One of the problems with most trail running gear nowadays is that itâs specifically made for competition use, and this has benefits and drawbacks. Some aspects, such as the wide range of highly technical features, light weight and exceptional performance are, of course, beneficial. However, to achieve this, it often means sacrificing comfort and functionality. General users often find that these drawbacks, together with the high price tag, often outweigh the benefits.
Trail running packs are a clear example of a product specifically designed for competition use. These backpacks are designed in the shape of a vest, for improved performance and are highly valued by professional or amateur trail runners during competition.
Our technical team has tested the Trail Vest Light, by the renowned Italian brand, Camp. It is ultra-light and designed for high-performance activity. However, by combining a backpack with a vest-like design, the brand has achieved a less radical, more relaxed and comfortable trail running pack.
We have chosen a very special athlete to test this pack and a great example of an all-round trail runner. TomÃ¡s TomÃ¡s, at seventy years old, is a keen trail runner and mountaineer. He is the father of one of our colleagues here at Barrabes, and is well-known for his passion and knowledge of the world of mountaineering. His years of experience also include skiing and duathlon competition.
His participation in the Aneto Marathon is proof that his devotion to the mountains has not diminished over the years. The experience he has gained also allows him to balance performance and pleasure and appreciate small details that may be missed by younger or inexperienced runners.
CAMP TRAIL VEST LIGHT TEST
TomÃ¡s took out the vest for a test and shares his impression with us here:
âThis is the second vest pack I have used for training and long-distance mountain running. The previous one was very efficient, but I also found it a little too tight and uncomfortable as well as lacking in load capacity. I understand that for those who want a place on the podium or to beat their personal best, it is efficient, but for me its discomfort outweighed its benefits and this affected my performance and more importantly, my enjoyment.
When I first put on the Camp Trail Vest Light, I immediately noticed that there were no side adjusts, just front waist and chest straps, which felt much more comfortable than the previous vest. There was no feeling of tightness in the torso, since the adjust was now divided between the chest and waist. I felt that the pack was more comfortable as soon as I put it on, but whether this would hold when put to the test, remained to be seen.
At first, when you see the streamlined back, itâs hard to believe that the pack can hold ten litres, as advertised. However, this changes once you see the front of the pack, with the two waist pockets, two shoulder pockets and two water bottle holders as well as a number of other features. I decided to use all of these features and the pack proved to offer the same capacity as a ten-litre pack, with the difference that with this vest, everything was much closer to hand.
The back of the pack has two compartments: a hydration sleeve next to your back for a three-litre reservoir, which can be accessed without removing the pack. There is also a separate, main compartment with two inner zip pockets for keeping items safe, such as documents and money.
It also has an ingenious pole carry system, which allows you to remove them while on the go. Iâll go into details on that later on.
During activity. Stability and support:
The first time I used this pack, I went running in the hills nearby and was pleasantly surprised by how stable the pack was. I wasnât carrying a very heavy load, but it was enough to realise that as most of the gear holders and pockets were on the front, the back was almost empty. It was like running without anything on my back, yet I had all I need on the front; energy bars, water, my mobile, nothing was missing.
The mesh back panel is highly breathable and allows good air flow.
It took me a while to get used to adjusting the bottle holders and I still havenât mastered the toggle system, but others who have tried this system have had no trouble.
I really liked the quick and easy front strap openings. You just pull the red levers on the waist and chest straps, shown in the photos.
The following weekend, I went running again, but this time to the Pyrenees, which meant I needed to carry things like warm clothing and would have a greater load.
Here, I noticed a slight problem with the pack, which has since been resolved.
I donât usually carry a reservoir unless I run long distances, and less so with this vest that has so many handy water bottle holders. Before setting off, I put a fleece and lightweight waterproof jacket into the pack along with some food and my wallet.
However, when I started to run, I felt the pack was slightly unstable and soon realized that this was because the hydration sleeve against my back was empty. This was maybe due to the more limited strap adjustment system. It wasnât much, but it was noticeable.
The solution was simple: when youâre not carrying a reservoir, the load needs to be distributed between the two rear compartments. As the hydration sleeve panel is made of mesh, itâs better to put something like your waterproof jacket in the sleeve or anything else that wonât absorb perspiration.
The following weekend, I ran the Aneto Marathon and this time the pack showed no signs of instability, because I had filled and compressed the pack with the reservoir and other gear. So this problem only seems to occur if the pack is âhalf loadedâ.
Once properly loaded, the pack offers total stability and itâs a pleasure to run with. The load doesnât move as it is compressed by the elasticity of the pack.
The pole carry system is something I found quite ingenious, although I prefer to use one of the other two systems.
Nowadays, most trail runners use ultra-light, foldable poles. The pack has an ingenious system for carrying them horizontally on the lower back. This is the best place; itâs comfortable and stable. And it also allows them to be removed quickly, without stopping.
In my case, I donât usually use poles and if I do (only once with this pack), they are traditional, lightweight poles. And carrying them horizontally would mean they stick out too much at the sides, which would clearly be a problem on narrow paths and for other runners.
I therefore used the more traditional pole attachment system, by attaching the sticks vertically to one side. This is just as efficient and can also be used without stopping.
In this video, you can see how the pack and all of its features function. It also shows all three pole holder systems and how the poles can be attached without folding or stopping.
Other features include front and rear reflective elements and a loud whistle which is easy to reach.
- Large load capacity for this kind of pack. An excellent design that performs well on long-distance races and in the mountains where safety items are essential.
- Extremely comfortable
- Ergonomic: good front load capacity and gear holders as well as non-stop pole carry systems. On most occasions, when training or competing, the pack doesnât need to be removed at all.
- Ultra-light, at just 310 g and even this weight is hardly noticed due to the excellent stability
- Good value for money
- In my case, the bottle holder toggles were uncomfortable to use. I couldnât get used to them.
- Unless you carry a reservoir, the pack is slightly unstable. This is solved by distributing the weight of your load, but bear in mind that the hydration sleeve is made of mesh and anything inside will absorb sweat.
- I havenât tried it out in the rain, but after putting it to test at home I can say it is important to put all your gear inside the pack in waterproof or plastic bags, to keep them dry.
After testing, we have seen that the Trail Vest Light gives excellent results during competition use. The longer the distance, the better it performs, thank to its load capacity and stability. However, unlike many technical trail running packs, the Trail Vest Light is also comfortable, making it exceptional for shorter distances, training and more general use.