Lightweight Packs for 2016: A Comparative Review

Regardless of whether you prefer handheld bottles, waist packs, or hydration vests, the advances in running packs have perhaps been the most remarkable changes over the last several years in our not-so-techy sport. We’ve seen empty packs go from over a pound to less than four ounces through the use of lighter-weight materials, and companies have also found materials that are more durable than ever. We’ve also seen radical changes in how hydration is delivered from the old bladder standby, to the more versatile bottle, to the highly adaptable soft flask.

While some of the most exciting recent updates in pack development have come from high-volume packs, my aim here is to profile some of the newest, and some not so recognized, packs that could make your 2016 season the most efficient yet.

Ultimate Direction Timothy Olson Race Vest 3.0 ($109.95)

Weighing in without bottles at under 5 ounces, the TO Race Vest 3.0 is by far Ultimate Direction’s most stripped-down vest to date. In fact, from a materials perspective, this vest seems like a quantum leap forward from the highly popular AK Race Vest, which it replaces in the Ultimate Direction line. A slightly stretchy and incredibly durable mono-mesh dominates most of this vest, including the upper back, making it the most breathable vest I’ve ever tested. Roomy bottle pockets on the front accommodate both Ultimate Direction’s 17-ounce body bottles, and just as easily most other bottles from Ultimate Direction and other companies. While cinching the bottles down with bungees is easy, the ‘dump pockets’ beneath the bottles offer ample room for food, garbage, or gloves and a hat. Above the bottle pockets UD adds a Velcro power-mesh pocket and a waterproof pocket with Velcro flap to keep things dry.

Ultimate Direction Timothy Olson Race Vest 3.0 - image1

Ultimate Direction Timothy Olson Race Vest 3.0 front view. All photos: iRunFar/Tom Caughlan

The back of the vest is primarily open with decent-sized zip pockets, which sit in the small of the back. Ultimate Direction employs an over-under pocket configuration here to allow materials needing to be kept dry away from the sweat of the back, such as a smartphone, and in this pocket there is even a key-ring loop, which I found highly useful. This rear storage isn’t enough to hold more than a thin extra layer, a very light jacket, or a beanie, but it can hold quite a bit of food.

Ultimate Direction Timothy Olson Race Vest 3.0 - image2

Ultimate Direction Timothy Olson Race Vest 3.0 side view.

The most ingenious aspect of this vest is that UD utilizes a pair of loops on each side of the front of the vest, allowing easy attachment of trekking poles on the go. Initially, I thought this would interfere with arm swing and feel bulky, but UD really designed this well and obviously did a lot of testing.

Ultimate Direction Timothy Olson Race Vest 3.0 - image3

Ultimate Direction Timothy Olson Race Vest 3.0 back view.

It should be noted that the TO Race Vest 3.0 does not accommodate bladders, and it’s not the type of vest you’re going to take into the mountains for a day full of adventuring in inclement weather. The TO vest is made to go light and fast and rides well, as it is a bit wider over the shoulders than most other vests. Pay attention to fit with this vest, as I felt that it took several runs to dial it in. Most notably, I had difficulty getting the front chest straps to stay tight as the elastic material tended to slide loose when taut. With a 38-inch chest, I elected for a size medium, but I had to cinch everything down to get a fit. If I had to do it again I’d get a small.

Nike Trail Kiger Vest ($185)

This prototype vest was provided by Nike for iRunFar to review, but it seems that the production model will be exactly the same. This is the vest that runners on the Nike Trail Team have been wearing for the past year, most notably at UTMB. While this vest is a bit heavier than some competitors, it seems amazingly durable. It also rides the best of any vest in this review with absolutely no bounce whatsoever, even on steep downhills. While the vest I tested was a size small, I would probably size up in a production model.

Nike Trail Kiger Vest - image1

Nike Trail Kiger Vest front view.

Again, we see dual front bottle pockets that accommodate both soft flasks and bottles with an easy bungee mechanism, which keeps everything secure. Nike eschews convention for awkward diagonally zippered pockets above the bottles which, sadly, hold very little besides a couple gels or car keys. However, the lumbar area of the vest features both a zippered waterproof pocket and a large dump pocket which accommodates several pieces of clothing, a smartphone or camera, and plenty of food. Additionally, the Kiger vest works with a bladder, both large and small, and there is even a magnetized hose attachment on the front of the vest.

Nike Trail Kiger Vest - image2

Nike Trail Kiger Vest back view.

In fact, the only things that turn me off about the Kiger vest is that it’s a bit heavier, a bit hotter on the body, and at $185, I can buy several other vests. Overall, though, a solid debut from Nike Trail.

Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra Set ($130)

By far the most aesthetically pleasing and minimal feeling vest in this group, the lingerie-weight Ultra Set hugs to the body like none other, while standing still. Unfortunately, I had a number of issues with the flimsy materials used in this vest that other wearers may not have had. Firstly, the stretchiness of material around the body causes a loaded vest to bounce quite a bit, and while the pocket configuration was my favorite in the group, I couldn’t get over just how difficult it was to properly cram Salomon’s 16-ounce soft flasks back into their form fitting pockets. During training runs this was merely annoying, but during races this was kind of a deal breaker. Coaxing these flasks into their narrow sleeves meant that I was often walking or slow jogging out of aid stations, losing contact with a group of runners or just getting frustrated.

Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra Set - image1

Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra Set side view.

Salomon did not employ bungees on the flask pockets of the ultra set, and this vest cannot be used with other bottles like the Skin 5 Set. It does have nice, stretchy dump pockets, upper pockets which can fit a phone, a larger back pocket which did allow me to grab my jacket from on the run. I did have a ton of difficulty with getting the front straps to stay taut, and I ended up knotting the elastic chest straps in the spot that was tight, but this knot caused a hot spot. I also experienced chaffing against my neck from the mesh edges of the fabric, which wasn’t bordered by some softer material. An incredibly sexy vest which may be a little too flimsy for its own good and could use some tweaks in the coming year. In my opinion, it seems best to opt up to the 5-liter vest if you’re looking for a well-fitting Salomon vest.

Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra Set - image2

Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra Set back view.

Inov-8 Race Elite Vest ($80 approximately)

This is a vest that has surprisingly flown under the radar over the past several years. Retailing around $80, this bargain workhorse can be found for much cheaper. With the Race Elite Vest, Inov-8 gives runners the options of having two flat plastic bottles against the floating ribs or the option to use a bladder. While the flat Inov-8 bottles took a few tries to get used to, they ride extremely comfortably. In fact, this is the only vest I’ve been able to use with hard bottles without getting bruised ribs or chafing. The design of this vest places the flat bottles against the sides of the body below the ribs rather than right in front of the chest. While I can’t verify fit, this may be a better fit option for women as well. The design of these bottles is great, however the conventional plastic bite tops could use some additional engineering.

Inov-8 Race Elite Vest - image1

Inov-8 Race Elite Vest front view.

Inov-8 Race Elite Vest - image2

Inov-8 Race Elite Vest side view.

The Race Elite Vest is rather simple, and its layout includes several small but deep pockets above the bottle pockets. While these hold quite a bit of gel, they are somewhat difficult to open on the fly and they cannot accommodate extra clothing or large items. I have been able to cram a smartphone into these pockets and the tight fit ensures that you won’t lose a thing. The back pocket, made of stretchy power mesh, can either hold a bladder or extra gear, and this pack is plenty big for a 100-mile race. Poles can also be attached to loops on the back of the pack, although I found that to do this I had to take the pack off. At just under 8 ounces, this is a hard pack to ignore due to value and durability. After wearing this pack comfortably for the 2014 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile, I find that I still reach for it as an old favorite.

Inov-8 Race Elite Vest - image3

Inov-8 Race Elite Vest back view.

Overall Impressions

When buying a lightweight pack, the most important aspect that cannot be ignored is fit. Pocket configuration and even weight can be ignored in the middle of a race, but a bouncing pack at this weight is simply unacceptable. Another thing to consider is whether you like your hydration in easily refillable bottles or bladders on your back which allow you to skip aid stations due to the extra volume if needed. Each of these vests are durably constructed and I’ve taken each for many training runs and races. But, understand that the way these vests fit my torso may be completely different from how they fit you. I’ve talked to many runners who don’t have the same issues I’ve had with the Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra Set. Additionally, I spoke with a runner this weekend that had a great deal of difficulty with the UD TO Race Vest and ended up returning the item due to poor fit. However, packs are expensive, and if you’re a budget-conscious runner, check out the Inov-8 Race Elite Vest. You won’t be disappointed in any way.

I think that pack choice is individual and it’s best to try on vests and load them for testing if possible. My locally owned running store has allowed me to even fill bottles and jump on the treadmill to see how a vest fits in action. Choose wisely and you can have a piece of gear that keeps you more efficient for years to come.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

Have you trained or raced with any of these packs? If so, which ones and what were your overall impressions of them?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re leaving a comment regarding a product made by a company with which you’re affiliated (employee, ambassador, etc.), please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar's Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 59 comments

  1. Jon Gardner

    Two comments: I’ve used the Salomon as a commuting pack, and the mesh-y material that goes up against the back has worn through in a couple of spots (solution–duct tape, and buying a second one for racing only, because I clearly have more money than sense).

    I tried the Inov-8 one. Hated the bottle placement. Hard bottles pinch the diaphragm, soft bottles fall out too easily.

    Salomon will be my go-to pack for racing this year. I hardly notice I have a pack on. I can see that it would be insufficient/bouncy if you’re packing a lot of kit, however.

    1. tom caughlan

      Jon-

      I think most runners I’ve talked to agree with you about the fit of the Salomon pack. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t work as well for me, and I keep revisiting the pack (2x 50 milers, a couple 50ks). The biggest issue for me is the neck rubbing. Gonna half to race in polo shirts.

      1. Eric Coppock

        I like the fashion-statement potential of the polo shirt idea!

        I’ve had neck rubbing issues in the past. My solution is to run in a bike jersey. Picture your fave tech T, but with a collar, aneck zip, and three handy little pockets in the back. I happen to like ’em sleevelsss for running, but the choices are endless.

  2. Tony

    I’ve considered the Salomon vest but ended up with an Inov-8 one.

    Not from the Elite line-up, but from the Ultra line. I use the 5 liter version and I love it. Compared to the reviewed one it has additional ‘dump-pockets’ connecting the front to the bag (instead of the bands on the Elite) which are very handy to use while running. Also this version comes with soft flasks with elongated straws. I like the pack, only if you really want to use hard-bottles don’t consider it, the positioning of the pockets is not really good for them.

    I would really like to give the Nike pack a go, however can’t seem to find it anywhere (yet).

    Good luck in finding your pack!

    1. tom caughlan

      Tony-
      THe NIke pack just came out for sale on runningwarehouse.com Also, look for a coming review on the Inov-8 Ultra 5 liter pack. It was a good enough pack that I want to review it on its own, or with another similar sized pack. Its been one of my favorites.

      1. Eric

        I look forward to that review. I’ve been interested in the Inov-8 vests since I read a couple of glowing reviews from Ian Corless. I really like the idea of wearing the bottles on the side rather than on the chest, but I worry that my arms would rub as I run. Has that been a problem at all for you? And, specific to the Ultra 5, are the goofy extended straws mandatory, or can they be removed from the flasks that come with the vest?

        Also, just to clarify, $185 for the Nike vest does not include bottles or flasks, right?

        1. Tony

          Hi Eric,

          coming to your questions. I understand your concern about rubbing your arms. I know which part of Ian’s review you refer to but I do not have his problems at all. I do not use the softflaks in the dump pockets but in the pockets that were originally designed for them (they are still low and a bit sideways but no problems there, but even with them in the dump pockets will not give trouble I think, depends a bit on your build I guess). I do not have Ian’s problems. Flasks go in and out easy enough for me. The extended straws are a bit much if you use both of them. In real life I take one bottle with extended straw and use the other pocket for even more storage (perfect for buff + phone or so) for medium runs. If more hydration is needed I just switch to a bladder on the back. The straws are fixed to the lids, so replacing the lids with lids with bite-valves would do the trick. However I think you will have to remove the flask from the pocket to be able to drink, and in that case I understand Ian’s concerns a bit better, there eindeed you might have to switch to the dump pockets . Good luck choosing the right pack for you!

          1. Askforabe

            I’ve been using the Inov-8 race vest for 2 years now. Never really liked the hard bottles. I had to change the swing of my arms (wider)so I didn’t keep rubbing my elbows/arms against them.

            Eventually the bungees that hold them in place tore from the pack (one end of them anyway),making it impossible to keep the bottles from bouncing out within a few strides. This was frustrating at first (didn’t want to use the bladder), but it turned out to be the best thing to happen. The two upper pockets(in your pic you have a gel in each one) can each hold a 250 ml (8 oz) soft flask perfectly. I’ll admit, it’s tight getting the bottles in there but once you do it works wonders for me. I can drink from the bottles while they’re still in the pockets. Now the pockets that did hold the hard bottles are used for storage. This has made the vest far more enjoyable.

  3. Branden

    I bought the TO 3.0 vest and thought it was absolutely terrible. You mention “obviously they did a lot of testing”, I couldn’t disagree more. I even wrote my first Amazon review on the vest giving an in-depth review as to why I didn’t like it and felt cheated. I gave my vest away after three runs to a friend and he concurred with every complaint I had of the product.Here it is for what it’s worth

    “I would give this 0 stars if it let me. I have had this vest for a little over a week now and I can honestly say this is the worst piece of running equipment I have ever owned. I have 4 vests ( AK 1.0, SJ 2.0, PB 2.0, Salomon s-lab sense 5) and I love each and everyone of them. I also have ran a variety of ultramarathons, so it’s not like I’m talking out of my ass. Let’s begin:

    The vest cannot fit a jacket or anything comfortable in the back pockets ( even a car key hurt). The sides traps are a straight up rip off of Nathan and form pressure points against the backside of your ribs ( feels like someone is driving their knuckles into your ribs). The back part and neck hang and put way too much pressure on your neck and upper back, thus making you lean forward. If you put anything in the stretchy pockets up front it will cause the soft flasks to ride up and chafe your nipples with the hard plastic part. All this make it super hard to breathe. The bottles have to sit flush on the front of your chest which along with the whole neck issue makes a lot of space and this causes friction. One of my bottles on the second run is already leaking because the seams are to thin to bear pressure while running, so I tried the hard UD flasks and that was a painful experience. The pole holding system is straight up an insurance liability for impalement…there’s no other way to put it, if you fall there is a high probability you will stab yourself.

    I could go on and on, but I honestly can’t stress enough how I really don’t think or feel that UD even tested this vest. I also find it hard to believe that Tim Olson runs without a shirt with this thing on. I also recognize that the vest itself is different from the previews on YouTube. On YouTube Tim had a 2 in 1 pole holding system and a hook and loop style chest strap system. This vest had none of that. I do know they had production issues (because my order got delayed due to them) but this is not the vest I had hoped, I honestly cannot fathom why anyone would wear this, let alone race with it. Ultimate Direction define lay took a BIG step in the wrong direction with this vest. I’ll be buying Salomon after this conundrum.”

      1. tom caughlan

        Branden-
        Whoa! Yes, definitely different impressions here. I’m glad you chimed in and gave your own review. For comparison’s sake, my TO vest was big on me despite ordering a medium. I had to cinch those side straps down all the way which alleviates any pressure from the buckle on my ribs. I wonder if you’d do better with a larger size? I’m chuckling about your impaling comments! Didn’t think of that and I’ll make sure to pack my poles tips down!
        I received this pack several months before the production models came out. Could it have been slightly different than what you received? I don’t know. I also used body bottles purchased in 2014 as my vest wasn’t sent with any.

        1. tom caughlan

          Also-
          My comment on testing is two fold. I really liked the materials chosen for the TO vest; a combination of really light and really durable. I’ve snagged it and fell wearing it and it won’t rip (yet).
          I do believe that UD tests the heck out of their equipment, and I talked with Buzz Burrell from UD back in 2014 at Outdoor Retailer about the testing process which seemed to involve he and other UD athletes trying to destroy their vests.
          Possibly more proof that whats good for one runner doesn’t fit at all for another (like me with the Salomon vest). THanks again for your feedback!

    1. Buzz Burrell

      If you don’t like it that’s fine – each to their own! But frankly, you are not qualified to say to what degree of testing has been done. Which was extensive – the TO Race Vest has been tested for durability, comfort, and function by many people male and female. And if the one you tried didn’t have the T-Hook sternum straps, I’m not sure what it was but either it wasn’t a Race Vest 3.0 or the factory made a massive error so it should be Returned. If so, very sorry about that.

        1. Buzz Burrell

          Happy to – as VP of Ultimate Direction I personally used and distributed approximately 80 prototypes for testing purposes. And to clarify: Branden (and everyone else) is the most qualified person in the world to decide what’s best for himself! No question about it. But to assert the product was not tested is to claim an odd sort of insider knowledge.

          1. Branden

            Hi Buzz,

            Thanks for replying! I agree with the one of the earlier posters stating they would like to see more interaction with people from the company. Now onto the best issue…
            I stated I “think” and “feel” like it wasn’t tested because me being a consumer felt this way (not only I but my friend as well). To clarify of course I know UD tested it extensively, but I still felt as if it wasn’t due to all the issues I stated …hope that makes sense. On a more positive note, my same friend purchased the new SJ 3.0 and literally said it was the best pack he had ever worn! I also took a look at the AK 3.0 and it looks very intriguing.
            That being said since you (Buzz) go on here and defend your product passionately and the high recommendation of my friend I am willing to give UD another shot with the AK or the SJ!

  4. SteelTownRunner

    Ultimate Direction made comparisons slightly confusing. The new SJ vest (3.0) is comparable in capacity and function to the old AK (1.0 and 2.0) vest. The old SJ vest (1.0 and 2.0) is comparable to the new AK vest (3.0). This is due to Anton and Jurek’s personal adventure changes in the last year or two. Anton is doing less racing and more mountain adventures, while SJ was doing a supported thru hike and didn’t need an enormous pack.

    1. Yusef

      Must be an interesting balancing act… Product management vs the people you actually name them after. I’m glad AK didn’t get into homebuilding otherwise I’d be doing Lavaredo with a tool belt and a Makita Driver swinging wildly on my ribs…

    2. adam

      yeah, this is confusing, but what you said clarifies it. it seems it goes (from most minimal to highest capacity): TO, SJ (like the old AK vest, like you said), AK (probably closer to the old SJ vest), and PB (still the same pack as in the first two iterations). so the ultralight, bladder no-bladder TO vest is probably the genuinely new product, with AK and SJ essentially switching places and PB staying the same. I wish they hadn’t done this, because it’s confusing, but whatever…UD makes great products, and basically invented the pack revolution, as far as I can tell.

    3. Buzz Burrell

      You are entirely correct. Sorry about any confusion with the re-alignment of the Signature Series – we don’t like changing things around and confusing people, but we don’t like being non-authentic even more, so as Anton evolved from racing into mountain adventures, his signature vest had to evolve with him. These guys are really serious about the vests with their names on it – this is not just a “sponsorship” deal – so the product has to match the person.

      1. SteelTownRunner

        Entirely fair and apporopriate. Would have been useful for UD just to spell out what I did here when launching the new line and with the product descriptions on the site.

  5. Drew Smith

    Great review! I had the same issue with the Salomon pack, as my perfect fit was in between sizes. I absolutely loved the pocket configuration so I gave alteration a go. I cut just below the original seams where the side pocket attaches to the back panel. Then to resew, I flipped the pocket inside out and pulled the original seam of the back panel through. I used clamps to secure the placement and resewed over the original seam, minus an inch or so from the side panels.
    It was a gamble but I nailed it! You cant even tell it was modified. It fits perfectly with no bounce on downhills.

  6. Vlad

    I run with the Yoda backpack. I got it for 40$ on the internet. It started as a joke for Javelina 100M, but turned out to be extremely comfortable and actually pretty practical for my standard running needs. So I kept it, and would never trade for any of what is mentioned in the post. Moreover, it makes people smile and guarantees a large cheer at any aid station I hit.

  7. Colton

    I got my hands on the Salomon Sense Ultra set last year and have been loving it. I used it for a few longer races and have had very little issue in all kinds of conditions. I experience a little bit of shoulder chafing on a very hot day when I’m either shirtless or in a singlet, but even a little Body Glide cleared that up fine. Also I get a little bounce with both bottles full up front, so I’ve been filling them only to about 3/4 of the way up (about 14oz each).
    Other than that I love the fit and it carries everything I need all within an easy reach. No slowing down to make adjustments or take it off to get anything in a hidden pocket. Would certainly recommend it.

  8. John

    I love these reviews! Keep them coming!

    That being said I think what is apparent is that these reviews can give you a good idea on what to try but gear preferences can be highly individual. I’ve been using UD vests for my last three seasons and finally had to switch to a salomon ultra set vest. The main reason was the fit around my neck. The original SJ wasn’t bad but I switched to a V2 AK when it came out and had a lot of problems. Basically after each run it looked like my vest had given me a horrendous hickey. I love the design of the vests but the fit just wasn’t quite right for me.

    I’ve been running with the SLAB ultra set for a couple of months now and love it. I agree about the front pockets for the bottles though. Just a little bit difficult to get the bottles secured. I actually ended up stuffing some UD bottles in the lower front pockets and used the bottle pockets for food. I also suspect that Salomon won’t last much longer than a season which really sucks if you are either strapped for cash or are even remotely environmentally conscious.

  9. Matt

    Thanks for the review.
    My main problem with all running vests is the size range.
    It seems that all companies want to cater only for the skinny runner body type, while disregarding the possibility of someone wider and taller.
    I am 193cm and 100kg – would say average body type.
    I have the AK 1.0, large, and can only connect the top strap, as the bottom one isn’t long enough, unless you want to have your rib cage severely constricted.
    While it sits and fits nicely, I would definitely prefer a bit more room around shoulders and ribs.
    My point being, it would be nice in the reviews to get someone bigger to try the largest size to give people idea how it would fit.

    //Matt

    1. Tom

      Matt-
      Agreed. I’m pretty average size for a runner at 5’10″/ 150 lbs, but I could easily find larger runners to try the packs. The issue us getting an extra pack in a large size for reviewing. Its something I’ll look into in the future.

  10. BCollins

    Great review, any chance to get like a vest shoot-out? Seems there’s so many models out there that it would be great if all could be in one comparison that could be updated yearly. Like something Rainmaker does over on his website.

    In the side ads here, I keep seeing Nathan vests, would love to see some stuff on Ultraspire, and then maybe more of the Salomon stuff. I know it’s a big request, but I’m sure it would be appreciated and a good source for information!

    1. Tom

      BCollins-
      While I’m not sure I could ever aspire to the level of DC, whose detailed reviews blow my mind, we will continue to work on more comparisons. I will be reviewing some larger packs in the near future with more capacity. Some of these are one size fits all which I can have others wear and get their feedback on sizing issues.

      1. BCollins

        Tom-

        Appreciate, and no knock against the comparisons, I think they’re great with what you guys have done. I’m just hoping for more of a comparison guide with the major manufacturers (since I’m too lazy to dedicate the time to hunt down all the reviews myself) and more vests together. I don’t think anybody can be DC, except DC himself. ;)

        Thanks again for the review!

  11. Kelsie Clausen

    Hi!

    I regularly train and race in the Salomon vest. I have made a number of adjustments to it to allow for fast race/short training runs to run commute worthy for school to all day racing. I have sewn stretchy hair ties to the top and bottom of the pack with floss (much more durable than thread) and that accomodates poles. You would need to figure out exact placement to avoid the bulge created by more pieces into the actual pack. I have had trouble too with the front pockets and full water bottles, but I have found a way to jiggle the pack while running and pushing the bottle to make it easy and efficient- just takes practice. As for the back of the pack, I also have sewn in a small loop so I can hang a bladder in the back. Because of it’s narrowness (I use the XS), the bladder does not move. I can also fit in an extra shirt/jacket and plenty of food.

    I haven’t tested the others but I’d say this pack is highly durable (I haven’t had any issues yet) and easy to use for just about everything- it just takes practice and fine tuning the technology for my specific needs.

    great review!
    kelsie

  12. Tom Gamber

    I am currently using the Ultraspire Alpha 2.0. I love it, mostly because of the bungee system that goes across the from. I have used the Scott Jurek vest, but it moves around and caused skin irritations. For me, the Alpha 2.0 is the only vest that does not bounce around.

  13. jordo

    Salomon would do themselves a huge favor by highlighting the slab sense is to be worn over form fit clothing. Wearing over a normal running shirt the bounce is horrible. But fitted over a compression top it is wonderfully comfortable. I wear compressport top which has rubbery grip on shoulders which locks the pack in place. The pack is now unnoticeable.

    The soft flasks go in easy if you twist them in.

  14. PutMeBackonmyBike

    I have used the Orange Mud VP2 for a couple of years now. On a week long trip in the UK’s Lake District, it carried a full waterproof suit, hat and gloves, first aid kit, food, cellphone, keys, wallet, map and compass, 2 hiking poles and a merino insulating layer (additional accessory pocket added) and two Camelbak extra volume bottles, everyday, up and over the fells, with no bounce, no chafing and no sorespots. I have used it in the midday heat of the Spanish Sierra Nevada, in the Arizona desert, and the cold Canadian winter. It is not as form fitting or sexy as a lingerie style vest, but it is an excellent product. The company is also owned and run by one of the most responsive CEOs/owners I’ve ever come across, positively demanding feedback. Great products, great company. I should add, I’m not sponsored, employed or otherwise by OM, I’ve just had great experiences with 3 of their products, and my wife has too. More people need to hear about them.

    Link to the accessory pocket below, which will link on to the VP2. I also use the hydraquiver 1 for runs up to 25km.

    http://www.orangemud.com/collections/orange-mud-gear/products/accessory-pocket-for-vp2

    1. Will H

      I’m a huge OM fan, too. I know some people knock the packs but in my experience they are perfect for my needs. I use the Hydraquiver 2 and love having 2 bottles and the ease of use they have (filling/cleaning/drinking) and keeping my entire front side uncovered and most of my back, too. Very well made packs and, like was said above, a really great CEO. I have no affiliation at all other than having emailed with the CEO a few times.

      1. Todd

        Boom! I am a huge OM quiver fan also. Simple at the aid stations, simple clean up, and who doesn’t prefer a bottle? I can use different size bottles also. Bottles cost $6 or free if you do a bike rally. The new ones have the additional pockets also. Mine won’t seem to wear out. Pockets stretch and I can’t say enough good things about them. I tried the Nathan and a Camelbak small bladder, but I just don’t consuem enough water with bladders. I hate weight on my chest because it jacks with my form. Staying with OM, no questions.

    2. david cortright

      I ran with a pack my first few years of ultras and trails. I moved to the Orange Mud Double Hydraquiver about 3+ years ago. It has served me very well over hundreds of runs in blazing hot Austin summers. The packs covered up too much of my back and chest during the heat.

      I ran into a small issue with mine in year two and emailed OrangeMud. They paid to have it shipped back to them and they fixed the issue quickly and hassle free. Kudos to OM. Sorry to get the thread off track but I will jump in on Orange Mud any time I can.

  15. adam

    my main issue with vests is that the bottles bounce all over the place when full, especially on downhills. so i end up holding my bottle half the time anyway until it gets lighter. i haven’t tried a vest since the first AK one from UD, so i’m hoping that the soft bottles and new pocket designs solve this problem (also, my vest was slightly defective and the little ties at the top of the pockets came undone on my first run with it years ago). has anyone else had this problem, and do the newer models fix it?

    1. Tom

      Adam,
      The soft flasks are great and easy to get in and out. I don’t need to remove them for drinking, and there is a bungee to tighten the bottle down as it empties which keeps them secure.

  16. Tim Nelson

    One more company and vest – The C.A.M.P Trail Vest Light has been working very well for me. I haven’t run with any other vests, so I cannot give much comparison. Hits all my needs, though.

    2 bottle holders, 2 big front pockets, 2 small front pockets, 2L bladder capacity in the back, full back pocket for bulky things like jackets. I’ve put a few hundred miles in it, and have no complaints.

    I didn’t know the company from running, but it’s a big name in climbing/mountaineering gear.

  17. Buzz Burrell

    Very good information on the Comparative Review! A few notes:

    Re the TO Race Vest: “I had difficulty getting the front chest straps to stay tight as the elastic material tended to slide loose when taut.” Very good point – we noticed the same problem, so from your Sample vest all the Production vests were changed to static, non-slip strap material.

    Re the S-Lab: “the stretchiness of material around the body causes a loaded vest to bounce quite a bit,” You made an important observation I’d like to comment on – from the beginning, we’ve had requests for stretchy everything – stretch feels way more comfortable in the store – but we’ve resisted because stretch = bounce. It’s like a running shoe – a soft stretchy shoe would feel great in the store, but wouldn’t be stable on your foot, so would be a disaster. So all the UD vests have static material for the harness and stretchy fabric for the pockets.

      1. Kristin Z

        I so appreciate that you write in w the insider info and explanations for UD. I wish all the companies could do that!

  18. Paul

    Thanks for this feature. It’s a bit late for me as I just bought a pack a few months ago (UD Hardrocker). I would second the recommendation to produce a broader, more comprehensive review of the racing/running pack market. As I searched for a pack, it was difficult to find information on fit, sizing, features, and all the info one would want before purchasing in any single place. I imagine I’m representative of a good chunk of people who are mid-packers and don’t live near a running specialty store with a trail- or ultra-focus. I had no choice but to purchase on-line for a pack and I held out as long as I could simply because it doesn’t take a genius to know that fit is going to rule the day. iRunFar seems like the perfect place to catalog the running pack universe for folks, so I hope the gang here will find the time to follow-up on the idea.

    I’m reasonably happy with what I have all things considered. I hope that when I race my next ultra I’m as happy as I am now!

    1. Tom

      Paul-
      Absolutely and duly noted. Even where I live, with three specialty running stores in town and an REI, most of them only carry one or two brands of packs and then usually only one model. So, I will try to be more diligent about trying additional packs. I have a lot of sizing issues with packs (narrow shoulders and a 38 inch chest) and I seem to be in between a lot with sizing even though I feel like I’m pretty standard sized for runners.
      Thanks for the feedback.

  19. Dave

    Flasks. On the Salomon Sense vest, I just leave the flask in its pouch and reach my head down and can drink from it without removing it. That solves the in/out problem. Like wise, you can also blow into and inflate the flask fully before sliding it into its pouch, this makes it much easier to insert it. Looks like some smart design on the PB 3.0, that will be my next high capacity pack to replace my PB 1.0.

    1. Tom

      Dave-
      I also leave the flasks in for drinking, but when coming into an aid station I have to take them out for a refill. I tried the air inflation technique, and maybe the pockets on my vest are really tight, but it was still a minute long wrestling match that could not be accomplished while running. So, it really frustrated me because I’d lose touch with a pack in several races last year.

      1. Rich

        Totally agree about the bottle pockets being too tight on the S-Lab Sense Ultra Set. Likewise though it’s still great for a run of a certain length (where you only need hydration, nutrition and minimal kit) I’ve had to rule it out as a race-vest because I can’t stop and try and jiggle the soft-flask into the tiny pockets – I’d just be wasting too much time! I can’t believe none of the Salomon elite athletes don’t have the same problem, so I really hope this improved in the next version. Perhaps they could use a cinch cord like UD use to expand and tighten the opening, though I’d also like to see a soft-flask bottle pocket that doesn’t let the bottle sink inside the pocket when part deflated!

  20. Nathan

    Awesome reviews and comments. One of the awesome features of Irunfar. Anyone used the new UD Marathon? Love to here Buzz’s take on it as well. Seems like a budget friendly pack with good function.

  21. Natalie

    I always wonder about how all those chest straps fit and water bottles sit with boobs, wish there were more easy to find female reviews/comments…
    :)

  22. Gin Sling

    bought the UltraSpire Alpha 2.0 in S size (female). Love it. Love the toggles and straps, magnetic clip pouch, zip pouch, pouches at back. Have worn (over short sleeve and long sleeved tops) with soft plastic bottles in front and 2L bladder in back (total 3L water), plus phone, lightweight thermal gear, and rain jacket stuffed through the back straps for LSD runs up to 30km and on trails with warm valleys and cool summits. Doesn’t rub, doesn’t bounce, really fits perfectly. Have never worn a different vest so can’t compare, but this one just fits the bill.

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