GearJunkie: Running Wild, Well-Ventilated, and Free: CamelBak Zephyr Running Vest Review

By Mary Murphy From GearJunkie.com

GearJunkie editor Mary Murphy spent 8 weeks early in 2020 putting down miles while testing the new CamelBak Zephyr 10L running vest.

What do you get when you stick a frequent runner in quarantine? Well, ironically, more running. In the past 2 months, I’ve gotten creative with my running routine, and I’ve logged more miles per week than usual. Whether it was a quick morning jaunt or a long afternoon journey, a vest, to me, was essential.

Luckily, CamelBak had just launched a new collection of packs and vests. I tried out CamelBak’s Women’s Zephyr Vest ($150) to see how it performed over time.

Let’s Talk (Women’s) Specifics

Generally, I’m of the belief that gear for women doesn’t always have to be gendered (everything from hiking boots to climbing harnesses to skis.) But for gear that’s meant to hug your body during high-output activity and keep you comfortable for the long haul, women’s-specific is the way to go.

I do think CamelBak did a nice job with the vest’s women’s-specific design. Usually, slight differences between men’s and women’s vests include a fit narrower at the shoulder and slimmer at the torso, with more room at the chest area. This vest fits me extremely well in all three of those places.

The removable sternum strap (there are actually two) can be adjusted to your chest and height, and the side torso straps adjust easily while in place or running.

The vest fits two 500mL squeeze bottles. Depending on what else I was carrying, I stashed the squeeze bottles in either the upper mesh or midline stretch-cord pockets. (Although there’s a zippered security pocket intended for your phone, I preferred storing my smartphone in one of the stretch pockets for better accessibility).

For runs under 5-6 miles, one bottle was enough for me. For longer runs, I carried both squeeze bottles or slipped a 1L bladder into the main compartment. My advice with this vest: There are a plethora of configurations and options for carrying your gear and hydration, so find the one that works best for you.

How Does the CamelBak Zephyr Feel While Running?

I logged around 55 miles in this vest in total, and my favorite part of it is the body-mapped mesh. Simply put, the ventilation is amazing. I never experienced chafing or rubbing.

One feature of the vest that helped eliminate this is sternum strap loops at adjustable heights. In case you can’t find the right fit just by adjusting the torso straps, you can adjust the two straps above and below your chest, a great feature for women. 

Given its capacity, the vest weighs almost nothing — a light 7 ounces. I actually enjoyed running in this vest, whether on a trail or even around my neighborhood. (I’m the type of runner who finds myself frequently running farther than planned, so it’s always nice to have the essentials with me.) 

And in the age of COVID-19, that meant, at the very least, hydration, a pair of gloves, a travel bottle of hand sanitizer, and a clean mask for post-run.

CamelBak Women’s Zephyr Running Vest Specs

  • Capacity: 10 L
  • Compartments: One interior compartment, eight exterior pockets
  • Materials: Polygiene fabric, engineered knit mesh, BPA-free plastic
  • Accessories included: Two 500mL CamelBak stow flasks
  • Weight: 7 oz.
  • Price: $150

The Zephyr Vest Storage

The interior of the pack has room for a layer or two and bars, and maybe an extra water reservoir if necessary. It can fit up to a 3L reservoir. And in terms of price, you’re definitely paying for high-end materials. The stitching, buckles, and mesh construction are all solid.

After longer runs in hot conditions, I did, however, notice slight condensation on the interior of the main compartment. The first time, I assumed it was because the top compartment zipper wasn’t fully closed.

The second time, I guessed it was due to heat and humidity. It only happened twice. The more important note is that the mesh body paneling (the stuff against your shirt/skin) wicks sweat away very well.

I used the exterior mesh pocket on every run to stash a pair of gloves. Nothing ever jostled around, and the mesh pocket is deep enough to stow multiple small items safely. This storage was still super helpful for items I didn’t need within immediate reach.

Final Comments

I only have one complaint: the incorporated safety whistle. A whistle (helpful for those who run alone and during races that require safety devices) was on a loop just long enough that it bounced against the top sternum buckle, making a soft clicking noise while in motion.

My solution was to just tuck the whistle out of the way, but you could also try re-adjusting the pack. This probably wouldn’t be a concern for all runners, as I think it had to do with the height of that top strap (the third loop down).

Everything else on this vest — the light and breathable materials, the pocket placement, the functionality — were all great and super helpful when carrying anything besides a set of keys.

On my longest run, I was able to fit all of the following items: two 500mL CamelBak squeeze bottles, a phone, earbuds, a pocket knife, a bottle of Purell (thanks, coronavirus), a few energy gels, my EpiPen, my travel wallet, gloves, and a windbreaker. There are also bungees to secure trekking poles if you so choose.

So if you’re a female runner looking to run longer distances and want a comfortable vest for along the way, I recommend trying the CamelBak Zephyr on for size.

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