Montane are a trusted brand and this well-constructed running vest designed specifically for women ticks many boxes – especially with its harness. It is expensive, however.
Large, easier-to-use clips
Only one size
Bladder and flasks not included
Tight to get on and off
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Montane Women's VIA Snap 4L: first impressions
The Montane Women's VIA Snap 4L is instantly recognizable as a well-made and good-looking pack from a trusted brand – that’s why it’s one of our best hydration packs choices. It is specifically designed to fit women runners. There are two stretch harness chest straps with adjustable hooks and multiple attachment points up and down the front of the pack, which means women with different chest sizes can find a fit that suits them (despite the fact the Montane Women's VIA Snap 4L only comes in one size).
Montane maintain the pack has ‘unrivalled stretch body fit’ and the pack is meant for ‘training missions’ or ‘done-in-a-day’ mountain trail runs. The main fabric is Montane’s RAPTOR UL fabric (tough abrasion-resistant nylon), plus a CONTACT Flyte Mesh Air back pad with the addition of POLYGIENE permanent odour control.
The main zipped compartments have expandable sides so you can fit in more items, although this is fairly limited at four litres total capacity. The pack is compatible with soft flasks – there is an open top mesh pocket and a zipped front pocket – and a hanger and tube outlet hole for a larger internal hydration bladder. You need to purchase the bladder and flask as extras (otherwise you may end up needing to read Hydration packs vs water purification).
There are plenty more pockets, some with zips and some without. A shoulder strap zipped pocket is home to a removable whistle. An external bungee compression system allows you to stash further items on the outside of the pack for easy access. Poles can also be attached to the pack under the arm.
• RRP: £95 (UK)
• Sizes available: One size only
• Gender specificity: Women’s model (men’s equivalent is the Montane VIA Fang 5L Running Vest Pack)
• Weight (empty): 323g / 11.4oz
• Hydration capacity: Various soft flasks and bladder compatible
• Gear capacity: 4L
• Colors: Cerulean Blue
Montane Women's VIA Snap 4L: on the trails
I am a UK10 and the Montane Women's VIA Snap 4L in Small fits me well. It is a bit of a hassle getting the pack on and off because while Montane claim there is an ‘unrivalled stretch body fit’, I disagree. It requires a bit of a wriggle to get the pack off, although it might be that I am rather inflexible!
Remember that there is only one size and I am slim so I don’t think this pack will be suitable for women larger than a UK12.
The chest straps are great. There are six pairs of location points along the front of the pack, so whatever your chest size, you should be able to get a comfortable fit. The clip system is also easy to use even when wearing gloves. I find other brands have fiddly clips but Montane have created large, plastic clips that are very easy to use.
A wide Velcro strap at the lower part of the pack, around the base of the ribs, is really good for keeping the pack snugly in place.
There is a lot more to like about the pack. The two main compartments are surprisingly roomy, given that it is ‘only’ a 4L pack. I have plenty of space for a spare base layer, waterproof jacket, waterproof trousers, over-mitts and snacks.
I tend to use the front pockets for water flasks rather than taking a hydration bladder (check out our choice of Best water bottles) so you should be aware that a bladder will take up a fair bit of space in the main compartment. The bladder water tube can be pushed through a designed hole in the top of the pack or lower down, depending on what you prefer.
There are many more pockets and I have not used them all. The best ones are the zippered under-arm pocket that fits my larger-style mobile phone. This makes my phone easily accessible when I have the pack on. A zippered front-shoulder pocket is useful for stowing my keys and there is a whistle located here, too.
If you want to carry two water flasks at the front, you put one in an open top mesh pocket and the other in the zipped pocket I already mentioned. The only issue is you would not then want to add your mobile phone to the same pocket!
It would be good to have an elastic loop to fit around the top of the flask in the open-top mesh pocket to prevent it from slipping down into the pocket.
The bungee compression system at the back is made more versatile with extra clips to create a zig-zag-style securing system. This is useful for carrying spare clothes. However, when the compression elastic is sitting across the back of the pack, the main compartment zip is not so easy to access.
There are attachment points for carrying poles and I like that when these are not in use they are tucked away into tiny wee pockets. This is excellent attention to detail by Montane because they will be aware how annoying it is to have bits and pieces of elastic and adjustors hanging off the pack and joggling around when you run.
The clips and zippers look to be really well made. They are mostly large enough for easy use and made of tough plastic. On top of all this, the pack is a great color and looks lovely.
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.