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Nathan Endurance Race Vest – Trail Running Gear Review

I had yet to wear a Nathan hydration pack until the last couple months which have included several 10-17 mile trail adventures in the self-purchased Nathan Endurance Race Vest.

Photo by David Pearson at Hyde State Park, NM

As a runner that will often carry some stuff (camera, additional calories, electrolytes, etc) during longer trail runs, I was most curious to test out the pack’s vest-style storage capabilities and how it integrated with running.

As a fan of the CamelBak Octane series (review of XCT and LR) that contains a nice amount of storage in the waist pockets, how would it feel to have these same items stored along your chest on the Nathan pack?

Would my chest sound like a beating drum as my bring-along items slap against my torso on every stride? While this beating may provide a nice metronome cadence for your fellow runners, this is not a cool point feature for a pack.

Fortunately my experience has been very positive so far.

Let’s meet the Nathan Endurance Race Vest!

Glamour Shot


The Trail Lovin’ Features…with Pockets-O-Plenty

What aspects of this trail running pack caught my attention?

Ultra-Ready Moderate Size

The Nathan pack contains a 70 ounce bladder, has a minimalist-like size, and contains close to equal amounts of storage opportunities on both the front and back of the pack. The main pack body sizes up very closely with the CamelBak Octane XCT.

You will also see multiple points of adjustability (one front, two on each side) to create the right fit for you.



Two-Fisted Backside Storage

The storage pocket on the back includes a kangaroo pouch and my always commended key clip. You will get about two stacked moderate fists worth of run support storage.

You will also see below the pocket a Shock Cord with a one pull tension lock system to help hold a thin jacket or other items.

Buffet Style Front-side Storage with Added Hydro Capacity

What storage would you like? The pack will likely have it.

The front-side area contains two smaller pockets higher up on the vest. One pocked is waterproof with a velcro’d flap and is two inches in length. This would likely be useful for electrolyte tablets or items of that size. How many electrolytes can be packed inside? Surprisingly, I was able to stuff 20 Endurolytes inside the pocket…with some room still available!

The other small pocket is more of an elastic Kangaroo pouch that could hold a couple gels.

Below the elastic K-pounch you will see a 6 inch long by 3 inch wide zippered pocket that contains an elastic K-pouch attached to the outside of it. The zippered pocket could hold cellphone, camera, additional nutrition, etc.

The K-pouch would be useful to hold a gel flask or something of that size/shape.

The final storage area is a  5 inch long by 3 inch wide elastic open-top pocket with a one-pull tension lock that can help close the pocket or hold items in place. This is also where you could carry an extra bottle (22 oz) if desired. Kind of cool if you really need the extra fluids! Also, the bottle will not interfere with access to the waterproof pocket above it.

pocket with extra hydration

Show me the Bladder!

First, easy Velcro flap with dual zippered access to the bladder.

The bladder itself actually contains ounce/liter markings if you want to know exactly how much fluid you are consuming or adding. This could also be useful if adding powder calories with water to a bladder that was already partially filled. (ex: Add 100 cals of powder per 20 ounces of water.)

To fill the bladder you need to undo the Slideseal top enclosure. At first glance I was a bit wrinkled brow. Huh, that is different, especially when used to the CamelBak bladders.

Basically the Slideseal reminds me of a mechanical zip-lock baggie / chip-clip system.

Clip partially slid off.

fill ‘er up

The system works, no leaks, and contains a clip leash so you don’t lose the slide on/off clip…but dang a different approach – yes indeed!

If you haven’t heard enough about bladders yet, I want to show you the most critical part – the drink valve. The valve can be twisted to enable or disable the ability to pull fluids. Simple to use! I also would consider the flow rate to be a bit less than current CamelBak bladders.

The Trail Lovin’ Experience

So how does the pack perform on the trail? Honestly, it was a rough start!

Full bladder, cellphone, camera, Food bar, and a few Endurolytes. Let’s run!

After about 20 meters down the trail – STOP. The pack was moving all around, need to adjust the side straps. One problem, the straps don’t adjust on-the-fly. I tugged, pulled, talked nicely to the pack – nada. So I had to take the pack off in order to get the fingers fully involved to adjust the two straps on each side of the pack.

Alright, pack back on. Let’s run!

30 meters down the trail – STOP. The pack was still dancin’ too much. Tug, pull, less nice words expressed…take the pack off. Adjust, adjust, adjust, adjust (four side straps remember) – done!

Pack back on. Lets try walking…feels good. Lets try running…still feels good. The pack was dialed in!

Why the adjustment difficulty? The Nathan pack uses thicker straps than other systems such as CamelBak. While the thinner straps on the CamelBak allow for easy on-the-fly adjustability, you often (at least I do) have to periodically re-snug up the straps during a run. I have yet to re-adjust the side straps on the Nathan pack since the first run. They seem to be securely locked into position due to their thicker nature.

One final tweak was sliding the chest strap down a bit lower on the vest to eliminate any type of drum beating from the filled front pockets against my body.

Since the initial adjustments, the pack has felt great on the trails.

The bladder is also extremely easy to clean since you can place your entire hand inside to remove any remaining funk.

Photo by David Pearson at Hyde State Park, NM

Final Thoughts

The Nathan Endurance Race Vest is comfortable and contains storage options that would work well for many trail running adventures. The bladder is a bit wacky but still functions as you would expect. My initial set of experiences with a Nathan pack have been a good one!

Also if you are a runner that doesn’t like straps around your waist, this pack provides the storage flexibility without the belly pressure.

Trail runners that would be most interested in the Nathan Endurance hydration pack:

  • 70 ounce bladder with optional flexibility to carry another 22 ounce bottle.
  • Desires a variety of small to moderate storage options with a significant amount of access on the front of your body.
  • Desires waist-free strapping.
  • Will have to develop a bit of proficiency if desire quick bladder refills.

Anyone else use this pack? What are your thoughts?

You can purchase the Nathan Endurance Race Vest at Running Warehouse (Shoes, Packs, Clothes, Lights, and more…plus 2-day free shipping!).

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

[This article contains links that may support Endurance Buzz.]

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

20 Responses to “Nathan Endurance Race Vest – Trail Running Gear Review”

  1. on 20 May 2011 at 2:37 pm Cyndi Newton

    Let us know when this one gets tested by a woman. I’m interested in it but don’t think it would work well on someone slightly over blessed in the breast area. I’m looking for a pack with straps that won’t shift (or beat) on my chest, and will still let me breath!

  2. on 20 May 2011 at 4:01 pm Harold Neiper

    I have the HPL 020 and love it. But now I want this one. Mine doesn’t have the capacity to carry a bottle and that would be great! Looking forward to hearing about the post race review.


  3. on 20 May 2011 at 7:35 pm Blaine Moore

    I’ve got one of these and I’m a huge fan – as for cleaning it, why stick your hand in? I just turn it inside out, wash it, let it dry, then right it and put it back in the pack.

    Cyndi, my wife wears mine more often than I do, and she doesn’t have any trouble with it on the occasions that she bothers to readjust the straps rather than just putting it on.

    The pack fits really well if you adjust it, but can be pretty awkward if you don’t take a few minutes to do so.

  4. on 20 May 2011 at 8:11 pm Cyndi Newton

    @Blaine, Thanks for the info. It makes a dif knowing it does work. It really looks like it would hold what I consider must haves on some of these trails. Not the least of which is the water. Doc says 20 oz not enough for my longer runs unless I want to risk more kidney stones, 70 oz ought to be enough for a Sat stroll in the woods!

  5. on 20 May 2011 at 8:53 pm Mike Westermeier

    Good review, glad you took the time to get the straps worked out. Had the same issue with my HPL-020 but I dialed mine in 3 years ago and it still fits perfectly.

    Got to agree with Harold, would like the extra pockets on this vest. Fathers day is coming soon.

  6. on 23 May 2011 at 11:52 am David Hanenburg

    @Cindi – Hope the insight from Blaine’s wife provides a bit more insight on pack fit for the ladies.

    @Harold – The pack worked flawlessly at Jemez. Desire was to carry enough nutrition to get to the ski lodge (mile 19) – extra HEED in 100 calorie baggies and a couple food bars – no problem. Also the waterproof pouch was stuffed with Endurolytes – worked slick. I still had plenty of room to carry my experience recorders (camera and Flip). 🙂 I wasn’t in a rush, so the extra time required to fill the bladder wasn’t a big deal to me. I am sure I could create ways to speed that up as well. It was also the first time I used the strapping system at the back of the pack to hold my light jacket that was on-again, off-again throughout the day – quickly slid the rolled up jacket under the straps. I felt confident that the jacket was securely held and wasn’t going to slip out.

    Overall – Thumbs way up!! 🙂

    @Blaine – Thanks for sharing your (and your wife’s) experience with the pack. Good point with the inside-out cleaning!

    @Mike – Thanks man. The pack has variety of storage options without feeling bulky. It is definitely designed with the runner in mind. If you like the front-side storage options, the pack is definitely worth checking out.

  7. on 24 May 2011 at 9:27 am Jacob

    I’ve been on the fence about one of these but your review has pushed me a little bit farther over. Love the pics too – about 6-7 miles from my house actually!

  8. on 24 May 2011 at 4:57 pm David Hanenburg

    Jacob – Huge congrats on your first 50 miler at Jemez. You rocked it man! Hyde park was as beautiful place to take our first steps on some NM trail. I will be back!

  9. on 30 May 2011 at 7:58 pm Lisa

    I have one and I really like it. I can’t stand anything around my waist so I loved the way it fit. I didn’t have any trouble with it bouncing around once I got the straps adjusted. I’m sorry to say that I’m not overly blessed in the chest area but it didn’t give me any problems at all there.

    I stashed my phone, two gels, two waffles, two granola bars, pretzels, an Uncrustable PB&J, sunscreen, and some girly stuff in it, had a light shell in the shock cord and the bladder fully loaded and it didn’t feel heavy at all. I give it an A+!

  10. on 31 May 2011 at 10:33 am David Hanenburg

    Great, great feedback Lisa! Sounds like you like the Nathan pack. 😉

    Good luck with all your upcoming adventures!

  11. on 25 Oct 2011 at 6:38 am stu

    really good infos. I’m just weighing up the options between this and the camelbak octane. Although you didn’t conclude which was better, I think the Nathan will be better for me, as I have had occasions where 3L was not enough water and the option to carry a bottle for insurance is very reassuring (and possibly the deal-maker).
    i currently run with 2 camelbaks… a 1L and a 3L – but with no sidepockets. this is the reason for my investigations and soon purchase.
    i think i’m gonna go for the nathan. thanks again 🙂

  12. on 25 Oct 2011 at 2:36 pm David Hanenburg

    Hey stu – Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts! As you rightly concluded, “better” depends on your individual needs.

    If you decide to go with the Nathan pack, be sure to spend the time to dial in the fit (with full bladder). Where the Camelbak packs are a bit more plug-n-play, this Nathan pack requires a bit of setup…but then you are golden.

    Would dig to hear your feedback on the pack if you decide to give it a go!

  13. on 04 May 2012 at 7:16 pm Dawn

    What is the weight of the Nathan endurance pack before filling the bladder?

  14. on 08 May 2012 at 8:55 am David Hanenburg

    Dawn – The pack weight is 15.2 ounces (per RW)…less than a pound.

  15. on 26 Jun 2012 at 6:49 pm Tim Taft

    Dave, have you thought about doing a review on cooling vests? By the way, thanks for pointing out the clip on the bladder and the extra bottle pocket!

  16. on 27 Jun 2012 at 9:08 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Tim, thanks for the pack comment! I have some interest in cooling vests, just haven’t researched them too much yet.

  17. on 03 Jul 2012 at 11:04 am David

    do you think this vest could hold the 100 oz nathan bladder? Just cram it in there?. I have it and have used it a couple of times and like it. But I have a hot one coming in August and having a 100 oz bladder would be good. I will definately try runnning with the extra bottle in the strap pocket.

  18. on 03 Jul 2012 at 11:59 am David Hanenburg

    Hey David,

    Good question on the 100 oz. in this pack. I am not sure and don’t have a 100 oz nathan bladder to test. I will pose your question on FB and see if anyone has tried it.

    The front pocket can definitely work to carry another bottle. Of course, you could also simply carry a handheld as well although I assume you want to keep you hands free.

    If I get any FB insight, I will be sure share here.

  19. on 12 Nov 2012 at 4:16 pm Kristi

    I have the pack and don’t have any problems. It fits well after the initial adjustment. The only issue, which many other packs also have, is that you have to remove it to get to your stuff in the back pocket. Any packs you’ve tried that have access to snacks and such up front?

  20. on 13 Nov 2012 at 11:50 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Kristi,

    This pack does have a moderate amount of nutrition room on the front of the pack (those two “pockets”) where you could store enough goodies for a number of hours. Once you have worked through the front pocket goodies, you could transfer addition nutrition from the back storage pocket to the front.

    CamelBak ( and UltrAspire ( have similar front pocket storage packs.

    If you really felt like you need more quickly accessible storage, you could look at the waist-belt systems (w/ pockets) by Amphipod ( and Nathan (