Just a bit of context for this review – I use water packs when running any distance over 10 miles – I drink a lot of water and I find it is the easiest way to carry everything I need. There are other alternatives such as belts, shops, water fountains etc but I prefer the packs. It is worth noting that if you are a speed freak, every litre you carry is an extra kg of weight so some of you guys may prefer to run light. If you are looking at running packs then I’d really recommend that you try them on first – I’ve had quite a few over the years and some are significantly better than others! Also, make sure you move around in them as some chafe, particularly on the neck.
This review gives you an idea of a couple of different types of packs that serve different purposes. I tested the Osprey Duro 15 which is the biggest pack Osprey do and carries over 3 litres of fluids (Charlotte will be reviewing one of the smaller light weight versions in another blog later.) I also tested the Saloman S Lab Ultra Sense Vest which carries 1 litre of water so is more suited to shorter (long) distances. The Osprey is about £15 more expensive because of the size but both come in about £100-£120 depending on where you buy from.
Firstly, the Saloman S Lab Ultra Vest – I’ve used it for about 6 months now and it’s a great vest. It’s lightweight, doesn’t move around and you barely know it’s there. However, I do have a big issue with the hydration system – the soft flasks that hold the water are a bit flimsy and can get holes (I’ve already replaced one for £18) and the pockets that hold them are too low. Essentially what happens if you run too fast is that the flasks bounce around and sometimes pop out. This could’ve been avoided with bigger pockets and means that you constantly have to push the flasks down into the pockets mid-run to stop them falling out. Also, the flasks don’t have straws so you have to lean your mouth to the pack (or vice versa) to take a drink – it’s not the end of the world but a little irritating. The pack carries a litre of water which for me is only going to get me to around 20 miles range. There are loads of pockets for bits and pieces and the pack fits effortlessly to your shape – they claim you can wear it without a t shirt and I reckon you probably could (I haven’t dared try yet and no one really wants to see that!!) The pack does come up a little short on me given my height (I’m 6’4) but it’ll be fine for most people. The fastenings are minimalist and durable making it one of the most ergonomic packs I’ve seen. It really annoys me that they couldn’t do a better job on the water systems – add long straws and deeper pockets and this for me would be a perfect pack for up to 20 miles.
The Verdict: 4/5
Because of the size of the Saloman S Lab ultra-vest, I see it as a ‘race vest’ but not really a ‘training vest.’ For anything less than 20 miles it is brilliant (if you can get over the hydration system). In a race, the pack will be fine as you’ll have aid stations before you ever run out of fluids but I suspect you may need a refill if you’re doing over 20-mile training runs.
The Osprey Duro 15 is a very different pack – it’s more of an adventure pack than a race pack and you could easily go out for a day with this pack and carry everything you need. There are pockets galore with room for you to pack waterproofs, maps, food etc. It’s surprisingly lightweight and very adaptable. The hydration system is where the Osprey excels – two water bottles on the front which are soft flask with long straws so you don’t have to dip your head to the bottles. The bottles don’t move – they have double pockets and a bungee tie which keeps them nice and secure. There is also a bladder that sits on your back and can take a couple of litres of water. At first, I found it confusing to work out how to fill the bladder (the Osprey website has some helpful tutorials if you get stuck) but once I figured it out I was blown away – it’s so simple! The connectors are all simple clicks and the filling mechanism is well thought through – no more drenching the whole pack whilst trying to fill it up. The Osprey is definitely a big pack and a bit rougher to run with than the Saloman – it definitely sways a bit more when you are running, especially when you are carrying a bigger load. You also know it’s there and the strap across the stomach could perhaps become a little uncomfortable if you are a runner that gets a bloated stomach. The fastenings all seem pretty robust and the waist belt gives easy access to phone etc on the move. My main gripe is that the pack was again too short for with the waist belt across my belly button rather than my waist (even with the large size pack.) I’m sure it will be fine for normal people and perhaps it is just my fault for being freakishly tall!
The Verdict: 4.5/5
If you’re an adventurer then this is a great pack – well designed, lightweight and room for everything you could possibly need. The hydration system on this pack is a work of art! This is a pack built for distance not speed
I’m lucky enough to have both packs so I will use them as follows:
Under 10-mile run: Water Belt
10 to 20-mile run: Saloman S Lab Sense Ultra Vest
20 miles plus: Osprey Duro 15
If I had to pick only one to buy then it would be the Osprey Duro 15 as it covers everything and you can adapt it to shorter runs by taking the bladder or the flasks out.