Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race Vest Review

The Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race Vest was designed by many members of the Montrail Elite Race Team, Mountain Hardwear’s sister company. The pack design is incredibly well thought out and provides an ultra-light mode of carrying the essentials for a long day out on the trail.

Sizing

The Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race Vest is now available in two sizes, S/M and M/L.

  • S/M fits torso range of 16.0 in. – 19.0 in. or 41 cm – 48 cm
  • M/L fits torso range of 18.5 in. – 22.0 in. / 47 cm – 56 cm

The S/M fits me perfectly, I am an athletic 5’9″ female, weighing approximately 135 lbs. In the front, the vest hits about 3 finger breadths above the bottom of my rib cage, while in the back the pack came to rest about 3 finger breadths below the bottom of my scapula on each side. The majority of the weight of the pack is kept within the middle of the back, between the shoulder blades. The fit of the pack is ideal as it doesn’t cut into your sides, stomach, or low back while running. A male tester also tried out the S/M, he was about 6′ and 170 lbs, and found that the pack was too short and restrictive within the shoulder region.  Word of wise, measure your torso length***

Comfort

The Fluid Race Vest utilizes BodyHexWall Mesh in the shoulder straps and backpanel, the areas of greatest constant contact with the vest. This mesh is not only lightweight, but also allows for air flow to keep these areas cool and dry. The mesh does note eliminate back sweat, wouldn’t that be a dream, but it did a better job at allowing for air circulation then other vests I have tested out on the market. Along the sides, the pack utilizes the stretchy AccentPower Mesh overtop of an elastic band system that helps to move with you and adjusts when the chest straps are cinched or loosened.

There are two chest straps on the Fluid Race Vest that can easily be tightened or loosened with one hand while on the move. The straps feature a sturdy buckle design and each strap has some give thanks to the incorporation of an elastic band on the right side of each strap.

The chest straps can be placed in any of the 6 positions or stations vertically along the shoulder straps. You have to adjust the level of the straps before running, as the straps do not slide up and down a track, like other race vests on the market. I actually like that you have to pop the straps in and out to the appropriate position because once in place, the strap is not able to migrate up and down while running. The pack came with the straps positioned in the 2nd and 5th station and I have left them in these positions as they rest comfortably just above and below my xiphoid process (area on sternum). My one concern with the chest straps is that smaller runners, with a chest circumference less than 32 inches, is that they will be unable to cinch the straps tight enough.

Storage Capacity

The Fluid Race Vest weighs in at 5.6 oz for the S/M and a mere 0.2 oz more or 5.8 oz for the M/L size. The pack features a 3L carrying capacity no matter the size, however you can pack a bit more on the outside of the pack thanks to a bungee setup on the rear; you can not only slide an item under the bungee, but can double back with the bungee cord to the top of the pack to add a bit more security and eliminate any bounce that you may experience.

The majority of the storage is available within the main zippered compartment at the rear of the Fluid Race Vest. When you choose to use this compartment to carry a bladder, you loose the majority of this storage space. This large compartment fits a 60 oz Camelback Bladder that is under-filled by a few ounces to accomodate the flaring out of the Camelback design. The compartment also accommodates a 70oz bladder from Hydrapak, which has a traditional rectangular shape like the compartment. Because the compartment is made from stretchy material, I was still able to cram a light weight jacket or long sleeve inside the compartment with a nearly full water bladder, which is a nice bonus.

In the front of the Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race Vest, there are four separate pockets incorporated into the shoulder straps, to keep your energy needs at hand. On the front right there is a large mesh compartment with a pull tab closure, making it an excellent space to stash items you want to get to quickly, food-snacks-etc. It can also accomodate a small to medium water bottle. I also used this pocket to stash arm warmers or gloves, when not in use as well. Just above this pocket there is a small vertical zip pocket that provides a secure place to stash your car or house keys. On the left of the vest, there is a horizontal zippered pocket that is slightly smaller than the pocket on the right; this pocket could fit my iPhone if need be. Just above there is a small velcro stash pocket that is ideal for housing electrolyte or salt tabs as the flap is easy to open and close on the move.

Performance

So, how does the Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race Vest perform? I have been using this pack regularly for the past 3 months on unsupported runs of 2-6 hours and found the vest to comfortable from start to finish. I didn’t notice significant movement or bounce, even with a full hydration bladder placed in the large compartment. There are two loops on each shoulder strap and loops on the chest straps to keep the bladder hose in place. You can choose whether to use the right or left strap, which is not always an option.

I also found that the wide shoulder strap design not only distributes the weight equally, they also help to avoid unnecessary rubbing or chaffing along the neck or under the arms. Despite heavy use, the pack has held up and I have not had any snagging or breakdown within the mesh pockets or large main compartment.

If you are running in the evening or early morning hours, Mountain Hardwear has you covered in terms of visibility. The Fluid Race Vest features 7 reflective hits in the rear of the pack at the bungee loops, and two large front loops feature reflective fabric as well.

Overall, the Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race Vest is going to be my go to pack this summer trail running season due to its’ breathability, light weight design, and carrying capacity. It also comes in at a fair price of $60.

For more information on the Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race Vest, please visit MountainHardwear.com

Here is a quick tutorial from REI on how to go about measuring your torso length: http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/backpacks-torso-hip-size.html

 

Shannon: Shannon, our fabulous female tester, takes gear testing to a new level for women. When not at work or school, she is most likely training for a marathon, climbing one of Colorado’s tallest peaks, riding her road bike, or skiing down a mountain slope. Like many women, Shannon gets cold easily, therefore, we try to test the best all weather gear to help her stay warm and dry during all day outdoor pursuits. In the warmer months, Shannon enjoys exploring the Colorado backcountry with her friends and dogs and attempts to escape for as many trail runs as her schedule allows. Shannon is a great women’s tester because she gives readers true insight into how a product may perform for an active woman.
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