The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Running Vest in Australia
Running vests have become an essential accessory for many Australian runners.
Whether you're a seasoned marathoner or just starting out, a good running vest can enhance your performance, provide added convenience, and ensure you're prepared for any situation. Especially in Australia with our sometimes rugged terrain, unpredictable weather and well, unpredictable wildlife, it's important to be prepared.
In this guide we run you through the key aspects you should consider when purchasing a running vest in Australia.
Who Should Buy a Running Vest?
There are different types of running vests suitable for a wide range of runners, from those who enjoy long-distance trail runs to urban joggers.
They are particularly useful for athletes who want to carry essentials like water, nutrition, or gear without the bulk of a backpack. Whether you're a casual runner or a serious athlete, a running vest can help you stay prepared and comfortable.
Let's break this down.
Hydration Vests: These vests are designed primarily to carry water, often equipped with a built-in water bladder (hydration reservoir) and a hose for convenient sipping. They are ideal for long-distance runners and trail runners. They often have capacity for soft flasks for additional water storage for longer runs.
Race Vests: Race vests are minimalist and lightweight, designed for speed and efficiency during races. They typically offer limited storage for essentials like gels, keys, and a small amount of water.
- Commuter Vests: Designed for shorter-distance runs, these vests often include compartments for carrying a smartphone, wallet, and other daily essentials. Reflective elements are common to enhance visibility during low-light conditions. These vests which can hold your phone, keys & gels have exploded in popularity amongst leisure runners.
Why Australia Has Limited Options
I recently jumped on a call with someone high up in Australia's trail running scene. This is a guy that's done it all, seen it all and knows every little detail about the Australian running market.
He told me very clearly, 'The big brands don't even bother bringing all their stock to Australia because the market is too small for them'.
So, what does that mean? It means that some big brands who produce a high volume of running vests with different functions and varieties only stock a small number of their range here in Australia because there's not enough money for them to make.
It's really that simple.
Let's jump in to uncover some of the challenges Australian runners may face when trying to find the perfect running vest and how to overcome these limitations. In addition, we'll explore some Australian brands and retailers that cater to the needs of local runners.
Consider Fit & Comfort
The right fit and comfort are crucial when choosing a running vest. We'll guide you on how to find a vest that suits your body type, ensuring it stays securely in place during your runs.
Proper sizing and adjustability are key factors to examine. You'll also learn about the importance of breathability and how it contributes to overall comfort, especially during hot and humid Australian summers.
Look for vests with multiple adjustment points, such as straps on the sides, shoulders, and chest, allowing you to fine-tune the fit to your body shape. Proper adjustability ensures the vest stays securely in place during your runs, preventing chafing or bouncing, which can be especially uncomfortable during longer outings.
If you hang around runners long enough, you're bound to hear someone complain about 'bounce' sooner or later. It's dreaded. Hated. There's nothing worse than having a vest bounce on you because it's not adjustable, or the right size.
Having a vest that adapts to your body and the environment can make a significant difference in your overall running experience.
How Much Storage Do You Need?
The storage capacity of running vests vary greatly. Depending on your needs, you might require more or less storage space. We'll help you determine how much storage is suitable for your specific running activities. From small pockets for energy gels to larger compartments for extra layers, you'll find out which features are essential for your runs.
Storage for Different Running Types
Casual Running - Less than 10km
Running mostly short distances? A vest with small storage pockets should suffice for carrying essentials like keys, gels, or a smartphone. If you're like me, perhaps you also need to carry some medication for emergencies - like an asthma puffer.
There is no need for larger compartments or extensive storage space for shorter runs, as the focus is on keeping the gear minimal and lightweight. Choosing a running vest with just enough room for these essentials ensures that you can enjoy the freedom of movement and keep your short runs efficient and unencumbered.
Casual Running - Less than 20km
For casual runs under 20 kilometers, runners have slightly more storage needs than short runs, but it still remains moderate.
In this case, a running vest with small to medium-sized compartments and pockets should suffice. This storage capacity can accommodate items like energy gels, a lightweight jacket or extra layer, a smartphone, and possibly a hydration flask or water bottle for longer distances, depending on personal hydration preferences.
While the run may be longer, the focus remains on keeping the gear minimal and comfortable, without the need for a high-capacity vest designed for ultramarathons or extensive trail running. A balance between storage space and weight is key for a pleasant and efficient casual run.
Long Distance or Trail Running
Alright, now we're getting a bit more complex. If you're running big distances or hitting the trails off the beaten path you're going to need something with more storage.
But why? It's a matter of both practicality and safety.
A high-capacity vest is essential to carry supplies that you might need (depending on the run type) such as extra clothing layers, nutrition for extended efforts, hydration, a first aid kit, safety gear, and possibly trekking poles for trail ascents.
Look for vests with multiple pockets and compartments, including larger sections for bulkier gear and smaller ones for quick-access items. The ability to carry a hydration bladder or multiple soft flasks is crucial for staying properly hydrated, especially during lengthy runs in challenging terrain. In this context, a running vest acts as a mobile base camp, allowing runners to carry all the essentials needed for self-sustained, long-distance and trail adventures.
Is Hydration Necessary?
Staying hydrated during runs is essential, especially in the Australian climate. But do you need it for short runs? Let's break down the options for hydration systems in running vests, from built-in hydration bladders to bottle pockets.
Do you need hydration in your running vest?
Look, it's a personal choice, but for shorter runs you probably aren't going to be stopping for water. If you're doing casual or urban runs under 10km, then you're probably not going to need a hydration system.
Beyond 10km, you're going to want to consider how you can carry some water, even if it's just a little bit.
These bladders are designed to hold a significant amount of water, typically ranging from 1 to 3 liters, allowing athletes to stay hydrated during extended activities without the need for frequent stops. A hose and mouthpiece attached to the bladder facilitate convenient sipping without having to remove the bladder from the vest.
Their ability to fit seamlessly into the storage compartments of running vests makes them an ideal choice for staying adequately hydrated during challenging runs and outdoor adventures.
The question you should be asking is; how much water do I actually need on this run?
There's little point in filling up a 2-litre water bladder for your running vest if you're heading out for a quick 10km jog. Most people don't even drink that much across a whole day!
However, if you're going out for several hours on a longer run, you're going to want to make sure you're hydrated, and that probably involves incorporating a hydration bladder into your vest.
Soft Flasks (Bottles):
Soft flasks, also known as soft bottles, are a popular alternative to traditional rigid water bottles for runners and outdoor enthusiasts. These flexible containers are designed to carry liquids conveniently during activities like trail running or hiking. What sets soft flasks apart is their collapsible design; they shrink as you consume the contents, minimizing sloshing and reducing weight.
These are perfect additions to your running vest for short-medium length runs.
Soft flasks are typically made from lightweight, BPA-free materials, making them easy to carry in the pockets or compartments of running vests. They come in various sizes, often ranging from 250ml to 500ml.
Many running vests now have dedicated pockets for you to carry soft, collapsible bottles. The R700 Running Vest can carry up to 4 on the front of the vest.
Research Durability & Quality
Your running vest should be built to withstand the demands of your running adventures. You should research these ten considerations before buying a running hydration vest to ensure it is durable and of a high quality:
Material and Construction: Investigate the materials used in the vest's construction. Look for durable, lightweight, and breathable materials. High-quality nylon or polyester fabrics are commonly used for running vests.
Seam Quality: Examine the stitching and seams. Reinforced or taped seams are a sign of a well-constructed vest that can withstand the rigors of running.
Zippers and Fasteners: Check the quality of zippers and fasteners. Zippers are key aspects of durability, and reliable buckle and strap systems are essential for a secure fit.
Water Resistance: Ensure the vest has some level of water resistance. This is crucial for protecting your gear and maintaining your comfort during wet runs. Especially in unpredictable weather conditions.
Abrasion Resistance: Look for vests designed to resist abrasion, especially if you plan to run in rugged terrains where contact with rocks or branches is likely.
Reflective Elements: Assess whether the vest has reflective elements for enhanced visibility during low-light conditions, contributing to your safety.
Hydration Bladder Quality: If the vest includes a built-in hydration bladder, research the quality and reputation of the bladder's brand. Check for leak-proof seals and easy-to-clean features.
Adjustability: Investigate the adjustability options in the vest. Multiple adjustment points, including straps on the sides, shoulders, and chest, allow for a personalized and secure fit.
Breathability: Check if the vest offers proper ventilation, particularly important during hot and humid runs in Australia. Breathable mesh panels and moisture-wicking materials can enhance comfort.
User Reviews and Ratings: Read user reviews and ratings from other runners who have used the vest. Real-world experiences and feedback can provide valuable insights into the vest's durability and quality.
This is perhaps the most important point of all. In today's world we have access to reviews from proper websites but also the reviews from real-world customers and runners as well. See what people are saying, how they're rating their purchase & if there's anything missing in the reviews that you would need.
It goes without saying, running vests come in various styles and designs. Your personal preferences, such as color, brand, and additional features, play a significant role in your final choice. Whatever colour or design you desire, ensure that the most important factors around comfort, durability, practicality are met first.
Buy From Reputable Outlets
Where you purchase your running vest matters. Whether it's the brands themselves, local stores or online retailers, the decision on where you make your purchase is an important consideration. Here's why:
1. Reputation: You want to buy from somewhere that has a reputation, whether that's online or your local store. It's not recommended to buy from anonymous sellers on marketplaces where you can't trust the seller.
2. Expertise: Running brands & stores live for running. Usually the person you're buying from is a runner. If you have any questions this allows you to get answers before you make a purchase, as well as after for things like maintenance.
3. Reviews: Established and reputable running stores will likely have a bunch of reviews. This can give you confidence to make a purchase.
4. Warranty: Ensure that where you decide to buy from has a warranty in place. Keep in mind, if you purchase directly from a brand like Runly, you get peace of mind of a quick and direct warranty, as opposed to having to go through a third-party and have your vest sent overseas for inspection.
Additional Considerations for Australian Runners
Australian runners often face unique environmental challenges, from scorching heat to unpredictable weather. Consider choosing a running vest that can adapt to these conditions. Look for vests with sun protection features and those made from moisture-wicking materials to manage sweat effectively.
If you're wanting to run in different terrains and environments, on country tracks one week, pathed urban the next, it's possible you might need to consider multiple running vests for different scenarios.
To ensure your running vest lasts, you'll need to take proper care of it. Before you buy your new running vest, it can be a good idea to know how you'll need to look after it, including how to clean your vest, store it, and perform minor repairs when necessary. Proper maintenance will extend the lifespan of your running vest.
How Much Should I Pay For a Running Vest?
The price you should pay for a running vest depends on a variety of factors, including the brand, quality, features, and your specific needs.
As we mentioned previously in this article, it can be difficult to find a big brand vest that you've seen worn overseas here in Australia, due to brand's withholding stock.
Australian running vest brands like Runly can be a great option in terms of availability, quality and price.
Basic running vests with minimal aesthetic may start at around $50 - $100. These are suitable for casual runners and shorter distances. Consider the Osprey Duro ($90-$140), The Original Runly Vest ($79) or the MVRK Chest Pack ($106.98)
Mid-range options, ranging from $100 to $200, offer more advanced features, better materials, and sometimes improved durability. But if you're a long-distance runner or require additional storage and hydration capabilities, investing in a higher-end running vest is advisable.
Consider the $200-300 price point for the complete long-distance and trail running vest category. Some great options include the Runly R700 Hydration Vest ($239), the ON Ultra Vest ($259.95) and the Veos Trail Vest ($249.98)
Consider your budget, the vest's intended use, and the features that matter most to you when determining the right price point. Quality and durability are key, so it's often worth investing a bit more in a reputable brand that can withstand the demands of your running adventures.
To Sum It All Up:
Choosing the right running vest in Australia might require some extra thought and effort due to the unique challenges faced by runners here. However, by considering fit, storage, hydration, durability, and your personal preferences, you can find the perfect running vest to meet your needs.
Stay prepared and comfortable during your runs with the right gear, and make the most of your Aussie running adventures. Remember, your running vest is not just an accessory; it's a valuable tool that can enhance your running experience and help you achieve your goals.