Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fairfax™ CamelBak Hydration Pack for Runners - Review

The summers and the runners of the south are not always the best of friends. Coastal cities like Houston are bombarded with extreme heat indexes thanks to 100% humidity. Running along your favorite route becomes next to impossible without the aid of either some strategically placed water fountains or some fluids strapped to your chassis.

What if there are no water fountains? I can remember riding along with my dad as a child in his pickup truck as he placed large water bottles in the ditch along his biking route out on country roads. He didn’t have to worry about some adopt-a-highway clean up crew finding his bottles and throwing them away. He had water every couple miles and never had to worry about being dehydrated. Living in the city, I don’t have this luxury. Plus I don’t like to stop running when I’m going because it’s too hard to get going again. I also don’t like to carry most forms of water bottles—grenade belt style or handheld.

hydration belthandheld bottle

Hydration Belt & Handheld Water Bottle

If I’m wearing some sort of gear belt, it’s my SPIbelt. I’m a minimalist through and through and so the smallest/lightest option I can find is the one I’m choosing. Carrying stuff in my hands? No. I want to be free when I’m running—not handcuffed to a water bottle. Thankfully, CamelBak has another option. Aptly named after the water-retaining beast of burden, they’re the “originator and world leader in hands-free hydration systems.” That sounds like my cup of tea!

You may think of CamelBak as a company who makes backpack-style hydration packs for bikers or climbers—people who can’t afford to take their hands off of what they’re doing and but still need fluids. Well they make hydration packs for runners as well! I just have a few requirements though… Requirement #1: can’t be bulky. Requirement #2: can’t bounce around while I’m running. Requirement #3: can’t be heavy. Requirement #4: can’t be annoyingly irritating. Requirement #5: can’t be expensive…we’re in a recession ya know.

Enter: Fairfax hydration pack. I was able to purchase one last week and armed with a concoction of The Black Keys, AutoVaughn, and a Hammer Gel pack was able to test it out this weekend on a 5 mile run.

camelbak fairfax 2010 Fairfax by CamelBak


Minimalists rejoice! This thing is small enough to not be annoying. It hugs your back and doesn’t protrude like a huge hiking pack. It has a 50 oz reservoir for fluids (that’s about 1.5 liters, for my large population of foreign followers), which is plenty for an hour or two of running. Yet even with it’s small size, you can still store your keys, phone, carb gels, mp3 player, etc. Not just one of those things…all of them at the same time!

fairfax1 Fairfax in action

Bouncinessbody glide

While running 5.1 on Sunday, not once did this pack bounce. It was like a baby spider monkey clinging tightly to his mother for dear life. It was great! But being so snug, I could see how chafing could be an issue. I didn’t experience this, but if you do I’m sure it’s nothing Body Glide’s Liquefied Powder couldn’t handle. (That stuff works wonders on your toes as well if you happen to blister easily. Either that or TriSlide, according to Chic Runner.) But since I didn’t experience this, I’d say that’s a plus for the product. A snug fit = awesome.


Weight? What weight? It feels like maybe an extra 2-3 pounds…woopty. And if you’re in to resistance training, well you can make believe that 2-3 pounds is a part of your training! This thing is light and pretty much non-existent. A+! CamelBak definitely makes larger packs with more volume and more storage space, but those would be more suitable for hiking or something else. This is their lightest backpack and it works great for running.

Annoyance / Irritation

Because it’s a snug fit, sweat build-up between the runner’s back and the hydration pack could be annoying. But the meshing on the back side keeps ventilation perfect. Plus your sweat is not absorbed into the meshing so cleaning is a breeeeze. We’ve already covered the non-chafing aspect. The hydration tube doesn’t get in the way when you’re running. If you want it to flop around in front of you, you can let it do that. But there are straps on the shoulder strap that hold it back and out of the way for your bouncing/running pleasure.

fairfax3fairfax2 CamelBak’s Big Bite Valve

CamelBak also has this great invention called the Big Bite Valve—a device that has no movable parts so you don’t have to worry about whatever fluid you put in your reservoir leaking, which would definitely be annoying. Because of this sweet valve that only releases the liquid when you bite it, you can drink as much or as little as you want whenever you want. If you want douse your face or spray your back with some refreshingly cool water while you’re running, just squeeze the value with your fingers. To me, this feature is the opposite of irritating. So far, four of four checks.


I was able to buy one at REI last week for $48. This is a little more than I’d like to pay, but it’s doable. If the previous four requirements hadn’t been met, I wouldn’t like that I’d paid that much. But considering how great it is and how it makes my summer runs better, I’m happy with the investment. Plus a cold water stream that can be accessed whenever you want? Ahhh, makes me want to find more uses for it…like hiking? Or maybe fill it with beer and use it to bowl? The possibilities are endless...


I run maybe 5-6 miles a week in the summer time, a reduction from the norm due to the unspeakable heat. And this includes having to wal7-4 tempk sometimes to cool off and fantasize about water. I actually hate running in the summer time and do zero fun runs—I call May through September the “off season.” With this CamelBak though, I love that I can run without having to stop to walk and cool off. Not having to stop is a-okay in my book. Staying hydrated and not feeling like I’m dying in the Mojave Desecamelbak3rt is a-okay in my book too. 

Sunday’s run was in 90 degree heat with 100% humidity, so if I hadn’t had this puppy strapped to my back I wouldn’t have been able to finish the 5-miler without stopping and possibly passing on to the afterlife. I realize 90 doesn’t sound that hot, but with 100% humidity it feels MUCH hotter than that. Think about August when it’s 100+ WITH humidity! Nuts.

The tips on the CamelBak website are pretty great too—especially freezing half the reservoir the night before and how to keep water out of the drinking tube so that you always get a cold sip.  And don’t worry ladies! CamelBak had you in mind when creating this pack too. The Annadel has an S-Curve harness to give you a better fit in the chest area and comes in three colors: pink/graphite, azure blue/graphite, and solid black.

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