• Lightweight, breathable and comfortable
• Zipper pocket on the front holds gadgets
• Option of 1 or 1.8 liter bladders
• Inner mesh designed to have some grip, holding the vest in place
• Works particularly well for standup paddle boarding
• Fills a niche as a carrying and hydration system that works well for shorter excursions
• Looks goofy
• Light on storage space
• Scratchy on bare skin
• Reservoir has lid on coil that makes it tough to load ice
Not every outing requires a bulky pack. For a quick river run, bike ride, or morning ski, VestPac offers a breathable one-liter lightweight hydration pack.
VestPac came to life when founder Scott Shepherd, real-estate entrepreneur, realized he needed to keep certain electronics on hand to stay in touch with work while on the ski slopes or at the lake.
“It had to be more comfortable than a traditional backpack, and above all it had to be cool,” the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, company says on its website. “Sweat can mean death, or at the very least a very unpleasant afternoon, in the Teton Mountain Range.”
Vestpac went out of its way to make the product breathable, and the efforts paid off. While the pockets themselves are made of neoprene – the same material you find on wetsuits – they’re separated from your body by a “3-D Airmesh” that’s maybe a half-inch thick but extremely airy. It looks and feels somewhat like a thicker version of the “hook” side of Velcro – crispy, yet squishy.
The result is wonderful, you can almost forget you’re wearing the vest – until someone sees you wearing it.
“It gets docked points for looks,” my wife said to me when I first tried on the WilsonPac for this review. While the company has made an attractive product, not everyone can pull off the vest look. Apparently I fit in that category.
The fact that it looks kind of goofy on many people can be gotten around. For winter sports, it can be worn under a jacket – or even a backpack in the summer – no problem. It could also be worn under a lifejacket for water sports, though I’d recommend an undershirt in these situations since the mesh that would be touching your skin is scratchy.
Vice President Paul Cherry told me the inner mesh was designed to have some grip against most fabrics so it wouldn’t slide around. That is usually a plus, since the pack stays nicely in place.
What the pack may lack in looks it makes up for in functionality. One of the first things I noticed – and loved – is that the bite valve’s clip is attached to an elastic strap. This makes it easy to pick it up without removing it from its holder to bring to your mouth. I first thought I’d probably want to replace the pack-in clip with a magnet clip, but as soon as I discovered the flexibility of elasticity, I quickly discarded that idea.
My children loved this feature, too. On a recent outing to hunt down petroglyphs in Dubois, Wyoming, I carried my son in my arms the whole way. For most of the hike, he was gnawing happily on the bite valve, easily stretching it to his mouth whether I was carrying him on my left or right side. In other words, the elasticity makes it easier to share your hydration – if you need or want to do that sort of thing.
The VestPac won’t be ideal for every outing, but for anything in the one- to four-hour range, it certainly is a nice product. Especially for water sports. The product is finding its niche maybe more than anything with stand-up paddle boarders (SUP).
And for water rats who still want to carry their phone or MP3 player, the company sells a standalone waterproof pocket with a headphone jack that can easily be slipped into the front zipper pocket. I’d like to see this side product integrated into the main product. Who wouldn’t want a waterproof pocket?
Bottom line: Vestpac is well thought out in most regards and serves to fill a niche that other similar products don’t quite hit. As long as all you need is a liter of water and not much more, and don’t mind the appearance of wearing a slightly goofy vest, this is a good fit.