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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 – EnduranceBuzz.com
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Posted on 20 May 2011
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