The Camelbak Molokai 70 oz hydration vest was designed specifically for kayaking or standup paddling. I bought one last year to use for long distance paddling where I needed to bring not just sufficient hydration, but also nutrition that I could access easily. When paddling 2, 3, 4 or more hours every piece of equipment we use and where/how we place it on ourselves or our boards become relevant. This year, Camelbak redesigned the Molokai and I had to decide if I really needed to spend $100 on something I already had. I did, but found it on sale for $75.
The old Molokai is black and was made from what seemed to be a neoprene type fabric, it weighed 1.24 lbs. I found it really hot, didn’t dissipate heat, and the 3 pockets on the front were just kind of awkward in placement. I do not wear it during hot and sultry southern days. It just seemed like too much fabric; hot black fabric. There is a flap over the bladder in the back that flipped up during any kind of downwind ride and it annoyed me to no end, hitting me in the back of the head constantly. Did I say ANNOYING? It is a big vest and when I fill it up, I swear its 5 pounds of additional weight on my shoulders when I’m paddling. BUT…it works, if it’s not too hot out.
The new Molokai is a grey orange meshy fabric with orange reflective striping, weighing less at 10.2 oz. The torso length is the same at 15 inches, but the dimensions have changed from 15 x 8 x 4.5 in, to 15 x 12.20 x 3.54 in. There are now only 2 deep pockets on the front which makes sense to me. The bladder is the same 70 oz with no change in design. Instead of a stretchy fabric overlay for a pfd in back, they’ve added a bungee system. They’ve also changed some minor things like placement of the tubing clip and where the whistle is attached. These seem irrelevant until you use them. The whistle is now a clip in itself attached to the tube and it will make changing out bladders a bear if you change the bladder and the tube altogether like I do. The whistle used to be attached by its own little lanyard, now it’s a standalone clip and will have to be removed before you change. Means I’m going to lose a whistle at some point. The back flap still flips up and hits me in the back of the head. I do not find this amusing.
Why Buy a New One
I’m training for Chattajack in late October. Its 31, maybe 32, even 33 miles. It’s a long day. They suggest two 70 oz bladders of hydration on you or on your board. My choices were one camelback and extra bottles in a sup pocket for refilling, or one camelback and a replacement bladder. I’ve decided to use the new Molokai and an extra bladder I’ll carry on my board. I will also have a sup pocket with additional nutrition and “stuff” necessary that I may or may not need but might make me happy (think candy bar or cookies) when I’m not. When we do these long distance events, its best to plan on being as self-suffcient as possible and to train with what we’ll be using race day. This new Molokai is functional and it is NOT as hot as the old model, which was my biggest complaint. At this point, I’ve not experienced any chafing from the new fabric. I like the bungee system in back. It’s not so big that when I fall off my board (notice I said when), that I can’t get back up. On the negative side, I think the whistle thing on the tubing is just downright stupid since it’s not tethered to anything. The Molokai is still expensive at $100.
Above: Mark Colino in the new Molokai CamelBack Hydration Pack
There are other products out there that paddlers prefer and I have many from old running days. Taking a quick poll from the 100/100 paddle group; Mark Colino loves the new Molokai and used it in Sea Paddle NYC; Jeremy Whitted loves Nathans products; Brad Hardee prefers the Avila 70 oz Hydrapak (very minimalist but looks interesting); Kim Hillhouse likes a new Patagonia pack; and Lisa Schell likes the Osprey Rev 3 which can be used for much more than just paddling. The key is as with all things padding, try them all. Determine what are your specific needs and why. Do you want it or do you really need it? How functional is it? What annoys you or is a deal breaker (the heat from the black fabric was killing me on the old Molokai.)What is the experience and opinion from other paddlers?
Heather Brewer, who’s training for her long distance 22 mile O2B paddle (Oriental to Beaufort) had this to say about the new Molokai:
“I was able to adjust the straps for a snug fit that kept it close to my body with plenty of movement in my shoulders. I did not feel any hotter than in the minimalist camel bak I had used before. I was able to get several energy gels and some peanut butter crackers in the pockets, so plenty of room for food. I couldn’t keep my phone in the pockets though……that may be a problem for others…. I would definitely recommend it.”
I think the new Molokai is a good option for long distance paddle training and racing.