The NVRSTP action pack from Deckers X Lab is the ultimate hybrid pack. Oftentimes, “hybrid” gear means that something can perform a range of functions but does nothing especially well — or at least better than specialty gear. But that’s not the case here. The NVRSTP action pack is an ultralight combination of a running vest, a hiking backpack, a hydration pack, and an overnight pack, all in one. What sets it apart from the rest of the market is its 19 pockets that promote equal weight distribution across the torso. The design gives endurance athletes comfort and a solid center of gravity when they’re moving fast across rugged terrain.
This unique specialty backpack is for you if you’re looking to pack light and move quickly. In this review, I take the NVRSTP on the trail, on the mountain, on my bike, and around town. For $275 — although pricier than some of its competition — this pack is a strong vest/pack hybrid option for light packers, long runners, and quick trips in the backcountry.
- Weight: 1 pound, 5.7 ounces
- 25 liters (40 with roll top and extended top pack)
- 19 pockets (nine in front, 10 in back)
- Built-in wet bag
- Pole holders
- Carabiner assist
- Hydration bladder pocket
At first glance, there’s a lot going on with the Deckers X Lab NVRSTP. A lot. The company aptly dubs their pack as “the perfectly balanced body mullet,” and they’re not wrong. The nine pockets in the running-vest “business in the front” are designed to keep everything you need in reach, closing with either a bungee or zipper. There are three waist/chest straps and side bungees that keep that pack snug to you, and 10 larger side and back pockets for your bulkier gear (including a roll-top wet bag, a removable top pocket, and a bladder compartment). Every strap and bungee is adjustable to fit your body, giving you the snugness or movement you need for whatever you’re doing.
For a seemingly small pack, the NVRSTP offers a lot to a very specific type of endurance athlete. So, let’s see what this one-of-a-kind pack can do in the field.
Testing the NVRSTP in the Field
The most impressive part about this backpack is how much it can hold, and how comfortable it is with all that gear. Even though it is a small pack, I decided to lay my gear out for an overnight “fast-packing” (run-hike fusion) trip. Let me preface this by saying I don’t particularly pack light, which is no excuse, given how far ultralight backpacking gear and technology has come. And packing for longer does not always mean packing heavier. People like this Coloradan — who completed all 58 of the state’s 14ers self-supported in 43 days — take this philosophy to the extreme, but lightweight gear really does — or, technically, doesn’t — add up.
I was shocked how easily I fit almost 20 pounds of gear in this pack, and how sugly it fit as I hiked a speedy 12 miles. Everything felt really secure, and I had easy access to water, my phone, and snacks without having to adjust anything. Even with bigger, bulkier items than I would ideally pack for a fast-packing trip, nothing about carrying this pack felt awkward.
Next, I took the NVRSTP up Mt. Sneffels in the San Juan Mountains of western Colorado to see how it remained balanced on more technical climbing sections of the hike and how easy it was to layer/delayer throughout the day.
My friend and I brought the NVRSTP as the one pack between the two of us on our hike filled with steep, loose gullies and a few moves on all fours. We have similar builds, and found the pack to be very comfortable and snug as we alternated carrying it up. We wore our jackets on the ascent and had our climbing helmets, a water bladder, a water bottle, and a small first aid kit in the back of the pack, with a water bottle, two iPhones, two granola bars, and an extra pair of gloves in the front vest pockets. It’s super easy to pack this bag with everything you need and more, and we could’ve fit a third person’s gear without issue.
That being said, the first notable challenge I had with the NVRSTP was coming down the mountain. Losing elevation and the day heating up meant a few stops to shed layers and helmets. That’s when I discovered that while this is the best ultralight backpack I’ve used because it packs so much, it’s not one you can just stuff things into on the go. Here’s why.
There are two main pockets: One main “C-shaped” compartment and the roll-top wet bag. Stuffing a jacket in the roll-top immediately makes the pack larger, so the main compartment is pretty much your only option to stay compact. At one point halfway down Sneffels, my friend tried to put his jacket in the backpack while I was wearing it. Upon unzipping the main compartment, things started falling out. Here is somewhere where Deckers may have overdone it, and keeping it simple may have prevailed. If the zipper had followed the standard upside down “U” shape — or at least made the pocket extend to the left for a larger opening at the top — it would be a lot easier to throw things in the backpack on the fly.
When taking this pack running, the more gear and the longer the distance, the more it stands out from any other vest or running pack. For a long run that involves multiple water bottles, bars/gels, and layers, this is a great option. My trail runs don’t typically exceed 10 miles, but if I were in it for the long haul on ultra runs and/or multi-day running feats, this pack would be my first choice.
I also found this pack really shined biking around the city and on trails. It holds so much, keeps water accessible, and doesn’t shift too much during fast, sharp turns. Additionally, for day use, while it’s not the most fashionable pack from the front, it’s great to not have to take your bag off to grab things like water, phone, etc., and can be great to keep you organized throughout the day.
What the Deckers X Lab NVRSTP Does Best
The NVRSTP is ideal for runners, ultrarunners, hikers, and lightweight backpackers. It is also a fantastic option for hiking into your next remote fishing spot. The pockets are great for keeping your gear organized, and the side straps can keep your rods secure as you walk. For hunters, this is a great pack for backcountry scouting to keep you moving as you cover a range of potential hunting spots quickly. When you’re looking to haul meat out of the backcountry, however, a larger, more structured and supportive pack will serve you better for that task.
This backpack really fits as much or as little as you need it to, and is extremely comfortable carrying its max capacity. It definitely shines the most when packed full. The front pockets can really hold a lot, so you can balance your weight evenly. When moving, it feels like you weigh a little more, and not like you’re lugging a bag around with you. Especially in an alpine environment, you don’t want to be pulled backwards by your gear on certain moves.
Deckers is spot on in its product description that the NVRSTP is a crossover between comfort and utility. If you plan to travel long distances in a short amount of time — specifically with multiple days of gear or layers — this pack will serve you in ways not many brands can say they can.
What the NVRSTP Does Worst
On top of the challenge I’ve had with the design of the main pocket zipper, I’ve been conflicted about both the function and excess of the Deckers X Lab NVRSTP’s 19 pockets. While this pack holds a great deal of gear and the front pockets keep things accessible, the front vest is a little cluttered with bungees, cords, and clips when the pockets aren’t full (there are a few bungees I feel the pack could do without).
For a lighter day where I am primarily using the pack as a hiking vest or running vest with just a raincoat and a bladder in the back, I definitely wish this pack came in a smaller size — one with shorter straps and bungees, and potentially two less pockets in the vest section. Even with the pack snug to my body, a half-full NVRSTP on a smaller-framed person means a lot of stray orange bungees whipping around (not to mention how long the waist straps are). Making this pack in two sizes could make the pack as compact as it’s advertised to be because there will be less slack from straps and bungees hanging off.
Does the Deckers X Lab NVRSTP Accomplish its Mission?
Yes. Deckers X Lab created an ultralight pack that keeps your weight evenly distributed as you move. It’s a hiking pack and a running vest that is truly unique in the market. Ironically, on their website, Deckers X Lab heavily advertises the lifestyle elements of this pack, and definitely undersells how uniquely niche of a product this is for fastpacking. While this pack isn’t cheap, if any of this review sounds like you, look no further.