REI Co-op Swiftland 5 Review
Cons: Lower quality bladder, minor pain points over longer distances
Manufacturer: REI Co-Op
Compare to Similar Products
REI Co-op Swiftland 5
$99.95 at REI
$92.79 at Amazon
|$120 List||$90 List|
$62.05 at Amazon
$61.71 at Amazon
|Pros||Ample storage, simple and successful design, approachable price||Comfortable, kangaroo pocket, pole carry||Lightweight, easily accessible pockets, great fit||Highly visible, simple, affordable||Lightweight, comfortable, breathable, affordable|
|Cons||Lower quality bladder, minor pain points over longer distances||Hydration system isn't ideal, soft flask positioning is challenging||Soft flasks bounce around, no pole carry||Uncomfortable, poor suspension||Lack of features, lack of storage|
|Bottom Line||An entry-level hydration pack for trail running with ample storage at a great price||Close to perfect pockets, fit, and adjustability, but this pack still misses the mark in regards to the hydration system||There's room for layers, ample food, water, your phone, and then some in this featherweight vest||For runners who value visibility, this hydration vest is a great value||A comfortable and effective entry-level running pack at a reasonable price but that lacks in some key areas|
|Rating Categories||REI Co-op Swiftland 5||CamelBak Ultra Pro||Raidlight Revolutiv...||Ultimate Direction...||CamelBak Circuit|
|Hydration System (15%)|
|Volume to Weight Ratio (15%)|
|Specs||REI Co-op Swiftland 5||CamelBak Ultra Pro||Raidlight Revolutiv...||Ultimate Direction...||CamelBak Circuit|
|Weight (with included hydration vessels)||13.9 oz||8.7 oz||6.6 oz||8.5 oz||11.8 oz|
|Included Liquid Capacity||1.5L||1L||2L||2.6L||1.5L|
|OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!)||0.36||0.69||0.45||0.64||0.30|
|External Storage?||Yes, bungees||Yes, large rear pocket||Not included||Yes, back pouch pocket||Not included|
|Type of Water Storage||1.5L resevoir||Two 500mL bottles||Two 600mL soft flasks||Two 300mL hard bottles||1.5L reservoir|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Switftland 5 offers a comfortable ride, more storage, and a competitive entry-level price. Simplicity is at the root of this pack's success, with a single zippered back pocket that accesses the hydration bladder and primary storage, external storage, and adequate adjustments for a smooth suspension.
Most hydration packs offer an adjustment across the chest and one on each side of the ribcage. In addition to these standards, the Swiftland 5 has two elastic cinch straps that pull straight down over each collar bone. These straps are dual-purpose, securing the pack's contents to prevent any bounce and tightening the external storage pouch.
Vertical rails along the trim of each shoulder strap enable the sternum buckles to move up and down. We could handily tweak the fit of the pack mid-stride as we drank water and decreased the volume and weight of the bladder. All tightening straps on this pack are intuitive and don't require you to crane your elbow or neck. The elastic cords over the shoulder pull straight down, and the straps along the flank pull towards the front, both natural movements.
Breathable, structured mesh lends form and comfort throughout the vest, and wider than normal shoulder straps add to the form-fit feel that carries weight nicely. Pack shapes vary significantly, from longer back designs that conform to the torso and around the ribcage to shorter stout packs that position above the taper of the ribcage. The Swiftland 5 falls into the latter group, a design that reflects cheaper material choices and targets a more versatile fit than a performance fit. Hydration packs for runners that sit higher up on the back are more prone to bouncing, which we could feel with this pack compared to some of the stretchier, wrap-fit vests.
Features are only as great as they are intuitive — simplicity works. Both top clasps on the sternum strap of the Swiftland 5 have channels for convenient hose management, positioning the bite valve a head tilt away from drinking. Both top pockets on the shoulder straps have cinch closures, keeping a phone secure or soft flasks snug.
We appreciate the long zipper across the top of the back, allowing for full access to the hydration bladder and storage and making refilling a breeze. An internal divider separates the hydration bladder from the primary gear storage area. An external pocket can fit extra layers and accommodate collapsable trekking poles if you have them. The closure on the rear exterior storage pocket may be the fastest access system we tested, and it doubles as a fit system, helping keep all of the contents in place.
Ample reflective stripes on the shoulder straps, webbing tabs, and a quick access external storage pocket on the back round out this pack's feature set. There is a key clip to secure valuables and two mesh pockets within the larger rear zippered pocket in the back. Notably missing is a whistle, but add it to your essential gear, and you're good to go.
A 1.5L Hydrapak reservoir is included with this pack, though soft flasks also work. Our preference for this little pack stems from its intuitive functions and simple design. That said, we were remiss to find that the included Hydrapak doesn't have an easy-release valve where the hose connects to the bladder. While we can't imagine this feature adds much in the way of expenses, it makes refilling a bladder and hose management all the easier.
As mentioned above, a zipper opening up across the top of the pack makes for easy access to the hydration compartment. Removing a hydration bladder from a small pouch or pocket with a tired mind and cold hands can be a struggle. This system starts on the pack's left side and continues across the top, coming to a close with a small opening for the hose over the right shoulder. While this restricts the ability to route the hydration hose along the left shoulder, we don't imagine that preference will polarize users.
A hose clip is built into the top of the sternum strap and clasp, directing the hydration hose down before it u-turns back up to park right in the desired spot. Lastly, a twist-lock bite valve prevents the hydration hose from leaking. Some vests incorporate bladder systems effectively by providing additional storage on the back of the pack and opening up the chest pockets for more gear and heavier items to counter the weight of the bladder. The Swiftland 5 succeeds at this, though as the hydration bladder empties throughout a run, the pack starts to creep up the back more.
Volume to Weight Ratio
This category intentionally favors packs that can carry more, as the reasoning for running with a hydration pack in the first place is to bring enough food, water, and the essential gear to go farther. Compared with larger volume packs oriented toward experienced ultramarathon runners, the Swiftland 5 scores poorly, but it competes alongside other introductory hydration packs that we've tested.
Even as an introductory running vest, the Swiftland 5 doesn't limit you to small afternoon outings. With more accessible volume in the front pockets, the large main compartment, and the exterior storage, we were able to fit sunglasses, sunscreen, iPhone, Garmin inReach, 1,000 calories, a spare 500mL soft flask, and our baseline race kit comprised of: tights, a space blanket, headlamp, medical tape, gloves, waterproof gloves, a buff, winter hat, waterproof pants, and waterproof jacket.
On the flip side, if you are just looking for a lower-risk 5-mile jaunt, the straps and pack tighten down in a low profile close to the back, eliminating most bounce or jostling. When we used it for these shorter, quick hit runs, we preferred using soft flasks instead of the bladder, but that is mainly because we have forty soft flasks at our disposal from years of testing.
Compared to the previous version of this pack (the Swiftland Hydro), the Swiftland 5 really stands out by having better and more pockets, all with little added weight or a significant change in comfort. In the most recent update, the large back pocket was incorporated into the zippered hydration sleeve adding over 1 liter of secure zippered storage space.
When we loaded the rear pocket with all of our gear and a full bladder for a big day out, we felt some pressure on the upper, as the shorter pack shape doesn't distribute weight as effectively. However, for most of our runs, we weren't carrying an additional outfit, and with the baseline race kit, we didn't have this issue.
Each shoulder strap features two pockets, one that works with soft flasks and can store an iPhone and a lower pocket that can hold gloves or snacks. The lower small pocket works best when the upper pocket is stuffed pretty full. In the recent redesign, the lower shoulder pockets were made slightly taller, but they still don't have a cinch strap, so a single gel packet easily falls out on more dynamic trails.
Should You Buy the REI Swiftland 5?
The Swiftland 5 excels at simplicity and can carry enough gear for a significant outing. If you are looking for a hydration pack for running your first 50K that also works well for mountain biking and as a light day pack to bring on bigger camping adventures, look no further. We are confident that this vest will be a great choice for runners looking for an affordable hydration pack with extensive fit adjustments. Months or years down the line, we also know that it will stand up to longer 50-mile ultras. We recommend getting a couple of soft flasks if you don't own any, as these will add versatility and extend the range of the pack. The Swiftland 5 will serve a range of beginners to experienced runners and hikers alike.
What Other Running Hydration Packs Should You Consider?
Utility and function are key to gear that goes into the backcountry, and the REI Swiftland 5 performs with its simple, user-friendly design. We admire that REI sourced materials that carry the Bluesign approval, something we encourage all users to look into when buying products. Paired with its affordability, this pack keeps the cost of running low and the potential for adventure high. Other packs that come close to this criteria include the CamelBak Circuit and Nathan VaporAir 2.0, but with each of these options, you either sacrifice storage or price for a comparable vest.
— Jeff Colt
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