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REI Swiftland Hydro 5L - Women's Review

This is a rugged and affordable pack that can stash all of your goodies for shorter mountain excursions
REI Swiftland Hydro 5L - Women's
Photo: REI Co-op
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Price:  $90 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Simple, compact, easily navigated pockets, affordable
Cons:  Poor volume to weight ratio, less comfortable
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Ally Arcuri ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 20, 2021
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58
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 9
  • Comfort - 30% 6
  • Features - 25% 5
  • Hydration System - 15% 7
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 4
  • Pockets - 15% 7

Our Verdict

The REI Swiftland Hydro 5L is a small but mighty trail-specific hydration pack for running. It can house up to 5L of gear in a compact, well-compressed package. The hydration system is easy to use, and the pockets are super accessible. REI offers extended sizing in addition to the classic cinch strap tightening throughout the pack. The Swiftland may not be the most comfortable vest on the market, but if rugged trail days are what you're into, this is a durable choice for hauling your essentials. We recommend it mostly for shorter trail runs and hikes. This vest offers some great features for a surprisingly low price.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
58
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73
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54
Star Rating
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Pros Simple, compact, easily navigated pockets, affordableComfortable, huge storage capacity, great pockets, lots of size options, durableAffordable, ample water storage, user-friendly, durableRugged, affordable, comfortable, intelligent hydration system, solid pole holdersBreathable, water resistant, lightweight
Cons Poor volume to weight ratio, less comfortableExpensiveLess gear storage, less frillsPoor volume to weight ratio, less softLess comfortable, hard to use hydration system
Bottom Line This is a rugged and affordable pack that can stash all of your goodies for shorter mountain excursionsThe most comfortable and spacious hydration pack that we have tested to dateThis is an affordable pack that offers ample storage with enough room for your trail running essentialsAn affordable running partner with a great design, built for the grittiest trails you can findA breathable and weather-resistant hydration pack that offers basic gear-hauling for a reasonable price
Rating Categories REI Swiftland Hydro 5L Nathan Pinnacle 12L Nathan TrailMix 7L... Osprey Dyna 6 - Wom... CamelBak Ultra Pro...
Comfort (30%)
6.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
Features (25%)
5.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
Hydration System (15%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
4.0
Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)
4.0
9.0
7.0
3.0
7.0
Pockets (15%)
7.0
10.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
Specs REI Swiftland Hydro 5L Nathan Pinnacle 12L Nathan TrailMix 7L... Osprey Dyna 6 - Wom... CamelBak Ultra Pro...
Weight (without hydration system) 8.57 oz 7.20 oz 7.13 oz 10.69 oz 5.33 oz
Carrying Capacity (liters) 5L 12L 7L 5L 6L
Included Liquid Capacity (liters) 1.5L 1.6L 2L 1.5L 1L
OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!) 0.58 1.6 0.98 0.46 1.12
External Storage? Yes- back flap, mesh pockets, Yes- large rear kangaroo pocket, front nutrition or soft flask accomodations. Yes- rear daisy chain, pole holder loops, and nutrition pockets. Yes- back flap pouch, front external pockets, zipper pulls are bungee loops, plus a bottom loop that runs horizontally Yes- pole holding loops, underarm mesh pockets, front nutrition pouches
Type of Water Storage 1.5 L reservoir 1.6 liter hourglass, insulated reservoir 2 liter reservoir 1.5 liter reservoir 2 soft 500mL bottles
Pole Holders? No Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

THE Swiftland Hydro is the antithesis of the sleek, soft, and fancy hydration packs that dominate the endurance world right now. Its rugged countenance and ripstop nylon make for supreme durability and toughness on the trails. The front pockets are easy to access, and the back compression system wears like a backpacking backpack. Though it is less comfortable than many others we've tested, this is a great choice for short, wet jaunts, especially if you don't want to spend very much money. The backing is breathable, the hydration system is convenient, and the exterior ripstop nylon is weather-resistant.

Performance Comparison


The less-than-soft underarm straps are no problem when you're...
The less-than-soft underarm straps are no problem when you're layered up.
Photo: Ally Meller

Comfort


We remain impressed by the slosh and bounce-free runs we get to enjoy with the Swiftland Hydro. The weight doesn't get dispersed to surround your body like in many of the vests we tested, but it rides in a compressed, tight bundle snug against your back. The adjustable cinch straps are fairly basic, but they cinch up tightly and lift the bulk of the load to ride wherever you want it to. There are bilateral pieces of boning on the chest panels to keep everything in place while you run. The boning is flexible enough so as not to be uncomfortable. The nylon backing offers great breathability, so you can keep cruising, even when things get steamy.

The cinch straps help fit the pack and also aid in compressing the...
The cinch straps help fit the pack and also aid in compressing the weight of the load to your body.
Photo: Ally Meller

Due to its weather-resistant exterior, the Swiftland is a bit less comfortable than others packs we've tested. The ripstop nylon is sturdy, but this comes at the cost of comfort. The overall shape and sizing options are awesome, but the straps and durable materials can start to bug as the miles add up. We never experienced any true chafing while running in this pack, but the horizontal underarm cinch straps are a bit unforgiving. The breathability of the Swiftland makes it a great choice for hot alpine days, but when worn with only a sports bra or thin tank, the straps can irritate. Overall, we think this pack makes for a great day hiking or short trail running pack. It's definitely made for trails, but maybe not for ultrarunners.

They aren't fancy, but these cinch straps get the job done.
They aren't fancy, but these cinch straps get the job done.
Photo: Ally Meller

Features


The Swiftland Hydro has some unique features that we appreciate. The load lifting straps enhance comfort, and the technically sound hydration system offers leak-proof hydration on the go. Notably, this pack is constructed with Bluesign-approved textiles, a win for workers, the environment, and consumers. However, this pack is missing some of the trail features that we find to be the most important.

Bluesign works to provide safe and sustainable environments for people to work and live in. They follow each textile's journey through the manufacturing process to ensure comfortable working environments and to help reduce the use of chemicals in processing.

Not quite as many bells and whistles as other packs we've tested...
Not quite as many bells and whistles as other packs we've tested, but we like how rugged this pack is anyway.
Photo: Ally Meller

The Swiftland does not offer any trekking pole holding options. If you will be spending a lot of time bagging peaks, it will serve you to have a pack that can accommodate your poles. Most of the hydration packs on the market today also come equipped with reflective stripes and a stealth whistle for safety — the Swiftland has neither, which leaves us disappointed.

A deep forest jaunt in the Swiftland Hydro 5L.
A deep forest jaunt in the Swiftland Hydro 5L.
Photo: Ally Meller

Hydration System


We really like the hydration system that comes with the Swiftland Hydro. The 1.5L bladder doesn't slosh while running, thanks to the drawstring bungee atop the back pocket. This drawstring system keeps the load tight and high. The included HydraPak 1.5L Elite hydration bladder has a self-sealing bite valve to help prevent leakage. Since this pack rides higher than some, the hose can seamlessly be looped back up and attached to the ribbing clip to be right by your mouth. This is one of the better, more easily used designs of this style that we've seen.

The chest panel clip helps keep your hydration hose within easy reach.
The chest panel clip helps keep your hydration hose within easy reach.
Photo: Ally Meller

The long breast pockets offer the option to run with soft bottles in them, but they are not included. Since this pack is engineered to secure the bulk of the load in the back, we felt more comfortable running with a bladder than with bottles. While running with soft flasks in the front pockets, we felt a bit front-heavy in the Swiftland. Ultimately, though, we like having the option to tote more water or customize the hydration situation as needed.

We like to keep other things in our front pockets, but the ones on...
We like to keep other things in our front pockets, but the ones on the Swiftland can hold 500 mL soft bottles.
Photo: Ally Meller

Volume to Weight Ratio


Volume to weight ratio is an important feature of weight-conscious ultrarunners, and unfortunately, the Swiftland Hydro just doesn't hold up in this metric. It weighs in at 8.57 oz when emptied, which is average. However, it can only accommodate 5L of gear, including water. When calculated, this leaves the volume to weight ratio very poor. The less-than-impressive volume to weight ratio is why we recommend the Swiftland for shorter mountainous adventures and day hikes.

This pack doesn't have a great volume to weight ratio, but the...
This pack doesn't have a great volume to weight ratio, but the compression system helps make up for that.
Photo: Ally Meller

Pockets


The pocket structure of the Swiftland Hydro is simple and very functional. We love the extra touches that help us stay organized on the go. The bladder pocket sits close to your back, as usual, and has a large, zippered opening. This design is smart as it allows the full bladder to slip easily into its own pocket without fighting to get it in. The main compartment on the back is big and has a drawstring closure. We love being able to extend the drawstring and access everything in our packs easily. It is such a treat to have a large opening instead of just a fist-sized one. Inside the main back chamber is a wide mesh pocket that is split into two sections. One section even has a cable with a plastic carabiner on the end — talk about a safe place to stash your car key. The exterior of the pack has a panel with clip closures. This makes an excellent stash spot for an outer layer. The cinch straps ensure that whatever you place in the outer pocket stays there. We love how both these cinch straps and the drawstring bungee aid in the overall compression system of the pack. This dual functionality adds to this pack's appeal for sure.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The breast panels are predictable and easy to navigate, no matter how tired or swollen your hands may be. Each side has a long pocket that can hold a soft bottle. We ended up securing most of our quick-draw snacks and, of course, our trusty handkerchief here. Each one has a bungee closure, which offers a bit of extra compression for the front load. Atop each long pocket, there is a small fist-sized pouch with a mild elastic closure. We had no trouble running with our smartphones in these pockets, but these pouches might not offer much security if you have a big phone. Overall, we like the simplicity of the pockets and enjoy stashing our gear in these easy-to-access trail caches.

The lack of back pocket frills allow this pack to cinch tightly...
The lack of back pocket frills allow this pack to cinch tightly against your body.
Photo: Ally Meller

Value


The Swiftland Hydro is one of the most affordable hydration packs on the market today. As always, durability and value go hand in hand. The ripstop nylon and otherwise burly componentry of this pack make it well worth the money. Even though it lacks some fundamental features, its ultra-low price makes it a great option if you're looking for a durable trail sidekick.

Conclusion


The REI Swiftland Hydro 5L is a durable and affordable pack that offers all of the basics. It rides like a well-fitted mini backpack and can hold up to 5L of your running essentials. It isn't the most comfortable or technologically advanced hydration pack on the market, but we enjoy running with it, nonetheless. If you are looking for an affordably priced trail buddy with easy-to-access pockets without any frills, the Swiftland will suit your needs. Because of its burly materials, this isn't our first choice for long-distance runners, but if you are a hiker with short to moderate trail running tendencies, this pack might be all that you need.

All geared up and ready to race in the Pacific Northwest.
All geared up and ready to race in the Pacific Northwest.
Photo: Ally Meller

Ally Arcuri