The Slope Runner Vest 4L feels like another piece of clothing. But it fits jackets, water bottles, filters, and food no problem. We went on a run with Patagonia to learn more about its revamped trail running line.
Clare Gallagher leads the pack up Chautauqua’s Mesa Trail in Boulder, Colo. She tells a group of media reps about the side compression straps on the Slope Runner Vest. From behind, Jeff Browning chimes in about using it during his Hardrock 100 win this year.
For 2019, Patagonia aims to make a splash in the ultrarunning community with a revamped line of trail running apparel and gear. Clearly, the brand’s ambassador team spoke highly of the kit. And Browning used it with great success at one of the world’s hardest races.
At the helm of Patagonia’s Long Haul Trail Kit is the Slope Runner Vest. It’s a 4-liter running vest that feels more like a high-riding shirt than a technical trail pack.
Patagonia invited GearJunkie to test its newly released kit this week. Here’s our first look review of the Slope Runner Vest.
Review: Patagonia Slope Runner Vest
Patagonia designed the Slope Runner Vest, $139, much like a garment and less like a piece of equipment. Along with the rest of the Long Haul Trail Kit – Airchaser shirt, ($49) and Strider Pro shorts ($69) – the vest removes the bulk of a pack.
The Slope Runner boasts some common features with Patagonia’s clothing and packs. It borrows load carrying found in its Nine Trails pack line and breathability and comfort from the brand’s fabrics.
During our five-mile test run, the vest rode comfortably. It didn’t cause excess sweat on my back or uncomfortable rubbing on my chest or under my arms.
The adjustment straps across the chest are easily swapped if you want more stability lower or higher. Hidden beneath two side pockets are side compression straps that hug the vest close to your body.
In use, the vest shines as a minimal piece of kit. It lays almost totally flat and doesn’t poke out or have excess baggage. This gives the Slope Runner an almost a shirt-like fit.
My only gripe was how high the vest rode on my chest. It sits much higher than other vests I’ve tested, like Salomon, Black Diamond, and Columbia Sportswear running vests and packs.
It took a little getting used to but didn’t make me feel top heavy. After the first mile, I hardly noticed my kit and paid attention to the run.
Patagonia Long Haul Trail Kit
With Patagonia’s vest, shirt, and shorts, you get a high-performing and comfortable set of ultrarunning gear. You can stash food, gels, and nutrition in your shorts, storing larger items in the vest.
Larger storage in the back of the vest comes from a main stretchy pocket with a smaller zippered pocket above it. This proves ideal for stuffing jackets, layers, or water filters. At the bottom sits another stretchy pocket, creating a total storage capacity of four liters.
During Browning’s effort at the Hardrock 100, he quickly pulled jackets out from the back of the vest without needing to stop or take off the vest.
He said because the vest hugged close to the body, his jackets went on over everything and he was able to keep moving quickly.
This creates a channel for heat to vent. And the monofilament doesn’t absorb water, so it passes through to the breathable main fabric of the pack.
Patagonia made the 5-inch-inseam Strider Pro shorts out of 100 percent recycled fabric. The shorts have two pockets on either side and one zippered pocket in back.
The shorts didn’t bunch up during the run and felt super airy during an unseasonably humid day. And as for the shirt, the back is more breathable than the front, which is great for running with a pack.
Patagonia Revamps Trail Running Gear
The last time Patagonia introduced a trail running vest was in 2016. But it approached this kit, available spring 2019, with a blank slate mentality. So the Slope Runner looks and feels unlike anything the brand currently offers.
Patagonia intends for the vest to function for three- to five-hour runs. I imagine it to be a good choice for both those new to ultrarunning who want a comfy vest and seasoned athletes that want a dialed, minimal vest.
The kit is available at the beginning of 2019. But if the efforts of Patagonia’s ambassadors continue at this pace, you may be seeing more of the kit in your Instagram feed soon.
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