True to the brand’s name, Camelbak’s Racebak base layer with integrated reservoir does make one appear more camel-like.
Available in men’s and women’s versions, it’s a lightweight, sleeveless polyester/polymide/elastane base layer with a full zip front. On the back is a sleeve that holds the included 70oz (2L) Antidote reservoir. It’s a somewhat updated reservoir in that it has the internal baffle, but the opening is smaller than their pack models and there’s no quick disconnect hose. It does get their insulated hose, though, and the bite valve has a shut off lever to keep it from leaking in your fridge or cooler if it gets squished.
Camelbak’s marketing guy, Seth, is the first to admit this product’s not one of their top sellers, but the more time I’ve spent with it, the more I like it. On quick trips, it saves precious packing space versus a full pack while still giving me plenty to drink on those rides (more than what you’d get by relying on two full bottles!). And in big group rides or fast paced bunches, it’s easier and arguably safer to throw the hose in your mouth and get your hands back on the bar quickly than fiddle with bottles.
Does it look goofy? Does the function overcome form? Hose down your burning curiosity below…
I’m 6’2″ and about 180lbs. This is an XL and it fits snug, perfect for under a jersey. It’s what you’d call a racing cut. When the reservoir’s completely full, it can pull down on the back a bit when standing upright, but once hunched over in the riding position it’s not noticeable.
The material is very light…you can see my bibs right through it. Even on a couple of warmer days it didn’t seem to overheat me. Being able to unzip it fully is helpful, though.
Between you and the reservoir is a thin pad that keeps condensation (and ice cold beverages) directly off your skin. This is about the only downside to the garment. The porous side you’re seeing here is the side that faces your body, but it still ends up feeling like a solid patch on your upper back. Camelbak would do well to make it a bit more 3D like some of their packs, putting less surface area on your back, but they have to balance thickness with function. I haven’t tried it yet, but on super hot days you could just put extra ice in your reservoir and not use the pad. Could provide a lot of cooling, which generally translates to better performance. Another trick? Put some ice in your jersey pockets just before heading out…it’s awesome.
The shoulders both have wide loops to keep the hose in place, and the right side has a small loop to hold the hose close to the chest. The design means you’ll have to keep your jersey unbuttoned a few inches to let the hose out. I did notice the hose tapping the top of my quad when I had both the Racebak and my jersey unzipped halfway or so, but only when riding low in the drops or hunched over.
Because it makes drinking so accessible, I’ve found I’m drinking more frequently. I plan on using it quite a bit. It does put a hump on your back, but it’s a stable hump and after all, didn’t Lance Armstrong say his back hump gave him an aero advantage?
Retail is $100. Reservoir is BPA-free.