Expert Review: Patagonia Slope Runner 4L Vest

Published on 08/26/2022 · 9 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the vest, which I purchased with my own money in August of 2019.
Hunter Reed, Camping Expert
By Camping Expert Hunter Reed

All photos courtesy of Hunter Reed

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the vest, which I purchased with my own money in August of 2019.

My take

The Patagonia 4L Slope Runner Vest is a great, durable running vest with tons of well-thought-out pockets. I use it on longer runs and also bring it along on almost every hike I go on instead of bringing a backpack. It is much lighter, more convenient, and more comfortable to carry than a hiking backpack, and is ideal for runners on trails of less than 15 miles.

At the start of the Hapalua Half Marathon in my vest!

About the vest I own

  • Model: Patagonia Slope Runner 4L Pack 2019
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Size: XS
  • Pack capacity: 4L

About me

  • Height: 5’3”
  • Weight: 115lbs
  • Experience: 20+ years of backpacking

Test conditions

  • When I bought it: August 2019
  • Length of trips: Day hikes/runs varying from 4–15 miles.
  • What I carried: 2L of water, snacks, phone, Garmin InReach Mini 2, extra layer
  • Total pack weight: 4lbs
  • Used for: Trail running, day hiking
  • Where I’ve used it: All over Utah, Hood River area of Oregon, Sawtooth mountain range in Idaho
  • Terrain: Rocky trails with really scrambly sections, dirt trails, road runs
  • Seasons I’ve used it in: Spring, summer, fall

How it performs

Back Breathability

What I was looking for

I was looking for a running vest to use on longer runs. I had previously only been taking a fanny pack on runs up to 10 miles with maybe a snack and my keys and phone and no water. This felt like kind of a risky move: not only for myself, but especially being that I usually bring my dog, so if I was doing over five miles, I was pretty limited in only going places that I knew had water sources for her along the way. I wanted to start running both longer distances and different trails, which meant I needed to carry water. The vest-style packs like these are designed for trail running, so I knew that’s what I should get.

Why I chose this gear

I chose to buy this particular product because I had heard good things about it and have never been disappointed by any of Patagonia’s gear. At the time of purchase, I hadn’t really heard of any of the other brands that make trail running vests (Nathan, Ultimate Direction, UltrAspire), so Patagonia seemed like a safe bet.

I did compare the Slope Runner to one Salomon vest—the Sense Pro 5—because at the time I was using Salomon running shoes that I loved. It was only around $10 more, but it didn’t seem to have as much breathable mesh when compared to the Slope Runner. I also couldn’t find anywhere locally where I could try it on, and I was able to find the Patagonia Slope Runner in a local store. Being that this was my first time dabbling in the running-vest world, I didn’t really know what to expect from the fit or what size I would need. I ended up going with the XS in the Slope Runner; this is consistent with the size of jackets and backpacks I normally wear.

What I love about it

  • Durability: The Slope Runner is incredibly durable. I have taken it on a lot of outings since getting it almost three years ago; it has no rips or damage to speak of. The mesh is super durable, and the elastic on the pockets is still intact and working well. Patagonia also has a warranty program for all of their products, so I know if anything did go wrong with the vest, they would either repair it or replace it.
  • Weight: The Slope Runner weighs 6oz. It is in the same ballpark, though on the lighter side, when compared to similar vests from other companies.
  • Ease of use: The pockets are intuitive and the two hydration flasks it comes with are easy to clean out. I have heard complaints about the looping system on the front of the vest, but I personally think it's easier to use and more reliable than a buckle system. The closure is a plastic loop on the left side that hooks into a series of loops on the right side. Also, if it were to break, it’s one of the loops that would break. If that were to happen on the trail, I could easily just use the hook on another loop—whereas with a buckle system, if part of the plastic buckle were to break it’s much harder to improvise.
  • Suspension and comfort: It is really breathable, and I have never had any pain or discomfort in my neck and back after running with this vest. It’s one of the reasons I like using this for day hikes as well. I feel much more light and free in a vest, am forced to carry only the essentials and keep it light, and the weight distribution is great.
  • Adjustability: The closure on the front is really easy to adjust. It also stays adjusted once I have secured it. I notice I sometimes need to retighten the buckle on a hip pack or a backpack during my outing, but these stay impressively locked in place throughout my hike. The sizing aside from that (such as the shoulder fit) is not adjustable.
  • Capacity: This vest is a 4L vest with two 500mL hydration flasks. Most vests like this will come with either a hose-style hydration bladder (usually 2L) which is carried in the back, or two hydration flasks carried on the front. I didn’t think I would be running much farther than the 10 miles I had been doing, so the two 500mL flasks seemed like a good fit. I have found on longer, four-plus-hour days in the mountains, I need more than 1L of water. There is an option to put a 1–2L bladder in the back compartment, but it would greatly limit my storage in that back pocket. So I think rather than get a bladder for the Slope Runner 4L, I would just upgrade to a 8L or 10L running vest. It has room for a spare layer in the back, snacks in the pockets, and my satellite phone in case of an emergency.
  • Organization and pockets: This vest has two sleeves for the 500mL hydration flasks on the front, with a smaller pocket below each of those that fits my phone (IPhone SE). On the left side there is also a zippered pocket here that I will use for my car keys. Under the arms, near the back there is a pocket on either side that securely holds my snacks and Garmin InReach Mini 2. Then on the very back, there is a zippered pocket right below the neck, and a large compartment covering the entire back. The back compartment is where I store my extra layer and a foldable silicone water bowl for my dog to use on the trails. Overall I find these pockets to all be super accessible without taking the vest off.
  • Pack Access: With all the pockets and compartments, it's pretty easy to access everything I need. The only time I have had a problem is if there is an extra layer in the back compartment along with my dog’s bowl, it can sometimes be hard to access. But I don’t think any design feature could have fixed that.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Design: I have two slight grievances with the design of this vest. The first is slightly superficial, but the whole of the vest is a light grey and lime green color. It’s nice that it doesn’t pick up heat as much as a black vest would, but it looks dirty and gross pretty quickly. Second, if I sweat very much and have either a tank top or no shirt on, the internal edge of the vest rubs against my collarbone and ends up chafing pretty badly. I have since investigated other, similar vests, and most of them have a really soft lining on the area that is rubbing.
  • Weather Resistance: This vest has a durable water repellent coating on it, but it is not really waterproof or weatherproof at all.

Rock scrambling is way easier in a vest compared to a hiking backpack

Favorite moment with this gear

My favorite moment with this gear was a recent hike up a peak in Salt Lake called the Pfeifferhorn. We hiked up and ran down the 10 mile, 3,000-foot vert trail. At the top, I decided I wanted to take my shirt off and run down in my sports bra, and I was easily able to stow my shirt in the back compartment. There are a few sections of this trail that require scrambling with hands and feet, and I think I would have felt much more uncoordinated if I had a backpack swinging around. Luckily I only had this vest, which carried all the water I needed for the trail. Running down I felt really light and fast without a heavy pack, and I actually stayed pretty cool since there is so much mesh on this vest!

Value for the money vs. other options

Running vests in this category are around the same price as the Slope Runner 4L (~$159). I have felt a few others, and some of the mesh feels either plasticy or too thin. So comparatively I think the Slope Runner is worth every penny. I would say for those looking to get into running 15+ mile distances, it would be worth it to get something a bit larger (8 or 10L) just for the extra room for more water. Overall I think this is a great option for people running under 15ish miles who value comfort and durability.

Final verdict

Overall, I think this is an awesome vest. Aside from the rubbing on my collarbone, I have no complaints about it and think it is really well thought out in terms of pocket placement, accessibility, and mesh for breathability. It can carry way more than I expected, and it is much more comfortable than a classic backpack for hikes. For anyone getting into running for less than 15 miles, this is a great option that will last a while.

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