Monday, April 01, 2024

Camelbak Apex Pro Run Vest Multi Tester Review

Article by Jeff Valliere and Sam Winebaum

Camelbak Apex Pro ($180)

Sam: The Apex Pro Run Vest is a “loaded” 11L run and adventure vest. By loaded I mean it can carry plenty of gear and hydration for your longest adventures and it is also loaded with 8 front pockets (2 big and zipped) with 2 zipped plus one for a reservoir at the rear. All of this makes access on the go easy and organized. 

It also includes two 17 oz flasks, a safety whistle, a key clip detachable, trekking pole quiver and even a RECCO battery less rescue transponder. 

I tested the vest on the run, snowshoeing and nordic skiing in Park City this winter. 

I was interested to see how it compared to the similar capacity lighter, less structured and “organized” Zephyr Pro we tested last year (RTR Review). 

Jeff V:  The Camelbak Apex Pro is a long distance race or all day run vest that is chock full of features and functionality, with soft, breathable materials for a clothing like feel, a very convenient, well thought out pocketing system with a great combination of easily accessible pockets on the front of the shoulder straps along with voluminous rear storage.  Additionally, the Apex Pro has a convenient, easy to use (removable/stowable) pole quiver.

The front pockets are identical on either side.  Starting at the top we have deep flask pockets to accommodate the included 17 oz flasks with locking caps (my favorite of all bottles because of the shape, structure and locking cap).  There is also a bungee to hold the cap/bottle in place so the flask does not sink to the bottom as it empties.

Sam: Adding to Jeff's above. The bottle pockets are deep and secure with enough substance to their mesh and their hold is backed by the front zip pockets to hold a wide variety of flasks.. 

For fun I even tested with a Hydra Flask insulated bottle during a long 10 mile walk and it held just fine,  with no bouncing and was not in the way of my face. I also tested with long skinny Salomon flasks with no issues.

I agree with Jeff that the flask cords work very well but I find the Camelbak flasks themselves problematic, and always have. Care is  required to” unlock” on the go as their caps can twist off in the direction of unlocking the valve as the threads are soft, unless the cap is tightened super securely and I think it should have a positive click to insure  the cap is well locked and to advise if when opening you have loosened the cap.

A “lighter” version  of the system in Camelbak’s excellent cap locking bike  bottles, I think the caps and unlock mechanism could be beefed up as it is in the bike bottles.

The zip front pockets have some stretch while their paired stretch drop in pockets behind easily and very securely completely cover and hold my iPhone 15 Pro by pushing it back a bit. My phone also fits very well in the zip front pockets, zipped or unzipped.  

Jeff: Below the flask pockets are what I first thought were single, large, deep stuff pockets, but each side is segmented in the middle to further organize, with the inner stuff pocket being a bit more secure with the stretch elastic hem.

Then the lowest pockets each have a long diagonal zipper leading into a roomy pocket that is great for storing a phone or any other important items that you want quick, easy access too, but don’t want to risk them falling out if taking off the pack.  The only difference from one side to the other is that the right side zippered pocket has a key clip (please, every vest, waist belt or shorts maker, please do this, why not??) as well as two mesh internal stretch pockets that are good for stowing things like lip balm or a baggie of tablets for example.

On the back of the pack, again starting at the top, you have a Recco reflector (a lightweight passive emergency transponder used worldwide for mountain rescue, more details here), then below that a nice water resistant zippered pocket, just the right size if you don’t have a baggie for your phone, or want to stow a wallet, or overflow food.  With a little finesse, you can reach into this smaller zippered pocket on the run, but I see it as more handy for lesser used safe keep sort of things.

Below that is the very large main compartment, accessed by a long diagonal zipper.  This is the spot where you would likely keep jackets or any other clothing items.  Within the main pocket, there is also a generous mesh pocket to keep gloves and beanies sorted.

Sam: This large rear pocket with some stretch can hold alot. I think this extra rear capacity is a must have if you have to choose a  single vest as it extends the utility to winter trail runs and summer hikes while staying out of the way otherwise.

At the very bottom is a generous pass through pocket, good for an extra flask or windbreaker type items.  On either side of the pass through pocket are also cinchable bungee cords that have a dual purpose of securing items in the pass through pocket and to help cinch down the fit of the vest.  If you are particularly limber, you may be able to access this pocket, but I am not limber enough.

In addition to all of that, there is also a reservoir slide pocket closest to the back, where you can of course slide a Camelbak reservoir, or just stuff more essentials.

The pole quiver is easy to access as is the top cinch bungee to secure poles in place, or if not using the quiver, it can completely be removed or stuffed it into its own hidden storage pocket on the bottom (it can also be oriented to either the left or right side using small snaps, whichever you prefer).

Sam: I like that the 3D mesh not only has depth to ensure solid breathable but provides more structure to not only the rear panel but to the broad shoulder straps with structure also provided by the front pockets, unlike the Zephyr Pro’s basically single layer mesh. 

The Apex Pro’s shoulder straps  do not have a tendency to twist, distribute loads more evenly  and make the vest much easier to put on.   

All of this makes the vest mold better to the body and stay bounce free no matter the load big or small with less bounce and motion than the Zeyphr Pro or more fabric clothing like vests. 

Sam: Jeff has mentioned the quiver pole carry system. 

You can also attach your poles to the front of the vest using the dual bungees on with side of the shoulders. Not as quick access but a good way to keep the poles on the vest and ready to go for longer stretches.


Jeff V:  New for Camelbak, instead of their typical one size fits all (most) “sizing”, the Apex Pro now comes in sizes XS-L accommodating a wider range of runners.  I am 5’9.5”/ 145lbs with a ~38” chest and hit that overlap zone between Med and Large..  Depending on the brand and vest, I most often go with large, but in this case, I went with a medium.  

I think this is an overall good choice for me, but I will admit that when the pack is loaded, when I am wearing a jacket and/or feeling full after breakfast, the vest can feel like there is not much leeway.  

However, without a jacket, with a more moderate load and after I run off breakfast, the fit is really good and I have to snug the front straps.  If I had to do it over again, I might opt for a large, since this is the type of vest that I want to load up and wear all day and oftentimes in the mountains, layers will be in the mix and I would prefer the added leeway.  The front chest straps are both elastic and easy to operate, which can also be adjusted vertically on either side, but this is not an easy process, as you have to unhook and move each anchor to a different loop.  This is very much a predetermined setting and not an adjustment you can do on the fly.  If I had one nitpick, it would be that I would much prefer vertical slide rails for easy, on the fly vertical adjustments (something I very often do when I can).  Additionally, the stretchy front straps, while comfortable and allowing for some give for deep breathing, can loosen when the bottles and pack are fully loaded, necessitating the occasional tightening.

Sam: I also went with a medium and am the same height as Jeff if heavier. Fit has been perfect over layers and a jacket or just over a single baselayer. 

The soft thin stretch sternum straps allow easy adjustment and,  as with all the pocket “pulls” on the vest, have a soft rubber ring to allow easy grab on the go. Even if inevitably twisted, the straps remain comfortable.  We will keep an eye on the durability of this somewhat delicate system which unlike many vests is not the primary way the vest stays put with the 3D mesh, pockets and wide shoulder straps playing the key poles

The location of the straps can be adjusted by clipping the hooks at the desired height on webbing loops. 

Performance and Conclusions:

Jeff V:  Overall the performance of the Apex Pro is amazing if you are looking to carry a moderate to large amount of gear for long runs or days in the mountains hiking. 

 It is comfortable, breathable and is very well thought out, with very well organized, spacious pockets on both the front and back. 

 I really appreciate the layout of the front pockets, where you can store a lot of food and essentials that are easily accessible on the go.  The pack is very secure and carries larger loads very well with little bounce.  If you are looking for a more versatile, light pack that can double for moderately long runs, or also be good for short runs for just a few essentials, this is not it and I would point you to the much lighter Zephyr Pro, as the Apex Pro is heavier and geared for longer hauls.

Sam: Finally a large capacity “race” vest that gets front storage totally right and carries a large load securely. There is no miracle in making a large capacity vest so minimal that it suffers from fit, hold and functionality.  

While the similar capacity Zephyr Pro was a fine light vest, I found its shoulder straps twisted trying to put it on and its front pockets comparatively sloppy and not as functional as the Apex Pro’s. 

I like to have two vest available: one with capacity for 2 front bottles and a bit of storage: phone, nutrition, maybe a light shell out back and another with capacity for enough gear for an all day run or hike with room for extra layers, lots of front storage and a big back compartment with enough structure to keep a big load stable and fuss free. The substantial and bounce free even loaded fully Apex Pro totally fits the bill for me.

The Camelbak Apex Pro is available at our partners


Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns

Tester Profiles

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to ski (all forms) bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 66 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2023 was Sam’s 51th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he gets very very lucky. Sam trains 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run, hiking or on nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below! 
RoadTrailRun Official Store Custom Fractel Caps and Bucket Hats
Cap:$39                                                             Bucket:$49
Limited Release! SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns

EUROPE Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Europe only: use RTR code RTR5ALL for 5% off all products, even sale products 


Men's and Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
Use RTR code RTRTOP4 for 5% off all products, even sale products

Use our code RTR235 for 5% off all products

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE Shipping on most orders over $40


Find all RoadTrailRun reviews at our index page HERE 
Google "roadtrailrun Shoe Name" and you can be quite sure to find just about any run shoe over the last 10 years

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by Following RoadTrailRun News Feed

Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
Facebook:  Instagram: @roadtrailrun

You Tube: @RoadTrailRun


Jeff Valliere said...


Nic66 said...

How would this vest compare to Salomon's Adv Skin 12 vests? IMO the market benchmark for comfort and practicality to date.

Jeff Valliere said...

Nic66, I have not seen or used the Adv Skin 12, so could not comment from experience, but just looking online, they look like they would be quite comparable and I am sure you couldn't go wrong with either. Just from what I can see, the front pockets on the Apex Pro look better laid out and more practical/roomy, but that is just a guess.