Camelbak Zephyr™ Pro Vest Review

Camelbak Zephyr™ Pro Vest

The holy grail of the perfect trail running vest is a quest I have embarked on for some time now.  I juggle running with my dog over 5-10 km to running longer distances (42km ish) in the mountains and as such am ever after the bag that suits all.  I have never used Camelbak before yet I’m well aware of the brand due to their hydration solutions over the years.  I have been trying to find the perfect vest for some time so I was very keen to give this Camelbak Zephyr™ Pro Vest a go and try it out.

Pre run impressions

  • Love the lightweight nature of the bag.
  • The material feels incredible, easy clean and soft to touch.
  • Plenty of stash places and happy to see zips for securing my car keys!
  • I couldn’t hide my glee when I saw the pole quiver, I hadn’t anticipated using one as often I carry my poles in hand and was quite excited to try this feature out.
An image of the Camelback Zephyr™ Pro Vest on a table top

Features

  • Pole quiver which is removable and can be easily adjusted.
  • Knit mesh back to help reduce heat on your back.
  • Secure pockets on front straps, easy access and sizeable for even the most robust mobile phone.
  • Adjustable chest straps
  • Stretch overflow pockets
  • Main storage for kit and gear
  • Reflective sections for the dark
  • Built in whistle
  • 2 compression straps on each side of the vest
  • Tube Trap For using a water reservoir
  • 2 water flasks which fit into front pockets
  • Several bungee type cords which can be moved easily
  • Material: N40D Ripstop with C0 DWR
  • Capacity: 11L
  • Weight: 210g
  • RRP £140 (as at 1/12/23 £98)
The reverse side of the Camelback Zephyr™ Pro Vest

My first adventure with the Camelbak Zephyr™ Pro Vest was taking it on a double Munro run in the North of Scotland.  The first Munro, Ben Hope, is steep and short in distance so a good test as I used poles on the ascent and stowed them away on a fast descent.  The second of the day was Ben Kilbreck which had a rougher terrain with less challenge in steep climbing.  For an autumnal mountain day I didn’t skimp on kit and I certainly challenged this vest to squeeze in what I consider minimum kit for a safe day out.  In the main compartment I fitted the following;

  • First aid kit
  • Bivvy bag
  • Waterproof trousers (I was wearing my paramo jacket so didn’t carry a spare waterproof top)
  • Pertex long sleeve top
  • 2 pairs of gloves
  • Hat
  • Buff
  • A cheese sandwich.  

In the mesh outer compartment I stashed some chocolate brazil nuts and my thin gloves. I had 500ml of water in one of the flasks that came with the bag and I must say I really like that you can lock the nozzle to prevent leaking.  On one side of the pockets I had my map and compass along with a whistle (I prefer my own to the one on the bag but that’s a very personal thing, I do value having an attached whistle in case I forget one).   

A hand wearing a silver thumb ring holding a small clip on the Camelback Zephyr™ Pro Vest

On the other side I stowed my keys and money, there are 2 features here that are great, a mesh inner bag stops keys etc jingling about and there is an attachment (like a plastic carabiner) to keep keys super secure, having lost keys on the mountain more than once this is a great feature.  Having the opportunity to zip these away is a huge benefit and I love that there are 2 large zipped pockets at the front.  I had several snacks in various pockets which I felt worked well and were handy to grab and go.

The bag was successfully filled to capacity and although it was a bit of a push to get my headtorch squeezed in at the last minute the bag felt ok when on which was a surprise.  I am used to over packing bags and have in the past been frustrated with how uncomfortable they feel when running, this pack was the exception and was superb.  My only issue was that I had to remove my jacket early in the day and there was no chance of squeezing it in but this was to be expected from an 11L vest!

I am prone to chafing on my shoulders and quickly into the run I could feel rubbing however I am impressed with the fastenings, as a slim built runner it can be difficult to get small packs small enough and I am happy to report that there is a high degree of adjustment from this vest which is a bonus.  Once I faffed with the side fastenings it held for the duration of the day and I haven’t needed to tighten it again. 

Jen wearing the Camelback Zephyr™ Pro Vest in the mountains

Ascending is a slow beast for me and as such the vest didn’t get tested for movement as it was about to be on the downhill section.  Ben Hope gives the opportunity to feel like you are flying on the descent and I knew the vest would be challenged appropriately at this point.  The bag coped well but half way I put my poles into the quiver. It is secured with 2 poppers which kept coming undone. After trying a few times I gave up and used the bungee to attach it to the strap, this worked well and as such was an easy fix on the move.  I’m not used to using a quiver and it felt quite strange but the poles stayed put and even during 2 falls all stayed intact.  I think the poppers may have been more secure if I had not crammed so much kit in the bag but I certainly found them the only disappointing feature.

On my 2nd outing my poles were used throughout the entire route and as such I could have removed the quiver.  I didn’t and it didn’t cause any issue.  I must say I found the vest great and mostly didn’t feel like I was wearing one!  The faff was minimal and no drama was encountered.

Pros!

  • Great fit and feel! No chafing!
  • Lots of pockets and secure places to hold kit, very generous sized pockets which was helpful for phones, maps etc
  • Love the colour, it was cleaned quickly (there were a couple of bog falls!)
  • I like the water bottle nozzles.

Cons!

  • The quiver didn’t feel terribly secure and the poppers didn’t work on this occasion.
  • The main compartment was quite inflexible and it was difficult to squash in the kit I felt I needed, maybe a bigger size is required for mountain days.

Conclusion

I actually really rate the Camelbak Zephyr™ Pro Vest.  It’s been a while since I tried a new (to me) brand and I found this bag a great choice for trail running.  I do think the 11L version is quite small for a big day out in the hills if you are like me and like to carry kit and safety gear for all eventualities.  I very much appreciated the variety of pockets as I do like to have easy access to kit.  The colour (which I know shouldn’t be a thing, but it really is) is very pleasing as it’s easy to see and the reflective banding makes it a great addition to a winter run.  Living in a particularly dark part of the world during winter there’s a lot to love about this vest.  It lends itself well to easy trails and ultra distance events that are well supported and don’t require you to carry the kitchen sink.  If you are looking for a big mountain day vest then this is not the biggest option. I’m still not sold on pole quivers but I did enjoy using it and unleashed my Robin Hood vibe with gusto… till I face planted the bog.  Value for money this bag certainly is and I feel it is a fantastic vest for (at time of writing from the official website) less than £100!  It is a very lightweight bag which I am looking forward to using through the summer.

8/10 from me! If it was 20L it would get 9/10, then add on a more secure attachment for the quiver 10/10!

About the writer: Jeni Rees-Jenkins is a mum of 2 teenage girls and a secondary school biology teacher with a passion for mountains. Running is where she finds peace from a chaotic world and loves to run long distance up high. With over 100 races of marathon and ultra distance she is now setting her sights on bagging all the Scottish Munros and Lake District Wainwright’s in an attempt to get fit for a Bob Graham Round one day.

Instinct XX20-24 Trail Running Vest
Instinct XX20-24 Trail Running Vest
 
DESIGN: 9/10
FEATURES: 8/10
PERFORMANCE: 8/10
VALUE: 8/10
OUR RATING:
4/5
YOUR RATING:
0.0/5

"It's been a while since I tried a new (to me) brand and I found this bag a great choice for trail running."

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A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

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For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

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An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

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Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.

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Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude)

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Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

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Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat)

Suitable for

Experienced runners who have completed at least 4 ultras in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.

Advanced

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Increase of up to 1500 metres

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Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.

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Increase of up to 1000 metres

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Runners who have completed at least one ultra in last 6 months or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.

Beginner

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Very little change < 500 metres

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First ultra event. Runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running (>26 miles) in the last 6 months.