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REI Co-op Swiftland 5 Review

An entry-level hydration pack for trail running with ample storage at a great price
rei co-op swiftland 5 hydration pack for running review
Credit: REI Co-op
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $100 List | $99.95 at REI
Pros:  Ample storage, simple and successful design, approachable price
Cons:  Lower quality bladder, minor pain points over longer distances
Manufacturer:   REI Co-Op
By Jeff Colt ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 31, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
59
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 14
  • Comfort - 30% 6.0
  • Features - 25% 6.0
  • Hydration System - 15% 6.0
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 4.0
  • Pockets - 15% 7.0

Our Verdict

After a variety of outings, presenting the REI Swiftland 5 with an award was an easy decision. With three different sizes, all of which offer extensive fit adjustment, choosing the right size should be simple. Simplicity continues throughout the pack design, with user-friendly features and enough space to bring that extra layer or that paperback novel depending on your plans. This pack should be the clear choice for runners looking to push themselves a bit farther on the trail, and since it can carry a decent load, it has the added value of versatility too.

Compare to Similar Products

 
rei co-op swiftland 5 hydration pack for running review
Awards Best Buy Award     
Price $100 List
$99.95 at REI
$80.82 at Amazon$120 List$90 List
$89.95 at Amazon
$66.30 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Ample storage, simple and successful design, approachable priceComfortable, kangaroo pocket, pole carryLightweight, easily accessible pockets, great fitHighly visible, simple, affordableLightweight, comfortable, breathable, affordable
Cons Lower quality bladder, minor pain points over longer distancesHydration system isn't ideal, soft flask positioning is challengingSoft flasks bounce around, no pole carryUncomfortable, poor suspensionLack of features, lack of storage
Bottom Line An entry-level hydration pack for trail running with ample storage at a great priceClose to perfect pockets, fit, and adjustability, but this pack still misses the mark in regards to the hydration systemThere's room for layers, ample food, water, your phone, and then some in this featherweight vestFor runners who value visibility, this hydration vest is a great valueA 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
Comfort (30%)
6.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
6.0
Features (25%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
4.0
Hydration System (15%)
6.0
6.0
6.0
5.0
5.0
Volume to Weight Ratio (15%)
4.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
4.0
Pockets (15%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
5.0
6.0
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
Carrying Capacity 5L 6L 3L 5.4L 3.5L
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
Pole Holders? No Yes No No No

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.

Performance Comparison


rei co-op swiftland 5 hydration pack for running review - from hikes to long runs through rolling hills, this pack is a great...
From hikes to long runs through rolling hills, this pack is a great companion.
Credit: Jeff Colt

Comfort


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.

rei co-op swiftland 5 hydration pack for running review - while the materials used on the shoulder straps are stiff...
While the materials used on the shoulder straps are stiff, adjustments and fit are easy.
Credit: Jeff Colt

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.

rei co-op swiftland 5 hydration pack for running review - webbing straps along the flanks provide effective tightening to...
Webbing straps along the flanks provide effective tightening to secure more gear.
Credit: Jeff Colt

Features


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.

rei co-op swiftland 5 hydration pack for running review - this two for one strap both helps with the pack suspension and...
This two for one strap both helps with the pack suspension and tightens the rear external storage pouch!
Credit: Jeff Colt

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.

Hydration System


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.

rei co-op swiftland 5 hydration pack for running review - the two hose clips on the sternum straps position the bite valve in...
The two hose clips on the sternum straps position the bite valve in just the right spot for hands free running while hydrating.
Credit: Jeff Colt

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.

rei co-op swiftland 5 hydration pack for running review - we love lockable bite valves as they prevent leaking.
We love lockable bite valves as they prevent leaking.
Credit: Jeff Colt

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.

rei co-op swiftland 5 hydration pack for running review - in our opinion, the money saved is worth a couple extra ounces with...
In our opinion, the money saved is worth a couple extra ounces with this pack.
Credit: Jeff Colt

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.

rei co-op swiftland 5 hydration pack for running review - yes this vest is heavier, but it carries gear and food really well...
Yes this vest is heavier, but it carries gear and food really well, in fact, the fuller the pockets, the more secure the contents!
Credit: Jeff Colt

Pockets


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.

rei co-op swiftland 5 hydration pack for running review - a single zipper opens up access to the hydration bladder and the...
A single zipper opens up access to the hydration bladder and the primary storage along the back of the Swiftland.
Credit: Jeff Colt

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.

rei co-op swiftland 5 hydration pack for running review - with breathable mesh, a durable exterior, and multiple fit...
With breathable mesh, a durable exterior, and multiple fit solutions, this vest is as ready as you are for the next adventure.
Credit: Jeff Colt

Jeff Colt
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