Friday, 17 July 2020

Harrier Curbar 5l vest Review

I've been in the market for a new hill day running vest for a while now so when I had the opportunity to test out a sample of the new Harrier Curbar 5l race vest I took it with both hands. If you don't know, Harrier are a new British trail running company who have had a hard time trying to launch a new brand during a global pandemic, with delays in deliveries causing delays in product launches. But the new vests should be available from August 3rd here. There are going to be 3 vests available; The Curbar 5l, the Kinder 10l, and the Stanage XL 10l, which is designed specifically for the larger runner. And with prices starting from £54 they are entering the mid range market with an intention to take on the big (more expensive) boys.
The vest I got was a medium. I am 6' tall and have a 40" chest.






First Impression

The first thing you notice when you take it out the compostable packaging is how small it looks. It is very similar in size to the Salomon S/lab Sense Ultra 5 or 8. On first wear it does feel like it's sitting too high, but after wearing it for just a few minutes it starts to feel like it's in a very natural position. It also feels very comfortable from the get-go. Harrier sell this as being a 5l and on initial inspection you start to think that they are doing themselves an injustice, as I managed to squeeze enough stuff in for a full days mountain running. This is due, in part, to the ludicrous amount of pockets and compartments.
The full amount of pockets and compartments are (taken from the Harrier website):



  • Six elasticated front pockets. Ideal for soft flasks, snacks, and quick access items Large, water resistant lined, zipped phone pocket
  • Zipped side compartments which are secure but easy access on the move
  • Large back compartment split into two sections ideal for hydration bladders, waterproofs and other essential kit
  • One smaller zipped back pocket which can be accessed whilst being worn
  • One smaller inner pocket with key clip for extra peace of mind you things are safe
  • Gap behind back pocket for stuffing a waterproof in quickly
  • Deep side pockets big enough even when wearing gloves
  • Mesh side panels for extra breathability

The front pockets are great,(I actually counted 9 plus the zipped phone pocket). There are 2 pockets that will hold 2 x 500ml soft flasks. I tried a 500ml Harrier Flask and a 500ml Salomon Soft Flask Speed and both fit well. These pockets also have an elastic loop to hold the flasks in place instead of falling into the pocket as it empties. The zipped phone pocket is big enough to hold a Huawei P20 Pro, and should easily hold an iPhone Plus. There are pockets for gels higher up and decent size pockets at the bottom which happily held gloves and hats. There are 2 zipped pockets, one on each side, which are good for keeping things more secure. Both are a good size but I did struggle a little reaching right round to the back of them.
Then there is the back section. There is a water bladder compartment, which I didn't use, a full length compartment with a velcro fastener and small pocket with a key clip. There is a lower back zip pocket which also runs the full length of the back, and another compartment at the bottom of the back which is ideal for stuffing in a waterproof jacket. All the material used is stretchy and the total weight is 170g
When I took it out I got a full set of waterproofs, 2 pairs of gloves and buff, an emergency bivvy, full first aid kit, emergency blanket, 1l of water, food for the day and a set of running poles, and there was still room to spare.









On test

I took the vest out on 2 runs over two separate days. On the first day I decided to go on a 25k run up Bynack More, a 1090m high Munro. As I was carrying such a lot of gear I was expecting a little bit of bounce, but there was virtually none. The vest feels like it is hugging you and doesn't want to let go. There was no movement from the flasks or my phone in the phone pocket either.
As I mentioned earlier I did struggle to reach the back of the side mesh pockets and I couldn't reach the zip pocket on the back at all, but that could just be my lack of flexibility. I did manage to reach the compartment at the lower back to get my waterproof out without having to take the vest off. The chest straps are comfortable and easy to buckle up/undo with gloves on. There are 8 different positions for the chest straps so everyone should be able to find a comfortable position. There are big toggles on the zips which at first I thought would annoy me while running due to their size but I didn't even notice them. They do make opening the pockets much easier when wearing gloves.


The poles can be worn in 3 different ways:
Front - vertical on each side of the chest
Back - horizontal at base of vest
Sides - horizontal under each arm


I first tried them on the front, I found this very comfortable and there was little movement. (Due to the vest I had being a sample, the loops on it were quite thin but are not the same as what will be on the full production vests. The new vests come with reinforced loops with wider elastic)
I next tried them on the side, I really like this option. I tried them while on a fast downhill trail section and at first didn't even notice they were there. There was a couple of problems with wearing them here though. The first was the poles did keep popping out the loops. I'm not sure if this is down to the sample loops on the vest or my application of use. I think with the thicker loops and a bit of practice you will get them to sit better. The second issue was, I did find that after a lot of downhill running my hips started to feel the bounce a bit. Again this could be down to the sample loops or the fact I was running downhill faster than i should creating a lot of bounce. All round though this was my favourite option.
The third was wearing them on the back. It was harder than I thought it was going to be to get them in the loops on the back. This is something that will get easier with practice. There was minimum bounce here and they sat nicely on the bottom of the vest. The only issue having the poles here was I occasionally hit my elbows on the poles. But this was only on the sections I was walking.
I used the Long Harrier Helvellyn Carbon poles which fold down to 37cm and weigh just 223g per pole.
The second day was a 30km run in the Cairngorms in the pouring rain. I took less equipment with me on this occasion to see if the contents of the pockets and compartments would move around a lot when they weren't full, but there was no issues there. I was out for 4 hours and got soaked through but there was no rubbing or chafing at all which is another huge plus..


Conclusion

I've tried quite a few running vests over the years from budget Kalenji to market leading Salomon, and have struggled to find one that ticks all the boxes. The Harrier vest has come closer than all of them. The huge array of pockets, the different ways of holding poles, the lack of bounce and the huge amount of room make this one of, if not the, best vest I've ever tried. What Harrier have done which separates them from the competition, is ask the everyday trail and fell runner what they want in a race vest and gone from there. They listen to their customers feedback and address any issues very quickly. The customer service is quick and friendly; though at the rate I think they are going to expand it will be interesting to see if their customer service will keep up with demand. From what I've seen so far from them I'm sure they have everything covered.




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