The H&M Mesh Running Vest might look the part at first glance, but appears to have been designed without consulting runners. Bottles aren't supplied (and must be a very specific shape and size), important pockets lack fasteners, there's no cushioning between the bottles and your chest, and the 'reflective' details reflect hardly any light at night.
Lightweight construction (5.07oz / 144g)
Breathable mesh prevents excessive sweating
Bottles not supplied
No fastening on rear pocket
Front straps can't be moved
Bottles sink down inside pockets
Poor quality reflective tape
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Meet the expert
Cat is an England Athletics qualified run leader, and has put the H&M Mesh Run Vest through its paces on club runs in all weathers, including hot summer training sessions when hydration is critically important. Storage, comfort, and durability are her top criteria when looking for a hydration vest.
H&M Mesh Running Vest: first impressions
The H&M Mesh Running Vest (available to buy direct from H&M) is part of the fast fashion giant's first foray into outdoor gear. It launched at the same time as the H&M StormMove 3-Layer Shell Jacket, and suffers a similar problem – although it looks the part superficially, it simply doesn't deliver when you're out on the roads and trails.
• List price: £44.99 (UK)
• Weight (size M): 5.07oz / 144g
• Colors: Black
• Fit: Unisex
• Sizes: XS, S, M, L
• Materials: Polyester (19% recycled)
• Compatibility: Short to mid-distance runs in warm weather
This is a relatively simple hydration vest, which as the name implies, is mostly made from lightweight mesh. It has deep pockets for two water bottles on the front, plus two shallower pockets for energy gels or chews. Strangely, these shallow pockets have drawstrings, but can't be cinched tight, so you wouldn't want to store anything valuable inside. There's also a small zippered pocket for keys, and a large, shallow pocket on the back.
The Mesh Running Vest comes in a wide range of sizes, from XS to L, which is unusual for a hydration vest. The reason becomes apparent when you look at the chest straps. The vest is secured with three pieces of webbing across the chest, which fasten with side-release clips. Unlike the more sophisticated straps on packs from the likes of Camelbak, these are sewn in place and can't be moved up and down to suit different body types.
You can, however, tighten the bottom of the vest a little using an adjustable strap hidden at each side. There are also two adjustable elasticated loops, which H&M says these are intended for storing trekking poles, but doing so would block access to the back pocket.
The most frustrating thing about the H&M Mesh Running Vest is that it doesn't come with bottles. That's not uncommon (some of our top rated hydration packs don't include them) but H&M doesn't sell suitable bottles separately either, so it's your job to find some that will fit the vest's deep but narrow pockets.
I didn't have any, so ended up buying a pair of soft Ronhill flasks specifically for testing purposes. Buying two of suitably sized bottles could easily cost the same as the vest. For that price, you could pick up a mid-range hydration pack from a company like Nathan with bottles and/or bladder included.
H&M Mesh Running Vest: on the roads
The H&M Mesh Running Vest's biggest advantage is its breathability. I wore it for a 10-mile run on one of the hottest days of last year, and stayed comfortably cool when my regular running backpack might have had me sweating.
The vest never rubbed my shoulders either, even when worn with a tank top, which isn't always the case with hydration packs. Unfortunately, that's about where the advantages end. This feels like a pack that was designed by someone who's taken notes from other manufacturers, but hasn't consulted people who actually enjoy running.
For example, the H&M vest has plenty of pockets, but other than the small zippered one, which is great for keeping your keys secure and preventing them jingling, most of them aren't very well thought through.
For example, you could stash a lightweight running jacket in the large pocket on the back, and I chose to use it for my first aid kit, but it's only useful for something that'll completely fill the space. There's no fastening and the strip of elastic around the top is quite slack, so smaller items like phones or energy gels will fall out while you run. You couldn't put a lumbar hydration bladder in there either; it's not large enough and there's nowhere for the tube to go.
Although I could adjust the length of each chest strap, the vest never felt completely secure, and unless the weight of my cargo was perfectly even, it tended to sag to one side. I also found that although my Ronhill bottle was long, it tended to sink down into the pocket as I drank, requiring me to spend time fishing it out. Most packs designed like this have a drawstring or elastic that prevents the bottle moving
There's no cushioning behind the bottle pockets either, so as the bottle sinks down, you might start to feel it rubbing on your chest. Not ideal.
There is a small strip of reflective tape on the front of the vest, and a larger piece across the back, but H&M's designers have chosen a strangely dark color that doesn't actually shine much light back at night, even when hit with car headlights.
Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.