Did your mom (or your favorite running buddy) tell you that hats and gloves are the most important gear for staying warm during cold, wintery runs? Well, sorry, but they were wrong. As scientists and mountaineers on freezing expeditions have discovered, keeping your core warm is the key to staving off the cold.

Let us put it scientifically: The average human body core temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If your body gets colder, it will prioritize blood flow to your vital organs, robbing extremities (like fingers, toes, and ears) of circulation and, in turn, warmth. That means that the key to keeping warm isn’t covering everything up, but instead layering to preserve your core heat. (That way, all your fingers and toes get to keep their blood).

And what easier—or more stylish—way to do that than to throw on a vest? These underappreciated sleeveless wonders can keep you warm without inducing those terrible elbow-crease sweat patches or adding too much bulk. We rounded up our favorite lightweight vests for spring from brands we know and trust. To make the cut, each vest had to have pockets, weather-resistant properties, and some style—making adding the perfect Goldilocks piece of apparel to your gear closet a little bit easier.


How We Selected

Every vest here has been thoroughly evaluated and vetted by our team of test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers, and use our own experience wearing and running in these vests to determine the best options. Most have been tested by our staff, and those that haven’t have been carefully chosen based on their value, technical fabrics, comfort, looks, and ability to keep you warm and cozy when the temp dips. Here are our picks.

Janji Expedition Fleece Vest

Courtesy of Janji Janji Expedition Fleece Vest $64.00 runjanji.com

This cozy fleece from Janji—a company that donates 5 percent of all sales to fund clean-water projects—is tougher than it looks, thanks to water-repelling fleece that has quick-drying properties. The quarter-zip pullover design with a high collar gives it a different look from other vests out there while still prioritizing warmth from your neck to your hips. But take note while buying, this vest is sized unisex.

Under Armour ColdGear Reactor

Under Armour ColdGear Reactor Insulated Vest $100.00 underarmour.com

The ColdGear Reactor Vest uses of a unique quilting pattern that traps core heat while still promoting airflow so you don’t feel like you’re trapped in a sweat suit from mile two onward. Four-way-stretch fabric makes it so the jacket moves with you and feels supportive without being constrictive.

Smartwool PhD Ultra Light Sport Vest

Courtesy of Smartwool Smartwool PhD Ultralight Sport Vest $65.00 terrybicycles.com

Most hooded vests come with a lot of weight, but this design from Smartwool packs all of its warmth into lightweight Merino wool with an added DWR coating for weather resistance and odor-free antimicrobial properties. This vest is small and light enough that it packs down into its own zippered pocket—making it the perfect backup layer for days when you need to be able to change as quickly as the weather does.

The North Face Ventrix Vest

Courtesy of The North Face The North Face Ventrix Insulated Vest $114.96 backcountry.com

The North Face Ventrix Vest puts ventilation in the right places, with perforated water/sweat/wind-resistant material under the arms so your core stays warm without getting sweaty. Also to be appreciated: the minimal design and attention to detail with high-performance fabric and perfectly placed hand and chest pockets.

On Running Weather Vest

On Running On Running Weather Vest $139.99 on-running.com

In-between weather calls for an in-between layer that can keep your core dry and warm in light rain without becoming stifling when the sun pops out. This stretchy, well-ventilated vest can do all that, plus hold your phone, keys, and snacks in waterproof zipper pockets. It’s made of lightweight, high-quality fabric and is small enough to pack down easily when not in use.

Brooks Cascadia Vest

Brooks Cascadia Thermal Vest $76.73 rei.com

On super-chilly runs, light polyfill insulation in the Cascadia keeps your core cozy without ever making you feel over-bundled. Stretchy side panels allow for unrestricted movement, and two front zipper pockets plus an internal pocket hold all your small essentials. The vest also has front and back reflective detailing for added visibility.

Nike Aerolayer Vest, $72+

Nike Nike AeroLayer Run Vest amazon.com

On cold, damp mornings, this lightweight, water-resistant shell will keep you dry and cozy without adding bulk or restricting your movement. Two zipper pockets hold your stuff or warm your hands while you wait for the group run to start.

Oiselle Vigor Vest

Oiselle Oiselle Vigor Vest $98.00 oiselle.com

A water-repellent shell that’s so breathable and lightweight you can see through it, the Vigor vest is ideal for those days when you can’t commit to a layering strategy. Wear it for added reflectivity and windproof protection, or pack it up using its own hand strap if you miscalculated the forecast. It’s bound to become your go-to for chilly mornings, unpredictable conditions, and group runs that end at hip coffee shops.

Gore Windstopper Light Vest

Courtesy of Gore Gore Wear Windstopper Vest $82.46 competitivecyclist.com

Designed for cycling, the Windstopper vest is versatile enough to make a good running layer—especially in low-light conditions, when the neon yellow shade and reflective piping are clutch. Cold November mornings are no match for its windproof and water-repellent fabric.

Arc’teryx Atom SL Vest

Courtesy of Arc’teryx Arc’teryx Atom SL Vest $149.00 amazon.com

The Atom SL vest offers stretchy, barely there insulation to warm you up quickly on chilly runs and breathe easily once you start to sweat. Two front zipper pockets are big enough to get your hands inside while you’re waiting for the run to start—and hold your phone after you get moving. An adjustable hem keeps the fit tight and the wind out.

Trail-running hydration gear has evolved a lot since the days of fanny packs and water bottles with duct-tape handles. As the sport has grown, so has the variety of vests designed to hold water, food, and gear for hours-long runs or between race aid stations. We spent the summer checking out new and updated packs from a host of top brands. Here are six of our favorites, some recently launched and some coming in early 2019.

Ultimate Direction Adventure Vesta 4.0 ($160)

(Photo: Emily Reed)

Online managing editor Abigail Wise ran two ultras in the original version of the 12.5-liter Adventure Vesta—Ultimate Direction’s large-capacity women’s vest for long days on the trail—so she was excited to test the updated model. “It’s like UD was watching me fumble with the old one and dreamed up impactful tweaks to make this model as efficient as possible,” she says. Cases in point: one of the two front bottle holsters is replaced with a zippered iPhone-size pocket, a new fabric loop snaps open and shut to quickly secure drink tubes, and the vest now has a monofilament mesh backing that is more durable but also more breathable and faster-drying than the old cloth-mesh blend, which was prone to absorbing more moisture.

Buy Now

The North Face Flight Trail Vest ($150)

(Photo: Emily Reed)

Don’t let the slim profile of The North Face’s first-ever hydration vest fool you: it can fit more than you think. Two front stretch pockets accommodate multiple bars, gels, and chew packets, while the zippered side pockets are each big enough for an iPhone—though, when filled, they somewhat block the kangaroo pouch on the back. Two small zippered pockets high on the shoulder straps are perfect for keys, salt tabs, or lip balm. The North Face took a page from Salomon’s playbook for the fabric and fit, with thin poly-elastane for pockets and fine nylon mesh next to the skin—reminiscent of the French brand’s wildly popular S-Lab Sense Ultra 5 Set vest. The end result is close-fitting with a low-bounce ride.

Buy Now

Raidlight Responsiv 10L ($170)

(Photo: Emily Reed)

This French company has been gaining traction in the U.S. for several years, thanks to its detail-driven designs and high-quality construction (think: laser-cut, stitch-free hems). The Responsiv 10L, the brand’s most popular vest, is getting an upgrade in 2019, with two additional liters of capacity and a zipper on one of the front pockets for more secure storage. Thankfully, many of our favorite features remain, including the Freelock wheel-and-wire cinches, similar to Boa dials, on both sides for a supremely dialed-in fit (though as a result the vest does not have side pockets). Water-resistant nylon on the main rear compartment means gear stays relatively dry during squalls, while a vertical pole-storage system has stretchy pockets that cover the pole tips, so you don’t have to fear impaling yourself if you fall.

Buy Now

Salomon Agile 6 ($100)

(Photo: Emily Reed)

Some of us prefer a vest that fits more like a pack, without the full underarm coverage and the mess of front pockets. That’s where Salomon’s new Agile 6 comes in. The front straps have soft-flask holsters but no other pouches; instead, the main back compartment offers a full six liters of storage, with a U-shaped zipper that opens the pack like a clamshell for easy organization. A smaller internal zippered pocket holds keys, and a separate zippered hydration-bladder slot sits against your back. Without front easy-access stuff pouches, this isn’t the vest you’d reach for on race day. But the shoulder padding, wide opening, and large capacity make it ideal for those long days when you’d welcome the chance to stop and take off your pack to shed a layer.

Buy Now

Patagonia Slope Runner 4L ($140)

(Photo: Emily Reed)

Patagonia’s new running hydration pack—its first in many years—wears more like a shirt. The slim, minimalist design accommodates two 500-milliliter soft flasks up front and a bladder in back. The two side and front pockets are made of compressive, stretchy fabric, which keeps small items like sunglasses, keys, gloves, or snacks from jostling around or slipping out. The chest-flask holders are made of the same fabric but lack a cinch up top, so getting flasks back in after a refill can be difficult. Still, the close-to-the-body fit and secure pockets make this a great choice for light-and-fast runs.

Available January 2019

CamelBak Women’s Ultra Pro ($120)

(Photo: Emily Reed)

The Ultra Pro has been in CamelBak’s line for several years, but 2019 marks its first women-specific version. Like its unisex predecessor, the Women’s Ultra Pro houses seven liters’ worth of gear and water, but it is equipped with two sets of pockets for housing soft flasks, one high and one low. Three large stuff pockets and a phone-size zippered pocket up front hold everything from snacks and headlamps to gloves and sunglasses, while a rear kangaroo pouch layered over two smaller stretch pockets (also phone-size) offers easy on-the-go access to stashed layers. The main back compartment also accommodates a water bladder. CamelBak opted for a 3-D mesh next to the skin, which is chunkier than the thin stretch mesh used by Patagonia and The North Face but rises off the skin at points for ventilation, a bonus in hot weather.

Available in January 2019

Filed To: RunningTrail RunningStyle Lead Photo: Brendan Simpson/Ultimate Direction

Best Running Vests Guide: 2020 Edition

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In my opinion, every runner should have a good running vest.

Yet so many runners go without them! They end up carrying things in their hands as they run, or wearing a fanny pack which rubs and bounces around everywhere.

I wear my running vest all the time; even if I’m just going for a shorter training run, I often find myself slipping it on.

What do I use it for?

Keys, money, my phone, headphones, water bottle, gels, salt tablets; you name it.

I discovered the benefits of a running vest after spending years running around carrying things in my hands pockets.

It was annoying.

A good running vest will fit snugly to your body, and provide no chafing or interference to your running form.

I actually find that when I run with my iPhone in the back of my vest, the weight gently rolls my shoulders back a bit and helps open up my chest, improving my form!

What I Look For In A Running Vest

Just like a good pair of shoes, a good running vest should first and foremost be comfortable. If it annoys you at any point as you run, it’s not for you.

Here are some more pointers for what to look for when picking your running vest:

Pocket size and accessibility. My running vest has a myriad of tiny sleeve pockets that are flush with the body of the vest; they’re perfect for money and gels, and I can comfortably carry up to 15 gels in them (I’ve only done this a couple of times . . .).

Hydration system. Here’s something controversial . . . I don’t like running vests or packs with bladders in the back. I find them cumbersome to clean and operate, a pain to refill on the move . . . and it’s hard to tell how much water you’ve got left. Instead, I prefer a running vest with a couple of smaller bottles that hug my chest. It makes them easier to access and manage!

Body hugging. The running vest needs to be body-hugging while remaining comfortable; the closer everything is to your body, the less inertia and bounce will occur. Look for vests with at least one chest-strap, and adjustable straps everywhere else.

Volume / size. If you are going to use your own water bladder with the running vest – or want to carry extra items along – then make sure the capacity is big enough.

Best Running Vests

Here is my selection of the top running vests:

Nathan VaporAir Hydration Pack

Although I’m not crazy about hydration packs, if you’re looking for one the Nathan VaporAir is one of the best.

It carries up to 2l of water, and is designed with super-breathable body-mapped material. It has two large pockets at the front for easy access, and two smaller stash pockets for gels and keys.

Finally, it’s flourescent colours help it you’re someone who trains in hours of darkness!

Salomon Advanced Skin Backpack

Salomon describe this vest as a ‘carrying solution’ – with a multitude of front pockets, this pack is perfectly suited for a trail run or race where you may have to carry your own fuel.

No bladder is included, but 2 x 500ml soft water bottles are, which fit snugly into front pockets for easy access. Made from elastic power mesh; the pocket count and comfort levels makes this my kind of vest!

Nathan VaporAiress Pack for Women

There’s a lot to love about this vest / pack designed specifically for women. It comes with an optional 2l hydration bladder, as well as pockets at the front for bottles if you choose.

It has great reviews in terms of both comfort and practicality, and it looks great!

Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest

Camelbak’s Ultra Pro is a simple, front-loaded running best. Featuring two 500ml soft bottles on the front, several pockets, and two front straps.

The back pocket is smaller – no room for a separate hydration bladder, for example – but this vest has all you need to run far!

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner’s World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

Introducing RaveRunner™: The Futuristic Hydration Pack

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An innovative group of athletes and music festival enthusiasts has come together to create the hydration pack for a new generation. The RaveRunner™ by GenZ™ is a revolutionary new pack combining a variety of unique features that solve a multitude of problems within the outdoor gear industry.

The team at GenZ, a band of runners, snowboarders, hikers, bikers, motocross riders, rave enthusiasts and the like, were frustrated by the design of their current hydration packs. Plagued by theft, inconvenience and just flat out boring design, the team decided to build a better pack.

Introducing RaveRunner™, the hydration pack of this generation that solves ALL problems listed above.

· Features include:

· Anti-Theft Design

· Customizable Skins Design by YOU

· Easier & Faster Re-fill

· Loops to Thread EL Wire

· Detachable, Patent-Pending Underglow Technology

· Easily Accessible Chest Pockets

· Hidden Pockets

Combining all of these features in one hydration pack, the GenZ team guarantees you a better, more enjoyable outdoor experience. While at your next music festival or an outdoor adventure, be sure to bring a RaveRunner™.

Learn how you can get yours at this link! -> https://www.livegenz.com.

Follow them on Instagram: @genZoutdoor

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GenZ Innovates Top of the Line Hydration Pack: The RaveRunner

An innovative group of athletes and music festival enthusiasts have come together to create the hydration pack for a new generation. The RaveRunner™ by GenZ™ is a revolutionary new pack combining a variety of unique features that solve a multitude of problems within the outdoor gear industry.

The team at GenZ, a band of runners, snowboarders, hikers, bikers, motocross riders, rave enthusiasts and the like, were frustrated by the design of their current hydration packs. Plagued by theft, inconvenience and just flat out boring design, the team decided to build a better pack.

They found that snowboarders, trail riders and ravers utilized water bottle chest pockets for their phones leading to loss or theft. Motocross riders found themselves spending too much time at the pit stop re-filling hydration bladders. Music festival fans were standing in frustratingly long water-refill lines. Runners training on busy roads had a tough time remaining visible at night. In every instance, the hydration packs offered no individual customization or any other easily attachable eye-popping animation. Team members sewed patches onto existing packs as well as EL wires to stand out, find each other in a crowd, and jazz up their gear.

Bulky packs were also a problem. Team GenZ determined that a pack with a depth greater than three inches would catch on other people when in a crowd. Theft was the biggest problem of all, with over 400,000 people falling victim to pickpockets daily around the globe and, according to an aggregate study by Cooney and Conway, one in seven at the average music festival.

Introducing RaveRunner™, the hydration pack of this generation that solves all of these problems. Features include:

  • Anti-Theft Design
  • Customizable Skins Design by YOU
  • Easier & Faster Re-fill
  • Loops to Thread EL Wire
  • Detachable, Patent-Pending Underglow Technology
  • Easily Accessible Chest Pockets
  • Hidden Pockets

photo credit The RaveRunner by GenZ

Combining all of these features in one hydration pack, Team GenZ guarantees you a better, more enjoyable outdoor experience. Wherever your next adventure takes you, be sure to bring a RaveRunner™.

Tagged with → backpack • gear • Gen Z • hydration pack • Music Festival Gear • Rave • Rave Runner • sponsored

How to Choose a Running Hydration Vest

  • Leave room for adjustment: Pay attention to any adjustable straps on the vest, such as ones that go across your chest or underneath your arms. With the vest on and ready to go, these straps should be approximately at the middle of their adjustment range. If they’re at one extreme or the other, then you might have the wrong size.

  • Women-specific vests: Many women benefit from selecting a women-specific vest. Women’s hydration packs for running tend to have more room in the bust and narrower shoulders while also being cut shorter overall.

  • Additional Features on Running Hydration Vests

    Running hydration vests come with a variety of different features that can make them more convenient and comfortable. Here are some features to keep an eye out for while you’re choosing a running hydration vest:

    • Pockets: Most vests include a variety of pockets to hold frequently used items, like gels, your phone and an extra layer. Take a look at the positioning of the pockets and make sure they’re easy to reach; ideally you don’t have to stop moving to grab a jacket or reach an energy gel. Also, consider the pocket closures. Zippers on pockets ensure important items don’t fly out when you stumble on the trail, but they’re usually a bit harder to get in and out of than a stretchy pocket.

    • Reflectivity: Many vests include reflectivity to help you be seen during nighttime runs, whether that’s by oncoming traffic or fellow runners wearing headlamps.

    • Breathability: Most vests are built with a good amount of breathability, but you might want to look for this specifically if you tend to run hot. Look closely at the back panel and the straps that wrap around the front for mesh materials that improve breathability.

    • Emergency whistle: Some vests include a whistle on a sternum strap. This can be a handy emergency item to have in case you need to alert someone to your location.

    • Trekking pole keepers: If you like to use trekking poles while you’re out on the trails, you might want to use a vest that has a dedicated spot for securing them.

    Shop Running Hydration Vests

    How to Pack Your Trail-Running Gear

    How to Choose Trail-Running Choose

    Trail-Running Form and Technique Tips

    Whether training for an ultra or heading out on a casual jog, the right running pack will carry all the gear and water you need for a successful run.

    There’s been an explosion of running vests in the past few years. Not only does that mean there are more options, but they’re also more comfortable and functional than ever before. Improved designs have led to less bounce and chafing, and more comfort mile after mile.

    From mountainous Colorado trails to the wilds of New Zealand, we’ve put a lot of miles on hydration vests. We tested for overall comfort, capacity, fit, and ease of use. And while there isn’t a single pack that will work for every person, we’ve included a variety of options to fit your style of running.

    For more help choosing a hydration pack, check out the buyer’s guide at the bottom of this article.

    The Best Running Hydration Packs & Vests

    Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Set: From $99

    Comfort is a top consideration in a running vest, and it’s where the Advanced Skin 12 Set excels. The vest rides almost unnoticed, hugging the back, shoulders, and chest. It doesn’t bounce, even when loaded with a full pack of gear, water, and food. Our editor-in-chief recently ran the Leadville 100 in it with zero chafe.

    This pack is designed for runners who need a decent amount of gear but also require comfort for moving fast. It has one large internal pocket with a bladder-hanging system compatible with a 1.5L bladder (not included). The shoulder straps each have three open pockets and one zippered pocket. For ultraraces to casual runs, this is a comfortable, durable, hardworking vest. It’s available now on Amazon for $99 in Fiery Red.

    Gear capacity: 12 L
    Weight: 13.05 ounces
    Best for: When you need to maximize comfort while carrying gear and water

    See the Salomon Advanced Skin Set

    inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 2in1 Vest: $185

    The Race Elite Pro 2in1 Vest is a pack that can transition seamlessly from a running vest that’s great for 2-3 hour runs to a full-on ultrarunning or adventure run pack that’s ready for your next 100km run or 24-hour race. The ability to detach the backpack makes this a truly versatile pack. Pack it full for long days out or go light and fast. GearJunkie editor Chelsey Magness and her adventure race team have been using this ultralight pack for the last couple of years for short training runs and adventure races around the world.

    The vest is easy to adjust, and the main compartment can accommodate a surprising amount of gear. In regards to water carrying capacity, it accommodates a 2L bladder and comes with two 500mL flasks and a speed cup. So whether you’re high in the mountains and speed cupping it or down in the valley with a bladder, this pack will keep you hydrated for the long haul. At a weight of 345 g and a price point of $185, this is an amazing multiuse pack for all your adventures.

    Gear capacity: 10 L
    Weight: 12.2 ounces
    Best for: Training runs, endurance races

    See the inov-8 Pro 2in1 Vest

    Nathan Sports VaporAiress & VaporAir: $150

    Anyone who runs in hot climates will appreciate this breathable vest. At just 12.2 ounces, this pack won’t weigh you down. But it’s big enough to hold all the race-day necessities. It comes with a 2L bladder, and the front storage pockets can easily fit 22-ounce soft flasks (sold separately).

    Our testers didn’t have any problems with chafing and appreciated the breathable, mesh-like fabric. The two adjustment points allowed us to get a custom fit, which will minimize the dreaded pack bounce. Side toggles allow you to carry trekking poles, and the back kangaroo pocket is perfect for easily stashing an extra layer.

    Gear capacity: 7 L
    Weight: 12.2 ounces
    Best for: Going light and fast

    Arc’teryx Norvan 7 Running Vest: $169

    The Arc’teryx Norvan 7 Running Vest is a durable, technical, and streamlined pack for all lengths of minimalist runs. The vest comes with a 2L bladder that is designed to sit low on the torso. This helps keep bouncing to a minimum and is a helpful reminder to keep a good running position (ribs down).

    At first glance, the carrying capacity looks to be rather small, but we were pleasantly surprised how easily and comfortably it fit emergency gear, snacks, and water. The material is a little on the abrasive side, so we wouldn’t recommend going shirtless. But it has showed no signs of wear after 6 months of intense use, which makes this a quality investment.

    Gear capacity: 7 L
    Weight: 9.25 ounces
    Best for: Going light and fast, runs where you don’t need a lot of extra gear

    See the Arc’teryx Norvan 7

    Ultimate Direction FastpackHer 20: $150

    Ultimate Direction’s FastpackHer is my new go-to for missions over 16 hours, ultralight fastpacking trips, or even for run commuting around town. With a carrying capacity of 20 L, this pack is a fastpacker’s dream come true. The two large pockets can hold enough food for a big adventure, water, maps, a phone, and even ultralight trekking poles. We recently used it on a 24-hour mission in the mountains where there was a lot of off-trail scrambling and routefinding. It’s big enough to hold everything you need, without any unwanted bulk.

    Between the seamless shoulder strap system, the soft fabric, an adjustable T-hook, this pack rides great. Weight is evenly distributed, and it’s comfortable all day long. We didn’t have any trouble with chafing even when only wearing a tank top. But perhaps our favorite feature is the full zipper on the main body of the bag. It makes it easy to get to anything in the pack without having to unpack the whole thing. This pack has been a favorite for running or biking around town.

    Gear capacityb 20 L
    Weight: 1 pound 3.7 ounces
    Best for: Lightweight fastpacking trips, run commuting around town

    See the Ultimate Direction FastpackHer

    How to Choose a Hydration Pack

    Take a few moments to imagine what your runs look like. Do you plan to run commute around town? Hit the trail for an all-day sufferfest? Or enjoy a few easy miles? Do you run in extreme weather or need something versatile for a variety of training runs? With this vision in mind, read on for four important hydration vest considerations.

    Bottles vs. Reservoirs

    Some runners prefer a bottle stored in the front pocket, while others want a full bladder on the back. This is mainly a matter of personal preference, though if you plan to take on multiday or mega-mile runs, a larger bladder is recommended.

    Capacity: Water & Gear

    The best advice is to choose the lightest vest that will get the job done. If you’re fastpacking, that might mean something like the 20L Ultimate Direction FastpackHer. For backyard trail runs, the 12L VaporAir offers plenty of space. And if you regularly switch between all-day outings and minimalist runs, a versatile option like the inov-8 2in1 is a great choice.


    Getting the right fit is key for any piece of gear, but especially for a running vest. When possible, head to your local running store and ask for a fitting. For online shopping, take the time to measure yourself and refer to sizing charts.

    For women, you need to not only make sure the length and torso circumference are correct, but also be sure to take bust size into account. The women’s-specific VaporAiress offers two adjustment points for an easy fit, and our female testers were very happy with the overall fit.

    Extra Features

    Extra features can make the difference between an okay vest and an awesome one. Depending on your running plans, look for extra pockets, reflective materials, and easy-to-use trekking pole-keepers.

    Whatever pack you end up choosing, remember the goal is to get out and run. Use a vest to maximize comfort and hydration, and enjoy your time on the trail.

    Have a favorite running vest? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.

    The Best Cold Weather Running Gear and Clothing to Buy This Season


    Be prepared for the New England cold this winter with this essential list of cold weather running gear.

    By Tessa Yannone· 11/5/2019, 4:55 p.m.

    Read all about the latest gym openings, healthy events, and fitness trends in our twice weekly Wellness newsletter.

    Photo via Getty Images

    When it comes to running, the less clothing the better. You want to be as aerodynamic as possible, and the more gear you’re towing around, the more energy you’re going to have to exert. During a Boston winter, though, you don’t have much of a choice. If you want to continue running outside, proper cold weather running gear is essential.

    Don’t get me wrong: We have enough beautiful and high-tech indoor running studios in Boston to satisfy any racers’ need. But there’s just something special about the great outdoors and the fresh wind on your face that can’t be found in the sterile environment of a gym on a pulsating treadmill.

    With my knowledge of the Boston running scene, and the collected racing expertise of various other Boston staffers (Boston Marathon finishers and lifelong runners themselves), we came up with this list of essential cold weather running gear you surely can’t leave the house without this winter. Unless you fancy frostbite on your toes and wind burnt cheeks—then, even more power to you, because you’re crazy, but probably one hell of a runner.

    1. Headlamp

    Tom Stackpole, senior editor here at Boston, says if you want to run in the winter, a headlamp is one of the most essential things you need. After all, it does get dark by 3:30 p.m., so if you like logging your miles in the evening, it’s imperative that you can see and be seen—especially with the way we like to drive here in Massachusetts.

    Where to buy: It doesn’t need to break the bank—this one on Amazon would do just fine. Runner’s World also has a comprehensive list of headlamps to purchase. Locally, Marathon Sports has a whole selection of reflective apparel like vests, arm bands, and foot lights.

    2. Face mask and/or a hat

    You’ll want to protect your head and your face from the cold with material that is both light and moisture wicking, but heavy enough to keep the heat in. Michaela Quigley, associate research editor at Boston, wears buffs, or long neck warmers that can be worn as a headband or a face mask. They are a great option as both the weather and your body temperature change, so you can adjust accordingly.

    Where to buy: Marathon Sports has Kari Traa tubes made from Merino wool to provide insulation while wet and dry. They also have winter hats and headbands. Or try local Jangi for neck warmers and hats with funky designs.

    3. Running tights or leggings

    Protect the most important body part while you run: Your legs! Stackpole says it’s not imperative to invest a ton of money in your leggings, but they are one of those items of clothing that can be extremely versatile, so it’s not a terrible idea to spend an extra penny. Quigley prefers the fleece-lined ones.

    Where to buy: When it comes to clothing, trust the pros at Nike Boston. All of Nike’s running tights and leggings feature Dri-Fit fabric to wick sweat away from the skin.

    4. Gloves and hand warmers

    While your legs are doing most of the work, your arms and hands might be a little more exposed to the elements. While most any gloves will do, keep your fingers happy with hand warmers, and don’t forget to move them around every once in awhile.

    Where to buy: These Inverno gloves from Tracksmith are touchscreen compatible at the fingertips, so you don’t have to worry about fumbling in and out of the finger holes to change your music or pause your run tracking app. Hand warmers can be found at convenience stores or grocery stores.

    5. Wool running socks

    Look for Merino wool when you’re purchasing your running socks, and material that will stay dry like nylon. Stackpole says Smartwool socks have been a revelation for his training. Balega socks are also a great option, as they come in heavier duty materials and fit perfectly to the mold of your foot.

    Where to buy: Marathon Sports has a wide selection of socks, including brands such as Balega and Brooks. New Balance also has their own line of trail socks engineered for optimal arch support, comfort, and warmth.

    6. Trail shoes or crampons

    When New England throws the elements at you, be prepared to run in them—snow and ice shouldn’t deter you, unless you’re not properly outfitted with the appropriate shoes. Normal running shoes won’t cut it through slush and precipitation. Look for lightweight trail running shoes with traction on the outsole and a waterproof upper. Quigley says she has friends who use crampons, but those are probably better suited for places like the Blue Hills or Middlesex Fells and less for those just sticking to city streets.

    Where to buy: Stackpole recommends Innov8’s. For local options, try the Reebok All Terrain Craze shoes or Marathon Sports’ wide selection of trail running shoes.

    7. Lightweight, but durable running jacket

    It’s all about layering when it comes to winter running. On top you’ll want a base layer, like a running tech long-sleeve, and either a jacket or vest over that. Quigley opts for a running vest to keep her arms free, but Stackpole likes the feel of a lightweight jacket that insulates some heat. It comes down to personal preference, though, so see what works best for you. And remember: You can always take layers off, but it becomes a little hard to add layers when you’re two or three miles deep into a run and you’re suddenly freezing.

    Where to buy: Try New Balance’s Radiant Heat vest or jacket featuring a puffer construction and heat technology insulation. Heartbreak Hill Running company also has a selection of windbreakers and jackets for men and women that come in a variety of colors and designs.

    5 Women’s-Specific Running Vests Reviewed

    These designs are about more than just small sizes and pink zippers.

    Trying to fit water bottles and gels into chest straps that weren’t designed to fit over “the girls” is like trying to button your jeans after Thanksgiving dinner: difficult and just plain awkward. Thankfully, women’s-specific design has been expanded to running vests, with a handful of supportive, comfortable, curve-friendly options that don’t compromise on any key features.

    Whether you’re planning long solo days in the mountains or aiming to crush your next 50-miler, there’s something here for every type of runner.

    Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta

    Total volume: 7.2 liters
    Hydration: Fits a two liter bladder (not included), and two 500ml soft flasks (included).
    MSRP: $135

    Fans of classic running-vest design will love the Ultra Vesta. It’s got everything you’d expect a running vest to have—a large storage compartment, small organizational pockets, external compression straps, plentiful front storage and front hydration capability—with a clean,
    intuitive, fuss-free layout that feels familiar right out of the box.

    The main rear compartment unzips on two sides, making it easy to pack strategically. We had no problem sliding in a two-liter bladder, extra layer, hat, gloves and sunglasses. A large external mesh pocket, compression bungee and two smaller organizational pockets make the packing options nearly endless. Note, however, that the horizontal pockets are quite small (a beanie fills one entirely) and difficult to utilize when the large pocket is fully stuffed, as we discovered after a mid-run wrestling match with a headlamp.

    The sternum buckles slide vertically for a easy customization, while lateral quick-release compression straps make for a snug yet unencumbered fit.

    Coolest Features
    Large pocket unzips on two sides, with a double zipper for easy organizing; expandable compression bungee can be used for extra storage or to tamp down a fully stuffed pack; excess tail from the lateral quick release straps tucks into a hidden storage pouch to stay out of your way.

    Montane VIA Snap 4

    Total volume: 4.0 liters
    Hydration: Fits bladders up to two liters (not included) as well as 500ml soft flasks in each shoulder strap (included)
    MSRP: $149

    The VIA Snap 4 takes a full-coverage approach to running-vest design, with extra-wide shoulder straps that fall several inches below the bust, full mesh around the sides/underarms and a waist-hugging fit across the back. While the high volume of thick mesh fabric might be less than ideal in hotter conditions, it produces an incredibly snug, secure fit that doesn’t bounce or jiggle, even when fully stuffed, making it a good choice for committing, unsupported days in the mountains.

    The vest has a volume of four liters, though between the two large rear pockets, stretchy mesh side pockets and four chest pockets, we were able to fit in just as much kit as with other, larger-volume packs. We packed an extra layer and water bladder in the vertical hydration compartment and a shell, gloves, neck gaiter and sunglasses in the large bottom zippered compartment. External bungee cord lies out of the way around the pack’s edges, but can be hooked together for even more storage, including trekking poles.

    Uniquely, the chest straps feature small nutritional pockets up high and optional soft-flask holsters down low, away from the chest, which bustier runners might appreciate.

    Coolest Features
    Customizable, external compression system unclips and tucks to the side, staying out of the way when you don’t need it; one of the optional soft-flask holsters is zippered, doubling as a safe-storage pocket
    for valuables.

    Osprey Dyna 6

    Total volume: 6.0 liters in size M/L
    Hydration: 2.5 liters
    MSRP: $110

    Pocket-lovers, rejoice! This vest has four mesh chest pockets (two of which are soft-flask compatible), one zippered chest pocket, two mesh side pockets, three rear zippered compartments and a rear mesh pouch—enough to fit a full day’s worth of extra layers, food and water. Compared with other vests, the Dyna 6 has a slightly deeper profile front-to-back, which means that you can fill one pocket fully without limiting the capacity of the others.

    We did miss the lack of external compression straps, though the mesh pouch is just big enough for a lightweight shell. But take note: in order to access the rear zippered pockets, you have to unbuckle the mesh pouch, which means smaller items can fall out.

    Even at its fullest, the vest rides comfortably, thanks in part to adjustable, stretchy sternum buckles that clip onto any of six slots on a plastic rail. However, the chest straps are noticeably short, and fall in an awkward position halfway down the bust, a potential problem for curvier runners.

    Coolest Feature
    The rear zippered pockets are laid out such that each can be stuffed full without affecting the capacity of the others.

    Ultraspire Astral 2.0

    Total volume: 4.9 liters
    Hydration: Fits bladders up to two liters (included) plus room for one eight-ounce bottle (not included) in front
    MSRP: $130

    When it comes to the bust, Ultraspire’s Astral 2.0 works around the issue altogether. The shoulder straps are minimal and connect across the rib cage, as opposed to over the sternum. Runners who like lots of pockets and hydration holsters on their shoulder straps might look elsewhere, but for those wanting to avoid added bulk in the chest area, the Astral 2.0 is a welcome alternative (though, ladies, beware— the angle of the straps and lack of sternum buckles does call extra attention to the chest).

    Each shoulder strap features a small nutrition compartment: a zippered mesh gel pocket on the left and a magnetic sweat-proof pouch on the right for storing electrolyte or salt tabs. The left zippered pocket at the low-chest attachment point is large enough to fit a smart phone and then some. The right pocket accommodates an eight-ounce pod-shaped hard bottle, one of the few test models to incorporate front hydration below the bust as opposed to over it.

    Coolest Features
    No sternum straps; the rib-cage bungees adjust via a hidden quick release inside a low zippered pocket.

    Nathan Vapor Howe

    Total volume: 4.0 liters
    Hydration: Fits bladders up to 1.5 liters (not included) as well as two 12-ounce soft flasks up front (included)
    MSRP: $150

    Designed with input from 2014 Western States 100 champ Stephanie Howe Violett, the Vapor Howe is a minimalist pack that fast-and-light enthusiasts will love. The thin, stretchy fabric is barely noticeable against bare skin, and expands as you stuff in clothes on the go. The straps are on the shorter side, but with the body-conforming fabric they didn’t ride up at all.

    Out of the vest’s 11 pockets, only one on the right front strap is zippered. The rest, including a kangaroo pouch on the bottom rear, are all stuff-sack-like, making for quick access to lots of gear without breaking stride. However, jacket sleeves did wiggle their way loose from the pouch during a run, so stuff your clothes securely before taking off. This vest runs on the small side, so size up if you plan to pack it full.

    Coolest Features
    The rear kangaroo pouch is easy to access without taking the pack off; tech-shirt-like fabric is soft
    and stretchy

    Product Review: Naked Running Vest

    We’ve had our hands on the Naked Running Vest for several months now, so it’s long overdue to provide a comprehensive product review.

    The Naked Running Vest was released in 2017 by Naked Sports Innovations, an up-and-comer running accessory company with products that include the running vest (in men’s and women’s styling), running spra (a women’s sports bra / vest combo), running band, hydration flasks, and other accessories. The vest provides 3.5 liters of storage within five pockets, and includes two 350 ml hydration water flasks.

    If you would like to read our other review on the Naked Running Band, you may do so here.

    Let’s get to the Naked Running Vest review.

    Features and First Impressions

    First of all, this product is very different than a traditional running vest. What you are used to from Nathan or Solomon is not what you can expect from the Naked Running Vest. The traditional vest has straps that ride over your shoulder and often a cinch to tighten everything at the chest, and then various pockets and zippers and other storage areas that vary from model to model. The Naked vest, on the other hand, is more like a piece of clothing with pockets.

    When we first opened the box, the initial impression was wow this is light. The vest is constructed with two layers of extremely lightweight fabric. Each layer is individually see-through, but both layers together do screen the body for privacy (in case you want to go shirtless). Primary seams wrap around the neck, shoulders / under arms, and below the torso. Additional seams are triple stitched to create five pockets including two large pockets in front, two small pockets on the sides, and one large pocket in back.

    The Naked Running Vest has a very tight fit. This is intended, and should not cause alarm. Unlike other vests which are one-size, Naked has twelve available sizes that require precise user measurement before ordering. The benefit is a custom fit without having to adjust straps (that always seem to fall out of adjustment). The drawback is that this can be prohibitive for wearing the vest on colder days that require additional outer layers, such as a jacket. The vest is made to be worn over a shirt or a bare torso. This is primarily why it took us so long to complete our review, as it was impractical to wear this during a very cold Minnesota winter.

    To size yourself for the Naked Running Vest, simply measure to the widest part of your torso and select the correct fit.

    Similar to the Naked Running Band, the Naked Running Vest utilizes this double-layer fabric mechanism to create pocket simplicity. That simplicity is drawn from two attributes. First, the see-through nature of an individual layer makes items stored inside the pockets visible. Of course, this only works for the front pockets, but that is where you would store the mostly commonly accessed items such as water and nutrition. Second, accessing the pockets simply requires you to pull back the outer layer and reach your hand in. Gone are the days of sticking your hand into a pocket and feeling around to find what you’re looking for, or raising and lowering a mechanical zipper.

    We like the styling, basic black with white and black lettering that pops. The larger Naked vertical lettering in the back is certain to draw attention from those unfamiliar with the product. Lettering is reflective for safety purposes.

    The Naked Running Vest contains several utility features. Of course, there are the aforementioned five pockets that, in aggregate, provide 3.5 liters of storage. Two cords in front allow for easy race bib attachment. One of the side pockets includes a key clip, although we can hardly see how keys could fall out while moving. A safety whistle is attached to a shock cord inside a front pocket and just below the neck. There are two additional small straps just below the armpits. Lastly, the vest comes with two 350 ml hydration flasks.

    Taking it Out for a Run

    Our primary concern before heading out the door was whether or not the tight fit would create a chafe. This was the identical concern to the similarly tight fitting Naked Running Band. Fortunately, the results were also positive with the Naked Running Vest and we felt no chafing over several runs, with and without body lubricant.

    In fact, the fit, expansive coverage, and lightweight meant we hardly felt this at all. Specifically, most vests carry the weight in the shoulders. Over time, a runner can start to feel that weight along narrow straps that build pressure over the shoulder. The Naked Running Vest better distributes weight across the entire back, shoulders, and torso to improve this feeling over long runs.

    Accessing gear is a breeze. As we mentioned above and for the front pockets in particular, we were able to simply visualize the item, pull back the liner, and grab it. This can easily be done with one hand in a swift motion. There are no zippers to pull up or down.

    The mesh layers hold gear tight and there is virtually no bounce. We tried runs that maxed out the storage capacity and runs with only one or two items to see the impact, and the bounce was minimal in either case. We even placed just our cellphone in the expansive back pocket and again were unable to notice it while running.

    Storage capacity is more than ample. We’ve yet to run an ultra marathon in this vest as we did with the Naked Running Band, but considering the vest has nearly twice the storage capacity of the band, and the band was ample for an ultra, we’re sure the vest can also accommodate those extreme distances. However, when racing be cognizant of distance, particularly between aid stations, and prepare to carry additional hydration beyond the included 350 ml flasks as necessary.

    The Drawbacks

    There is a lot of good to say about the Naked Running Vest, and very little to mention otherwise. Perhaps the only drawback is what we discussed earlier in that it can be challenging to utilize during colder weather that requires heavier layers. The tight fit makes it impractical to wear over a jacket, and difficult to access under a jacket. Outside of that, it’s a tremendous product for its vest category type, and certainly one that we’ll go to often.


    In summary, this is a fantastic vest and one of the top products available to runners today. It is lightweight, practical and convenient, and super comfortable with a skin-like feel while wearing. Storage is ample for any distance up to longer ultra marathons. You’ll struggle to find another vest that offers the fit and convenience to make accessing water, nutrition, and other gear while running so simple and easy.

    Shop for the Naked Running Vest in men’s or women’s and enter the code GETNAKED10% at the checkout to save ten percent.

    Thank you for reading. Keep doing amazing things. And however you run, Run Uncommon.

    The Uncommon Runner

    Womens running hydration vest

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