In the end of 2020, I received the CamelBak Circuit hydration vest for testing and since then I’ve been regularly wearing it for running and speed hiking. I was very excited to test the Circuit vest because I was really curios about the advantages of hydration vests over traditional hydration packs. Before getting the CamelBak Circuit vest I was still using a worn-out hydration pack which I bought back in 2007. Hydration vests have become increasingly popular in the last years because they provide a better fit than backpacks and have more storage space within easy reach (i.e. on the front side). The CamelBak Circuit vest is primarily designed for long distance running and weighs only 5 oz (160 g). It comes with a 1.5-liter Crux water reservoir and the two front harness pockets fit CamelBak Quick Stow flasks with a capacity of 17 oz. (0.5 l) each.
In the last couple months, I’ve worn the CamelBak Circuit vest a dozen of times for running as well as on several speed hikes. Below is what I learned about it.
The CamelBak Circuit Vest is suitable for:
- Trail running
- Speed Hiking
When I unwrapped the CamelBak Circuit vest, I immediately noticed that the materials are very durable, although the vest is exceptionally light. The vest is made of robust nylon and a sturdy mesh fabric. A nylon fabric forms the exterior backside of the Circuit vest while the inner backside of the vest and the shoulder straps are mostly made of mesh fabric. I was really impressed over this mesh fabric. It’s made of several layers for good durability, but what surprised me the most is how comfortable and soft to the touch it is, nevertheless. This is indeed important because a rough fabric could chafe you during sports activities where you are probably just wearing thin layers. The holes in the mesh fabric are also quite large to provide good breathability. I’m fascinated that they managed to develop such a porous, yet sturdy mesh fabric. I also found other parts of the vest like buckles, drawcords and straps very high in quality, combining durability and lightness.
Fit and Comfort
When I put on the CamelBak Circuit vest for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised how easy it is to adjust. You simply pull the two side straps towards yourself until the vest encloses your body snugly. The vest is equipped with two sternum straps which are both adjustable in height for good fit and stability. The bottom strap is elastic so that it doesn’t restrict you while running. The shoulder straps also provide a good fit, and the vest is generally comfortable to wear.
I started wearing the CamelBak vest for speed hiking first and I was really satisfied with the fit. You literally forget you are wearing it because it fits so great. However, when I started running with it, I did notice that there is some bounce. The thing is that the Crux reservoir is fixated at the top of the vest and because of this positioning, it does move a bit left and right when you are running. Nevertheless, as the water reservoir fits very snugly into the vest, the bounce is minimal.
Since the temperatures were still quite low during the testing period, I was not able to thoroughly test the breathability of the vest. I always wore it over my Salomon S/Lab jacket which certainly doesn’t provide the same breathability as a running t-shirt. Nevertheless, I have no doubts that the Circuit vest provides excellent breathability. All parts that are touching the wearer’s body are made of a mesh fabric with large holes and thus I’m sure I won’t be disappointed during the summer. I also haven’t encountered any chafing of other discomfort while testing the vest.
Compartments and Pockets
In terms of storage space, the CamelBak Circuit vest offers a lot when you take into consideration that it weighs only 5 oz. The vest features the compartment for a 1.5-liter water reservoir, two large open front harness pockets which fit 0.5-liter soft flasks, a small mesh front harness pocket and a zippered front harness pocket for valuables. According to the CamelBak, the zippered front pocket fits most smartphones. Nevertheless, my 5.5-inch smartphone is too big to fit into it. Since, nowadays most smartphones have at least 5.5-inch screen, the pocket can’t be used for what it has been designed. Nevertheless, I found this pocket very useful for storing my car and house keys.
The front mesh pocket (on the right shoulder strap) is perfect for storing energy bars and the two soft flask pockets can be used for storing clothing and accessories in case you don’t need the extra water on your adventure. This is where I ended up storing my smartphone. However, also my Montane Minimus rain jacket fits perfectly into this pocket which is very convenient for speed hiking. The Circuit vest doesn’t have any attachment points (for example for trekking poles etc.) but that is to be expected as it is primarily a running vest.
Handling and Hydration System
So, the CamelBak Circuit vest comes with the popular 1.5-liter Crux water reservoir. I’m very satisfied with this water reservoir and so far, I haven’t encountered any quality issues. The Crux reservoir is equipped with a bite valve which basically means that the flow is closed until you bite it. Nevertheless, the reservoir also has an on/off lever so you can completely close the flow to prevent any possible leaks. This comes in handy when you are transporting the vest as it prevents accidental leakages. For a more detailed description of the Crux reservoir, we’ll make a separate review soon where we’ll also review the 2.5-liter version which my girlfriend tested with the CamelBak Rim Runner 22 hydration pack.
One thing that annoyed me a bit is that the Circuit vest only has a very small opening for the water reservoir and thus it can be a bit tricky getting the Crux reservoir in. Nevertheless, with a bit of practice it becomes easier. I was very happy to see that the vest has an attachment point for the hose of the water reservoir. This attachment point is extremely useful because it prevents the hose from jumping around while you are running. Nevertheless, getting the hose into this attachment point requires a bit of force and thus it’s best to do it before you put the vest on.
I really like the CamelBak Circuit vest because it’s lightweight and provides a lot of storage space. I found the vest perfect for running and speed hiking. I was also impressed over the high-quality and sturdy materials. Most of the vest is made of a durable mesh fabric which provides excellent breathability and is very comfortable to the touch. The vest also provides really good fit and being so light, it’s very easy to forget you are wearing it. The only thing that is slightly annoying is the narrow opening for the water reservoir and the phone pocket not fitting (standard) 5.5 inches cell phones. Nevertheless, these are minor things. So, if you are looking for a good hydration vest for running and speed hiking, I do recommend the CamelBak Circuit vest.
If you have any questions about this product, drop me a line in the comments below.
We field tested this product. The rating shows its overall performance.About Rating
- Storage space for the weight
- Narrow opening for water reservoir
- Zippered ‘phone pocket’ doesn’t fit smartphone