Montane Gecko VP 20+ Review
This should probably start with a bit of background on why I’m a great person to leave a detailed, informed, review thanks to my vast experience running for days across bleak and barren hills. I am not that person. In the interest of full disclosure, I am mainly a road runner who gets lured away from the pristine tarmac by cruel friends who like to spend their weekends impersonating mountain goats. Having agreed to support some upcoming Bob Graham round attempts, it was clear that I needed something with more capacity than my 3L OMM waist pouch. I wanted something with the space of a rucksack, but the comfort and lightweight construction of a vest. The Gecko 20 fit that bill perfectly.
Fit wise I’m almost always in the grey area that lies a width of a hair between the not-quite overlapping sizes of small and medium. This bag fits me perfectly in medium. I have the straps pulled in fairly tight if the bag is almost empty and I’m wearing just one layer, but it’s extremely comfortable and leaves lots of room for thermal and waterproof layers. The chest straps are easy to adjust, and you can change their height depending on how you like them, which makes the bag really comfortable. The problem I found was that the ‘locking’ side has a tendency to come unclipped when there is no tension. The tension on the strap while it is being worn keeps it in place, but when it’s sat in the boot of a car it can fall off. The first time this happened I only realised when I went to put the bag on at the start of one of the Bob Graham legs only to find one of the straps missing. I was able to cope with just the one, but it definitely needs two to be comfy. Fortunately, I found the rogue strap in the car park after I got back to our accommodation. I have heard someone else with the bag has had the same issue, so just be aware! To combat this, when I’m not using the bag I keep the straps in one of the zipped pockets. The lower strap that goes around your stomach fastens with Velcro and is really comfortable and easy to attach.
The bag itself is vast! It has a wide zipped opening at the top which makes it really easy to access everything inside, minimising the time you need to stop if you need to grab anything. The lid has its own stretchy pocket that can be used to store the things that you always want to keep at the top. It has a slightly unusual clip, but it is easy enough to open and close. On the outside of the bag there are loops for threading the elasticated thread that comes with the bag. This strapping is great for cinching down the bag when it’s mostly empty, which keeps the contents from bouncing around. The straps can also be used to store anything else you need to access quickly.
The bag comes with two soft flasks which sit in the shoulder pockets. I would leave the soft flasks to rinse a few times before using them in anger as they do have a bit of a taste to begin with. Nothing horrendous, but the water definitely tastes better after a few uses, they are free of BPA which apparently is a good thing! The flasks are made of really thin material that makes them really easy to pack down and stash away when they’re empty if you want to put something else in the shoulder pockets. The bottles sit perfectly to be able to drink straight from them on the move.
Below the shoulder pockets there is a zipped pocket on each side of the shoulder strap. I use these as secure pockets to keep my phone in as well as a compass or anything I might need to access quickly but don’t want to drop. One thing I only spotted about these pockets after being slapped in the face by the drink tube of my friend’s water bottle for two miles was the hole that lets you poke a straw through; there’s an elastic loop higher up to keep the straw in place too. Having this option might be useful for anyone who finds the shoulder bottles uncomfortable and might help women get a better fit. There are another couple of little elasticated pockets underneath these perfect for snacks. There is a deep pocket on each side of the waist, these are great for stashing more food to grab on the move.
One thing to note is that while it comes with a whistle, it’s not the best. While it might pass a mandatory kit check, I’d definitely recommend switching it out for something louder if you are doing anything where getting help fast could make a big difference.
Overall, I recommend this bag for anyone who needs a substantial storage capacity, but also wants a running vest rather than a rucksack. I have worn this bag with a 2L water bladder in it along with the two flasks and a substantial amount of food/gear when doing support runs. Even with all this in the bag it remains comfortable throughout the day. The wide opening for the bag makes it really easy to get access to everything and pack it away again without having to resort to magic to get everything stuffed back in again quickly. Despite its size, the straps keep it nice and close to your back so nothing bounces around. The only drawback I have found has been the detachable chest straps which detach a little too easily. This isn’t a dealbreaker for me, but it’s definitely something to bear in mind.