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Product Review: Camelbak Octane XCT 2011 Hydration Pack

Camelbak Octane XCT

Short Version: Highly recommend, very satisfied.  Only downside is fluid getting warm after 1 1/2 -2 hours.

Long Version:Summer training in South Carolina is hot and humid, and I believe I sweat more than average.  I lose 3-4 pounds on 2-3 hour runs.  So, fluid loss is a big concern for me.  During the week, most of my runs are in the neighborhood and are less than an hour.  For these runs, I usually prepare two handheld bottles that hold 8-10 ounces of fluids.  I’ll carry one and put one in the newspaper box and swap it out on a pass by.

For Saturday morning runs that last 2-3 hours, I head out of the neighborhood for a change of scenery.  This makes for a challenge to carry enough fluids for the heat.  For these runs, I normally wear a Fuel Belt with 4 to 6 eight ounce bottles.  The problem with this is that 6 bottles is too heavy and the belt falls down (I’ve lost a few inches in the waist since I stated running!), so I can only go with 4.  Sometimes, I’d stash an additional large water bottle at the neighborhood entrance and refill when I passed by.  Well, this summer as I decided to hit the trails more for Saturday adventures, this meant a challenge for liquids.  I also wanted to carry my phone.

I decided to try a hydration pack, which is a fancy term for water back pack.  After some research, I decided on the Camelbak Octane XCT with their 100 ounce Antidote reservoir.  Camelbak gears this pack toward runners.  They also make hiker and cycle targeted packs in a variety of reservoir sizes – 50, 70 and 100 ounces.  Those versions were prevalent in my local hiking and cycling stores, but I could not find an Octane, so I ordered mine from RunningWarehouse.com with free 2-day shipping.  There were 3 color choices, black, green, and red.  I considered the green, but it was a tad flashy for me.  I figured black was a good safe bet.  My wife liked the red.  So, I went with red.

As promised, I had the pack in the 2 days.  Thumbs up for Running Warehouse.  I spent some time before dinner that night checking out the reservoir system.  The system consists of the reservoir bladder, a tube, and the mouthpiece valve.  The reservoir fill opening is about 4 inches wide and seals into place with a rubber gasket after about a 1/4 turn.

Antidote Reservoir

The tube snaps into the bottom of the reservoir and routes up through the pack.  The mouth piece has a open/close valve.  You keep it open and bite down on the mouthpiece  and suck out the fluid.  Pretty simple.  The pack itself has several pockets.  One is a small pocket on the left strap which is a great place for a gel packet or two.  Two zippered pockets are on the waist belt and are fine for cell phones and keys.  Then, the final pocket is in the center of the back.  There is also a bungee cord on the back in the shape of an X, which Camelbak says is a good spot to hold a light jacket.  After dinner, I put in about 30 ounces and went for a 4 mile trail run in the 90 degree heat.

First Impressions

The first thing I noticed was the sloshing noise.  I’m sure the partially-full reservoir compounded this. After a couple of minutes, I stopped noticing it. One concern I had was whether the pack would rub anywhere.  On my first few runs, I did not experience any problems.  There are 5 adjustment points and I was able to work out a proper fit.  On my longest run with it (15 mile trail) it did rub raw places on my hip bones.  I did not notice this until after the run, though.

Another concern I had was how the weight of the pack would affect me.  A full reservoir and pack would weigh 5-7 pounds.  This may not sound like much, but over the course of 2-3 hours this may make my already questionable posture even worse.  I did have some slight soreness in my upper back after the first few runs, but it did not bother me after a week or so. I try to remember to keep good posture.

The Big Test

After a few runs with the pack , I was ready to put it to the real test during the Xterra Harbison Half Marathon.  The course was to have 5 or so aid stations, but I had never done a trail run race or run a race in the July heat soup of South Carolina.  I felt the pack was a good option for this race.  One trick I learned from the Camelback website was to fill the reservoir partially the night before and put it flat in the freezer.  Before heading out for the run the next day, I added a bit more fluid to make my total amount for this run around 64 ounces.  I can remember this because I included 4 Nuun electrolyte tablets in my mixture – 1 per 16 oz.  I ended up drinking about 40  of the 64 ounces.  I probably would have taken in more, had the water not warmed up.  I was still sweating at the end, which to me, meant I kept well-hydrated in the heat.  I believe the electrolytes helped, too. I was very pleased with the pack during the run and barely noticed it was there. I did not notice the rubbed places on my hip bones until after the runs.  I’m not 100% sure how they happened.  Maybe the adjustments came looser than usual and I did not notice.  Test passed.

Final Thoughts

For me this pack is going to be a good option.  It holds enough fluid for me and has just enough room to carry a few things.  Some people may not like the added weight.  Keeping the fluids cool is a challenge, though.  In the future, I will freeze about 90% the night before, instead of the 75% I tried for the half marathon.  The ice was fully thawed and warm in the summer heat after about 2 1/2 hours.  It didn’t help that I had to take it out of the freezer well over an hour before the race.  Also, the water that sits in the tube is always warm on the first swig.  Not much to do about that. Keeping the reservoir clean is going to require some effort, too.  Camelbak sells a $20 cleaning kit to help with this that includes brushes and cleaning tablets.  So far, I have made sure I air it out diligently after use. Overall, I am very satisfied.

 

3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the blog. Awesome.

  2. Great review, thanks. I’m buying this pack for my first Spartan run after having used a couple of the first generation Camelbaks long ago. Since this is over a year old you’ve probably discovered this little trick for the sloshing noise but I’ll post it. Once the bladder is full turn it over and suck the air out through the tube. That will take care of the sloshing.

    • Dan,

      I did not know this. Thanks so much for the tip! Best of luck in your Spartan.

      Greg

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