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Outdoor Vitals Fastpacking Gear Review: The Need for Speed

What You Need To Know

  • It’s finally summertime in the Rockies
  • Outdoor Vitals offers some of the lightest gear we’ve worn in a while
  • What’s fastpacking? It’s backpacking but faster

TAYLOR: It’s Mungo Jerry sing-along time — summer is here at last. Long days and short nights are never so appealing as now, and apparently, women, too, according to Mr. Mungo. Don’t worry, I’ll loop this back to Outdoor Vitals.

What’s more on my mind are long days on the single track and the potential for a fastpack trip or two. If you’re unfamiliar, fastpacking is the runner’s version of backpacking. Often, it involves carrying the least amount of gear to safely take you into the wilderness for some time. The whole idea is to move quickly and experience more miles than you could if you were only hiking. Lightweight, high-quality gear is a must-have in this scenario.

Outdoor Vitals is a brand to check out if you’ve ever even considered fastpacking. It’s one of the few that, though not a run-specific brand (yet), has oodles of options to fuel a growing “pack light, move fast” addiction. In fact, that very idea is as core to their identity as trail running is to my own.

The fine folks over at Outdoor Vitals sent me a few pieces to offer a bit of a cross-section of what they have to offer. Of course, there’s far more you can check out from the team over at OV, so use my review as your jumping-off point. Now that I’m done with my testing, I’m already eager to see what they put out next.


Tern Ultralight Merino Hoodie and Short Sleeve

outdoor vitals longsleeve

TAYLOR: Wool is my ideal fabric when on the trails. Merino is the best of the wools — in my opinion — thanks to its light weight and supreme durability. Outdoor Vital takes some of the softest Merino I’ve ever worn and packages it as the lightest hoodie and t-shirt that I own. I’ve only ever brought one t-shirt on my fastpacking trips, and now the Tern Merino layer has that distinction for my next trip.

It’s a great example of extreme functionality meeting lightweight adaptability. Merino wool is also naturally bacteria and odor resistant, certainly a perk when you’re recycling the same top for a few days.

See also: The Best Long Sleeve Running Shirts

The Tern layers also provide excellent moisture management and heat regulation (thanks to the premium Merino). Whether you need a base layer (or single layer) for runs in the 30s or moving through blazing temps, the Tern Merino Wool layer can adapt to your needs. A UPF 36+ rating promises great sun protection from this shirt, too. Since I live at 8,500 feet, this layer can’t be any more perfect for all my running needs — just some friendly advice for my fellow mountain dwellers.

Something I’ve already hinted at is how light these layers are. Even the long-sleeved hoodie version is noticeably lighter than many of the short sleeve running tops I own. Wool, like any fabric, can come in different weights (which usually translates to thickness). The Tern is a 115-weight fabric, which is about as light as you can go and still make a functional piece of clothing. The Tern layers feel light on the skin and are a no-brainer for any climate or condition. I highly recommend this layer for any movement in the backcountry.

PRICE: $60 (SS), $85 (Hoodie)

Shop Tern Merino Hoodie Shop Tern Merino SS

Ventus Active Hoodie

outdoor vitals hoodie

TAYLOR: Have you ever tried baking croissants? If not, just know that sometimes you need the perfect recipe and plenty of experience to succeed. In this case, the Outdoor Vitals Ventus Active Hoodie is our croissant.

It’s a single layer that checks all the boxes that can be hard to balance: warmth, wind resistance, adaptability, breathability, and weight. It sounds too good to be true — much like a croissant. Somehow it’s flaky, soft, light, and chewy all at the same time. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting hungry.

An outer nylon/ripstop shell creates a stretchy and functional surface. Below that, a layer of 3defx insulation helps to keep the hoodie light, packable, and warm like a down jacket. I can’t overstate just how functional this Ventus Hoodie is while staying half the weight of most fastpacking jackets.

As a runner, heat management is crucial in layers like this. The underarms are remarkably breathable and pull in plenty of air during movement to keep you dry and regulated.

Honestly, I turned to the Ventus Hoodie most often for casual wear. That’s not a knock on its outdoor performance, it’s just that comfortable and versatile. You’ll never regret throwing this hoodie in your pack, especially when you can pair it with the Tern base layer.

PRICE: $180

Shop Ventus Active Hoodie – Men Shop Ventus Active Hoodie – Women

Shadowlight 45L Backpack

outdoor vitals shadowlight backpack

TAYLOR: If you’re going all-in on fastpacking, you have to find the right way to carry your gear. Never fear — the Shadowlight 45L Backpack has your back, literally.

The fit is the leading note on this pack. I’ve given a few other fastpack-oriented bags a try, including some lighter than the Shadowlight, but none manages to carry gear as comfortably. I think the broad, secure waist strap is the kicker. It helps to disperse the pack’s weight across your entire back with ease. Just think of the toll that lugging your sleeping bag, layers, food, and water usually takes on your body while fastpacking. Anything to ease the burden is a plus, right?

Outdoor Vitals gets solid points for the Shadowlight’s pockets, too. They’re everywhere and come in different shapes, sizes, and openings. It makes storing your gear in an organized manner much easier than some other packs I’ve worn. The only thing lacking is bottle pockets and strap pockets in general. It can be a pain because I, like many trail runners, have transitioned to using flasks and bottles for hydration rather than a hefty bladder. If Outdoor Vitals is planning its next version, that’s the only improvement I can really vouch for.

The Shadowlight 45L comes in at a comparable price to Ultimate Direction’s Fastpack 40. It would probably be worth your time to compare both packs to see which has a better fit and feel for you.

PRICE: From $200

Shop Shadowlight Backpack

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