The Norvan 7 Hydration Vest from Arc’teryx…
When I first started fell running everybody used a bum bag with rucksack style bags generally being reserved for the longer mountain marathon type events. But as with anything, technology and attitudes change. The vest style running packs come from the world of trail running (think UTMB etc) however these packs are now prevalent on the starting line of fell races too, benefitting from easier access to food, water and kit as well as a more stable and comfortable carry.
I’ve had a few of these types of pack over the years from brands such as Salomon and Ultimate Direction and it was only a matter of time before Arc’teryx introduced one to their range. The Norvan Hydration Vests come in two sizes, 7 and 14 litre and I tested out the smaller of the two. Ample in size for everything needed for a day running in the mountains or your regulatory race kit.
What Arc’teryx say:
Combining advanced Arc’teryx apparel patterning and proven pack design, the Norvan 7 is a functional, exceptionally comfortable hydration vest for long trail runs. Light, fast and versatile, it provides excellent gear carry and access with a refined fit that maximizes comfort and stability. The main compartment includes a 2L bladder and weather-resistant storage bag. Rear mesh dump pockets stash gloves and windshell, and four instantly accessible front mesh pockets hold energy foods and flasks.
The first thing I noticed about the Norvan 7 and the thing that for me, makes it stand out above all others, is the fit. It really is exceptional and what this leads to, is a comfortable and stable carry that almost feels like an extension of your body. Arc’teryx haven’t set out tone the lightest here (although for this type of pack it isn’t heavy either – 265g for the pack on its own), instead they have taken their expertise in clothing patterning and used it to create a pack that fits like a tailored piece of clothing. When I run with the Norvan 7 it doesn’t jump around or rub – it fits like second skin. The only observation I’d make here is that I usually take a size small in Arc’teryx clothing but in the Norvan 7 I opted for a medium for the best fit (try one on if you can).
So the vest fits well, it is light, comfortable and so far, very durable. It comes with a 2 litre hydration bladder with drinking tube which is great for longer runs where water is scarce. However as a personal thing, I don’t really like hydration bladders as they tend to slosh around and annoy me and I’ve had a few lost water disasters with them in the past. This is totally personal preference and other people love them so make your own choice. I generally opt for 2 500ml soft flasks which sit in pouches on the front of the vest. Most of the time in the alps I have the luxury of being able to refill these regularly on long runs so this is all I take. However if it’s particularly hot or water is scarce I’d carry the bladder as well. I’ve seen some criticism in other reviews about the pouches for the soft flasks and how the ones on the Norvan 7, aren’t deep enough. On first acquaintance I thought the same, however once I’d sussed out the elastics it’s actually a really secure system and the flasks stay in a good position for drinking even when they are no longer full.
NOTE: A few features on the pack could possible do with a few instructions or explanation or maybe a quick run through by video on the Arc’teryx site??
In terms of carrying capacity I’d say it is a big 7 litres. Mesh stash pockets on the front hold food items such as gels and bars whilst 2 zipped pockets at the front and one at the rear, safely stow keys and cash. On the rear a stretchy mesh stash pocket is big enough for all your spare clothes, gloves, hat, sunscreen and extra food etc. One of my favourite features is the weatherproof storage bag, ideal for your phone and valuables or anything else you want to keep dry. Two side stash pockets with bungee elastics enable pole storage as well as securing any additional items onto the back of the pack.
I’ve used the Norvan 7 pack for everything from 1 hour long training runs in the alps to ultra distances on the UK fells and everything in between. I’m impressed with the fit and carrying comfort as well as the durability. The storage capacity is great and pockets are good, however I do think that this is the one thing that could be improved or simplified particularly in relation to the soft flask pouches and front mesh pockets which are a little small and difficult to access when the flasks are in place (front mesh stash pockets can be a little bit fiddly to access once the soft flasks are in place as they are quite shallow and tucked right underneath the bottles).
All in all a fantastic product, combining an amazing fit with some great features – particularly the weather proof pouch at the back.
- RRP: £150 or €170
- Full features and buy at the Arc’teryx website
Kevin Avery is an Aspirant IFMGA Mountain Guide. He is available for guiding in the Alps, UK and further afield. Contact him via the website: http://www.truenorthalpine.com