Select BITR Apparel On Sale. Shop Now
Running Apparel • June 9, 2023

REI Swiftland Trail Gear Review: Fresh, Affordable Comfort

We independently review everything we recommend. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.

What You Need To Know

A little of everything

REI has new Swiftland clothes, accessories, and hydration packs

Perfectly priced

The Swiftland gear delivers quality without steep prices

Just in time for summer

Shorts, hats, and hydration scream summer heat

The Intro

JOHN: REI is a really cool company. It’s been around since 1935, and it all started with an axe and an adventurous couple who wanted to help bring quality goods at more affordable prices to other like-minded thrill seekers. Such a cool tale. REI‘s history of bringing quality gear to adventurers at low prices is still going strong, closing in on a century now.

I’m not going to lie, though; my running clothes are rough. I would definitely call myself a dirtbag trail runner. If I wear a shirt at all it’s probably from 2017. I’m basically Eddie Murphy in Trading Places before the Dukes gave him money, but there’s still hope for people like me out there. Unlike the wildly evil Duke bros, REI is awesome. They’re looking out for the environment with gear like this, which contains recycled materials as well as ones that meet the Bluesign criteria.

So, you can toss those nasty shirts and shorts (that are making you chafe out of control) and that moldy hydration pack (you’ll thank me) and get some comfortable Swiftland stuff. It’s heating up here so I picked some warm days to test out this gear to see how comfortable it was.

EMILY: Earth-friendly, seriously smart co-ops like REI’s Swiftland, have certainly contributed to the James Dean effect John is referring to with trail apparel designed for the runner ready to step bravely onto the paths less traveled and look like they know what they’re doing (even if they don’t). Engineered with eco-savvy, lightweight materials, Swiftland gear immediately feels broken in, so dodging tree snakes and box-jumping logs feels as natural and unhindered as singing Bohemian Rhapsody alone in your car. Besides, nobody looks cool picking poorly fitted shirt seams out of armpits or doing pre-run sumo squats to stretch out their shorts.

For the performance, comfort and pricepoint, I agree with John that Swiftland offers smart outfitting options that are well on their way to sharing a lunch table with the coolest kids at school.

Swiftland 5 Hydration Vest

JOHN: Stupid is as stupid does. I’ve used many packs over the years. I’m a simple guy. I don’t like too many places to put things or an over complicated setup that leaves me finding something I desperately needed for the race two days after it’s already over in some obscure pocket. You can ask my girlfriend, I lose a lot of motor skills throughout the course of 100 miles, so I need things as simple as possible.

The Swiftland 5 offers a great setup, with everything easy to access on the fly. There are two pockets in the front that you can put bottles in and two more attached to those that you can use for trash, wipes, Little Debbies, or whatever gets you to the next aid station. The back has a big pocket you can jam stuff like a windbreaker or other gear into and then a zippered pocket for the bladder. I am not a bladder guy; however, the Hydraflask Bladder that’s included was super simple to refill quickly and cleanly.

This pack is a light 9.5 oz., and it didn’t chafe or get uncomfortable. Because I’m a sicko, I ran in totally exposed areas in the sun for 11 miles in one of my tests, and I didn’t even really sweat that much. The pack felt great, it adjusted well, didn’t bounce or feel clunky, and the bladder didn’t slosh. I’m pretty picky with packs (if you couldn’t tell), but I really have nothing bad to say about the REI Swiftland 5. It’s a pretty inexpensive pack already, and on top of that, it’s currently on sale at REI. You could do much worse for more money.

EMILY: I’ve been running with my purple Nathan hydration vest for about 2.5 years now — I think I’m gonna have to name it. We’ve covered close to 3,200 miles together, so I was totally biased going into this review. As John alluded to, the Swiftland 5 is a charmer, though I immediately craved more front pockets for easy access to snacks, pepper spray, a phone (if and when desired), and more snacks. I typically run with a 2-liter hydration compartment, but burping the air bubbles on those babies is a hassle. I preferred the smaller 1.5-liter Elite, and you won’t leave the aid station feeling like you have a toddler on your back. Simple reflective details provide some street-safe twinkle.

The dual adjustable straps helped keep the who thing snug as water levels varied over the course of a 5-hour test drive. I did notice that once tightened, a good deal of the straps were left flapping in the wind as I went. But for the price, I can deal with some flare.

While that main compartment boasts plenty of secret storage space, in general, the streamlined design helps eliminate some of the peripheral racket. I like that I only have the necessaries within plucking position. To John’s point, keeping it simple is gonna be better in the late hours when you start talking to your hydration pack.

PRICE: $99

Shop REI Swiftland 5 Vest - Men Shop REI Swiftland 5 Vest - Women

Swiftland Shorts

JOHN (7-inch): When I saw these shorts for the first time, I got cringy flashbacks to myself in those baggy JNCOs monsters I lovingly wore in high school. I could hardly imagine thinking about running in 7-inch shorts (especially in summer), but I was pleasantly surprised. They felt great on the run. I will say, though, the fit of these shorts is a bit on the larger side. I flip flop between a Medium and a Large, so if you’re like me I would go with a medium.

I normally run in Patagonia shorts because in ultra running, when you find a short that works, you stick with it. Like with hydration packs, I’m reluctant to switch things up, but I really liked these. I would definitely wear them on a longer ultra. Again, my only real thing to look out for is the sizing. I did find they do run big, but other than that, there’s solid value here.

EMILY (5-inch): I can completely relate to having a family who is burdened by my fashion differences, so the relief that poured from their eyes when I tried on these lively lookers was substantial. The Swiftland 5-inch Women’s Running Shorts are a summery, slightly stretchy blend of nylon and spandex for quick drying and ventilation. They felt feathery, and not once over the course of 20-plus miles did they threaten to chafe.

I will say I started to question the pocket game after only seeing the SwiftFit lumbar zip-up big enough for some salt tabs and a bandaid, but hidden within the extra comfy, extra wide waistband are two secret stash spots, perfect for chapstick, jewelry, or a GPS tracker. Well-appointed reflective flare, built-in breathable liner, and unexpected pockets make these a new contender for longer adventures where chaffing is a concern.

PRICE: $59

Shop REI Swiftland Short - Men Shop REI Swiftland Short - Women

Swiftland Running T-Shirt and Grid Tank

JOHN: Going back to being a dirtbag, I also embarrass my daughter and girlfriend at times. I’m going to just say it, this shirt looks better than most of my regular “in public” clothes. On top of that, it’s a fantastic piece of running gear. The shirt looks like a regular casual shirt, but it is totally breathable. It kept me feeling really cool but also looking cool, too. My girlfriend actually said I look handsome in it.

The Swiftland Running T-Shirt is moisture-wicking and quick-drying. It also has reflective markings peppered all over the shirt, helping you stay more visible to cars, cyclists, and others around you. I was really impressed, although, to be perfectly honest, when I initially saw it, I was thinking typical mall store-type athletic gear, but it’s totally not.

EMILY: Sleek, simple, and made with a comfort-enhancing combo of stretchy bluesign-approved nylon and spandex that kinda looks like hundreds of tiny waffles, I could just eat this shirt up. In fact, I’ve worn this shirt on four of my last five runs because the neckline and cut are flattering, sweat is wicked so quickly, you may not even notice it, and it feels like an old friend. With clever details like reflective trim on the back to improve lower light visibility (think eyes a glow in the treeline), I will definitely be making this a go-to for longer runs in the summer months.

PRICE: $39 for the T-Shirt, $35 for the Tank

Shop REI Swiftland T-Shirt - Men Shop REI Swiftland Grid Tank - Women

Swiftland Running Cap

JOHN: I normally wear buffs around my head when I run, but, like all runners, I’m definitely conscious of sun protection, and this hat has it in spades. I did sweat a bit wearing the hat, but it was in the 80s, and I didn’t really feel it while running and only noticed after I took the hat off. I had it tightened pretty well (like I normally do), but when it was windy, it wanted to blow right off. At times I had to just carry it because if I tightened it any harder, it would have hurt my head.

The Swiftland Running Cap is a great functional item with sun protection. However, you could see noticeable sweat stains, it doesn’t want to stay on in the wind, and I’m not a huge fan of its look. It’s not a bad-looking hat, don’t get me wrong, I am all about function over fashion, but personally, I’m a fan of louder colors.

PRICE: $27

Shop REI Swiftland Cap

Want to learn more about how our review process works? Check out this guide.


Have something to say? Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


photo of man in yellow shirt
John Calabrese
Habitual Ultrarunner
  • Instagram
  • Strava

An obsessed runner, John has run in most ultra races in the Mid-Atlantic area. Since he’s an ultra runner, it’s no surprise he’s also a lover of food. He’s also a dedicated father, caregiver, and veteran.

More from John
Shoe Size


Fav. Distance


  • 23:25:23

    100 Mile
  • 9:13:41

    50 Mile
  • 4:23:38

girl running in a red tanktop wearing a hat
Emily Hanson
Mid-Atlantic Trail Reviewer

Born and raised in Smaltimore (Baltimore), Emily relishes running for hours in the woods. It’s where she works out the kinks in her approach to being a mother, partner, writer, and a better human being.

More from Emily
Shoe Size


Fav. Distance


  • 15:02

  • 5:11

  • 3:14:28

  • 2:23:36

Previous Post
Next Post
Previous Post
Read Article
Next Post
Read Article man wearing a believe in the run and path projects shirt
Running Apparel • June 9, 2023

Believe x Path Projects: Dirt Division Capsule