Patagonia is known for incredibly functional, technically innovative, outdoor-adventure gear, but trail running packs have perhaps been further down on the list. I don’t believe they’ve had a new running pack on the market since 2016, and I can’t say any of those prior packs worked well for me. This has all changed, though. Just released are two new packs for this spring, the Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L ($169) and the Patagonia Slope Runner Vest 4L ($139), and both are well worth your attention.
This review focuses on the Slope Runner Pack 8L, which I can confidently say that I love. This snug, low-profile vest-style pack is well-suited to a long, self-supported day in the mountains or rugged ultramarathons where three or more hours between aid stations is common. The ride is smooth with any volume of gear; the pockets are easily accessible; and its ample storage allows me to pack for contingencies as I am wont to do.
Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L Construction and Fit
The Slope Runner Pack 8L comes in a cave-grey color with yellow almost-padded piping around the edges. Its lightweight construction consists of 1.3-ounce 100% nylon ripstop with a polyurethane coating and durable water repellant (DWR) finish for the pack’s main body–this feels like an uber-light rain-jacket-type material–and 6.1-ounce highly breathable 100% nylon high-flex monofilament mesh for the smooth panels lying next to the body. These materials allow it to weigh in at an advertised 7 ounces/200 grams for 8 liters (488 cubic inches) of storage. Stretch mesh makes up the rest of the storage pockets, which gives the entire pack an airy feel. No matter what layers I wear beneath the pack (usually at least a short-sleeve shirt but often more layers this winter), I’ve never had the slightest chafing anywhere. My treadmill test with the pack over only a sports bra confirmed just how well the body-mapped monofilament mesh—with strategically placed ‘bumps and ridges’ through the back panel—breathes and wicks moisture and how comfortable the pack truly is next to the skin.
The unisex pack comes in four sizes (XS, S, M, L) with significant adjustment options in the chest and torso closures and the two lateral cinches located in both side pockets to further personalize the fit. Patagonia simplified the front closures down to a sleek, thin bungee that allows for seven heights of attachment loops on the right side to which the two opposite-side webbing cords latch onto via a simple plastic hook. It took me a few times to get adept at efficiently hooking the closure, especially with gloves on, but once my preferred loops were used a few times, they stood out a bit and it was simple and easy to close.
Though the Slope Runner 8L is a unisex pack, it feels and rides like a women’s-specific pack to me, which is really exciting because more often than not packs that are advertised to have unisex fits still feel like they are made more for men than both men and women equally. It hugs in all the right places yet doesn’t restrict wide ribcage movements during mountain-running-sized breaths as I climb up high. In fact, the pack doesn’t feel restrictive anywhere even though it rides a bit higher than some packs. I received a size medium which I wear very comfortably with a 34A sports-bra size, but I like my packs to have ample room for cinching due to the harsh four-season climate we have and my tendency toward wearing several layers on top. I could also size down to a small and still have plenty of room for my neck/upper shoulders while getting the pack on and off without strain.
Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L Storage and Hydration Options
Patagonia ensures you have multiple options when it comes to hydration storage. It comes with a two-liter HydraPak reservoir that fits smoothly into a roomy hydration sleeve inside the large back clamshell pocket. It is very easy to get the bladder in and out on the fly. The bladder and top closure create no pressure or discomfort against my back even with a fully loaded pack on steep, grinding climbs. Tunnels route the reservoir tube over either shoulder and into guides that keep the tube on one side or allow for crossover to aid in drinking ease.
Just above the hydration sleeve within the large rear pocket is a small zip-closure pouch perfectly sized for keys (clip included), credit cards and cash, or even a phone. I use this every time I wear my pack to stash my small essentials securely with no bounce on the run. It’s not a waterproof location, so I use a Ziploc baggie for protection. The large rear zip pocket easily carries a bag of Microspikes (with no jingling), a synthetic puffy, extra hat and gloves, headlamp, and/or many food items. Overlying the main portion of the pack is a stretchy mesh pocket for a shell or other thin layers. Whether the large compartment is completely full or nearly empty, the pack rides close to my body and remains bounce free at any pace.
The last feature on the backside of the pack worth mentioning is the ability to lash poles or even an ice axe via the webbing loops with pull tabs which are continuous with other loops near the bottom of the pack. I didn’t use this feature during my runs and tend to prefer my poles on the front of my pack for quick, shoulder-friendly access.
The front of the pack offers added hydration-storage options. Two stretchy sleeves—one on either side—hold 16- to 20-ounce softflasks with ease. I found the tall, more tubular flasks to work significantly better than ones with a shorter and wider profile. The smoothness of the soft stretch mesh means the bottles are easy to remove and replace, while elasticized openings keep the bottles from migrating out even while running downhill. Layered over the bottom half of the water-bottle sleeves are two pockets for fuel options and miscellaneous smaller items. One thing to note: the only time the filled softflasks are mildly challenging to place in the sleeves is if these pockets are full of bulky items such as bars or large packets of chews. If speed is of the essence, I often find it more efficient to take the items out, drop in the bottles, then reload the pockets. This eliminates the need for significant dancing around.
An ingenious zippered phone/electronics pocket lies behind the left flask sleeve flush against the chest. It’s a snug fit for my iPhone 7, but I absolutely love it because my phone is on the front of my body yet not stealing room from anything else I prefer to have in the front of my pack. Once I’m running, I don’t feel it at all and it’s relatively protected from a ground fall by the softflask in front of it. Of note, the pocket isn’t moisture proof.
One more roomy stash pocket runs along each side of the vest-style pack connecting front to back. The stretchy pockets have upward-facing openings that keep contents secure yet allow same-side hand access. I did find this opening took some time to ‘break in.’ The first month I had the pack, I could barely get my thumb and finger into the opening, which made getting gels or chews out nearly impossible without removing the pack. With frequent use, I now have no issues getting small bars, ear bands, or trash in and out while on the run yet everything remains secure. I’m liking these two side pockets more every time I use them.
Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L Overall Impressions
I’m really excited Patagonia is back in the ultrarunning hydration-pack competition. This is a superbly comfortable, all-day, self-supported running pack with enough easy-to-reach storage options to keep racing efficient and aid-station time to a minimum. I love the way the pack silently carries Microspikes, a puffy layer, and extra snacks for the variable icy and snowy conditions our ‘long run’ trails can’t seem to shake with this legitimate winter we are having, and I love how the low-profile, breathable pack remains stable when the pockets are barely filled during those glorious-weather days that peak out and reassure us that spring is indeed coming. Well done, Patagonia!
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Have you run in the Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L yet? If so, what are your overall thoughts on the pack? Or, have you tried its ‘little sibling,’ the Slope Runner Vest 4L?
- Both men and women, how has the pack or vest fit you with its unisex sizing?
- What are your thoughts on the various storage options on the front and back of the pack?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand that produces packs, please share that relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]