Anyone who spends time outdoors is familiar with the ever-present decision of whether or not the adventure you're about to embark on requires adding the extra weight of carrying water with you, or if you can get by without it. Usually, if you're a runner, the answer ends up being: I can do without! Why? Well, because at the time, the benefit of running without extra weight seems to outweigh the risk of thirst. What comes next? Sometimes, having to turn around early knowing if you don't you may not have enough energy to get back. With the current technology, this question really doesn't have to be an issue any longer.
Designed for runners (see the best running pants
), the Camelbak Octane Dart is one of their few choices in ultralight running packs that provide adequate water capacity for most runs with minimal compromise to added weight. Add in a little extra space for necessary items, and you have a contained storage system that is easy to forget you have on your back. The low-profile structure has many benefits, one of which being that it works for many different activities. You don't have to be a runner to enjoy this pack, as the water capacity can be adequate for short hikes, hunting ventures, etc. Reducing the annoyance of unnecessary weight of heavy packs that are overkill for your intended activity can be a freeing experience, and below we will break down the Camelbak Octane Dart into all of its best and worst features to help you decide if it is right for you.
Take one look at this pack, and one may think that there is no way you could fit everything you need
in it. This is due to the purposefully super small surface area, measuring 12.4 in x 8.7 in x 4.9 in, and ultralight materials. The Dart features only the essentials, including a main storage pouch for water, two external zippered pockets, and a mesh pouch on the right shoulder strap. The adjustable sternum strap is what holds it effectively in place, however keep in mind that it is designed to fit torso's which measure 15 to 21 inches long, and the chest strap may be too small for larger busted women. It lacks a waist strap due to the overall smaller structure, with there being no real room, or reason, to incorporate it. It also includes a tube trap to lock your bladder hose in place, and a reflective loop near the bottom and two near the top of the back to keep you safe while out in low-light conditions.
Bladder & Hose
Included with the bag is Camelbak's Crux Reservoir, featuring their new and improved design to optimize water flow and usage. At a capacity of 1.5 liters, it should get you through short day hikes or runs. However, the smaller water capacity it what keeps the weight lower, so for longer treks or runs, you may want to look for a larger option. The best feature of this bladder is the large opening accompanied by an ergonomic fill handle, making it easy to refill and clean. The inside features Hydroguard, inhibiting the growth of bacteria along the inside of the tube and reservoir. (However, be sure to still clean it every so often, especially before putting it in storage!) Another must-have feature is their leak-proof on/off locking valve, accompanied by a self-sealing bite valve. These two features make it nearly impossible for water to get through when you don't want it to. The only downside to this bladder bag is that the hose does not detach from the main bag, making it impossible to replace or clean separately. This feature is merely a matter of personal preference, and may not matter to some. Keep in mind that this hydration pack was designed to fit this specific bladder bag, so there is no room to fit a bigger one, and may not work with other styles of bladder bags.
Pockets & Storage Capacity
The total storage capacity of the Dart sits at 4.5 liters, 0.5 of those being for additional cargo. The body of the pack includes three pouches, all featuring high-quality, easy-use zippers. The main pouch, designed to snugly fit the included bladder, has a zipper running the full length of the pack, making it easier to remove and replace the bladder. A loop at the top attaches to the bladder, further locking it in place to keep it from moving when the water level gets low. Two openings at the top are incorporated to string the hose through. Two additional zippered storage pouches lay atop the main pouch, one of which includes a mesh pouch. When the bladder is full, these pouches do not have a high capacity. However, my list of items included: two clementines, a small pair of binoculars
, and an iPhone
; plenty enough to go for a run. The stretchy mesh pocket on the right shoulder strap is deep and big enough to fit essentials such as an energy bar and keys. The only downside is that it is not wide enough to fit most standard smartphones. Overall, if you like to carry extra stuff with you while out, you may want to look for something bigger. If you're merely looking for something big enough for water and essentials, the Dart works wonders.
The pack itself only weighs 7 ounces, which is almost half the weight of other running hydration packs that Camelbak offers, as well as other top rated running packs. Without water in the reservoir, it is apparent why it can be so easy to forget you're wearing it. With a full water bladder, total weight would be just under 4 pounds, depending on what additional items you take along. As mentioned above, the low weight comes at a cost, with minimal additional storage space and lack of optimal storage on the shoulder straps. For those who like their phone within easy reach in order to track their route, this may be an issue.
My initial concern was that, like many other packs, the shoulder straps would rub against the neck and cause unnecessary friction. This did not end up being the case, as mile after mile, hill after hill, the soft material did not cause discomfort. In fact, even though it did move a bit on some of the more technically challenging sections of trail, the weight was so insignificant that it was barely noticeable. Additionally, with the streamlined design, the rounded bottom seemed to sit nicely in the crook of the lower back, adding a natural feel which was easy to move with. The wide shoulder straps, while seemingly durable, maintain a flexible nature that does not cause pinching, and the adjustable chest strap makes it easy to find the perfect placement for ideal running conditions.
When it comes to breathability, you can't get much better than the Octane Dart. As mentioned, the pack
offers a small surface area, therefore the portion of back that is affected by heat is relatively small compared to other running packs. Both the shoulder straps and back panel consist of a breathable mesh, minimizing the amount of heat created and captured. It does not feature any cooling technology, so in hot temperatures the bladder bag may absorb some of your body heat, something that generally will not present itself as an issue for most people. While there is an increase in temperature where the pack is situated, it is not as drastic as others on the market, and is generally normal for any pack one would wear.
For a hydration pack that weighs less than most women's purses, it holds a surprisingly sturdy
quality. The pockets are reinforced with double layers, which make them more resistant to rips and tears. A lack of additional straps make it less likely for things to get caught on branches of shrubs in passing, and keep everything close to your body. The bladder bag, like most other Camelbak hydration systems offered, use high-quality material that will not leak and does not easily tear. An added perk is that from the very first fill, your water will not taste like plastic. Overall, I would trust to give this pack a fairly good beating while out on the trails, knowing that it will easily hold up to a rugged lifestyle without giving up on me.
Value & Cost
At almost half the price as others on the market, the Dart is the perfect option for those who do not want any extra frills, but merely need an ultralight pack to keep them hydrated while out and about. The lower cost is mostly due to the smaller size, and is in no way indicative of lower quality materials. While there are a few different styles of hydration systems available on the market, the Octane Dart offers a convenient way to access water without missing a beat, and without slowing you down as a heavier pack would. If you are looking for something with more water capacity, the Octane XCT or Octane 16X, also by Camelbak, feature larger water reservoirs.
• Four external pockets
• Leakproof, 1.5 liters bladder bag
• Reflective strips for low-light running
• Breathable, comfortable shoulder straps
• Comfortable, form-fitting design
As a solution to the long-time conundrum of whether or not to take water with you, the Octane Dart offers a simple one; do it! I cannot count how many times I have been out on walks or runs wishing I had brought water with, and I am so excited to have found a pack that does not weigh me down. While there are a few drawbacks, including a too-small shoulder strap pocket for phones, the inability to detach the bladder hose, and the lack of much storage space, it does just what it promises, which is staying lightweight. While you may not be able to essentials such as rain protection
or first aid kits
in here, that is not what it was designed to do. To sum things up, if you are looking for a way to carry water without having to sacrifice your mobility, the Octane Dart is a high quality option to take with you on your next outdoor adventure.