Rab seem to have been on a bit of a rampage in recent years, extending their reach beyond the brand's traditional audience of climbers, hillwalkers and mountaineers into other areas such as running (the Skyline range) and cycling (Cinder range). It's not a surprise really, given that most climbers, hillwalkers and mountaineers - myself included - don't stick to a single activity, and more often than not the extras are running and/or cycling. With the Veil 6L, Rab's first running vest, they've made a strong opening statement, with a well-thought-out design that ticks pretty much all the boxes. Apart from one. More on that later.
I'm a big fan of 5-6L running vests due to their versatility, being light enough for short excursions and large enough for long/ultra distance outings. At 260g the Veil 6 is competitively light, and very much long race/ultra worthy, but this doesn't come at the cost of storage space and capacity, which is exactly what tends to be scrimped on when brands are looking to reduce weight. As a result, I've found myself using this vest for all sorts of outings, both short and long, training and racing, summer and winter. If you're only going to buy one running vest, and want whatever you get to do a bit of everything, this is the sort of size that I'd recommend.
It's made from 'mono mesh', which is different to the 'air/spacer mesh' used throughout the majority of running vests. In comparison it has a much smoother feel and - according to Rab - is 50% lighter and absorbs 70% less water. I was worried that the latter might make it feel a little more clammy in use, keeping the moisture closer to your skin, as opposed to pushing it through the pack where it can evaporate. Having used it in some seriously warm weather, I haven't found that to be a problem, although it is noticeable how much less moisture it absorbs and how much quicker it dries as a result.
The smooth feel means there's very little resistance too and I haven't had any issues with chafing, which I have with some air mesh vests - particularly when running in warm weather. They've done something clever with the material, too. In places it needs stability, it's been cut at an angle such that it won't stretch (i.e. on the back, where the load needs to be stable), but where movement is required it's been cut to make use of the stretch, giving you more freedom of movement (i.e. on the shoulders, where there's much more going on). This design feature looks quite subtle, but in use it's noticeable partly because of the fact that you don't actually notice it, thanks to the natural feel of the fit.
A lot of thought has been put into the front pockets, too, which feature a large zipped pocket in front and a large open pocket behind. There's space in each to include whatever you might want and everyone has their personal preferences of what goes where, but I've tended to include my food in the front/zipped pockets and my map/compass in the back/open pockets. There's a sleeve within one of the zipped pockets to fit your phone, which is useful, as this prevents it from falling down further into the pocket, which has a bellows shape in order to maximise the storage space available.
But now for a niggle. While most features have been done really well, I think Rab have got it wrong with the side pockets. These have been cut way too low, and over the last few months I've lost several things as a result of this, including a hat and a load of food, which have all fallen out unnoticed because the pockets simply aren't deep enough.
I've actually had to stop using them. This is a shame, because side pockets are an absolutely essential storage feature on a vest of this capacity, and usually they'd be the place I put spare clothing (hat, gloves, windproof), accessories (head torch) and any additional food I might require. Since I can't do that, all these have ended up going into the main compartment, which requires me to stop and take them out. Whilst there is the option to push whatever is within the side pockets further around to the back, as the pocket itself wraps all the way around from one side to the other, this is also quite impractical. Hopefully this feature will be remedied in future models, and I've already been assured it will be, as it'd be a very simple win that would - at least for me - turn its fortunes around entirely.
Moving on to the main compartment, Rab have opted for a large, single chamber. This has its benefits, insofar as it's simple and helps to keep the weight down, but it does mean you've got to be a bit more strategic about what goes where. When packing, it's worth thinking a little harder about what you're going to need and when, as you don't want essential items stored at the bottom, where they'll be more time consuming to access. A twin compartment remedies this issue, but that can come with its own set of issues, being a little less efficient in some ways (i.e. wasted space) and also making it heavier as a result.
The Veil 6L features a unisex design and is available in three sizes: small, medium and large. Much like running shoes, we always recommend trying before buying (if you can), because fit is imperative. Don't be afraid to ask if you can pop a bit of weight in and jog around the shop. Weird though this may look it'll give you a good idea of whether or not there's any excess bounce and if you'd be better off going for a size up or down.
In terms of its sizing, at 180cm tall and medium build I am pretty much always a size M in everything, and I've found it to be true to size. Adjustment comes via the four way bungee cord on the front of the vest, which coupled with its fantastic cut and elasticated side panels seems to hold it in place securely, whilst providing a bit of give to accomodate for movement whilst running. Personally, I've found it to have limited or no bounce, although a certain amount of this depends on how much you've got in it and how well it's packed.
The Veil 6 comes with 2 x 500ml Hydroflask (aka. softflask) bottles. These bottles have a great rate of flow, but don't have any means of locking them off, which is something to be aware of when you're throwing it onto the back seat of your car. Whilst there is a sleeve for a bladder down the back it's not something I've used, but the option is there - should you need it - and there's an elasticated bungee in position on the side which is designed for the mouthpiece to run through.
Within the top of the main compartment there's a small zipped pocket, which is perfect for keys, but also takes a phone (if you don't want to put it in the front pocket). There's also a key clip in the small 'pocket' on the shoulder, which is where the vest's whistle is located. I've also used these pockets for waste wrappers, although they're not the most secure, and could probably do with a bit of extra elastication to make them a bit more functional.
Finally, you get bungees on both the back and sides in which to store poles, which accommodates for each individual's preferences as to where they put them. I've tended to place them down the front and the positioning is good, as is the lack of bounce.
I've really rated the Veil 6. In fact I would say it's close to being perfect. But unfortunately it's let down by the side pockets, a basic and essential feature. If those were to improve - and we're told they will- then my assessment would change, because other than that, I've loved it. It's a great all-rounder, with well-thought-out storage, particularly around the front pockets, and a great cut using innovative materials. If only those side pockets were higher...