Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L Review

It’s that time of the year when most of us are sifting through race websites, UltraSignup, and other runners’ race reports, trying to determine what our race calendar will be like for 2017. I don’t think that ultrarunning was always like this. Tucking away over a thousand dollars in race-entry fees during the holidays has never been helpful for marriages, but that is the state of the sport, and there certainly are worse things in the world. While you’re doling out C-notes to torture yourself this summer, remember that this is the time of year to get your gear sorted out. Why not impress your spouse or partner with the latest and greatest in high-tech French running gear. Oui, oui!

Raidlight is a French company founded by ultrarunner/orienteer/adventure racer Benoit Laval that makes clothing, packs, shoes, and accessory gear for trail and ultrarunning. As a company they have become progressively more on my radar as their gear and packs continue to evolve with the help of their sponsored team, including French runners Nathalie Mauclair and Antoine Guillon. Laval himself is no slouch, having finished top five three times at Diagonale des Fous. All of this input over the years has resulted in Raidlight’s Made in France collection of well-designed packs that have incredible weight-to-volume ratios and several game-changing pack features.

With 10 liters of capacity and weighing only 190 grams (6.7 ounces), the Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L ($160) is the most comfortable pack that I’ve ever worn. Probably the best pack comparison is the Salomon S-LAB Advanced Skin 3 12L pack, which weighs in at 9.5 ounces and feels much more rigid on the run. The Raidlight Gilet Responsiv packs, of which there are multiple carrying capacities as well as a women’s-specific range–feel like they are part of you with absolutely no bouncing and a relatively high flask placement compared to most packs on the market. Part of this comfort has to do with an innovative fit system that allows runners to dial in pack fit like never before. But, this also has to do with the laser cut Ripstop fabric that has flat seams throughout the vest.

Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L front view

The Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L Fit

With a 38-inch chest, I ordered a size medium for testing as indicated by Raidlight’s sizing chart. The pack arrived and I was very surprised at the soft pliability of the materials. They reminded me of the Salomon Ultra Set vest, but slightly more robust and durable feeling. Initially, I was worried that everything on the vest seemed very elastic and stretchy as this usually means that I’ll experience a lot of bouncing. During my first outing in the vest I didn’t take the proper time to understand how the vest worked and really dial in the fit, and I mostly just adjusted the front straps as I would in almost any other vest. I experienced some rubbing and a really insecure fit, which was disappointing.

Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L front view close

The Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L front view.

On my second outing I packed the vest and spent some time playing with the Micrometric Adjustment Systems on both sides of the pack. If you remember Boa lacing systems on old The North Face shoes, then you get the idea. The Micrometric system consists of a small dial attached to a network of durable cord on each side of the vest that, when turned clockwise, cinches the vest down tighter on the body. It almost feels like you’re being hugged, and a simple turn the opposite direction gives you a great deal of slack to adjust again. The really cool thing is that you can adjust on the run to get a precise fit without having to fiddle with the front straps all the time. As my pack would empty throughout a mountain run, I could re-dial in the fit in seconds.

As I stated before, the Gilet Responsiv 10L rides fairly high on the chest, which provides great access to bottles. This took a little bit of time for me to get used to as the vest I’d been running in all summer, the Ultimate Direction TO Race Vest, has flasks that sit pretty low. With Raidlight’s Eazyflasks, you do get the extended drinking-straw tops, which even come with little insulator sleeves, but I found that with the vest riding high, these straws mostly just got in the way. I used a variety of soft flasks with this vest and they all fit securely. If I wanted to drink on the run I just positioned my head slightly down and the bite valves were right there. It was very nice not to have to remove the flasks to drink, and I found that getting full flasks back into the vest proved to be much easier than with the Salomon Sense Ultra Set.

Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L Micrometric dial

The Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L Micrometric Adjustment System dial, one of which is located on each side of the pack.

Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L Storage

At first, I was disappointed by the lack of zippered pockets on this vest and I feared that I would lose things and have difficulty securing heavier items. These fears were unwarranted and stretchy ripstop side pockets have a double flap and you can really overstuff them with gels and other smaller items. There are five total pockets on the vest besides the side pockets, including the two flask pockets with elastic bands to secure the drinking straws, a large 10-liter water-resistant pocket that can take a 1.5-liter bladder, and a stretchy and easily accessible lumbar pocket. I never used this vest with a bladder and I could shove a lot of gear into that 10-liter pocket without worrying that it would get soaked due to the water-resistant nylon covering, and as the pack gets full it really hugs the body thanks to the fit system.

Poles can be stored on the back of the pack through an elastic band with the tips of the poles fitting nicely into a stretchy ripstop pocket on the bottom of the vest. This decreases that I’m-gonna’-fall-and-stab-myself feeling I sometimes get while running with stored poles.

Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L side view

The Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L side view.

Overall Impressions

This is a fantastic pack, and I think that the fit system is revolutionary and something we’ll be seeing more in designs from other companies. You can really sense a pride in workmanship with this pack on the soft edges and laser-cut flat seams. At $160, it’s a bit pricey, but my pack shows no wear after a season of racing and training. In fact, I’m impressed with its durability, and despite the pack’s light weight, it does feel fairly robust.

Though the final determination for any pack on the market really is fit and bounce… or lack thereof. The Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L has the least amount of bounce of any pack I’ve ever used, and the ability to adjust on the fly and have it stay put, is worth the spousal grief when you drop a bunch of cash to make 2017 your year.

Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L back view

The Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 10L back view.

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 9 comments

  1. Adam Harmon

    This is a little bit of a business plug so please ignore if you get offended by that. I started a small business importing European trail running gear about two years ago called RockyMountainUltra.com. I have tested and used quite a few RaidLight items and love all their stuff. RaidLight has also been my top seller with their stellar pack lines.

    One thing to add, the front pockets are so stretchy that they can also work with hard bottles. I might be the only one who prefers them to soft bottles, but I used the 10L’s predecessor 8L model with RaidLight’s hard bottles for the Bighorn 100 last year and loved it.

    As well, if you are a bladder user the 10L has a dedicated internal sleeve for a bladder. It works well and has not cause any bouncing. To my knowledge the pack reviewed here will be available in the US from RaidLight as well as my store toward the end of March or early April.

    I can also answer any questions about the other Responsiv packs or other RaidLight gear.

    1. Seanoa I

      Hi Adam, with the 20L version what is the least volume of gear you’d have to carry for it to feel secure or does it not bounce or flap around if the main compartment is empty?
      Cheers

      1. Arf

        I have the 20 litre pack. You can easily wear it with nothing at all in the back. It fits like a vest–just like the 10L does. I’ve found no movement at all with it. If you carry little to nothing, the back cinches down nicely as well. This is a terrific pack! I wore it in a 100 km mountain race that required a fair bit of gear be carried and it performed super well. Fits like a glove. I also have the 10L, which I think is not as good. It lacks the stretchy side pockets that the 20L has, getting access to your stuff in the go is not easy. I ended up getting a Salomon S-Lab 12 Set because of the easy to access pockets and it performed well in a recent 100 miler. The Raidlight does have a slightly better fit as it seems to have a bit more shape than the Salomon. Definitely the 20L is a great running vest.

  2. Patricia

    I’m finding the hard rims around the tops of the bottle causing pain on my chest as they empty any suggestions? Other wise the bag is a great fit – no movement.

  3. Andrew

    I am curios if anyone has anyone has any experiance with the 20L version of this pack.

    I am shopping vest/pack hybrids for mini adventures and this does indeed look comfy.

  4. G

    This is definetly most comfortable and complete vest i have worn but i have only complaint – it is very hard to put full Raidlight flasks back into the pockets while wearing the vest (for example when i pull empty flasks out to refill at aid station).
    Current workaround for me is to use Salomon 500ml flasks which fits great so i wanted to check if someone had this issue as well.

Post Your Thoughts