together using two clips which you need to undo to access the main section of the bag. I found the prongs of these clips quite flexible and I frequently misaligned them and ended up in a fankle trying to get them unstuck and correctly clipped together.

The bag is just big enough for what I want to take on a local ride – toolkit, tube, packable jacket and shock pump. More than that and it’s getting to be a tight fit and I’d be looking to size up as it doesn’t sit so neatly or firmly against your back if overfilled. I missed phone off that list, but that’s my favourite feature about this bag: it has a great big phone pocket for great big phones, right on the vest strap on the front. It’s really well placed – it feels comfortable and doesn’t cause any weird boob squashing, and it feels like it’s in a place that isn’t restricting my movement or terribly likely to be landed on in the event of a crash. The phone pocket is a zipped fabric pocket, so it’s nice and secure and is positioned on the left of the webbed shoulder straps. The right-hand strap features two mesh and slightly stretchy pockets – good for stuffing a snack or sticky wrapper into on the go.

The webbed shoulder straps seem to strike the right balance between stretch for comfort and toughness for support – the bag doesn’t seem to expand infinitely like the knitted Vaude pack I tested did. There are two chest straps joining the shoulder straps together, the upper one is standard backpack strap material with no stretch, but the lower one is elastic. While this is comfortable, it is a little less durable and I can see the elastic starting to look a little rippled and worn already – I think I’d prefer it to match the non-stretch of the upper strap for longevity.

Overall

When I first got this pack I wasn’t too sure what to make of it – with the carrying capacity of a hip pack, why bother? But in use, this stays in place better than any hip pack I’ve used, and the back protector means that if I do crash I’ve got something softer to land on. As a small pack with comfortable and lightweight straps, I barely notice that I’m carrying it, especially if I’m staying close to home and risk leaving a 29+ inner tube at home. For the handy phone pocket alone I think it’s worth wearing – and as a bonus, it stores the phone near enough my ears that I’ve got a chance of hearing it ringing while I’m riding. I’ve got used to riding with a big pack without much in just because I liked how it fitted. The Camelbak Chase Protector has forced me to pare down what I carry for shorter rides, but without compromising on safety. I like it.

Review Info

Brand: Camelbak
Product: Chase Protector Vest
From: camelbak.co.uk
Price: £136
Tested: by Hannah for 2 months
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