CHOOSE A TRAIL RUNNING PACK
Trail running generally requires you to carry additional items for safety, but also to be self supported, remember there will not always be a handy shop or cafe if you get hungry or thirsty, no quick bus or taxi because you get cold or turn your ankle... You need to carry some basics.
You will quickly find that a good running pack will improve comfort, you will be happier, move quicker and feel confident when running on the trails. There are many variants of running packs, where the hydration is, capacity, accessible storage, pockets, etc. Below are some tips to help you choose which pack is best for you and what you plan to do. We have collected lots of information over the years from Team RaidLight athletes of all levels who tell us what they like and what they want. You will find professional athlete advice from Nathalie MAUCLAIR (double World Champion and Winner of the UTMB and the Diagonale des Fous) and Joël Archer (ambassador and active member of Team RaidLight).
You can take a look at our products specifically developed for running on the RaidLight website or directly at a store.
There are many variants of running packs and race vests. The amount of choice can be confusing, but it also means you should be able to find THE one that you need. Below are a few things to think about when making your choice.
Should you try the pack before purchase?
Ideally, Yes. This will allow you test the features and fit of the pack. But it is often not possible, RaidLight packs and race vests are designed to be very adjustable, so if you can't "try before you buy" use the information available (size chart, features list, videos etc.) to choose the one for you.
Depending on the distances you are racing or training over, you will need to consider the volume of hydration that you will need to carry. Before a race or taking on a new training route check the number of feed stations and distances between each one, or locations of shops etc. for refueling. This will allow you to optimise the weight of your nutritional and hydration needs. For all round versatility we have found the ability to carry 2 x 600ml bottles or flasks is usually sufficient in most circumstances. Depending on distances involved or temperatures you might need more though. You can always put an additional bottle or flask in the back of the pack, or if you want, use a hydration system inside the rear of the pack. All RaidLight packs and vests are compatible for this if required, but always make sure that the bottles/ reservoir you intend to use actually fit the pack! Remember also that 1 additional litre of liquid will be 1 additional Kg to carry....
CHOOSING THE CAPACITY
The total capacity of the pack/ race vest should be a main deciding factor. Be sure to choose one that is big enough for the distances and items you intend to carry (that said you may need a 12L for a 50K race and a 3L for 100K race because of weather , feed stations, compulsory kit...). It is not always possible to have one pack that does it all though, as if you have a larger capacity pack you always accidentally fill it! For most trail running, RaidLight packs and race vests that are 3 to 12L capacities should offer you what you need.
Of course, pockets are useful: if you think about your daily life and all the "small objects" that you unconsciously put in different pockets (trousers, jacket, bag, etc...). Why deprive yourself of pockets when trail running. RaidLight's range of packs and race vests have various amounts and positions of pockets. To the front or side will allow you to access items quickly and easily. Dividers in the main compartment allow you to organise things just how you want them. Sometimes, small details make big differences. We understand that.
WEIGHT OF THE PACK
We can never say it enough: watch the weight of your pack. It is crucial to master this aspect in order to be efficient. But what's the point of worrying about optimizing the weight of the items you have to carry, if you don't consider the weight of the pack itself. Think about the weight of every item. Even those who are less fond of mathematics will agree with this simple theory: the heavier your pack is, the more you will have to carry! Even with good training, this kind of detail can make a big difference in the final kilometres of a race and be… heavy on the consequences (pun intended)
Although not an essential criteria, it is advisable to look at all the little features of the pack/ race vest that you choose. You will need at least one secure pocket that will allow you to keep keys, wallet, or certain documents. Also, some races will have mandatory equipment, this usually includes a whistle, RaidLight packs and vests have this already attached as a standard feature. The pole storage options that we have on our packs will quickly become second nature too, because of their simplicity in use. But be careful not to clutter yourself with "useless" gadgets!
Having a durable pack can also useful as it will be a friend to you for a long time. One of the other decision factors can be the adjustment system. We offer simple, intuitive and fast to adjust systems for increased comfort and ease of use.
Advice and tips from Team RaidLight members
All trail runners agree that a good pack will feel like it isn't there after a few kilometres, it should become "part of you". To do this, test it, take the time to adjust it. Your pack is your main partner, so make sure you have the answers to your questions before your purchase. Don't worry too much though, RaidLight have already put in a lot of thought to offer you the best packs and race vests to meet your requirements.
Which RaidLight pack/ race vest is for me?
As you may have already noticed, RaidLight has developed different ranges of belts, packs and race vests to cover all options, an overview of our different ranges.
The bottle belts we offer represent an ideal solution for training and short races. These allow you to take minimal equipment (a light jacket, food, keys, phone etc.), but you can still store poles if required. The advantages of a belt over a pack is when it is hot, your body is allowed to fully breathe. In short, bottle belts are good for the bare essentials, but you cannot carry more.
VEST PACKS - ULTRA LEGEND SERIES
Developed for your different needs, the vest packs in the Ultra Legend series are available in 5L, 12L, 20L and 30L capacities. They all have a large rear pocket allowing you to pack as much equipment as you can reasonably carry. The multitude of side and back pockets give you lots of easy access storage. Hydration system compatible in the rear pocket, but it is mainly intended that you use the front shoulder pockets, these work well with hard bottles like our R-Go bottle. If you need additional storage, you can also add on our 4L front pack system (not on 5L version). In terms of fit, the Ultra Legend packs are designed to sit high on your back, fitting to your upper torso, leaving the hips free to move. There is a bottom "emergency" pocket on all models which you can access on the move, perfect for quick access to a jacket, or to store certain strange compulsory items! Pole holders are horizontal, across the front bottle pockets for quick access.
RACE VESTS - RESPONSIV SERIES
This series has been developed with our professional athletes to give a race vest that is ready for the podium. An indispensable item if you take your racing seriously. The Responsiv race vests are available in 3L, 10L, 18L and 25L capacities. a model developed for every major race around the world. When every gram counts you use the vest that was developed for the distance. Manufactured in 3 sizes (XS, S/M and L/XL) plus the use of stretch materials, elasticated straps and micro adjust dials means you can find the perfect fit, whatever your shape and size. Responsiv race vests have all the features you need with no excess: twin chest straps with whistle, 4 stretch front pockets work with soft or rigid bottles plus enough storage for food and other items needed on the move, Front horizontal and rear vertical pole storage, Hydration system compatible.
|Bottle belts are good for the bare essentials, but you cannot carry more.
|0.5L to 2L
|With a large range of capacities the Ultra Legend series, takes you from Trail to Ultra to Multi-day racing and is also perfect for Fastpacking, Long distance lightweight trekking and setting those unsupported FKT's.
|5L, 12L, 20L, 30L
|The ultimate in performance. Body fit, lightest vest for capacities available. Proven race winners.
|3L, 10L, 18L, 25L
Advice and tips from Team RaidLight members
Nathalie Mauclair's advice: Make sure your pack fits well, especially to avoid chaffing and bouncing! RaidLight packs are the perfect answer to this.
Joël Archer's opinion: "I think the Responsiv 10Ltr is perfect: stable, comfortable, good capacity, very light, simple. Very effective!"
What capacity pack for what distance?
Trail races are generally referenced according to their distance: short(up to half marathon), long(marathon), Ultra( For many they say this really starts at 50 miles..) You need to have the correct equipment according to distance and terrain you are racing, without overloading yourself, or taking too little! Below are some explanations of the normal expectations.
SHORT TRAIL RACE
Although having a pack, vest or bottle belt can be useful for these races, it is not generally necessary unless there are no feed stations. It may be useful to have something if it is hot for additional hydration, or cold, for a spare jacket or somewhere to put hat and gloves after you warm up, or just somewhere to put your phone and keys. But you will not be too far from civilisation.
SHORT MOUNTAIN/HILL TRAIL RACE
Depending on preferences and habits, some runners like a simple belt, while others will prefer to wear a pack or vest. The trails called "short" will still test you due the terrain, less likely to have feed stations and you will be further away from habitation. So, carrying some hydration and nutrition will be important. In addition, there will be a mandatory equipment list for safety (communicated by the race organiser). Always be as light as possible without putting yourself in danger, make sure you carry what is required. Generally 3 to 10L capacity packs work well for these races, The Responsiv series is very popular.
The greater the distance, the more the famous "additional weight" can be detrimental. Never forget that everything you put in your bag is weight! Be strict with yourself to only carry mandatory equipment and enough Hydration and energy for between feed stations. But remember you will be a distance from help. so don't skimp on clothing requirements in the mountains. Once again, the 3L and 10L Responsiv race vests are perfect for these distances.
ULTRA (OVER 50 MILES)
In proportion to the distance you will need to carry more, maybe feed stations are further apart, the list of mandatory equipment will be much more detailed. You will be running in terrains well away from civilisation and need to be able to cover all eventualities. For the minimalist amongst you, it might be possible to use the 3L Responsiv, however, you will need to know yourself well in the environment as every item will be at its limit. Otherwise, the 10 to 18L versions of our race vests and packs will be suitable for everyone else.
Advice and tips from Team RaidLight members
Nathalie Mauclair's advice: Don't overload yourself, otherwise you will shoot yourself in the foot! (which is rather regrettable for a trail runner!). Be sure to keep your equipment light but also pack it properly so that it is easily accessible.
Joël Archer's opinion: "You have to take the minimum with you so you are not carrying to much weight. Choose the pack in relation to the amount of mandatory equipment."
What to put in your pack and where?
You can choose a high performance Race Vest, but if you don't pack your equipment correctly, you won't be able to use it efficiently. Below are some tips to perfect your packing.
Packing the Pack: How and where to store items
You have probably now realized that the weight you have to carry matters, be aware though, it is also very important that the weight you have to carry is distributed evenly, so as not to create an imbalance. In addition to this, your packing needs to be thought of in likely-hood of use: the most likely used items should be easily accessible to save time. If you use a Hydration Reservoir in the back then fill it and put this in first (otherwise it may not fit afterwards!). In the bottom pack items you don't expect to use (weather forecast is good, so waterproofs/ additional layers etc.), above this you pack what you might need (cap, glasses, windproof, headtorch etc.), finally, take advantage of any front or accessible rear storage to store what you will definitely need (Front hydration systems, food/energy, Route map, camera, phone, etc.). Of course, it's up to you to adapt this storage according to your personal needs and the weather conditions!
WHERE DO THE POLES GO?
RaidLight tries to meet the needs of all users. As a result, we have developed multiple storage systems on our packs and Race Vests, The Responsiv range for example has horizontal chest storage, this is the fastest and most effective way for you to quickly store and access your poles, but at the same time, you might want them completely out of the way, so on the back of the pack they can be stored through compression elastics.
HOW TO WEAR THE PACK
Start by loading the pack before putting it on. This will allow you to fit and adjust the pack in real life scenario. For example, with the Responsiv Race Vest, first adjust the front straps to set the position of the shoulder straps, You may want them wider or closer together depending on personal preference. Then you can adjust the fit with the Freelock micro adjusters on the sides, this will help the pack stick to you like a limpet! If you find the pack bounces, it is generally set too loose, if it pulls across your back, its probably too tight, in both cases by using the side adjusters, you can quickly re-tension the pack while on the move to reduce bounce or tightness, remember with the Freelock system you do not need to apply lots of pressure to adjust. Remember that every individual runner is a unique shape and has a unique preference, the fine adjustments you can make with this pack will hopefully cater for everyone, you just need to find your settings.
Are there any additional things to consider on race day?
The items you pack and where you pack them can vary from one season to another, or even from one day to the next. Factors such as weather, distance, terrain or the frequency of feed stations during the race will effect what you do. (Remember NO running pack is waterproof, so lightweight dry bags to protect certain items might be useful!). Always make sure you adjust your pack properly after it is loaded, and pack it in a way that is appropriate for the conditions. In the race, you will be pressed for time, so be careful not to drop something in haste when you are getting an item out of your pack (we’re telling you because we’ve experienced it......).
Advice and tips from Team RaidLight members
It is important to make a list, make sure you have all of the mandatory equipment for a race, plus any additional items you personally need, when training consider carrying the same items. Pack everything methodically, taking care not to overload the pack and to keep it balanced. Don't forget to pack items you need the most, in easily accessible compartments. Training at least 2-3 times in "race conditions" with a fully loaded pack beforehand is essential to know that everything works as you want it to and you are comfortable with everything. Finally, don’t only train with a full pack, also remove additional food/hydration during training sessions to replicate the race conditions of your pack weight changing.