Last updated: 24-Oct-18
By Fiona Outdoors
Part of the Columbia Sportswear Montrail collection, the Unisex Caldorado Running Pack is aimed at distance runners.
It features adjustable straps to make it suitable, so they claim, for both men and women. It also has space for a three-litre hydration bladder.
I have been testing the pack on a range of runs and outings.
- Adjustable straps both under the arms and two at sternum/chest
- Rescue whistle on sternum strap.
- 3L hydration compatible
- Two-way zipped main compartment
- Front stretch woven pocket
- Stretch woven side water bottle pockets
- Internal security pocket.
- Trekking pole attachments
- Reflective safety accents
- £70. See Columbia Sportswear.
Pros: What’s good about the Columbia Sportswear Unisex Caldorado Running Pack
This is a neat pack and one that follows the trend for sitting higher on the back rather than at the waist or hips. It’s similar to many other packs called “running vests”.
I often run with an inov-8 running vest and so I was very happy to see that Columbia Sportswear have designed a pack that fits the back and shoulders in the same way.
This system keeps the pack higher on the back where it feels more stable and secure.
Once I adjusted the straps under the arms, the pack was a fairly okay fit. I could further adjust it by using the two sternum/chest straps.
It wasn’t perfect but I am a slim woman and it’s a unisex pack so I would expect it to fit a more average size of person better (see notes below).
It was possible to get the pack adjusted so it did not move about and I was able to run without the pack moving about or rubbing. The fabric was quite soft on my bare shoulders and I didn’t find my shoulders or back becoming overly sweaty (I don’t sweat a lot though.)
The pack has room for a three-litre bladder. It fits in a zipped compartment to the rear of the pack and has a hole for the bladder tube to exit. The tube is then held in place with a plastic hook on the chest strap when not in use. Well, at least, I think this is what the hook is for!
The main zipped compartment has enough space for a couple of spare layers and perhaps a few bits and pieces more. It’s not huge and this means it is suitable only for training or races that do not have a long “essential kit” list.
There is a zipped mesh pocket inside the main compartment that is useful for carrying important items such as a key or credit cards.
The zip for this compartment runs along the top of the pack and on just one side. This puzzled me for a while but then I realised that it stops all your kit falling out when unzipped. If the zip was to be fully opened on all sides it would mean that kit could slip out more easily. The zip is two-way, which is useful.
Another outer fabric pocket, without a zip, but held together by a strap and clip sits on the outer part of the pack. I used this for stuffing in a layer that I might suddenly need. It would be good for a map, too, if wrapped in a waterproof skin.
Two further pockets, for small water bottles or gels are found on the shoulder straps. They are closed with an elastic cord and a toggle.
Two further pockets are found higher up the shoulder straps. One is zipped and the other has a Velcro fastener. These are handy for snacks and gels.
The zips work really well. On some packs, including inov-8 packs, the zips get stuck too easily. But the zips on the Columbia pack have good clearance and work smoothly.
Another feature is the attachment for poles. This is a simple system and works fairly well although it is better if you have poles that fold down as small as possible (that is, in thirds, not in half).
The pack is waterproof in many places but not all over. I would suggest that you use dry bags for items that need to stay dry if it rains.
Cons: What’s not so good about the Columbia Sportswear Unisex Caldorado Running Pack
It would be better to have a pack that was made in different sizes rather than a one-size-fits-all. I had to pull the straps almost to their tightest to make it fit and that meant the shape of the pack wasn’t perfect.
For larger people, I doubt the pack would even go over your shoulders. It’s a pack to fit an average size of man and a medium to larger woman, in my opinion.
Because I had adjusted the straps I ended up with loose lengths of straps. These flapped about and annoyed me.
The two front straps might not suit you if you are larger chested, especially women. The straps can be raised or lowered along the shoulder straps but you might end up with one sitting above and one below and that could be uncomfortable. I don’t know this for sure as I am small chested but I could see it being annoying.
The open side hook for keeping the bladder tube in place has limited use. When the pack is jiggled around too much, the tube has a habit of pinging out of place! Perhaps my bladder tube was too narrow or too long?
I’d like to see a pocket for a smartphone. Many people use their phones for navigation and taking photos so it’s always a bonus if there is a zipped pocket that is located on the front outside of the pack somewhere for this use.
The pulls for the zips look like they will break quite easily. I would like something more robust than a bit of thin cord tied in a knot.
Why not make the whole pack of a waterproof fabric, rather than most of the pack? And there is no indication of the space available in the pack after fitting a 3l water bladder. Most packs tell you the storage area size.
There are too many pockets for me. I would end up forgetting where I had put everything with so many pockets on offer.
While the pole attachment system is okay, it’s not amazing. I think most people would end up not bothering with it and, instead, carry their poles in their hand. Really, the pack is a bit small and the wrong sort of design to effectively carry poles.
I think this is a good first design from Columbia Sportswear and they have packed in lots of features. It’s a nice shape and there is a great deal of attention to detail, especially for the price. But perhaps there are too many features for one small pack.
There are too many pockets, for example, and some features I simply won’t use. Sometimes simpler can be better but overall it’s a nice running pack/vest.
Other packs you may want to try:
Inov-8 Race Elite Vest
Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 4
Ronhill Pioneer Vest
Montane Women’s Via Claw pack
Also see 8 hydration packs and vests on test.
About the writer: Fiona is a keen runner, preferring off-road and hilly to flat and road. She lives in Scotland where the weather is fickle so needs to be prepared for all conditions. See more of what she writes at Fiona Outdoors.
All images Fiona Outdoors except when stated.
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