A very versatile vest with excellent storage capacity. Easy to use and highly functional, this pack is well-suited to running short to medium distances, and races/training sessions where you can refill the water bottles. It can also be used during shorter days out, especially if you add a bladder.
Bottles bounce some
Durability of mesh suspect
Bladder not included
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The Camelbak Zephyr Vest is a breathable vest that's so comfortable and airy, you hardly know you’re wearing it. The super-light, meshy material at the shoulders and back keep things cool as well.
The Zephyr is also available in a women's specific model, which is lighter (just 10g), and has been designed with body mapping technology to better accommodate the specific needs of women during strenuous exercise. Women sweat in different places to men, so the mesh on the back has been designed accordingly, to supply max air ventilation.
The design of the front is also different since it has to follow the contour of the female form. Plus water can be placed higher than in the men's version, since it is not super good for women to have soft flasks right in front of the bosom. The torso length is also a little shorter.
Although is was the smallest pack on the list we tested, with just 1L/34 fl oz water capacity (more if you add a bladder), this smart design offers surprisingly ample space for fuel and gear storage, with two bigger pockets in the back to stow a jacket or bulkier gear, and six smaller pockets up front for easy access.
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There’s even an attachment for trekking poles and a safety whistle, for adventurers heading into the wild. We noted some bounce when moving fast on a trail run, but the adjustable chest straps – while not at all easy to move up and down – helped mitigate that movement, offering a secure, nuanced fit to accommodate a variety of shapes and sizes.
The vest comes with two soft bottles that sit comfortably in deep pockets up front, and there’s room in the back for a bladder if you want add one (sold separately).
• RRP: $150 (US)/ £124 (UK)
• Weight (empty): 198g / 7oz
• Hydration Capacity: 1L/34 fl oz via two 500ml/17 fl oz bottles (included), with room to accommodate a bladder (not included)
• Gear capacity: 11L
• Colours: silver/blue haze
On the trails
We tested the Zephyr Vest on multi-hour runs on the trails around Boulder, Colorado, in the heat of summer. During one particularly hot week in July, we ran the Skyline Traverse, a 22-mile route that traverses the five highest peaks on the edge of the city.
The Camelbak hydration reservoir and tube were among the best we tested. Not only did we find it easy to fill, with the extended plastic handle and wide fill valve, but the tube was easy to manage through the front straps of the pack. The effective design of the on/off valve was also easy to use on the run, with just one hand. Despite initial sweat build-up, the pack remained snug, secure and comfortable.
On most hot-weather runs, we found the open mesh straps and the slightly tighter mesh pack panel did an exceptional job of wicking moisture away from the skin and encouraging the evaporation process.
Brian is an award-winning journalist, photographer and podcaster who has written for Runner’s World, The Times, Outside, Men’s Journal, Trail Runner, Triathlete and Red Bulletin. He's also the author of several books, including Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, and loves to run, bike, hike, camp, ski and climb mountains. He has wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of running shoes, completed four Ironman triathlons, as well as numerous marathons and ultra-distance running races.