Orange Mud continues to gain traction in the world of trail and ultra running as more people get on board with their unique “bottles on the back” design. As they continue to grow, they continue to look for ways to expand their product line and give options to their fans. I have used all of their pack models to date and have honed in on an ideal usage for each one, but still had a need that I didn’t feel was being addressed as well as it could. During races, I am really picky about my food, therefore I like to carry most of what I eat. At the same time, I don’t need to carry a bunch of water thanks to the frequency of aid stations at most races. In other words, I wanted a race-day pack that wouldn’t be weighed down by a bunch of liquid or multiple bottles, yet had enough storage capacity to carry everything I needed. The new Vest Pack 1 fits this need to a tee, let’s take a look…
DISCLAIMER: At the time of writing this review, I am a member of the Orange Mud Ambassador team, which is primarily because I love what the company does and the products they make. That being said, the goal of my reviews is to help you find out what works for you and help the respective company make their products better. Therefore, I will try to find the good and bad and call them out equally.
The Vest Pack 1 is a single bottle version of their popular VP2 pack. It has a similar design in that it extends further down the ribcage on each side (versus the original HydraQuiver design), snapping into place with a single buckle across the chest. It also has a strap on each side that runs to the back of the vest, further helping to hold it in place without restricting breathing and mobility. The key to wearing either model Vest Pack is getting the proper fit on the rib cage straps first and then using the single strap across the front to stabilize everything. This is a relatively easy process and I usually can get it perfectly dialed in after a run or two. As far as materials, It is made of the same mesh as the VP2, which makes it light and very breathable.
The front of the pack is identical to the VP2. It has two roomy drawstring pouches for holding larger items and two smaller stretch-mesh, front-accessible shoulder pouches for smaller items, such as gels, keys, and phones.
The back of the pack is where the design deviates from the VP2 a bit. The bottle sits on the back in the middle, which is similar to the original Orange Mud HydraQuiver, instead of on the sides like the VP2. Also, where the VP2 had a drawstring in the middle for fastening jackets and such, the VP1 has two separate stretch-mesh pouches on each side. These pouches do provide quite a bit of capacity thanks to the stretch of the pockets, but I did find that the openings of the pouches are somewhat restrictive, making it difficult to stick items down into the pouch and later retrieve them. It also limits the type of stuff that you can put in it, because larger rigid items are difficult fit through the opening.
Retail Price: $119.95 (includes a 25 oz bottle)
Weight: 8.7 oz (10.7 oz. with empty bottle)
Chest Size: Fits circumference from 27″ – 52″
This pack is not unlike every other Orange Mud product…you simply forget that you are wearing it! It has zero bounce and does not feel restrictive like so many others. The bottle never falls out, even during the times I had to lean over to tie my shoe or pick something up. The location of the bottle on the upper back is great for weight distribution. I only found it to get in the way when wearing my Petzl Nao (which has a battery pack on the back of the head) or when wearing a backwards baseball cap (which I never do)…other than that, the bottle location is not really obstructive, yet always within reach. My wife, who has long hair, generally wears a pony tail and flips it to the side which works nicely for her. The front storage is great for accessing everything you need on the run, which allows you to reserve the back storage for emergency only items and limits the amount of time you have to spend fumbling around at aid stations or on the go. The shoulder pouches in particular are handy for storing your phone, gels, keys, or other smallish items. I have heard some people express concerns about the shoulder pouches coming open and things falling out. Speaking from experience, I store my phone, car keys, and other things in the shoulder pouches on every one of my runs and not once have they opened up or has something fallen out. You can rest assured…these pockets are very secure!
My Final Thoughts
- Super light, yet versatile…perfect for ultra racing!
- Comfortable. During most of the 50K race I used it in and all other training runs thus far, I forget that it is there. And unlike the VP2 where it can tend to shift backwards a bit when both of the bottles are full, this pack doesn’t have that problem.
- Plenty of front accessible storage, big enough for food, headlamps, hats, gloves, etc.
- High quality, durable construction made right here in the USA.
- I mentioned this before, and that is the ease of use of the back storage pockets. To make these more user friendly, the opening of the pockets needs to be changed to allow larger items to be stored more easily.
For me, this pack represents the best parts of the HydraQuiver and the VP2. While I continue to use my other Orange Mud packs on training runs, this is my new go-to race pack for any ultra distance for its combination of storage flexibility and light weight. Just like with all other Orange Mud packs, you have to be willing to shed all of your initial impressions and embrace the “bottles on the back” design. I won’t lie, it does take some getting used to (in the same sort of way that Injinji toe socks do), but [like Injinji] I have seen only a rare few that have tried it and not fallen in love with it. I recommend them because I used other brands in my earlier years of running and nothing comes close to these in my opinion. As far as the VP1 is concerned, if you are looking for a great race day pack with flexible storage options, you will want to give this one a go.
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