Overall Rating: 4/5
Usually when someone puts their name to a product they are either after a payday or they firmly believe in it. I’d like to think it was the latter for Christophe Le Saux when he signed in the new series of Raidlight vests. My eyes have been opened to the comfort and style of the Raidlight product range with this 5 star back pack. Vive la France!
Back in 2012 I decided to take on a trail marathon and having little experience of running I picked up basic hydration back pack for training and set off on long runs. I quickly worked out that this was a mistake as the contents of my bag bounced around a 15 mile training run. I then progressed on to a combination pack with the OMM last drop waist pouch and back pack. The combination of these two gave good capacity for long events where I had to carry gear but I still found it uncomfortable. The shoulder straps ended up chaffing and the bag still bounced a lot. I basically gave up on finding a pack that would work for me after this and hoped that I could fit everything I needed in the waste pouch….but wait, what’s this? With the stylish looks of Brigitte Bardot, the size of Andre the Giant and the conquering skills of Napolean this race vest is a French fancy fit for any fanatic foot-racer!
Raidlight say that “The flagship vest of the LazerDry range received 3 awards in 2015, and has continued to evolve this year with increased capacity. The Responsiv 18L is a lightweight ergonomic race vest and weighing in at only 250g it is easy to carry all your equipment without any extra unnecessary weight.”
I’ve tested this bag robustly on a large number of long distance runs in the North York Moors. The benefit of testing in this terrain is that it’s …. testing terrain. The variation of rocky paths, muddy descents, heather clad sheep trails, undulating landscape means your constantly checking and adjusting your feet. Something that a big loose fitting bag would be a nightmare for. The bag is full of room, which is to be expected with an 18L capacity. On the back there are two main areas. The first outer compartment has sections at the top making it easier to divide up your storage. The main internal compartment is spacious and contains a secure, zippable section for anything that you wouldn’t want to come loose or lose. You can also fit a hydration pack of up to 1.5L in capacity in the main 10L pocket with a velcro attachment at the top to keep it in place.
On the front there are two large pockets that snugly fit the 600ml Eazyflask bottles, two additional stretch pockets and pole attachments on the chest and back. The Eazyflask bottles were well positioned to drink on the go and hold 600ml each which I find more beneficial than a hydration pack system to keep a close eye on my fluid intake while running. Weighing in at 50g each they don’t add too much to your load and weigh less than solid plastic counterparts and they were easy to access on the go by tilting my head to one side to take a sip and then turning my attention back to the trail.
The laser cut, heat sealed, and flat seams provide more comfort on the move and even with a thin layer underneath you can not notice any seems rubbing as you run. The 3D Mesh fabric offers additional comfort and breathability whilst the Ripstop Fabric upper gives good resistance to damage without compromising on the weight. In the context of the runs we’ve been completing in the North York Moors there is frequently something prickly (gorse, conifers, holly etc.) at arm height that would love to claim a posh running bag among its victims. The overall choice of ‘stretchy’ materials is perfect in helping you gain a snug fit and reduce bounce.
A great feature of this pack is the micrometric buckles for small adjustments that help fit the vest snugly to your frame. As my frame is larger than most runners it did not require much tweaking but you can really notice the difference in fit with just a few turns of the buckle. If you need to carry a whistle on your event you’re also in luck as the chest strap has an integrated one! The small dials help you to make small incremental adjustments depending on how much weight or capacity you are carrying by turning the dials clockwise to tighten.
It’s definitely worth trying on these packs as the range of sizes is not huge and I could imagine some difficulty with fit if you’re a ‘bigger boned’ athlete (like myself) as the first Raidlight Vest I tried felt more like a utility crop top so just a tip to try before you buy where possible.
I decided on 4 out of 5 as the biggest downside of this pack is that the seams are glued to save on weight. Where this becomes an issue is with a wash. Inevitably the pack can get a bit whiffy and in need of a wash. Whilst I washed this on a low heat and with outdoor garment washing liquid it still began to fall apart fairly quickly. It’s easy enough to re-glue the pack but its not something you would want if you could avoid it.
In short this pack is lightweight, comfortable and has a superb capacity and is the best in class for me. As far as my favourite things from go I have to say move over Gerard Depardieu, this one has it by a nose which is quite some feat against Gerard!