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Hands-on Gear Review
Patagonia Fore Runner Vest 10L Review
Cons: Poor bladder hydration system, not enough pockets
Bottom line: This backpack-style vest has a huge storage capacity but a poorly designed hydration system.
The Patagonia Fore Runner Vest 10L is the most backpack-like hydration pack for running that we tested, which makes it appealing for those who like to carry a lot of stuff. It is also comfortable and adjustable. However, it has the fewest amount of accessible pockets of any pack we tested, ensuring that you will have to take the pack off if you want to gain access to the things you need. Additionally, its bladder and hose hydration system is poorly designed compared to the competition. This pack is probably a better fit for those who enjoy really long hikes rather than ultra racers.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
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.
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.
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.
10 out of 10! This hydration pack holds the most stuff in the review and carries it comfortably.
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.
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.
— Andy Wellman
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