In truth I had a bit of advance notice with the Singletrack, as my wife already owns the larger six litre ‘Fluid’ version which has been on sale at Accelerate for a while, which I love. I’ve even been known to forgo my own pack options and sneak out of the house wearing hers from time to time. It’s lightweight, stable, comfortable and practical. All in all a good (and very cost effective) option, although generally too big for my meagre needs.
You will understand my excitement therefore at getting my hands on the smaller three litre ‘Singletrack’. Because if like me you subscribe to the ‘fast and light’ ethos as not just a running option but more a way of life, but you don’t want to have to take out a second mortgage just to afford the necessary gear, then let me state at the outset the most obvious selling point of this vest. IT COSTS JUST £45. Forty. Five. Pounds. Of course any price is relative to means, but that is pretty much half the price of equivelant packs from brands on an equal footing. I’m looking at you Salomon and Ultimate Direction. I own race vests from both of these premium brands, and having now had a chance to put the Singletrack through it’s paces I can confidently state that it is just as good, and in many ways, even better than many of their offerings.
I got the vest out on a Bolehill Quarry – Hathersage – Stanage loop at the weekend. I carried (easily); 1X iPhone, 1X GoPro camera, 2X energy gels, 1X 500ml softflask, 1X energy bar, 1X Patagonia Houdini windproof jacket, 1X Buff, 1X pair windproof mitts, and a car key. If I had needed it I could have fitted in another layer, extra food and a second 500ml softflask. To my mind, there is sufficient capacity to put in a good day in the hills safely.
Setting out from Surprise View car park, it occurred to me after fifteen minutes or so that I hadn’t thought about the pack once. I took this as a good sign. As far as I’m concerned if I don’t realise I’m wearing it then it isn’t causing me any issues, and in turn it’s doing it’s job.
And it does it’s job very well. There was ZERO bounce. Not a millimetre of unwanted movement. In terms of fit and feel it reminds me of the first and second gen Ultimate Direction AK vest, but rather than bottles up around your ears they are instead sensibly placed and held securely lower around the ribs.
With a bottle, GoPro and gels at the front, I found access to all items very easy with no unnecessary fiddling. Everything was accessible on the move. All the items in the back of the pack were held, again, securely, and caused no disruption to my natural movement. The pack’s stability seems to eminate in no small part from two very thick bands of elastic that wrap around the sides of the ribs. At first I was a little frustrated that these areas were not given over to further storage but having worn the pack in the field I can now see the sense of reserving them for this more practical purpose. I should point out that there is also space for a bladder if that is your preferred choice for hydrating on the move, with a secure shoulder clip to hold the tube. I’ve never been too keen on bladders, preferring the convenience of a couple of bottles instead, so I can’t comment on how the Singletrack works in this regard.
I ran in total ten miles, and the pack carried everything I needed to get me safely and securely round. At one point I opted for a direct line up on to Stanage Edge and resorted to a short scramble, again, the pack held firm and was perfectly suitable to a variety of needs. I was looking for a point of criticism by taking it a little out of it’s comfort zone, and I couldn’t find one. In the space of one run this has honestly become my favourite running pack, probably ever. Minimalist, stable, practical, affordable. And it looks cool.
Mountain Hardwear have a rich and respected history in the outdoors industry, yet their forays into running are not quite as prominent. Perhaps this accounts for the lower price point, because it is certainly not a case of a lower quality product. Quite the opposite. At £45 you would expect there to be a catch, but there simply isn’t one. I would urge anybody to consider the Singletrack when looking at race vest options – I will be wearing it in training and racing throughout 2017 and beyond.
note: I have a 36″ chest and wear a size S/M Singletrack.