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Montane Trailblazer 3 Waist Pack Review

© Dan Bailey

Aimed primarily at runners, but with obvious crossover into hillwalking and backpacking, the Trailblazer 3 is a nice little waist pack that's close-fitting enough not to bounce around, and breathable enough not to turn you into a sweaty mess in warm weather.

A good size for shorter runs, though space for bottles is limited  © Dan Bailey
A good size for shorter runs, though space for bottles is limited
© Dan Bailey

Capacity

With just 3 litres to play with, you're not going to be fitting loads into the Trailblazer 3, but I've found it an ideal size for a wind shell, a couple of snacks and a phone when out on a run, with a bit of room to spare if you need a hat and gloves or suchlike. You've no outside sleeve to stick a bottle in, and though it will hold a soft bottle it'll have to be a small one. I've a 600ml bottle that is too long for any of the pockets, but Montane's Soft Flasks (made by HydraPak) are better - the 250ml version fits in either of the side pockets, but the 500ml Soft Flask will have to go in the main pocket (thus limiting space for a jacket etc). If you need more capacity, you could look at Montane's Trailblazer 8, a rucksack rather than a waist pack.

The mesh padding is nice and airy for warmer days  © Dan Bailey
The mesh padding is nice and airy for warmer days
© Dan Bailey

Fit and comfort

One size fits all with the Trailblazer 3. I was initially a bit sceptical of its single webbing strap, since some other designs have split webbing that intuitively seems more effective in terms of bounce reduction. However I needn't have worried. Thanks to its broad body-hugging hip fins the pack is close fitting, and with just 3 litres worth of stuff in it I've found there's minimal bounce or shifting about as you run. The mesh padding is soft, comfy and highly breathable, so you can more or less forget you're wearing it on the go.

The waist belt fastens with a single central plastic buckle, while the spare ends of webbing can be secured under plastic clips on the belt. I'm not skinny, but even on me there's loads of excess tail, and I might consider cutting it short. I think sewn elastic retainers would have been better since the webbing does seem to pull out of these plastic clips once in a while.

As lockdown training runs have got longer, I've found the Trailblazer 3 increasingly useful  © Dan Bailey
As lockdown training runs have got longer, I've found the Trailblazer 3 increasingly useful
© Dan Bailey

Weight

Montane say 175g (approx), while I make it 180g. That's a wee bit more than some other waist packs of similar size, but not enough for most of us to lose sleep over. Its 70D fabric feels tough enough for plenty of mountain use - Montane don't seem to be skimping on the durability in order to save weight.

Features

Storage is distributed across three separate zipped pockets. The main rear pocket is roomy enough for a thin windproof or softshell jacket (a size Large jacket in my case - it does make a difference when you've limited room to play with), plus a little spare. With some effort I can even squeeze a light shell top and bottoms in here, though it does then become a bit bulgy on the waist. You get a key clip in the back of the main pocket, which is pretty much essential in my book, and an internal sleeve which seems a good secure place to hold your smartphone (or a compact camera when shooting photos for this review). A smaller zipped pocket is located on each side of the hip belt, and since these are made of a slightly stretchy mesh they can also hold a fair amount.

Stretchy side pockets for snacks etc  © Dan Bailey
Stretchy side pockets for snacks etc
© Dan Bailey

For additional storage options Montane have added a couple of tiny external daisychains, though I'm not sure I'll use them. You also get a little bungy arrangement, which is both for compression and another place to carry things. A rolled up jacket fits in here, and Montane also suggest this as a place to stash a pair of folding poles. I'm not 100% convinced, though I guess if you do have poles then they'll mostly be in the hand anyway.

Summary

Striking a useful balance of size, features and capacity, the Trailblazer 3 is a handy little waist pack that seems well suited to shorter hill runs, or lower level trail running where you may not need to carry quite so much. If you're out all day, or carrying clothing for cold/wet weather, then you may be pushing its volume. The fit is comfy and with minimal bounce, while in warmer weather its mesh padding feels really breathable. While it is aimed primarily at runners I can also see the Trailblazer 3 proving useful on overnight backpacking or mountain trips - think a lightly equipped summit dash from a camp, for instance. For £30 I think Montane have done a good job here.

Montane say:

The lightweight Trailblazer 3 is a body-hugging waist pack with a secure and stable fit. The multitude of pockets and attachment points allow for quick and easy access to hydration, food and kit while on the move.

  • Weight: 180g (our weight)
  • Capacity: 3 litres
  • Padded, highly breathable air mesh back panel with wrap around fit
  • Main pocket with internal organisation sleeves and key clip
  • Hydration bladder compatible
  • Front daisy chain with reflective detailing
  • RAPTOR Cross Lite 70 Denier fabric, CONTACT Air Mesh Plus on harness
  • Bottom bungee system for external storage and compression

For more info see montane.co.uk

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2 Jun

I’m primarily hydration vest guy. For a 3+ hour run, I take a phone, small first aid kit, jacket, 2x500ml soft bottles and some food. It does surprisingly add up - 5L vest is still plenty.

However, a waist pack in warmer months and shorter runs is becoming more appealing. I have Inov8 Race Elite pack, but it bounces a fair bit if it’s not tight enough or digs into waist if it’s tight. The zip is also not very smooth and keeps snagging.

Any chance anyone had both packs? I have Trailblazer 30 for overnighters and it’s been a joy.

When did they stop calling these a bum bag?

3 Jun

Probably when they heard us all sniggering like school kids, then someone saying "fanny pack!" and everyone guffawing. :)

It seems that bum bags, sorry - waist packs - are having a renaissance in mountain biking currently, I've got two - from the mid 90s and the late 90s! It's great to be old enough for your old stuff to be cool again! :)

3 Jun

I still use my Rock and Run Hipsac Superlite, bought from the shop on Division Street in Sheffield.

I was going to mention bum bags and fanny packs in the review and then thought it would show my age. And also my mental age. I think waist pack is one of those rare occasions where modern marketing speak is an improvement.

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