Camelbak Hydration Packs
Rogue vs. Octane XCT
Back when I was training for my first half-marathon, I quickly realized the single handheld water bottle I was using worked great up to 5 or 6 miles. If I was going to go farther, I was going to need a better system.
My solution (We’ll call this version 1.0) was the Nathan Speed 4 Waist Pack. Version 1.0 worked well enough to get me through the Mississippi Blues Half-Marathon and through all the long training runs leading up to the Pensacola Beach Half and Renaissance Half.
There were a few technical issues with the 4 bottle belt that I’ll cover in a separate review. Probably the biggest issue for me was the coolness factor. If I ask, I know I can trust my family to give me an honest assessment of my poor style decisions. When I displayed my new neon green Kinvara shoes, Robin smiled and exclaimed “Wow! Those are … really … green!” When I proudly showed my daughter the crudely made (but highly functional) guaranteed-not-to-fall-out-of-your-ears wrap-around headphones I had fashioned out of coat-hanger and 5 minute epoxy, she asked “Are you going to go outside with that on?”
Maybe I value function over form or maybe I just have bad taste. To my credit, I knew better than to ask anyone’s opinion about how the bottle belt looked. But, I didn’t make it out of the house unseen. Somewhere in the midst of Robin’s hysterical laughter, was the comment “You look like you’re going into battle.” From that point on, the cool sounding “Nathan Speed 4 Waist Pack” has been known as “the grenade belt”.
While on a business trip to Atlanta, I was browsing through a Sports Authority store and came across a deeply discounted Camelbak Rogue hydration pack. I judged this to have a much higher coolness factor than the grenade belt and the price was right to give it a try. Welcome version 2.0. Where have you been all my life?
I love having the ability to carry a lot of fluid, a lot of gels, my cell phone and practically any other small item that might be necessary for a self-supported long run. I love the convenience of the always ready drink tube. I love the streamlined feel of a small backpack. I love that fluids stay cool inside the semi-insulated pack. I love the coolness factor. I love my Camelbak(s).
There is one big issue with the Camelbak Rogue that drove me to search for an even better system.
It is not specifically made for running and tends to bounce a little when full. This can be countered with a lot of adjusting and readjusting (and for all of the above reasons, it is worth the trouble) but there is a line of Camelbak hydration packs designed specifically for running. Welcome, version 2.1 Camelbak Octane XCT. Where have you been all my life?
All of the complaints I have with the Rogue boil down to one thing. It was designed for biking and dayhiking, not running. Since the Octane XCT was specifically designed for distance running, it makes sense to me to compare the two in terms of how the Octane XCT addresses the shortfalls of the Rogue for the runner.
No bounce – The Rogue is a small pack without a waist belt. This is not a big deal when using it as designed, but a real problem when running. As long as the sternum and shoulder straps are cinched tight, bounce is tolerable. Unfortunately, the straps will not STAY cinched tight. I took care of this with a few safety pins.
I managed to eliminate the bounce altogether on a long run that took me past our local Fleet Feet store. I ran in, sweat dripping, and bought an elastic race belt to fashion into a makeshift waist strap. Really, it was more of a belly strap since the Rogue is a short pack but it did take care of the bounce.
The Octane XCT has shoulder straps, a sternum strap and…a waist strap! The pack is also a little longer than the rogue so the waist strap actually hits me at my waist. Strap buckles seem to be designed a little differently to (hopefully) stay where they are adjusted. If they start to slip, I’ll go with the safety pins.
One other irritation with the straps on the Rogue is the removable attachment point for the sternum strap which tends to come off on its own. The Octane XCT has a very different type of attachment for the sternum strap. It is movable but does not appear to be removable.
Accessible pockets – Another complaint I have with the Rogue is the lack of ACCESSIBLE pockets. There is plenty of room for storage of just about anything a runner would need but getting to the pockets requires removing the pack. The Octane XCT has nicely sized pockets attached to the waist belt. With room to spare, I can fit everything that I need to easily get to in the sidepockets.
Currently, that is 5 gels, an iPhone, a t-shirt sleeve (for cleaning sweat-streaked sunglasses), small body glide, band-aids, car key, driver’s license and debit card. If I’ll be out after dark, there’s still room to easily stash a headlamp.
Softer shoulder straps – The shoulder straps on the Rogue aren’t that bad but the seams are a little rough. I rubbed a raw spot on my shoulder during a long run with a sleeveless shirt. The straps on the Octane XCT are improved enough that, although I haven’t yet, I might consider wearing it without a shirt.
Larger reservoir – The 2011 Octane XCT comes with a 100oz bladder while the Rogue holds a 70oz bladder. (Older model Octane XCTs came with a 70oz bladder). I actually prefer the smaller bladder unless I know I’ll be on a long run with no place to refill along the way. Completely full, the 100oz bladder is about two pounds heavier than the 70oz and it tends to slosh a little more (even when properly burped). The Octane XCT pack can accommodate either reservoir, so more options for me.
I haven’t had a chance yet to torture test the Octane XCT on a long run. On shorter runs, it has performed/fit as well or better than I hoped. For all the great things about the Rogue, the Camelbak Octane XCT is simply a better hydration pack for runners.