The Nathan Pinnacle 12L is a comfortable hydration vest that provides an apparel-like fit with abundant space for hauling the essentials and plenty of water. This hydration system earned our Editor's Choice Award because of its soft and supple frameless body. The 1.6L insulated bladder, low weight, and creative pocket placement all come together to create one of our favorite running vests to date. This pack scored impressively across all our metrics and rigorous testing. Trail runners, marathoners, and day hikers alike will love this hydration pack's cozy material and abundant space. We sure did.Editor's Note: This review was updated on December 1, 2022, with additional findings and recommendations after our fall round of testing.
Cons: Expensive, full-coverage fit
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Nathan Pinnacle 12L - Women's
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|Pros||Comfortable, huge storage capacity, great pockets, lots of size options, durable||Accessible pockets, comfortable, intelligent features, great carrying capacity, waterproof pockets||Huge storage capacity, well-placed pockets, super breathable||Affordable, ample water storage, user-friendly, durable||Comfortable, functional hydration system, minimalist|
|Cons||Expensive, full-coverage fit||Less soft to the touch, not the best for minimalist runners||Heavier than some, slightly less comfortable, long compression bungee||Less gear storage, less frills||Low carrying capacity, complicated sizing|
|Bottom Line||The most comfortable and spacious hydration pack that we have tested to date||A well-featured and comfortable pack that is designed to haul everything you need on ultra-distance running excursions||This fantastic super-hauler vest is the one you'll want if you are taking on techy alpine climbs or tackling double-digit trail days||This is an affordable pack that offers ample storage with enough room for your trail running essentials||The snug fit and intelligent pocket placement on this vest make it great for daily runs when you need to carry the essentials and not much else|
|Rating Categories||Nathan Pinnacle 12L||Ultimate Direction...||Ultimate Direction...||Nathan TrailMix 7L...||Naked High Capacity...|
|Hydration System (15%)|
|Volume to Weight Ratio (15%)|
|Specs||Nathan Pinnacle 12L||Ultimate Direction...||Ultimate Direction...||Nathan TrailMix 7L...||Naked High Capacity...|
|Weight (without hydration system)||7.2 oz||7.8 oz||11.5 oz||7.1 oz||5.1 oz|
|Carrying Capacity (liters)||12L||10.1L||12.7L||7L||3L+|
|Included Liquid Capacity (liters)||1.6L||1L||1L||2L||1L|
|OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!)||1.6||1.29||1.1||0.98||0.59|
|External Storage||Large rear kangaroo pocket, front nutrition or soft flask accomodations||water resistant chest pocket, rear compartment, , zippered main pocket, waterproof shoulder stash pocket||Clamshell main compartment, 2 stash shoulder pockets, front mesh pocketsm corded elastic||Rear daisy chain, pole holder loops, and nutrition pockets||Pole holding loops, pockets atop the hydration pockets, back section is a kangaroo pouch|
|Type of Water Storage||1.6 liter hourglass, insulated reservoir||2 500ml bottles
2L reservoir compatible (Not included)
|2 500ml collapsible bottles
Resevoir compatible (not included)
|2L reservoir||2 soft 500mL bottles|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Nathan Pinnacle 12L is one of the most comfortable and spacious packs we've ever had the pleasure of testing. Its exceptional volume to weight ratio and high-tech hydration system make it a worthy investment.
When it comes to comfort, the Pinnacle truly shines. This vest is comprised of 85% polyester, 8% nylon, 4% spandex, and 2% rubber wire. This cocktail of textiles culminates in one of the softest and most breathable vests we've ever felt.
Nathan offers 6 size options, from XXS to XL, to help ensure a proper fit for all runners. Because this vest is frameless, it hugs the body in just the right way, provided you purchase the right size for your body. We found this vest to run true to size, but we recommend reviewing Nathan's size chart before purchasing. Because the lower portion of the vest isn't adjustable, it's vital to ensure a proper fit. Otherwise, you might find yourself loaded with gear in an ill-fitted vest. With the proper fit, this vest will offer you all the storage you need for even the longest days on your feet.
We noticed that the Pinnacle provides a more dispersed weight distribution profile than other hydration vests. The ability to stuff your pack full and run with equally distributed weight is one of the many reasons we love this vest. The clip closures on the front are adjustable to tighten it, and the clips can slide up and down the breast rail to place the pressure where it feels best on your body. In addition to a full hydration bladder, the rails offer just enough structure to keep the pack in place. Our only comfort complaint is that if the back upper portion isn't immaculately Velcro-ed together, we noticed our (admittedly long) hair getting caught up in it. This issue was solved by changing the configuration of our ponytails, so we don't think it detracts from the experience of wearing this vest as a whole.
The Pinnacle is stacked with features. From its stealth pole holders to its well-thought-out pocket placement to its ultra-breathable fabric, this vest is done right. Nathan reconfigured the pack to be light while maintaining an impressive storage capacity.
The pack contains two easily accessed kangaroo pockets. These are in addition to the water-resistant breast panel pockets with zippered closures. The right breast panel pocket even has a small pill pocket with a safety whistle in case of emergencies.
The tech-savvy shape of the Pinnacle allows for a "chimney-wicking" effect and keeps the air flowing. We love that all of the pocket openings are big enough to pack and rearrange our gear easily. This hydration vest offers significantly fewer loops and cords than others, but we never found this feature to be lacking because of the exceptional pocket space. Nathan recommends storing your trekking poles in one of the zippered closure breast pockets, and this definitely works. We generally use our trekking poles sparingly, so we found that we preferred carrying them in the large back pocket. No matter your desired configuration, we think it's pretty notable that a 7.2 oz hydration pack has more than one option for trekking pole storage!
This pack comes equipped with an intelligently designed hourglass-shaped, 1.6L insulated hydration bladder. We love an insulated hydration bladder, especially one with ergonomics in mind, and this one is top-tier. Because the Pinnacle offers so much space for gear, we think it's a great vest for super long days in the backcountry and, you guessed it, ultramarathoners.
With this in mind, we wish this vest came with a bit more water-storage capacity. We found ourselves crouching over alpine lakes to filter water and refill the bladder on our longest days. We also noticed some sloshing of the water when we ran without anything else in the back chambers of the pack. However, once we loaded up our gear, this issue was totally mitigated. The hydration system is clearly well-designed.
From the Velcro loop to secure the hose in place to the shoulder and breast panel loops to keep it going in the right direction, the mouthpiece will always be right where you need it to be. This is yet another Nathan hydration system with a long hose. There is even a movable magnet clip that comes on the hose. The opposite piece of the magnet can only be moved vertically, but this still gives a lot of variety when configuring its position.
The front pockets are deep enough to accommodate soft 500mL bottles, though those are not included. We did a few long runs with the bladder and soft flasks and still found the weight well-distributed. Ultimately, we are pretty satisfied with the hydration system.
Volume to Weight Ratio
Here we have another metric in which the Pinnacle outshines much of its competition. The total volume of this hydration pack is 12L, and it weighs in at 7.2 ounces without the hydration bladder. This makes its volume-to-weight ratio the best out of the group of packs we tested.
Nathan thought of everything, it seems, when designing this pack. The low weight and abundant storage make it a winner in our books.
The Pinnacle has 15 external pockets — 15! Honestly, it's so many pockets that you might have a hard time navigating this pack on its maiden voyage — that was our experience, anyway. We say that with love, of course, as we are obsessed with pockets.
Let's start with the back. The deepest pocket's backing is comprised of 3 panels, a nylon one in the center and a strong mesh-like panel on either side of that. This pocket is, naturally, for the hydration bladder. The next back pocket, moving away from the body, has a Velcro closure and is about 5-inches wide by 6-inches deep. We love the uniqueness of this pocket, as many packs do not offer this much variety. The most superficial pocket runs the entire length, but only half the width, and has a Velcro closure. This pocket is interesting because it also offers a unilateral entry point with a Velcro closure. This is an awesome kangaroo pocket for stashing a layer on those days when you aren't sure if you're too hot or too cold.
A diagonally placed zipper also runs the length of the pack and allows a wide access point to items stowed in the right half of the pack. We love how thoughtfully this pocket was designed; it has a stretchy bit of fabric adhered at the base to prevent items from tumbling out of your pack while on the trail. We prefer this pocket over the more simply-designed clamshell pockets on some of our other favorite hydration vests.
Beneath each armpit, there is a small pouch with a light elastic top. These pockets aren't very big or secure, but they offer easy access to items you might not want to rummage through the larger pockets to find. We also like the symmetry of the front pocket placement. Each chest panel has a long pocket for water bottles with additional pockets on top of those. On dry days, we placed our smartphones and nutrition in these pockets. The scrunchy elastic closures kept our items safe and secure. Running parallel to each of the front railings is a zipper. Each zipper grants access to long, spacious front pockets. As previously mentioned, these pockets are water-resistant and can be a great home for your trekking poles. The small pill pocket inside the right breast pocket is great for stashing your keys, chapstick, or anything you want to keep super safe.
Should You Buy the Nathan Pinnacle 12L?
The Pinnacle is on the pricier side for sure. Because it offers so many bells and whistles (literally), we find the higher price to be well worth it. If you aren't interested in a vest that offers so much, it'd be worth looking at a more minimalistic style. A maximalist-style hydration vest like this one might not be for everyone, but if it checks your boxes, we think you'll love it. This pack is durable, smartly designed, and has an excellent storage capacity.
What Other Running Hydration Vests Should You Consider?
Whether you're looking for a trail running sidekick, marathon mate, or a super smooth vest to bring with you on day hikes, the Nathan Pinnacle 12L is a great choice. The size options and soft body ensure a comfy fit, and the abundant pocket space is out of this world. If you don't mind shelling out a bit of extra cash in the name of comfort, we recommend it. If you want a more budget-friendly buy, check out the Nathan TrailMix 7L instead. It doesn't hold quite as much, but it is a budget-friendly purchase that offers a huge bang for your buck. If you want a minimalist hydration pack, we love the Naked HC. It holds around a quarter of the capacity when compared to the Pinnacle, but sometimes you don't want to carry everything on your runs. For a vest that doesn't cover your back quite as completely, check out the Ultimate Direction Mountain Vesta 5.0 for a more contoured and smaller fit.
— Ally Arcuri
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