The 3L Slope Runner Endurance Vest is the most compact item in Patagonia’s technical backpack range. It’s large enough for a half day out on the trails or for races of up to about 100km (provided there are places along the way for refilling the flasks), with maximum comfort put into its design.
Although I had already been happily using Patagonia gear to keep me warm when heading outdoors, this vest only came on my radar when I tested it for this review. It was released a few years ago (and is still Patagonia’s latest iteration), and I wish I had come across it earlier. Having tried numerous hydration vests from a variety of brands in the past, often finding the hard way (usually when racing) something that didn’t work for me and made my run uncomfortable, I kept looking for other vests that could potentially solve my problems. This one might be what I was looking for.
I tested it on many outings of up to 50km over the past couple of months, both in wintry conditions in the UK, wearing many layers underneath, and in significantly warmer weather in the mountains of Gran Canaria, wearing fewer layers but needing to carry more fluids. I have a 50 mile trail race booked this coming spring and will likely use the vest in it.
The item I have been testing is size S and feels true to size. I noted Patagonia provided on its website a ‘fit finder’ tool, which usefully suggested this same size based on my height, weight, and body shape. The vest has a grey/blue colour pattern and comes with two 500 ml soft water flasks. It’s light, weighing only 198g on my kitchen scale, excluding the flasks.
The overall design of the vest is standard for hydration packs, with a snug fit that wraps the body like a piece of clothing rather than like a backpack. Where it stands out compared to other vests is that it’s highly and easily adjustable for comfort. Both for overall fit and for shifting the load from the back to the shoulders.
The front of the vest is tied shut with two sternum front straps. The straps tie with hooks and can be easily tightened or loosened on the go by pulling the strap ends to increase or release the tension. The front straps can also be reattached lower or higher for customisation and a better fit in a quick manner. In my case, I shifted down the lower strap by one notch so the vest wrapped better on my rib cage, for instance. The vest also has drawstrings on each side at the flank and at each shoulder level, with release button mechanisms. The shoulder drawstrings allow shifting the weight carried by the vest onto or off the shoulders in a harness-like fashion. The flank side drawstrings can be used for tightening the vest around the back of the rib cage and compressing the vest load so it doesn’t bounce when running.
The combination of all these straps and drawstrings made carrying the vest comfortable, and forget I had weight on my back. I didn’t feel sore in my back or on my shoulders once I was done, unlike what I had experienced with some other hydration vests. Most importantly, the vest didn’t restrict any of my movements either.
Despite the 3L capacity, there is ample storage. The vest has front elastic chest pockets for the water flasks, which can also be locked in place with elastic bands, and two further lower front elastic pockets for small items such as energy bars, gels, gloves, buffs, etc. I used one of these lower front pockets to hold my smartphone (itself being kept in a freezer bag; the pockets are not waterproof). The vest also has a small zipped pocket in the upper back, which can be used for items that are less frequently used, such as a headlamp, chargers, keys, or valuables. This zipped pocket also includes a keychain inside. There is a large kangaroo-style pocket across the lower back of the vest, securely holding items thanks to an elastic flap.
It can be used for carrying larger items, like more layers or a jacket, or items that still need to be within reach without taking the vest off. Finally, there is space at the back between an inner hard mesh and an outer thinner layer, designed to hold a water bladder or for even more storage, although I would only put inside soft items such as pieces of clothing to avoid any hotspot in the back when running. I did not carry flasks when I used a bladder, freeing up significant storage capacity at the front.
The two 500ml soft water flasks are of the Hydrapak type. They have wide openings, making refilling them and dropping in hydration caplets or powder less of a mess. The caps have strong bite valves that don’t leak when the flasks are shaken or compressed. Some small details make a big difference: I found putting the flasks in and out of the front pockets much easier than in other vest/flask combinations I have seen, thanks to the flasks’ tapered shape. The flasks also held in place (there are loops to tie them around the caps) and didn’t bounce during my runs. As mentioned earlier, the vest has back storage for carrying a water bladder and includes an attachment buckle to hold the bladder in place.
The vest has enough loops and bits at the front for tying the bladder straw. Patagonia does not provide a bladder with the vest; I used a 1.5 litre one from another brand without any issue, as long as there is a gap at the top of the bladder to tie to the vest’s buckle.
All edges of the vest are covered with a soft material, preventing chafing or scratches when in contact with the skin, especially around the arms and neck areas. As would be expected from Patagonia, the fabric is made of recycled plastic. The vest feels durable, and the label also provides a link to a Patagonia-run website for repairing the item and extending its life.
Where the vest has room for improvement is in its pole-carrying options. Patagonia added loops at the bottom and on the front side of the vest for this, although I found the loops cannot be easily widened and tightened, making it like a hit-or-miss depending on the type of poles being used. Thin racing poles could not be kept in place if carried horizontally at the back with the bottom loops, and while thicker poles fitted better, they would still bounce when running, also being cumbersome to put in and out. The other option for the poles is vertically at the front (the one suggested on Patagonia’s website), which worked better. I tend not to carry my poles that way, however, finding they are in the way when drinking from the flasks or when reaching out for items in the front pockets. This is a personal preference; I know other runners who are comfortable carrying poles like that. Fortunately, most trail outings do not require poles, and having more sophisticated pole-carrying options that would accommodate everyone would add unnecessary weight to the vest.
Overall, the 3L Patagonia Slope Runner Endurance Vest is a comfortable and solid piece of kit for trail running. It’s well designed and stands out in terms of comfort and adjustment options. I look forward to using it in future races.
Review by Julien Cazorla
Sloper Runner Endurance Vest 3L
Steam Blue available
£105 (currently on sale)