Our previous review of the Freetrain V1 Vest highlighted a solution perfect for those that hate running with a phone in pocket, hand, or an arm band. This time around, we take a look at Freetrain’s other vest, the Freetrain VR Vest. The Freetrain VR Vest packs the same features as the V1 Vest but is adorned almost completely in reflective material perfect for night running.
Just like with the V1 Vest, the VR Vest puts your phone at the center of your chest in a secure position and features a clasp mechanism for easy access. Sounds intriguing right? Now let’s test it in real world conditions.
To test the Freetrain VR Vest, I used it across multiple sports and activities. I used it primarily for night running but also in various weather conditions and with different clothing. My tests were designed to approximate what daily use would look like for most people. Throughout the testing process, I noted the positives and negatives. I’ve organized them here to help you determine if the VR Vest will work for you.
- 3M. The VR Vest’s 360° 3M is amazing for visibility during night running. If you run at night on a regular basis, it’s worth buying the VR Vest instead of the V1 Vest. It’s also perfect for multiday relay races like Ragnar and Hood to Coast where you need a reflective vest. There are plenty of places to clip on lights whether you’re using Freetrain’s lights or lights from another brand.
- Phone access. The ingenious chest-mounted flip-down phone case is the main attraction. It’s easy to get a quick look at your phone whether you want to see your route, music, or a text message from your significant other. I can’t express how much of an upgrade this is from traditional arm bands and waist bands. It’s the killer feature of Freetrain vests.
- Weight. Because of how you wear the vest, your phone and the vest itself are easily carried by your shoulders. The vest, at 6 ounces, is very lightweight. For reference, that’s lighter than most of today’s smartphones. I’ve never carried my phone in a better location. I hardly even noticed it was there while running or playing sports. And that’s the best compliment I can give to any phone holder.
- Great for sports. This is the only phone holder that I can basically forget about while shooting a basketball. Whether it’s basketball, soccer, rowing, disc golf, or any other sport that involves using your arms and legs at the same time, the VR Vest just gets out of the way and lets you get to work.
- Zip pocket. The pocket on the left shoulder is a vertical zipper pocket that can fit keys or an energy gel. It looks small, but once you get your stuff in there, it’s not moving.
- Quick dry. The neoprene-like material that makes up the entire vest dries quickly. This is absolutely necessary for daily running or training.
- Cable management. While I don’t recommend running with cabled headphones (bluetooth earbuds will make your life 100x better) the Freetrain VR Vest does have some hidden slots added to keep cables out of the way. It’s a nice touch.
- Accidental button presses. After I removed my phone mid-run to take some pictures and a video (a hazard of the job), I endured random pauses of my podcast and my phone getting locked due to too many login attempts. I’m 98% sure this was because I took out the phone and let water get inside the sleeve. I imagine there’s a lot of people who will do the same at some point during their training. If it’s cold, you probably won’t have a problem. But sweaty summer runs are an issue.
- Phone pics and video. Removing the phone midrun has consequences. And based on some of the VR Vest reviews, it’s hard to remove your phone if you have a bulky case. End result, taking pictures and videos during a run or training session is difficult. If you don’t take a lot of pictures/videos while training, it won’t bug you. But for those who do, I hope Freetrain’s next vest allows a smartphone camera to take pics while still inside the protective sleeve.
- Chest..ahem…accentuation. Depending on your body type and the shirts you use, the design of the vest can make your chest look weird. For some men, it results in manboobs. For some women, not wearing a supportive sports bra underneath can create weird cleavage situations. A lot of this depends on your height and chest size. It’s difficult to predict if you’ll have an issue. Just be aware it’s a possibility.
- Sizing. Taller people, like myself, wish the vest was just a little deeper. The bottom elastic straps align more with my chest than my rib cage. I wasn’t uncomfortable, but the VR Vest didn’t fit perfectly. Freetrain is a young company. I expect them to eventually offer more fit options. As it is, I think the vest will work for anyone 5’0” to 6’6” with varying degrees of comfort. That’s hard to do with one piece of equipment. Freetrain’s versatility is impressive.
- Velcro pocket. The pocket on the right shoulder is not very functional. It’s got a tiny opening due to being too far up the shoulder strap where it gets thin. It’s hard to put anything in there. Keys, gels, and credit cards don’t fit. Freetrain needs to rethink that pocket.
- Storage. Freetrain made the VR Vest minimal. You get your phone pocket and one usable zip pocket. This is perfect for training on a field or court but needs more to cater to trail runners. A lot of runners need room for the phone, a gel, keys, a card or two, and sometimes even water. I would love to see Freetrain create a deluxe vest for long distance and trail runners.
- Handwash. I put this here because I know it annoys people. The VR Vest requires hand washing it with warm water and mild detergent. Ideally, you’d be able to use a washer and then air dry the vest but that won’t work with these materials. This isn’t a huge drawback for me, but I wanted to point it out.
If you run at night and don’t like carrying a phone, wearing it on your arm, in a waist band, or in your pocket, the Freetrain VR Vest is going to be the best solution for you. The VR Vest does have its flaws as mentioned above. But it’s lightweight, easy to wear, and offers unparalleled phone access.
At $40, it’s priced about the same as most armbands and waistbands. If you’re still looking for the perfect phone holder for training and running, the Freetrain VR Vest deserves your attention.
Thanks to Freetrain for sending a vest for testing. Freetrain was not given any editorial control of this review.