When it comes to hydrating while riding and racing our options are becoming more varied as companies like Camelbak become more and more innovative. Recently I have been using the new Chase Bike Vest in marathon race situations which has opened my eyes to the convenience and functionality of sipping race beverages via a straw connected to a small vest rather than fumbling around with bidons in the front triangle of a dual suspension MTB frame.
On training rides lately I have been utilising the Octane Dart hydration pack from Camelbak as an alternative to the Chase vest. The Dart is marketed as a running hydration pack but it certainly is more than handy on mountain bike rides also. With the same size bladder as the Chase vest (1.5L) the DART is also suited to race and shorter ride situations.
The new Crux bladder that Camelbak use across their range again has been super easy to use. The on/off switch is much easier to use than previous incarnations of this technology – it’s fast and simple with one hand. Leaks and empty bladders after being chucked in the back of the car under other luggage are a thing of the past with this switch. I also found the opening of the valve seems to enable you to guzzle a whole lot more fluid in one gulp than older versions of hydration packs. Definitely handy in race situations.
So how is the Camelbak Dart different to the Chase Bike Vest?
The Dart’s differentiation from the Chase Bike Vest comes predominantly from it’s shape and storage. I must admit I like the more sleek, aero appearance of the Dart, it certainly looks less cumbersome than the Chase Vest. However, here also lies its disadvantages when compared to the Chase.
The pockets on the shoulder straps that I find handy for mid ride/race snacks are only secured with elastic on the dart where the Chase offers zippers and more volume. When mountain biking across rock gardens my Uncle Toby’s ended up going for a fly from the pockets on the Dart. This is the difference with a pack more oriented for running rather than mountain biking.
Saying that the Dart offers plenty of secure storage for all those shorter ride essentials in the back pocket with zippered up essential pockets. The other main difference between these two options I found was the lack of waist support strap on the Dart. The Dart offers a chest strap which holds things steady for the most part. Given the shape of the bag it is all that is required really. The Chase Vest commands the 2 straps to the front given the bulk storage on the shoulder straps – and it does fit like a vest more than a mag. The straps really hold the Chase Vest tight to your back however the Dart doesn’t always feel as secure depending how comfortable you are cinching it up.
The benefits of the Dart over the Chase Vest lie in it’s aero and sleek design. If you want your pack to offer you hydration in a race and not much else I would definitely opt for the Dart. It’s also a little easier than the Chase Bike Vest to sling on in a feed zone, with only one clip to do up as well. This is where smaller bags like tend to offer a tactical advantage for long races.
With 1.5L there in a super lightweight aero package. A perfect alternative to trying to juggle 2 bidons in to a dual suspension XC frame. Using the Dart would command you to use your jersey pockets more for snacks etc. Which is no real hurdle for most. If you want your hydration pack to tick all boxes for racing/riding and essentially enable you to ride/race in a t shirt I would stick with the Chase Vest. The added bonus of the Chase Vest is stability. If you’ve never liked how a Camelbak sits – then Chase Vest is way more stable.
Either way, save yourself the hassle of squeezing bidons all over your beautiful duallie and throw either of these packs over your shoulder.