I popped out of the trees at 11,000 feet into a rocky alpine meadow on a frigid June day when the hail started falling. I was 8 miles into my trail run — about halfway. The hail gave way to rain as I turned around and started dashing back toward the trailhead. The rain turned to heavy snow as low clouds settled into the craggy drainage.
I was in for a wet slog back to the car. But I wasn’t completely caught off guard. This was the Colorado Rockies, after all. Plus, I was wearing Rab’s new Veil 6L running vest packed with my essential backcountry running kit. I pulled my rain jacket out of the lower back pocket and started running along the slippery rocky trail.
Carrying just a few essentials, like a messaging device, light insulation, a tiny first-aid kit, and a water filter, adds a big margin of safety for solo backcountry runs in remote areas like Colorado’s Gore Range. But like most runners, the only way I’ll carry them is if they don’t impede movement, bounce, or get in the way. That’s where Rab focused its attention on designing the Veil 6L running vest.
In short: Rab has been on a tear releasing products into new markets this season. The brand’s first foray into running, the Veil 6L vest, is a superb entry. It proves that Rab knows a thing or two about designing quality equipment around a body in motion. The Veil 6L is one of the best-carrying, least bouncy running vests that I’ve tried. For runners that find a good fit, it’ll carry up to 3 L of water, tons of snacks, and all your backcountry essentials. Just keep your shirt on to avoid the rub.
Rab Veil 6L Lightweight Running Vest: Review
I ran over 100 trail miles in the Veil, mostly near Vail, Colo. And even after all those miles, all those hours, it’s been an interesting piece of gear to critique — it’s challenging to scrutinize every last feature, bounce, pocket, and detail when it’s so easy to forget I’m wearing it.
That’s about as big of a compliment as I can give a piece of running gear. But that doesn’t mean the Veil 6L is flawless, or that it will work for everyone.
The Veil 6L is built around what Rab calls a Mono Mesh chassis. It’s a translucent ripstop air mesh that’s both super strong and breathable. Rab claims that Mono Mesh absorbs 70% less water than a typical air mesh that many other running vests are made from. I’d say that checks out.
I’m a profoundly sweaty runner, and I noticed that the Veil doesn’t get that damp-back feeling that other running vests and backpacks do. It dries quickly and stays breezy.
The Mono Mesh is also responsible for the Veil’s bounceless ride. It’s a result of perhaps the most innovative design feature of the vest: the cut angle of the mesh itself in relation to the ripstop grid. In areas that need to be fixed to carry weight or provide support, the mesh is square to the ripstop.
Other areas that need a little give, like the shoulders, employ a 45-degree cut angle to the ripstop grid, which allows the slightest amount of stretch. It’s a feature so subtle and elegant that you almost wouldn’t notice, which proves it’s working.
The sternum fit system pulls the vest together up front. A loop ladder on the left side of the vest latches via hooks on an elastic semi-equalized “Z” pattern that’s plenty adjustable. It’s an effective closure system. It bypasses chunky buckles and rides comfortably.
The whole thing fits like a hug. I’ve been impressed with how comfortably the stretchier mesh built on top of the chassis compresses gear, snacks, and water against your body. I never found the need to mitigate bounce by overtightening the front closure system.
I think I found a new pocket almost every time I put this vest on. That includes two I found as I started writing this section about pockets. I count 12 of varying sizes, shapes, and levels of security. I really only found the need to use four to eight of them for any one run. But, you’ve got options.
The two I used daily were the front bottle pockets, made from stretchy mesh built around two included 500mL Hydrapak soft flasks. Attached within the flask pockets are elastic loops with pull tabs that stop the bottles from bouncing out. And, the pockets for those are positioned high enough on the chest that it’s easy to drink without fully removing the flasks.
Elegantly integrated outside the flask pockets are my favorite pockets. Rab creatively named these the “lower vest front stretch stash pockets.” The LVFSSPs are where you can haul hours and hours’ worth of snacks mapped to an oft-overlooked and underutilized area — the lower front rib cage.
On longer runs, I’d pack more than a snack an hour. I’ll bring gels, shot blocks, Larabars, Clif Bars, Honey Stinger Waffles, and whatever else I can scrounge. The LVFSSPs swallowed them all and held them snugly against my body for a bounceless carry.
Hiding between the LVFSSPs and the Mono Mesh base are two side pocket openings that, while not particularly secure, are a great place to stash gloves, a hat, or a buff.
If the front of the vest is your daily carry, the back hauls gear for adventure running. An opening at the collar gives way to two large cavities extending the full height of the vest.
One is for a 2L hydration bladder (not included) and has a Velcro hang tab at the top. It’s a cleverly designed sleeve that disappears when it’s not in use. I only ended up running with a bladder once, as the vest did a fine job of keeping that secure. My water heated up fast riding on my back like that, but warm water is still water.
It’s been a particularly wet spring in Colorado. I’ve been packing both my Outdoor Vitals Nebo Windbreaker and my slightly bulkier Norrøna Senja GORE-TEX shell in the big outer lumbar pocket regularly. There were even conditions nasty enough to warrant bringing my Arc’teryx Norvan rain pants. That lumbar pocket gobbled those pieces of outerwear up with elastic openings on either side.
Rab’s marketing photos had me believe I could reach back and yank my jacket out of this pocket and get it on without stopping. Then, as I stood there with my jacket in my hand and my vest on, I realized the vest needs to come off before I can get my jacket on, just like any other vest. So the quick-draw action is cool, but not much faster than what’s already out there.
A Small Vest That Feels Big
One thing I really like about this vest is that it feels like a small vest that expands rather than a big vest that compresses. All the back pockets essentially disappear until you stash something in there.
Rab also sells the Veil in a 2L version, which omits the deep back pockets in favor of more breathability. Given how well the 6L version breathes, though, I’d personally stick with the 6L for the added versatility. At a competitively light 11 ounces with flasks, the 6L version is only an ounce heavier than the 2L and offers three times the storage.
The Rub: Rab Veil 6L Running Vest
The longest run that I put this vest through was 20 miles. That’s typically when things start to rub me the wrong way. But honestly, the Veil didn’t.
It wasn’t until I ran with the vest on top of a lightweight running tank that it started to chafe the back of my neck after about 6 miles. Its high collar supports a lot of the weight when your bottles are full. So, I didn’t notice it until I was running without a shirt on to block it. Aside from the collar, the Mono Mesh just isn’t that friendly on your skin. So, a T-shirt is critical and my standard kit anyway.
I have a comically large iPhone 6+ that laughs in the face of most running short pockets. It’s also not a great match for the Rab Veil 6L. Smaller phones will find a home in the inner pocket of the left bottle holster. But big phones should find a ride elsewhere. For me, that’s pocketed compression shorts. Sure, you could drop it into the back compartment, but hard-sided objects aren’t the most comfortable on your back given the minimalist Mono Mesh back panel.
At 6’1” and 185 pounds, the large Veil 6L fit me just about perfectly. The Mono Mesh Chassis is more or less fixed, though. So, it may not work for all body types, as there isn’t adjustability under the arm between the front and back of the vest (though there is a stretchy panel right there).
It also only comes in small, medium, and large. So runners needing something larger than that will need to look elsewhere.
Rab Veil 6L Lightweight Running Vest: Conclusion
It took me weeks of running to find something I didn’t like about Rab’s new Veil 6L running vest. Bottom line, it’s a really good vest. It’s competitively light, has a great variety of pockets, carries up to 3 L of water, and runs without bouncing all over the place. That has a lot to do with the innovative Mono Mesh and meticulous attention to design and materials.
It won’t fit all body types, but runners that do pick up the Veil 6L will be thrilled with the ride for long runs and trail races alike.