testing for Outdoor Vitals Skyline Fastpack review

Outdoor Vitals Skyline Fastpack Review

A sleek fastpack with vest harness, perfectly dialed in for a fair-weather overnight run

August 27, 2023 – Thanks to its secure running vest harness and ultralight weight, the Outdoor Vitals Skyline Fastpack is the perfect choice for carrying a minimalist kit on a fair-weather overnight run. Its purpose-built, extra low volume chassis sits high on the back, all but completely eliminating bounce and sway while on the move. This pack is fast! Shop now.

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  • Weight: 20.6 oz
  • Price: $200
  • Materials: Robic Ripstop Nylon, UltraStretch Pockets
  • Frame: Aerated Foam Back Panel
  • Load Capacity: 20 lbs
  • Internal Volume: 23L (size S or M), 28L (size L)
  • External Volume : 3L (more if you fully stretch the pockets)
  • Pros: Ultralight. Excellent for running. Secure fit. Good value. No bounce and sway.
  • Cons: Main body compartment, side pockets, and vest pockets are all slightly too small. Only compatible with complete ultralight kit.

Compare this to more great options in our guide to the Best Fastpacks.

vest harness on the outdoor vitals skyline fastpack

When To Choose Outdoor Vitals Skyline Fastpack

Everything about the Skyline Fastpack was designed for runners and not hikers, and that should inform your purchase decision. If you are a hiker who fastpacks by covering marathon-level distances at walking pace, we instead recommend the CS40 Ultra over the Skyline Fastpack. Read our full length Outdoor Vitals CS40 Ultra review. But from this point forward, we will assume you are purchasing this pack to use for either pure running, or mixed running and hiking.

What matter most in a running-oriented fastpack is its ability to reduce, minimize, or completely prevent the dreaded “bounce and sway” effect that causes the pack to move around with each stride. And the Skyline Fastpack handles bounce and sway marvelously thanks to the secure and quite comfy running vest harness.

You may have noted in the pros and cons section that we knock it for being too small across the board. While we maintain that this is a detriment overall to the pack’s versatility in regard to use on multi-day runs (more on that later), it is advantageous from a pure running perspective. Low volume means better balance, less bouncing, and less swaying. The combination of the low volume plus adjustable running vest makes this an ideal candidate for runners.

all packed up

When To Choose Outdoor Vitals Skyline Fastpack

  • An overnight fastpack that involves running
  • Desert fastpacking
  • A warm-weather overnight
  • An un-supported multi-day ultra run
  • A single day peak bagging extravaganza
  • In conjunction with a true super ultralight gear list

When Not To Choose It

  • In cool or cold weather when a 20 degree bag and down jacket are necessary
  • When you will only be hiking and not running
  • For low-mileage trips, slow moving, easy trips
  • For more than three day’s worth of food.
outdoor vitals skyline fastpack side

Outdoor Vitals Skyline Fastpack Construction & Features

At its core, the Skyline Fastpack chassis is a Robic Nylon roll-top with a foam back panel, Challenge UltraStretch pockets, and a running vest harness. What follows is a top-to-bottom deep dive on each feature with commentary, depending on how we like it.

outdoor vitals skyline fastpack from above

Starting at the top, the pack features a Y-Strap for compression and bonus gear storage. Works great for something like a fleece, or a sit pad, and we love to see it added here. Below the Y-strap sits the closure buckle for the main compartment which is 23L in size S/M, and 28L in size L. A small Velcro patch secures the main compartment opening. We tend to prefer snaps over Velcro since they don’t grab hold of fabric or scrape you, but it’s an extremely minor detail. The main compartment also has a removable hydration bladder compartment (we recommend removing it and instead using the vest or side pockets for hydration), and a single zippered security pouch for credit cards, keys, wallet, etc.

ultrastretch pocket

Traversing the exterior outside of the main body are the Challenge UltraStretch pockets. When the pack is full, these have zero volume of their own; all volume is derived from stretching. So in practice, they’re smaller than they look. However, they deliver a very secure hold on the contents, ensuring that basically nothing will fall out, let alone bounce or get jumbled around inside. The side pockets too are very tight. They are each able to fit a 1L Smartwater bottle, and hold it securely. However, by most modern pack standards, these pockets are low volume and not great for holding anything less than the bottom half of a 1L Smartwater. Again, all good for running but bad for hiking as walkers would prefer more volume and care less about bouncing.

close up on side pocket

Static line side compression cords help to secure the top of tall water bottles, or the neck of a Sawyer squeeze filter add-on, and can of course be used to reduce volume.

close up on bottom pocket

A loose pass-through pocket of UltraStretch sits on the bottom of the pack for added gear storage. It is open ended on both sides, so make sure whatever you store in it gets a tight grip. We found it effective for storing sit pad or an Ursack.

aerated EVA foam panel

The inside face of the pack is an H-shaped EVA foam panel with aerations carved out of the surface to help with breathability. A single layer of stretch mesh sits overtop of the foam to reduce sweaty foam-on-body contact, and create a more pleasant user experience. The foam helps to counteract the dreaded barrel-shape-effect caused by inevitably overstuffing the main compartment. The layout is actually quite comfortable, and we like this back panel design a lot. What’s more, it even adds a bit of structure to the pack to help keep it open and upright while loading.

close up on pocket

Lastly, the shoulder straps. This is a true adjustable running vest harness that spans the wearer’s rib cage to decrease upward bouncing in a way that traditional pack straps do not. The pocket configuration on each shoulder strap is identical. Each strap has a bottom pocket (generally for snacks).

close up on hydration pocket

Above that pocket rests a 3-layered multi-pocket for soft bottle storage and more. The pockets are comprised of an outer compartment which is accessed by a zipper, a middle compartment, and an inner compartment, the latter two of which are both access by dropping items in from above. All three of these pockets share volume with one another, so if one pocket is full (like with a soft water bottle), then there is no volume left to store snacks or gear in the other two pockets. It begs the question of why stack three pockets all together?

Outdoor Vitals Skyline Fastpack

The vest is adjustable via dual sternum straps and low double-back side straps, which when combined, create a very customizable, pleasant, and secure fit. The whole system is polished off with a removable nylon webbing hip belt strap, which definitely helps prevent bounce, though it doesn’t have padding, pockets, or store snacks. It’s a lean, mean, and very secure fit!

quarter view of outdoor vitals skyline fastpack

What Could Be Better?

The obvious answer to improving the Outdoor Vitals Skyline Fastpack is volume. When testing a S/M sized pack on an overnight trip, properly fitted to my 19″ back length, it was an epic game of gear Tetris, involving concerning levels of down over-compression, despite my kit being fully ultralight. You try fitting a long/wide 20 degree quilt in a 23L main compartment with room to spare… Ultimately, I made it work, but it left me fully maxing out every last liter and all of the external storage, and generally wanting for more space. It’s preferable when packs are 80-90% full, 100% full causes the chassis to go barrel-shaped, which can create discomfort on the back.

pack loaded up

Noting that the size L pack has a 28L main compartment, that is a 22% volume increase over the 23L S/M, and something of a sweet spot. As such, we give a much stronger endorsement to the size L version than the S/M, assuming it fits your torso. When you have so little volume to begin with, adding 5L extra makes a huge difference to practical usability. We’d like to see the S/M main compartment volume increased slightly, if not to 28, at least to 26.

Testing also yielded some confusion around the vest pockets. My review sample came with two nice HydraPak 500ml soft bottles, but when full, they were slightly too big to fit into the pockets. The top would dangle out a bit awkwardly unless I stored it at ~80% capacity. My preferred front storage configuration for any backpack gives me the ability to store a 600ml Katadyn BeFree up front (with the OV Shoulder Strap Pocket) but that only fit when about half full, as the pockets were generally too narrow and the Katadyn is a bit wider than the HydraPak. I tried all sorts of configurations and never found a great solution to this. Though to be fair, they were designed for skinnier bottles, but I wish more brands would consider storing a Katadyn .6L up front, as it is the fastest and most effective way to drink on the go.

open pocket no volume

Lastly, I also took minor umbrage with the triple layering of the vest pockets and how all three share volume. If one pocket is full (such as with the water bottles they’re intended to hold), there is practically no room to store anything in the other two compartments. You might be able to fit one gel in the outermost zipper-entry pocket if a full bottle is also being held in the main compartment. The center compartment is effectively useless.

For an upgrade to the vest pockets, we would suggest slightly increasing the volume of the main water bottle holsters, and removing the inner pocket so there is only one external zipper pocket stacked over a single water bottle compartment. And give the zippered pocket a bit more of its own volume.

zoomed out view of pack in front of lake

Outdoor Vitals Skyline Fastpack Review Verdict

The Outdoor Vitals Skyline Fastpack is a killer design for overnight trail runs with a minimalist load of fair-weather gear. And with that purpose in mind, we recommend it highly as a top pick for a great price. Thanks to the secure running-vest harness and low volume, the pack almost completely minimizes bounce and sway. However, the flip side of that coin means you may have to play gear-Tetris to fit everything in, ditch the stove and pot, or grab a different pack entirely whenever voluminous puffy gear is required for cold weather camping. But for specifically what its trying to achieve, this is a genuinely great fastpack for a great price.

wearing the skyline fastpack above a lake