The Montane Via Trail Gecko VP12+ review in a sentence: a lightweight and versatile running backpack that works as well for a hike as it does for fastpacking or urban commuting. A high end, quality pack that will last for years. Okay, that was two sentences.
There’s a lot to like about the Gecko VP12+. With a fit suitable for men or women, its one of the best running backpacks you can buy. The extra Velcro waist strap gives a much closer fit than chest straps alone. The much larger than average two front zipped pockets are brilliant, although they are made from very fine mesh so there’s little protection for a phone if it rains. Rear storage is also ample, with a toggled bladder section plus the normal large zipped space. Having 12L storage will appeal to more serious long-distance athletes, who will also appreciate the thick, cushioned internal Air Mesh Plus harness.
Montane is so confident about the quality and design of its pack that it offers a lifetime guarantee against faults in their material. So, what did I make of it? Read on…
Montane Gecko VP12+: price and availability
You can buy the Montane Via Trail Gecko VP12+ for £110 in the UK, in a choice of black or 'narwhal blue'. In Australia it's AU$180. American availability is coming soon – check pack on the Montane USA web page, which was under construction at the time of writing.
Montane Via Trail Gecko VP12+ backpack: Design
Load up the VP12+ and you’ll instantly see where this pack excels – there’s so many pocket options and the main storage section expands a lot. The two chest straps plus a lower wide Velcro waist belt makes this pack hug your body and feel more secure than other packs, useful if you’re carrying heavier tech on a commute. Internal stretch fabric is soft against your skin and moves with you. There’s a waterproof barrier between the mesh that sits against your skin and the inside of the pack, so your kit won’t become drenched in sweat. Also, the mesh has Polygiene odour control, a permanent antimicrobial treatment that kills off the nasty bacteria that lead to smelly kit.
The two 500ml soft flasks included sit high in the front and are easy to use, and having two deep front zipped pockets is another bonus. Different pole attachment points are useful for multi-day races and hiking, whether you’re in the mountains or the desert. This pack is large enough to fit a laptop if needed.
Montane Gecko VP12+ Review: performance
With the capacity to carry more kit, this pack will come into its own on longer runs, races or adventures as it allows you to fit in more than your basics or essentials. For races with mandatory kit lists, or when running in the cold and wet when a spare set of dry clothes is important, the Gecko VP12+ excels. You can load it up and it will still feel snug against your back. The elastic cord on the back allows you to compress the pack down once you’ve got it filled, as well as carry kit outside the main section, including your poles if you choose.
Montane packs use robust fabrics and the stitching is strong, so zips will not deteriorate and seams won’t unpick. While the fabric is not as stretchy as a Salomon pack, it will last for longer. The front pockets work really well and feel sturdy. There’s a rear pouch at the top that can act as an extra quick stash area that you can tuck in/pull out from while running and it’s not stingy – you can easily get a winter running jacket in there. The front pole toggles are relatively easy to use, and are quicker than the rear option. They also aren’t as restrictive as some pack options.
You adjust the fit of the pack mainly using the two chest straps, that can be unhooked/hooked on to loops to suit your preference. On first use I found these a little fiddly to set up, though once you’ve found the right level for these two straps you won’t have to change them. Adjusting the lengths of these two thin elasticated straps also is a little time consuming, and less ‘instant’ than the systems other brands use. These are minor issues that would only cause annoyance if you had to do this when you are tired or struggling towards the end of a long race.
Montane Gecko VP12+ Backpack Review: Verdict
This vest is in the upper bracket of prices for backpacks, and is quite a hefty initial outlay, but the quality and durability of the fabric means it will last. It also reduces down significantly when less full and offers pockets that are bigger than in other medium sized packs. The pack caters for all types of runners, with plenty of rear reflectivity if you’re out in an urban environment.
Montane Gecko VP12+Review: Also consider
If you want a similar size pack just for your run commute, the Saysky Running Commuter Backpack is a well-padded, close-fitting run commute pack that offers waterproof zippers and a protective section for your laptop. Alternatively, just peruse our buying guide to the very best running backpacks.