A well designed vest-style running back with lots of thoughtful features and little to dislike.
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Straight out of the packaging, the Gecko VP 5+ immediately presents as a good-looking and highly functional vest pack for female and male runners.
The body-hugging vest pack is made with a so-called ‘Raptor Flex’ 4-way stretch fabric and has an air-mesh harness. The chest fixings comprise two narrow ‘minimalist’ stretch straps with multiple attachment points and a lower ‘Active Strap’ with velcro for quick closure and release.
There are open top mesh pockets on the chest straps for two 500ml soft flasks and an internal pocket in the rear for a hydration bladder. Storage is generous. There is space for at least five litres of volume in the pack divided into a range of compartments. A main zipped rear pocket is supplemented by a large open-top stretch pocket. In addition, there are two smaller zipped pockets at the front and various stretch mesh pockets across the rest of the pack designed for easy access while running.
Other details include an integrated bungee for external storage and/or compression, a key clip, a removable whistle and pole attachment points.
• RRP: £100 (UK)
• Sizes available: S, M, L
• Gender specificity: Unisex
• Weight (medium, empty): 332g/12oz
• Hydration Capacity: Two 500ml or 300ml soft flasks and/or a 1.5l water bladder
• Gear capacity: 5L +
• Colors: Black/Narwhal/ Blue
The unisex pack is a great fit and very comfortable to wear, even if you are female. (I’d doubted this because women have a different physique to men but the small fits me well.) If you are smaller than a US6/UK10, you will be better looking at the Montane women’s Via Snap 4l vest pack.
The three chest straps allow you to get a good fit, but while the lower and wider velcro style strap is excellent and easy to adjust, the two thin and ‘minimalist’ upper straps are annoyingly fiddly. I want to be able to quickly do them up and undo them, especially when on the trail. The clips are too small, although there are plenty of attachment points, which is good. These two thinner straps can detach from the pack, too. I thought I had lost one until it turned up in my campervan.
Running poles have their own attachment point on the pack, and the compression bungee is useful if you need to compress the pack because you are not carrying much, or as an extra place to stow in item of clothing on the outside of the pack. Even when in use, it is still possible to access to the rear zipped compartment. A large open top rear compartment, kept closed by a clip, is a great place for keeping items that you want to be able to reach without too much rummaging.
I use the front-placing soft flasks for water rather than a hydration bladder, and I like the set up. The flasks sit higher than in other packs but this makes it easier to sip water while on the go. There are extra elastic loops that I think are meant to be used for keeping the bottles upright; these are quite tricky to utilise but the design is a good idea.
There are lots of useful pockets, both zipped and open top stretch mesh. I find five litres of storage is more than enough for a fine weather run, even if you’re embarking on a full day’s outing. I can take a lightweight waterproof, a lightweight insulated jacket, gloves, hat, food, water and even fit in a base layer if I need to shed one. There are places to add a map and compass, as well.
My favorite pockets are the two zipped compartments at the front. I use one of them for my large iPhone, which I like to have easy access to for checking my map app and for taking photographs. This is a big bonus of the Montane packs because many other packs do not have a zipped pocket large enough for an iPhone Max.
Montane packs are always durable and well-made, with high quality materials. Features like a whistle and a clip for keeping a key safe are excellent extras. The Gecko VP 5+ has become my go-to vest pack for all runs, from short outings to long trail missions.
Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors (opens in new tab).
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