What we really liked about the Patagonia Fore Runner Vest is how well it carries all sorts of extra clothing. With its large top-loading storage compartment as well as its stretchy stuff pouch on the back, this hydration pack can easily hold more than any other pack we tested. However, it also features the worst hydration system in our review, which we found to be a considerable annoyance when out running. This pack doesn't feel nearly as refined as the Nathan Vapor Air 2L, our Top Pick for Bladder Hydration Systems.
This Patagonia pack is the best option for holding tons of clothing, like on much colder than anticipated runs high in the mountains, where lots of extra layers are welcome.
For how much this pack can carry, it is certainly comfortable. Its exposed and adjustable side straps are nice for fine-tuning the fit, but tend to rub and chafe more than the stretchy nylon used by the Salomon ADV Skin 12 Set. We also wish it had shoulder adjustment straps to help stabilize the load.
For having such a large carrying capacity, this pack rides well and is comfortable. Beginning the long run on the Sidewinder Trail of Western Colorado.
Features & Design
The most laudable and lovable feature of this pack is its top-loading storage compartment that functions like a daypack, but carried like a running vest. We loved how easy it was to carry lots of extra clothing in this pack. This pack comes with minimal features, but does have an emergency whistle and a key stow pocket. We wish it had some handy items like pole holders.
By far our biggest complaint with the Fore Runner Vest is the hydration system. Like the Nathan Vapor Air, it uses a Hydrapak bladder, which we like. This bladder folds over at the top and is closed by a slide-on sleeve that pinches the opening closed. However, in our experience the hose is much too long and the single clip on the shoulder strap to hold the hose and nozzle while running is bafflingly placed where it is almost unusable. The end result is that you have a whole lot of hose flapping all over the place while you are running, something all of the other packs were easily able to address. Also, while Patagonia claims the front pockets are stretchy and big enough to hold bottles or flasks, this is simply not the case.
Our biggest issue with this pack was the bladder hose setup. Here are two options, neither of which we liked. On the left, loop the hose under the arm, and the attachment clips seem to work more effectively, but you get tangled up when taking the pack off and putting it on. The other option on the right is even worse: hose goes over the shoulder, but then has nowhere to attach and flaps all about.
The Hydrapak bladder in this pack stays upright by clipping onto this plastic attachment point.
10 out of 10! This hydration pack holds the most stuff in the review and carries it comfortably.
Showing the opening and inside of the large top-loading pouch on the Fore Runner Vest. You can see the bladder and key pocket inside. This large carrier closes with a simple drawstring.
We loved the external stuff pouch on this pack, which is a nice addition to its already large storage capacity.
The pocket configuration on this pack provides the least amount of front accessed storage room in our review. There are no side pockets, and all of the front pockets are relatively small. Two breast pockets with drawstrings, one zippered pocket that doesn't fit our iPhone 5, one small accessory pocket, and one small Velcro pocket.
This pack has relatively few pockets and they are all quite small, as you can see. We like more options and bigger pockets.
At 15.8 ounces, this was the heaviest pack in the bunch. The Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 3.0 was the most lightweight at 13.3 oz.
This pack is a good option for long runs where you are guaranteed to need lots of extra clothes. It would also make a great hiking pack; however, if that's what you're seeking, we recommend also taking a look at our review of the best day backpacks and the best hydration packs.
For $130, you are getting a unique pack that is backed by Patagonia's Ironclad guarantee. If it suits your needs, then it may be a good value, but we recommend looking at other hiking-specific options before making your choice.
The Patagonia Fore Runner Vest 10L has the unique feature of a top-loading storage compartment that can hold much more than any of the other packs we tested for this review. Some people will really crave this feature, but if you are looking for an ultra-ready running vest, this is not the one that we would recommend purchasing.