We recently did a review on women’s specific hydration vests and got great feedback from women who use gender neutral or even men’s specific vests. While we do want to focus on brands that have created women specific gear we also want to provide valuable information to you. This is why we have decided to provide an in-depth review on the top unisex or men’s specific vests [we only reviewed men specific packs when the brand offered no unisex packs].
As always, we love hearing feedback from you so please do not hesitate to pop into our inbox [[email protected]] or comments with what you’re loving and what you’d like to see reviewed!
Each hydration vest below will be discussed based upon the same categories as the women’s specific vests — pockets, pouches and perks.
Salomon S/LAB Sense Ultra 8
The S/LAB Sense Ultra 8 is a lightweight hydration vest providing up to eight liters of storage space with a next-to-skin fit. The vest does an excellent job of fitting snugly without restricting any movement. There are a total of 13 pockets in this minimalist vest which is amazing if you’re someone who wants their gear organized.
This hydration vest is considered a minimal vest without much space to pack gear in the back. The two larger pouches in the back are best for gear — rain layers, wind layers, etc. Since both pouches fit so snugly against your back they’re not great for hard items like food or hardgoods. Luckily the vest comes with a lot of pockets on the straps for your food, phone, battery pack, etc. The Sense Ultra 8 comes with two 500ml soft flasks that fit perfectly into the smaller strap pouches, leaving the larger strap pouch for other trail essentials.
What We Loved: The fit of this vest is amazing, whether the pockets are stuffed or nearly empty it fits great and feels comfortable when you’re on the move.
- Fit + Feel: The Sense Ultra 8 is incredibly comfortable as it does conform to your body with ease. The sizing is accurate, but be sure you’re checking the men’s size chart as it is different for the women’s.
- Adjustability: There are four points of adjustability, all are located on the chest straps [the chest straps adjust up/down and side-to-side]. There is no adjustability at the ribs so be sure to use the size chart when ordering!
- Hydration Options: Designed with space for soft flasks on the front straps. You can fit a hydration bladder into the back, but it is not very comfortable — this pack is meant to be used with soft flasks rather than a bladder. It comes with two 500ml soft flasks.
- Front Pockets: 10 total on the front straps — seven pouches and three zippered pockets. Two pouches and two zipper pockets are located along the rib cage as the strap wraps to the back. Two strap pouches are designed for hydration, two strap pouches are larger with room for gear and two are smaller up on the straps [one zipper, one pouch].
- Back Pockets: Three total — one large pouch the full length of the vest, one lower pouch and one small pouch within the lower pouch.
- Trekking Pole Storage: No specific trekking pole storage.
- What We Would Change: It would be awesome to have a simple trekking pole storage system on the back.
Patagonia Slope Runner Vest 8L
The Patagonia Slope Runner hydration vest is designed to fit like a t-shirt, comfortable and able to move with you as well as breathability throughout. With a large zipper pocket in the back you’ll have plenty of room for extra layers or gear. For those who want to keep things organized there are plenty of pockets along the chest and shoulder straps to stash snacks.
The Slope Runner comes with a two liter HydraPak bladder that fits into its own sleeve against your back without rubbing or poking. However, when you fill the vest it does tend to bounce. Once you stash gear in the larger zipper pocket there isn’t a way to cinch it closer to your back so it does bounce. This can be avoided by not filling it, but that’s easier said than done when you want to toss in an extra layer or two!
What We Loved: The material of the entire vest was very comfortable and did not chafe at all. The vest sits quite high on your shoulders so you don’t need to worry about it riding up or pull your shirts up.
- Fit + Feel: The overall fit is quite comfortable and true to size. There is some adjustability along the ribs, but the material does bunch as you adjust. If you measure accurately for sizing this shouldn’t be a problem. The vest has a lot of space in the back pocket but no way to cinch it down, so if you completely fill it you may notice a bounce.
- Adjustability: There are six points of adjustability between the chest strap and ribs. The chest straps adjust up/down and side-to-side with hooks, but this isn’t an easy up/down adjustment. One side of the chest straps are hitch knotted so they’re adjustable, but it takes time and effort. The rib straps are easily adjusted from inside the side pouches. However, if you adjust too much, the material of the strap bunches.
- Hydration Options: Designed for a hydration bladder with the option to add soft flasks to the front straps. However, this vest is ideal for a hydration bladder, as there it is a challenge to get the HydraPak soft flasks in the front pockets. It comes with a two liter hydration bladder.
- Front Pockets: Seven total on the front straps — six pouches and one zipper. There are two pouches that run along the ribs of the shoulder straps where it is easy to “lose” things as the pouch opening is small and the pouches are long. On the plus side, this makes them great for trash or gloves…things you don’t need to access often!
- Back Pockets: Four total — one large zipper pocket, one small internal zipper pocket, one external pouch and one internal pouch [for hydration bladder].
- Trekking Pole Storage: Yes, on the back.
- What We Would Change: Adding a bungee to cinch down the loaded vest would be a simple change to reduce all bounce by moving the weight of the vest closer to your body.
Orange Mud Endurance Pack
The Orange Mud Endurance Pack is built with a high-on-your-back fit that Orange Mud is known for, and with extra storage space and adjustment options. The vest is made with a breathable, durable mesh that is soft against your skin to avoid any chafing. You’ll find that, even fully loaded, this vest will stay in place on your shoulders. However, you may feel the edges of the hydration bladder closure if you pack the vest too full.
The Endurance Pack is adjustable across the chest and along the rib cage, which is essential as this is a one-size-fits-all vest. You may want to cut down the adjustment straps once you get the vest to fit your body, as they are quite long.
What We Loved: The Endurance Pack has a unique fit that sits higher on your shoulders, which can be a great option if you’ve had issues with chafing or discomfort when vests fit further down your back. The adjustability is also great.
- Fit + Feel: The vest is a one-size-fits-all with a lot of room to adjust it. It is possible to adjust the vest to fit many different body types [we recruited a few friends to verify!]. When you are adjusting the vest remember, it is designed to fit high on your shoulders! Once in place the vest does not bounce and feels comfortable on the go.
- Adjustability: There are six points of adjustment — two straps on the chest and one strap on either side of your rib cage. The chest straps can be adjusted up/down and side-to-side, but are made with elastic, so they do loosen up as you run. The rib cage straps zig-zag and can be secured with a plastic hook [you may be able to feel this hook, but it can be removed!].
- Hydration Options: The vest has space for a two liter HydraPak bladder in the back as well as two 600ml soft flasks on the shoulder straps. It comes with a two liter hydration bladder.
- Front Pockets: Six total on the front straps — two pouches with bungees [large enough for soft flasks], two pouches with velcro closures and two pouches with elastic.
- Back Pockets: Three total — one pouch for the hydration bladder, one pouch for gear and one zipper pocket.
- Trekking Pole Storage: Yes, on the back.
- What We Would Change: There is bungee across the back, which is great for stashing jackets/layers, however, this bungee’s location makes it hard to access the zippered pocket on the back. Changing the chest straps to a less-elastic material would keep them tight when you’re running and reduce the need to re-cinch.
Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 4.0
The Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 4.0 is perfect for that long run or supported adventure. There is room for the essentials without being bulky. With a wide variety of pocket styles and sizes you’ll be able to organize your gear “just so”. There is also a lot of adjustability using the Comfort Cinch 2.0 to secure the vest along your ribs and across your back. The newer version of this cinch system offers more movement, making it more comfortable/less noticeable on your back.
The Ultra Vest 4.0 comes with two 500ml soft flasks for the shoulder straps and has a designated space in the back for a two liter bladder. You’ll find that the hydration options combined with the adjustability of the fit and the variety of storage pockets, make packing options endless on this vest. This makes it a great option for nearly every supported adventure!
What We Loved: This vest is exactly what you’d expect from Ultimate Direction — a lot of pockets, adjustability and a little bit of everything when it comes to storage options. It’s great for someone who likes to have their gear organized or prefer to stash “must have” gear in a vest to be left there without getting in the way [ie: safety gear!].
- Fit + Feel: The vest fits comfortably and the Comfort Cinch 2.0 really does make a difference [speaking from someone who chafed with the original cinch system]. The vest is true to size, even with a male-focused size chart.
- Adjustability: There are six points of adjustment — four across the chest and one on either side of the rib cage. The chest straps are easily adjusted side-to-side with the option to twist-and-slip the straps up/down your chest. The Comfort Cinch 2.0 system allows you to adjust the straps as they wrap around your ribs.
- Hydration Options: This vest is designed with space for two soft flasks and a hydration bladder. It comes with two 500ml soft flasks.
- Front Pockets: Ten total — eight pouches, one zipper pocket and one velcro [and water-resistant!] pouch.
- Back Pockets: Three total — one pouch for a hydration bladder, one large zipper pocket, one small zipper pocket.
- Trekking Pole Storage: Yes, on the chest.
- What We Would Change: The fabric loop that is designed to secure a hydration bladder has a snap that doesn’t fit in all hydration bladders. This poses a problem, as without it, the bladder slips down the pouch to slosh at the bottom.
Black Diamond Distance 8
The Black Diamond Distance 8 pack is more than just your basic running vest. It offers a lot of specialized storage space [think trekking poles, ice axes, etc], but it is also lightweight and compact enough for your weekend long run. At first glance and even first feel it seems like more than you need, but once you’re out on the trail you realize just how awesome all the features are. For example, there are sleeves on each side of the pack for your trekking poles, giving you a secure and bounce-free place to stash your poles when you’re not using them. There are also a handful of pockets on the shoulder straps that allow you to truly organize your gear on the go.
The Distance 8 is designed with a soft, breathable material against your body and a waterproof material covering the main compartment on your back, making it a great option for mountain adventures. It does not come with a bladder or soft flasks, but it does offer space for both.
What We Loved: The main compartment is waterproof, there are designated pole quivers and the pack is fully adjustable. In general, the Distance 8 offers up a new take on a few important aspects of running vests, including the option to add an ice axe to your epic mountain adventure.
- Fit + Feel: Overall, the pack is true to size and comfortable on the go. When adjusted to fit properly it doesn’t move around when you’re on the trail. It does fit between the shoulder blades rather than up high on the shoulders.
- Adjustability: There are six points of adjustability — four across the chest and one on each side of your rib cage. The chest straps can be adjusted, one elastic and one static strap side-to-side. Each chest strap also has a hook that can be moved up/down. The adjustment along the rib cage is an elastic cord that is a bit clumsy to adjust and doesn’t always stay in place.
- Hydration Options: There is a sleeve for a hydration bladder in the back with a pin to loop the bladder in place [works with the HydraPak closures]. There are two pouches on the shoulder straps that hold 500ml soft flasks, secured with bungees. No hydration options are included.
- Front Pockets: Six total — four pouches with bungee closures, two zipper pockets.
- Back Pockets: Five total — one large pocket with bungee cinch, two trekking pole quivers/sleeves, one smaller internal zipper pocket, one internal bladder sleeve.
- Trekking Pole Storage: Yes, on the back in designated quivers [that allow you to easily pull the poles free while you’re on the go…like your wielding lightsabers!].
- What We Would Change: The adjustment system along the rib cage is a bit cumbersome with the thick cord, changing this to something more flexible may be the trick. Also, a way to access the bottom of the pack without digging from the top down would be great, maybe a zipper on the side or bottom would help with this.
Raidlight Revolutiv 12L
The Raidlight Revolutiv 12 comes with a 5L removable pocket, which gives you a lot of options in just one vest. This removable pocket can be worn on your back, your chest or taken off entirely. Having access to a main gear pocket right on your chest can be a game changer when you’re taking on an epic mountain adventure…sometimes it is simply too much mental effort to remove your pack to get that extra layer you know you need. The fact you can take this extra pocket completely off the pack also makes the Revolutiv 12 a smaller, lighter weight vest for the days you don’t need extra gear.
The extra 5L storage pocket is awesome, but it does come with a bit of a learning curve, we’d recommend you practice pulling it over your head from back-to-front/front-to-back early on so it comes easy when you really need it. The Resolutiv 12 comes with two 600ml soft flasks but does not have space for a traditional hydration bladder. It also offers a twist-to-tighten micro adjust system to ensure a secure fit.
What We Loved: The removable pocket is genius as it gives you more on-the-go access to gear and it makes the Resolutiv 12 more versatile [adventures or races!]. The adjustments along the ribs are extremely easy to use as you fine tune the fit of the vest.
- Fit + Feel: The vest fits pretty true to size, but if you’re between sizes you’ll want to size down as the vest fits a bit different with/without the removable pocket. The overall comfort is good and the pack doesn’t move much, even with both of the main pockets full…if you secure them properly [learned via trial and error!].
- Adjustability: There are four points of adjustability — two on the chest and one along each side of your rib cage. The chest straps can only be adjusted side-to-side as they are sewn into the shoulder straps. Along each side of your ribs there is a micro adjustment system that allows you to easily twist-to-tighten.
- Hydration Options: There are two pouches on the shoulder straps for 600ml soft flasks. There is no space for a traditional hydration bladder. Two 600ml soft flasks, with straws, are included.
- Front Pockets: Four total — two pouches for hydration, two zipper pockets.
- Back Pockets: Five total — two large zipper pockets [one is removable], one internal zipper pocket, two external pouches.
- Trekking Pole Storage: Yes, across the chest.
- What We Would Change: As much as we love the removable pocket, it could be easier to move over your head. It can easily get caught in your hair, putting you in an awkward position. A little more elastic strap space or a smaller pocket could help here. It would also be great to see an additional pouch layered over the soft flask pouches to give you more chest storage if you opt to remove the extra storage pocket.
Camelbak Ultra 10
The Camelbak Ultra 10 offers a lot of storage space in a single pack. You’ll also find it to be very comfortable with a lot of adjustability. The material against your back is soft and breathable while the material that creates the main compartment is water resistant. There are multiple pockets and pouches on the back that will give you plenty of space to stash and organize your gear.
This is a one-size-fits-all vest so it is easy to customize the fit to your body. However, this may result in a lot of excess strap once the vest is properly fit to your body, but nothing a scissors and match can’t fix [cut the straps down and melt the edges to stop unravelling]. Overall, this is a solid pack for long trail runs or self-supported adventures as you will not run out of space and the pack stays in place once you start moving.
What We Loved: There is so much space for organization of gear. This is great for self-supported adventures where you need a lot of gear and don’t want to dig through everything for that one item. The separate pocket for the hydration bladder is also great as it will keep your gear dry if you happen to get a leak [spoken from experience…].
- Fit + Feel: As a one-size-fits-all vest the fit is as expected…very adjustable. Once adjusted the vest doesn’t move much [unless you overfill the main compartment with light clothing, then it does bounce a bit]. The pockets for the soft flasks are too low to drink from the flasks without removing them, which can be annoying when you’re on the move.
- Adjustability: There are eight points of adjustability — four across the chest and two on either side of your rib cage. The chest straps can be adjusted side-to-side and up/down. There are two straps on each side of your ribs that can be individually adjusted.
- Hydration Options: There is a separate zipper pocket that is designed for a two liter hydration bladder as well as two pouches on the shoulder straps for soft flasks that are secured with bungees. Two 500ml soft flasks are included.
- Front Pockets: Seven total — two pouches for hydration secured with bungees, one medium pouch, three small pouches with flap closures and one zipper pocket.
- Back Pockets: Nine total — one main zipper pocket, one internal zipper pocket, two internal pouches, one external zipper pocket, three external pouches, one zipper hydration bladder pocket.
- Trekking Pole Storage: Yes, on the back.
- What We Would Change: It would be great to have a bungee across the outside of the main storage compartment to help cinch the weight of the pack closer to your back. This isn’t a huge issue, but it is noticeable when you have a few layers to stash when transitioning through a long run that started on a chilly morning. There is some bounce and slosh with the pouches for the soft flasks on the shoulder straps as these pouches are much wider than the Camelbak soft flasks. A narrower pouch would solve this problem.
Arc’teryx Norvan 7
The Arc’teryx Norvan 7 is a lightweight and versatile hydration vest with a variety of storage pockets. You’ll be able to organize your gear for easy access on the move with this vest. It also offers a lot of adjustability — both in how it fits to your body and how it holds your gear. With adjustable straps across your chest and around your ribs you’ll be able to find the perfect fit. There is a bungee strap with a six point of adjustment on the back to keep your gear in place.
This vest also offers a couple options for hydration — a bladder in the main compartment or two soft flasks on the shoulder straps. There are also two nearly hidden, secure zipper pockets on the shoulder straps to stash those essentials you need, but don’t want to lose [ie: car keys and credit card!]. Overall, the Norvan 7 has created a few new ways to take on the challenges of a hydration vest [including a designated water resistant pouch!] and has done a solid job of meeting those needs head on.
What We Loved: The vest has a sleek look and feel to it as well as a variety of pockets to keep your gear organized. It also has a lot of adjustability, both in how it fits your body and how it holds your gear.
- Fit + Feel: The vest fits true to size, which is good, because the adjustments along your rib cage don’t have a lot of room to move in either direction. The breathable material that fits along your back and shoulders is a bit rough. It hasn’t caused any chafing problems, but it isn’t as soft as the material on other packs. When packed the vest stays in place, thanks to the bungee to secure everything closer to your body.
- Adjustability: There are six points of adjustability — four across the chest and one along each side of the ribs. The two chest straps [only one is shown in our pictures] can be moved up/down or side-to-side. You can adjust the sides of the pack along each side of your rib cage with a strap inside one of the pouches — it isn’t easy to do, but ideally you don’t need to adjust this often.
- Hydration Options: There is room for a hydration bladder in the main compartment and two pouches on the shoulder straps for soft flasks [although, you cannot secure the soft flasks, so they move around a lot more than is ideal]. A two liter hydration bladder is included.
- Front Pockets: Six total — two hydration flask pouches, two smaller pouches, two zipper pockets.
- Back Pockets: Six total — one main pouch, one internal zipper pocket, one water resistant pouch and two external pouches.
- Trekking Pole Storage: Yes, on the back.
- What We Would Change: The water resistant pouch inside the main compartment is great, in theory. When actually in use it gets in the way, often trapping other gear in the vest and dumping gear on the ground when you pull it out. A different design or closure system is essential to make this pouch truly useful. The bungees across the back are also great when properly adjusted, but they quickly get in the way if you need to get in/out of the main compartment.