REI Swiftland Hydro Review – A Feature-Packed 5L Running Hydration Vest


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I was so excited when REI asked me to review their first hydration pack for trail running, the REI Swiftland Hydro 5L.

REI is a co-operative company that I respect greatly. I love REI’s commitment to sustainability (including their Used Gear store), the building of communities through classes, outings and events, and their huge range of high-end outdoor gear that can be bought online, or viewed in real life at one of their many retail stores across the USA.

With that said, when REI Co-op releases a product of their own design, I want to learn ALL about it because I know it’s going to be a high-quality, sustainably made, and reasonably priced product.

In this REI Swiftland Hydro review, I cover the key design features, my experience while running with the pack (including things like comfort, pocket & water accessibility, and bounce levels), sizing advice, build quality & durability, cost (and if it’s worth it), and finally a rating out of 10 accompanied with some pros and cons.

The latest version of this REI running hydration pack is featured on our best running hydration packs buyer’s guide, which I recommend you check out if you’re shopping for one.

REI Swiftland Hydro Review Contents

The key design features of the REI Swiftland Hydro 5L Hydration vest.

Hydration Bladder (included when you buy the Hydration Vest)

Thankfully an important feature of the Swiftland Hydro, the HydraPak 1.5 liter Velocity™ reservoir bladder (with high-flow bite valve) comes included when you buy the hydration vest.

Before running with this vest I was an avid supporter of solely running with soft flasks, and don’t get me wrong there’s still an important place for them in training runs and racing.

For example, soft flasks (collapsible water bottles), or bottles can easily be filled up at aid stations/checkpoints and you can store electrolyte or fuel drinks in there, as to not contaminate your water supply.

If you find yourself bonking during a race due to an upset stomach, and can’t for life of you stomach any more endurance fuel (a powdered fuel mixed with your water supply), you still need to be able to hydrate with water if you plan to continue with your run or race.

This is why, in my opinion, having two hydration supplies is absolutely crucial for ultra running or long trail runs.

If you haven’t tried an endurance fuel for running before and want my recommendations on powdered fuels that are easy on the stomach, have a read of this post that shares my 20 trail running performance hacks.

I digress but my point is that the 1.5L hydration bladder works very well on this running vest as a source for my water.

Once the air is removed from the bladder, there is no sloshing whilst you run, this used to be a real downside to running with water bladders in the past.

To draw the air out of this water bladder:

  • Fill with water. It doesn’t have to be completely filled, just as much as you need for your run. 500ml is fine on a shorter run.
  • Seal the bladder following the instructions on the paper tag.
  • Fasten the bladder securely inside the pack using the provided clip
  • Turn the pack upside down and suck the water tube until the air is all gone and you taste the water. You’re done. No sloshing whilst running.
REI Swiftland Hydro review trail and kale web wm 15
water bladder nozzle with clips on the vest to easily secure it whiles running

The steps are simple but filling a bladder during a race situation could potentially knock minutes off your time, another reason to carry collapsible water bottles with you during long races where you envisage potentially running out of water.

The tube for drinking out of has a lock mechanism which stops water releasing if you were to accidentally squeeze the nozzle.

In my experience water doesn’t leak out while it’s unlocked though, which is great.

There are also 2 clips on the vest to secure the tube in place while running.

Pockets and storage capacity

There’s plenty of storage capacity on this hydration vest, 7 pockets with a maximum capacity of 5 liters, to be precise.

This includes one large pocket which I’ll call the main pack space and go into in just a moment. On the rear, there’s an open stretch pocket that is the perfect place to store your waterproof running jacket while not in use.

The pocket is not sealed so clothing that packs down stores very well in here as they’re unlikely to pop out.

REI Swiftland Hydro review trail and kale web wm 14
cinch pockets on the front of the vest

There are 4 lower stretch-mesh pockets on the front of the pack which can hold your phone, GoPro (or selfie stick), bottles, gloves, and food. For any items that you want to be completely secure, use the top pockets on either side as there’s an easy to grab drawstring which closes the top of the pockets (see image above).

There are also two internal pockets inside the large main pack space. These two pockets can hold a wallet and a phone. I use one of them for my wallet but personally prefer storing my phone in one of the front drawstring pockets so that I can quickly access it to take photos of jaw-dropping trail running views for our Instagram account :). There’s a clip inside these pockets that I use to attach my keys to. Inside the main pack space, you could also store things like a small first aid kit, spare socks, gloves, etc. This pack space has a cover that closes this main pocket very securely (see image below).

REI Swiftland Hydro review trail and kale web wm 19
Drawstring to secure the main large pack pocket.

Unfortunately, the Swiftland Hydro 5L doesn’t appear to be able to have a mechanism for attaching trail running poles, so you will need to also wear a running belt if you intend to run on technical mountain trails that require running with poles.

Adjustability, fit, and sizing advice

REI Swiftland Hydro review trail and kale web wm 16
side adjustments

There’s a high level of adjustability on the REI Swiftland Hydro which ultimately gives it a very secure fit to any body shape. The adjustable torso straps and load lifters dial in the fit and keep the load tight and balanced, however much you intend to fill the pack.

The Swiftland Hydro vest is available in 3 different sizes for the men’s and 4 for women. With all the different sizes available and the vast customization available with the straps, you should have no problem getting this vest to fit you perfectly.

REI Swiftland Hydro review trail and kale web wm 8
REI Swiftland Hydro 5L Women’s specific version.

This vest is also available in a women’s specific version which Helen loves wearing on the trails. We both commented on how well the vest fits and how little it bounces while running, two important features of a hydration pack when running for long periods of time.

How much does the REI Swiftland Hydro vest weigh?

The Swiftland Hydro 5L weighs 240g (8.46 oz.) for the men’s small without the bladder, and 360g (12.7 oz.) with the hydration bladder, which is pretty lightweight!

What’s it like running with the REI Swift Hydro 5L?

As you can see in the video above, the vest hardly bounces at all due to all the strap adjustability and compression fit. I enjoy having the water bladder on my back with the drinking tube stored in a convenient place for when I need to hydrate. There’s plenty of storage for most of the things that you would take with you on a trail run too (except for running poles), and many of those pockets are accessible on the go, without the need for taking the vest off.

At no point does the vest feel like it constricts my breathing which is something that some vests have done in the past, this is especially noticeable when you’re running hard and lung expansion is increased. Oh, and there’s no annoying sloshing from the water bladder which is always a good thing! Overall, trail running with the REI Swiftland Hydro 5L is a really great experience.

REI Swiftland Hydro review trail and kale web wm 2

How much does it cost and is it worth it?

For a lightweight, breathable, and feature-packed hydration vest that is comfortable while running, and made using Bluesign-approved materials, which conserve resources and protect the health of the environment, the REI Swiftland Hydro 5L is very reasonably priced at only $89.95.

REI Co-op Men's Swiftland Hydro Running Hydration Vest - 5 Liters

$44.83  out of stock
as of April 23, 2024 12:30 pm

The light and cool men's REI Co-op Swiftland Hydro running hydration vest keeps extra layers and energy snacks handy and holds 1.5 liters of water with barely a slosh. Camels wish they had it so good.

REI Swiftland Hydro Review summary: A rating out of 10 with Pros and Cons)


I hope you enjoyed reading this REI Swiftland Hydro review and if you did and have a friend who may be interested please give it a share. Any questions? Please leave them in the comments down below. Happy Trails!

As the founder of Trail & Kale, and seasoned marathoner & ultrarunner, Alastair loves bringing our readers independent running shoe reviews and gear insights to help you run your best. Learn more about Trail & Kale here.


  1. I tried this vest on in my local store a few weeks ago. I’m a big guy and I loved how the men’s large fit. I resolved to buy one as soon as my dividend arrived, only to find that it is now unavailable. It doesn’t show up as out of stock on the website. It’s just plain GONE as if it never existed. It even disappeared from my REI account wishlist. I got on a chat help session via the REI website this afternoon and they couldn’t find it either.

  2. I can’t wait to try this one. As a “fluffier” female trail runner/walker I am freaking stoked about the sizing options in womens. Like seriously, I was just talking about this not two hours with a friend.


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