Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gear Review - Nathan Hydration Vest

These things are great. Basically an alternative to the Camelbak daypacks, or larger packs that can accommodate a hydration bladder. They are useful on longer bike rides, longer runs (15+ miles) and for hiking. They are lightweight, fairly durable, and not ridiculously expensive.

These packs were designed with ultra-running in mind. Where other packs have thin shoulder straps of cordura or similar material, the Nathan packs have broad, breathable straps, with convenient pockets for energy gels. A multitude of straps allow fine-tuned fitting. But the best feature of all is the rubber Y piece in the back. This thing allows the pack to stay centered on your back while you run - no more swinging from side to side, or bouncing and slamming into your back with each step. There is elastic cording for a light jacket, and a pocket in the rear for a compass, maps, cell phone, whatever. There's even a special chest-strap clip that is molded to receive and hold the end of your hose/tube.

The one downside is the actual bladder. While the seams have held up in mine, the mouthpiece seems a little...over-engineered. As opposed to the simpler bite-and-suck valves on Camelbak bladders, the Nathan mouthpieces have a fixture inside not-unlike the top of a bike-water-bottle. To use it, you must close your mouth to maintain the vaccuum in the tube, bite down on the end, and pull away from the rest of the mouthpiece. The lack of a self-seal like on the Camelbak mouthpiece means that if you open your mouth while the valve is open, air will fill the tube and you'll have to suck it out to get more water.

So the pack is great, well-designed, and minimalist. The fit is highly adaptable. But replace the bladder with a Camelbak bladder. I'm a small guy (5'-6"), I use the women's model and it fits fine.


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