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Trail tested: three packs for your next adventure

We did the dirty work, and tested three trail running hydration packs, so you don't have to

With so many trail running packs on the market, it’s almost a mystery to determine what works and what doesn’t. Choosing the right trail running hydration pack is a matter of personal preference. Like any gear, it depends on where you’re going, what you need to bring, comfort, and whether you’re on the trails to look good. We tested three packs through various adventures in the mountains and on the trails. We did the dirty work, so you don’t have to.

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Photo: Salvador Miranda

1. Nathan Vapor Howe 2.0 12L Women’s Race Vest

There is nothing gender neutral about the aesthetics of this pack. Its bright purple reflective and lightweight fabric bordered with 360 degree reflectors fits snug and helps keep adventurers safe. Designed after professional endurance trail runner Stephanie Howe, the Nathan Vapor Howe is intended to be ready for a long race or gnarly adventure with lots of flexible large pockets and hidden zippers to fit all of the essentials.

The pack is generally comfortable with sliding chest clasps, and breaths well in a variety of weather conditions. Although the pack claims to fit up to 12L of storage, it tends to ride up high on the back when full with bladder and clothes. We recommend wearing a size larger than anticipated, and running trails that do not require poles, as fastening them to the pack was a challenge.

Fast facts

Storage: 12L, feels like 10L with multiple practical pockets and zippers for essentials.
Hydration: 1.6L insulated bladder to keep liquids cold. Front pockets for optional bottles or flasks.
Fit: Flexible, breathable, and soft
Price: $249

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Photo: Will McKechnie

2. Osprey Dyna 1.5

The Osprey Dyna 1.5 is definitely durable with ample storage for long days on the trails. It also can store poles easily on the outside. This pack would be ideal for someone keen to explore the trails and mountains, as it could be used for a variety of activities and not just trail running. The insulated hydration pouch keeps liquids cool in warm weather. If you’re looking for light and breathable fabric, it won’t be your best bet. The pack can feel a bit bulky in comparison to more technical trail running brands.

Fast facts

Storage: approximately 10L. Not listed on product information, but lots of room for storage.
Hydration: 1.6L insulated bladder to keep liquids cold. Front pockets for optional bottles.
Fit: Stiff, not breathable, somewhat bulky
Price: $120

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3. Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L

This pack is aesthetically pleasing, durable, seamless, and comfortable. Without even thinking, this pack was my go to gear for trail adventures last summer. I felt confident it would last for many miles in the front or backcountry. Attracted to the neutral, minimal, and unisex look, the pack does what it intends to do. I also liked to pretend I was Patagonia sponsored runner Clare Gallagher, 2019 Western States winner.

The 8L of storage felt more like 12L. As well, the hydration pocket fits a 2L bladder, for heavy sweaters and/or thirst junkies. The construction was a helpful mix of zippers and pockets, which meant there was always a place for every essential. Yet, it remained comfortable with its flexible fabric and next to skin feel. The pack is made with a durable water repellent fabric finish, which repels rain or sweat, and decreases drying time. The only recommendation we have is to make the front straps more efficient for fastening and unhooking.

Fast facts

Storage: 8L with multiple low profile flexible pockets for essentials.
Hydration: 2L insulated bladder to keep liquids cold. Front pockets for optional bottles.
Fit: Flexible, breathable, and soft, using hydrophobic mono-mesh panel for airflow for sweaty backs.
Price: $220

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