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Running Accessories • April 4, 2024

Camelbak Apex Pro Vest Review: I’m Mary Poppins, Y’all

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What You Need To Know

Best For

Long distances, big adventures, and ultra-ultra races

Key Features

Seemingly endless storage, RECCO technology, removable trekking pole quiver



Introduction to the Camelbak Apex Pro Vest

TAYLOR: It’s that time of year when the warmer temps and bustling birds get you daydreaming about long days in the woods. You know, the runs when your body and mind ebb and flow with the trail. When putting one foot in front of the other is your only aim, and stopping is on the other end of your cerebral spectrum. Peace of mind goes a long way when you’re deep into such days. Having the right gear can be what separates your tranquil trodding from questioning your desires.

Camelbak hopes to keep runners in nirvana with the Apex Pro Run vest. It’s more than the run-of-the-mill hydration pack — this particular pack has had some serious amounts of testing and tech put into it. Besides the well-thought-out pockets and fit, two key components separate the Apex Pro Run Vest from others on the market. One of those is the recently popular pole quiver. As of late, they’re hotter than Uncle Jim’s flapjacks — everyone wants one and this pack has it.

What I was actually more curious about was the use of RECCO technology in a pack. Excuse me for getting morbid, but I happen to live in an area where far too many accidents happen, and death is often the result. As much as you tell yourself, “That won’t be me,” I’d be remiss to think that I’m immune. RECCO is that if-and-when measure that can be a life-saving difference.

Read on for all the deets.

REESE: The Apex Pro Run Vest was crafted by athletes, for athletes, drawing on insights and enduring miles of testing to ensure it can withstand the toughest races and conditions. I’m not talking about your average ultra or even modestly hard 100-mile race. I’m talking Hardrock 100, UTMB, Cocodona 250, etc. Offered in four sizes, its apparel-like fit and four-way stretch materials deliver an optimized feel for a wide range of runners.

The Apex Pro Run Vest features RECCO technology for searchability by rescue professionals. It’s also practically limitless when it comes to storage. On top of the many pockets, the tiny whistle, and the numerous bungy cords for external gear storage, the vest also has a deployable, removable trekking pole quiver. It keeps essentials secure and dry with a water-resistant zippered pocket and stretch overflow pockets while also providing ample space for refueling and hydration needs. The Apex Pro comes equipped with two 17 oz. Quick Stow Flasks, but you’ll have to provide your own hydration reservoir (up to 2L capacity).

How we tested

TAYLOR: I almost never bring more than a waist belt and phone on a run under two hours. To put the Camelbak Apex Pro Vest to the test, I brought it out on wintery peak bagging missions and long runs when I needed more than the typical load. We’re talking jackets, nutrition, full bottles, crampons, and the like.

REESE: I tested the Apex Pro Run Vest on a few runs, ranging from nine to 13 miles. I carried a jacket in the pack and stowed my keys, snacks, and cell phone. I alternated between using both flasks and just one. However, before I could test out the pole quiver, a front buckle fell off, making it impossible to run with anymore. I wish I had tested that feature out, as well as tested out if it was a heat sink in hot temps or chafed while just wearing a sports bra as a top. Alas.

Fit and Comfort

TAYLOR: Sizing was a little bit of a concern for me. According to my chest size, I fell into a small, even though I am a true medium in just about every piece of clothing and gear across other brands. I went with it, though. Initially, I thought I made a mistake as the vest is more compact, but it turns out Camelbak’s sizing is pretty accurate. I could have gone with a medium and had a bit of extra material to work with or gone with the small and fine-tuned the fit at the ends of the rope. If you happen to fall between a couple of sizes, either has the adjustability to satisfy your needs.

The Apex Pro Vest made it simple to adjust across the chest. A hook and loop system along the shoulder straps allowed for moving buckles up and down as needed. What I liked best about this system is that it was simple and it stayed put, unlike the rail system that many other vests rely on.

After that, the four-way stretch airy mesh and broader pocketed straps did their job of settling in around my body. I didn’t feel any constriction after adjusting to my liking, nor was there any bagginess. A hug is a very appropriate descriptor. This vest rides on the upper back, giving a true zero-bounce feeling, even with a fully loaded pack. There are very few vests on the market that have found that seemingly magical balance of being able to carry a lot without hindering performance, and the Camelbak Apex Pro Vest is one of them.

REESE: Clocking in at five-foot-two, I’m not a tall person. I’ve always struggled to find a pack that fits me well. To set the scene, an XS in The North Face’s Summit Series Race Day Vest 8 and an XS in the Arc’teryx Norvan 7 vest mostly fit, but as soon as the bottles get low, the packs bounce around a lot. The Apex Pro pack isn’t as minimal as those vests, covering much of my torso, which is good and bad.

Due to the size of the pack, it says in place. But it also comes down to the middle of my lower back and the width of the shoulder straps is a bit oversized. However, while testing, I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable it felt. I had to cinch down the chest straps to the absolute max for it to work for me. It’s a relatively large pack but is lighter than it looks. And despite it being a bit too large in some areas, it stayed in place, even with half-empty water flasks or just one flask. The pack didn’t bounce or cause any chafing. It was comfortable in cooler temps, but I’d be curious to run with this in the heat of the summer.

Storage on the Run

TAYLOR: This is where things get fun with running vests. The Camelbak Apex Pro Vest has a very familiar pocket setup, but what’s different is its interpretation of size and accessibility.

For example, this vest has a layered pocket system on each of the shoulder straps and under the arms. Bottle pockets up top carry their 17oz Quick Stow bottles with no bounce what-so-ever. Below those pockets are two more of matching size. One is closer to the body with a pouch style opening and the other is in front with a large zipper. Both are large enough for a few gels, a buff, or a pair of gloves. Because they’re close to the body and reach under the arm, bulky or firm items might not be the most comfortable.

My phone fit most comfortably in one of the bottle pockets, but the star of the show is on the back. Camelbak’s rear pocket contains its own layering of accommodating openings and a detachable pole quiver. I think most people will be intrigued by the detachable pole quiver, as it’s attached via strong buttons at both the top and bottom, so wielding and sheathing poles was easy.

That said, carrying poles in the quiver wasn’t as cohesive of an experience as the rest of the vest. If the poles weren’t specifically fastened, there was some bouncing that occurred. They also slung over the side of the vest and semi-annoyingly tapped me on the shoulder. At the same time, once I got in a rhythm, I forgot about the quiver for long periods of running. The quiver did the trick for an easy option to carry poles. If it’s not preferred, simply take off the quiver and carry them via a bungee system on the front.

Beyond that is a main compartment with a diagonal zipper that was large enough for many liters worth of goods. For my testing I threw the jacket in the bladder sleeve, an extra pair of gloves, a pair of microspikes, and a small tripod all in the main compartment without thinking twice about it. There was still plenty of room left in a sleeve-like pocket at the bottom of the pack (which is also sizable enough to hold a light jacket).

The last waterproof zippered pocket was large enough for my phone and Garmin Inreach Mini.

REESE: I feel like I only used about half the storage capacity of this pack — I probably need to quit my job and go on some huge adventure to test this thing to its limits. Seriously, I would wager you could stow at least 12 packs of Pop Tarts in the back pocket alone (Not that I’ve tested). Again, the front buckle fell off before I could do some serious testing, but I was impressed by how much this pack could carry and how secure it felt. Even with one front flask and my phone in the front storage pocket, everything remained secure and unbothersome. I would have liked to have tried using a back bladder with it because for some reason I’m the only person on the planet who hates front water flasks.

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Our thoughts on the Camelbak Apex Pro Vest

TAYLOR: It may seem like versatile is a pretty loose word that I’ve used in a lot of reviews lately, but that’s just the world we live in. So many products can be used for a wide range of runs because of the emphasis on flexibility. The Camelbak Apex Pro Vest is certainly a versatile option in the hydration vest game because it combines a lot of qualities we previously had to choose between.

We’ve already discussed the myriad of pocket options that could hold more than needed for most runs. Even better, the fit is dialed and consistent enough that even a fully loaded pack was a satisfying running experience. Heck, I went on runs where I only had a bottle and phone up front. Most packs would require something in the rear pockets to balance, but the Apex Pro Vest didn’t. So, going light is just as positive of an experience as taking it all, making this an option for an everyday vest if desired too. Where it shines is in the backcountry or long race scenarios because of the comfort, cargo, and lightweight construction.

RECCO technology is what really sets this pack apart in terms of modern technology. It’s an advancement that the trail running scene has needed to take from other mountain sports. Essentially, it works in that the small bar on top of the pack can be detected like a beacon. Then, rescue crews can zero in on the beacon to find you before they can actually see you. Of course, it doesn’t replace a distress signal or active survival techniques but RECCO will improve rescue response time. That is what makes the difference between a crazy story and an extremely sad one.

RECCO has been successful in the snowsport space and this is an exciting advancement for running. As said before, just this past year, we had a handful of deaths simply because rescue crews couldn’t zero on where the person was located before it was too late. One of those stories was a trail runner. RECCO is a form of communication that athletes would not need to send a stress signal or actively deploy. In worst case scenarios, it’s already doing the work. Best case, it’s more peace of mind.

REESE: I mean, the storage is second to none. This is a pretty specific use case kind of pack, not a run around on the bike path kind of pack (though I did wear it on the bike path.). The RECCO technology was a cool feature that I hope no one who gets this pack will ever need since if someone is using it to locate you, something has gone super wrong.

This pack comes with a lot of bungy cords all over the place, which is great for storing poles if you aren’t using the quiver, but if not using they just bounce around. But thankfully Camelbak made those removable. (I removed all of them.) The biggest issue I had was simply the length of the pack. And of course, the fact that the front buckle fell off somewhere between taking it off at the trailhead and bringing it into my house seems like a design flaw rather than a user error.

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Last word on the Camelbak Apex Pro Vest

TAYLOR: By now I hope you understand that the Camelbak Apex Pro Vest is a top tier running pack. It’s not entirely different from many others on the market. Because of how light it is, its ability to pack more than you think it should, and superior fit I will personally grab for this any time I need a pack in the future. It’s versatile enough to want to take on long adventures and a variety of races. Even better, the pole quiver is always a possible add-on for long adventures. Better again is the presence of RECCO technology for the just-in-case scenarios that we all put ourselves into every time we step into the backcountry.

REESE: The Apex Pro Run Vest is not your everyday driver kind of pack, which Camelbak certainly leaned into. I think it’s well designed and the ability to store so much water and gear makes it the perfect pack for big days in the backcountry. I’m bummed that the buckle fell off, I would have loved to use this pack this summer in the mountains here in Colorado, where the weather can turn quickly, and having a dry jacket and warm gear is pretty essential.

You can pick up the Camelbak Apex Pro Vest for $180 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) using the buttons below.

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Taylor Bodin
Lead Trail Reviewer
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Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultra runner living in Estes Park, Colo., with his wife and daughters. Trail running is pretty much the only hobby he can manage right now and loves it. Every so often, he will pop off a race or FKT attempt because competition is pure and the original motivator for him getting into running anyways. When not running, Taylor is a 1st grade teacher, running coach (track & field, Cross Country, and Trail/Ultra athletes), and volunteers at his church.

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reese ruland - bio
Reese Ruland
Colorado Trail Reviewer
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Reese Ruland is a Fort Collins, Colorado-based ultra trail runner with over 15 years of competitive running experience. She has a penchant for PopTarts, a gear addiction, and is always taking photos of her two French Bulldogs, Loaf and Oatie. In addition to her athletic endeavors, Reese serves as an ambassador for Project Heal, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accessible mental health care for those affected by eating disorders. She’s also one of the fastest women ever to run R2R2R (7:59).

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