This post may not be for everyone, but for endurance athletes such as marathon and/or trail runners, serious hikers and maybe even cyclists, you might be interested in my review of the Nathan Sports VaporAiress Women’s Hydration backpack that I recently purchased from iRun in San Antonio. I assume that the male version is similar but for men of course. To give a little background information, I signed up to run a 50 mile trail run in mid-Feb 2017, and I wanted a good hydration system for not only the race, but also my training. I did a little bit of research online about hydration systems and was almost immediately overwhelmed. From many of the articles that I found, there was just way too much criteria to consider that was individual specific. For example, did I want a belt or a pack and then what amount of liquid did I want to carry…or was chaffing/bouncing more important?? And the list went on and on. It seemed like for each characteristic of the hydration system, there was an entire branch of reviews for packs where X was most important…or Y…or Z…and honestly, having never used anything but a good old fashioned water bottle (and a giant Camelback that I would NEVER voluntarily run with), I had no idea what was most important to me in a hydration system. So when the salesperson at iRun raved on and on about the Nathan Sports pack, I was pretty quickly sold. Turns out you can find it online (a little cheaper too I think, although I had a Groupon and discount for belonging to Lifetime Fitness so in store was cheaper for me in this case). But on to the good stuff…
So far I’ve only done 2 runs with my pack, a 5 miler and a 20 miler. It holds 2 liters with a bite-down valve (around 67oz) which suited my 20 miler perfectly (I literally drained it at mile 19.7). It is a beautiful color (teal/turquoise which is of course my fave for those of you who know me well). It also comes in a pink as well. Here is the link.
- Vest – I’ve never worn a vest and after wearing the SPI belt which I love for shorter runs to carry phone/keys/mace/knife/etc, the first thing I noticed about the vest was the ease of potty breaks! Sounds silly and somewhat trivial, but it was nice to not have to mess with anything around my waist. In and out fast which is nice because on long runs I often do not like stopping (hard to start up again).
- Pockets – Pockets, pockets and more pockets! To say this pack has “pockets,” is an understatement! It has so much storage and so many pockets that no matter what all you carried in your belt, you’ll be able to easily fit it and then some! Storage galore! There are also clips for trekking poles and bungees across the back which you could potentially strap down large clothing items.
- Lightness – The pack rides high and center across the upper back. As compared to my average Camelback pack, the Nathan by far takes the cake. You’d think 2L of water is heavy, and even holding it in your hand feels heavy but somehow when it’s on your back it feels lighter. The designers did a great job engineering where it is carried on the female body to minimize the effect of its weight.
- Ease of use – The Nathan Sports ladies hydration vest is just easy to use. The bladder comes out easily for cleaning and care. Restringing the tubing and adjusting the two chest straps and shoulder straps to fit the individual wearing it is simple. The adjustable magnetic “clip” for the tubing near the mouthpiece is brilliant.
- Cool to wear – Yeah, it’s a cool pack, as in temperature cool. I was pleasantly surprised that it seems to vent fairly well and the surface contact area on your back seems minimal which also helps here.
- Main pocket is not waterproof – Even though the salesperson told me the main pocket (where the bladder is contained) was waterproof, it turns out that it is NOT. What I mean by this is that if your bladder contains cold water and/or actual ice in the water, and it condensates at all, it will get anything in the large adjacent main pocket very wet (there are 2 sections in the main pocket, one the closest to your back for the bladder and then a neighboring section inside the large pocket- also for larger items). This is the largest pocket in the pack and so depending on what you plan to carry, this may affect your decision whether or not to purchase this vest. I figure that if I need to use that pocket, I will put my items in zip locks and not worry about it. Definitely not a deal breaker for me personally although I was disappointed to discover it. It seems to be made of the same material that my running “rain coats” are made out of that do not keep me dry. Speaking of…if anyone has any athletic rain gear they can recommend, I’d happily take any advice – I’ve been through several major brands and have yet to find anything to keep me dry.
- Slight bouncing – I don’t think this really should go on the con list but I’m going to put it here because I feel like I don’t have another place to put it. In general, the pack does a phenomenal job and not bouncing or annoying the wearer. However, I will say that when it’s loaded with the full 2L and you’re just starting out, both times I’ve worn it, it’s been a little jarring at first. Once I get used to it and the volume decreases even slightly, it is awesome; I don’t even notice I’m wearing it hardly! Also, I think not putting ice in it helps (less noisy and less bouncing). So again, not really a true “con,” and in general no annoying bouncing, but just wanted to mention it takes a little getting used to and/or slightly less volume to not notice it.
Overall so far I’m very satisfied with my purchase and look forward to using it on long runs and hikes. I tell you what, I might as well throw away my old Camelback – I will definitely never use it ever again as this blows it out of the water.
What questions did I not answer for those of you interested in a hydration system? I can amend this post and/or do another if there is a need.