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Staying Local/Gear Review

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  • Staying Local/Gear Review

    Staying local/gear review.

    In the spirit of staying local I took the new REI Swiftland Hydro Running Hydration Vest out for a neighborhood stroll last night. I was really excited to give this piece of gear a go because I’m a huge fan of running vests but most of them come with a single fatal flaw: sizing. I’ve demoed similar gear from ArcTeryx, Osprey, Ultraspire, Nathan, and Ultimate direction so far, and other than one vest from Nathan, none of them properly fit anyone with anything larger than a 46” chest, and that’s a literal stretch when the vest is completely empty. Full loaded, fugetaboutit. The Swiftland Hydro extends all the way up to 53” which means that somebody my size could in theory still use comfortably it with all my winter layers on and still have room for more, not that I’d want to.

    The vest/pack itself is a little on the minimalist side compared to similar models from competitors, but with an equally minimalist $90 price tag, its limited features are more than manageable. Right off the bat I was impressed with its storage options. It’s marketed as a 5L pack but that appears to only apply to the main storage compartment. The adjustable stretch mesh back panel, bladder compartment, and four chest pockets more than double the suggested cargo area if packed correctly. I was able to fill the 1.5L bladder, add two 1-pint flask bottles up front, and pack my first aid kit, a spare wind shell, gloves, map, compass, some protein bars, my filter, and SOL shelter with room to spare and without having to stuff anything into the rear external stretch mesh pocket. Nothing was used, other than a sip of water, but it seemed like appropriate training weight.

    Right away I was impressed with the simplicity of the draw string main compartment, and how easily it tucked into itself to keep last night’s snow/sleet from making its way inside. A few tugs on webbing here and there and it was comfortable, secure, and relatively bounce-free. I say relatively because I’ve yet to encounter any vest or pack that won’t slip on the Patagonia Houdini’s surface.

    Now off to the races. My community is unique in that instead of sidewalks it contains over 20 miles of paved singletrack style trails that primarily run perpendicular to the roads, constantly meandering in and out of woods, around small lakes, through ravines, and over small hills. These trails also connect to our local state park/wildlife mgmt. area where they become traditional narrow heard paths. Between the two connecting spaces there’s about 10,000 acres to play with. I inserted one ear bud and hit play on the recent NPT episode of the 46 of 46 podcast and set off at a slow and comfortable pace; about a 10 minute mile. About a mile and a half into my jog the weather showed up and reminded me that its still spring time in Upstate NY and that I was wise to go with the ever-fashionable (not really) shorts-over-compression-leggings ensemble. The vest pack was still riding comfortably and since I had remembered to remove the air from the bladder there was no audible sloshing around.

    After about a 3-mile lazy loop I diverted away from turning back onto my street and hit the state trails. These trails don’t get apocalyptically muddy like trails in the northern ADK are known for being, but the evening’s earlier snow and sleet left the dirt surface greasy and slick. I slowed down from my already slow jog to an even slower “airborne shuffle.” Shorter strides were needed to remain vertical here. At this point I began wondering if maybe I should have packed my poles and then it dawn on me, this vest doesn’t come equipped with designated pole loops. This is OK with me since I prefer to carry them most of the time anyway, even if they’re collapsed and not in use. It keeps me from being too lazy to detach them when I should be using them, plus I like using their pendulum effect as a metronome to keep me on pace. It’s just good to note that without some finagling there’s nowhere to securely store your poles.

    It was also nearly pitch black outside at this point so I reached up and flicked on my headlamp and a surge of familiarity hit me. Having completed a full round of the 46 by sunset, navigating by headlamp through an eerie fog is – no pun intended – my time to shine. Unlike the trail markers throughout much of the Northern ADK, these trail markers do not reflect when light hits them. In fact, all they are is some small (maybe 3” diameter), illegal blotches that somebody spray painted onto the trees every 75 feet or so a few years back. Red going west, green going east. A little over two miles later I was stepping out on to the now closed and all but abandoned road that used to connect my neighborhood with the town on the other side of the public land. This last mile along the overgrown road reminds me of something out of the Fallout series (if you know, you know), except there isn’t trash and debris everywhere. I slowed to a brisk walk and flipped from white light to red light so I could see a little further into the darkness. A few deer were out; they didn’t pay me any mind. I came across a skunk who certainly did take note of me and forced me to bushwhack around him. Being sprayed point blank once was enough. Lesson learned.

    Rounding my last corner and clocking 6.1 miles on my Fenix I fiddled around with the vest some more. I like it. It’s a keeper. It seems a little small for the high peaks, but IMO its fine for shorter hikes and trail runs during the fair weather season. It’ll see some high peak summits this year.

    REI Swiftland Hydro Running Hydration Vest

    $90, ~9 oz dry weight, w/o bladder.

    My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the west.

  • #2
    If you wanted to do a real review you would have jumped on the skunk and got sprayed so you could see how washable the vest is. Missed opportunity!

    In addition fanny packs are cooler!

    Good luck with the vest!

    Leave No Trace!


    • FlyFishingandBeer
      FlyFishingandBeer commented
      Editing a comment
      That’s certainly a cavalier approach but one of my dogs and I found out the hard way that gear and collars that get sprayed point blank never truly lose that smell, even after a couple of days soaking in enzyme killer. What comes out of skunks at under three feet away and what you smell on the highway aren’t the same.

    • Bunchberry
      Bunchberry commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you for this information! I hope to never need it myself but it is good to know!