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Nathan Pinnacle 12L - Women's Review

The most comfortable and spacious hydration pack that we have tested to date
Nathan Pinnacle 12L  - Women's
Photo: Nathan
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $200 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, huge storage capacity, great pockets, lots of size options, durable
Cons:  Expensive
Manufacturer:   Nathan
By Ally Arcuri ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 20, 2021
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86
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 9
  • Comfort - 30% 9
  • Features - 25% 8
  • Hydration System - 15% 7
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 9
  • Pockets - 15% 10

Our Verdict

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 Editors' 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 the cozy material and abundant space of this hydration pack. We sure did.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price Check Price at REI
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$119.97 at Backcountry
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$123.96 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
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Star Rating
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Pros Comfortable, huge storage capacity, great pockets, lots of size options, durableUltra comfortable, stretchy, breathable, simple yet precise pocketsIncredibly comfortable, great pockets, breathableAffordable, ample water storage, user-friendly, durableRugged, affordable, comfortable, intelligent hydration system, solid pole holders
Cons ExpensiveNo trekking pole attachment, slight sloshing, priceyStrange hydration straws, average storage capacityLess gear storage, less frillsPoor volume to weight ratio, less soft
Bottom Line The most comfortable and spacious hydration pack that we have tested to dateA super comfortable and brilliantly designed hydration pack for long days on your feetA storage-oriented hydration vest that wears like a silky-smooth second skin and packs all of the essentials with easeThis is an affordable pack that offers ample storage with enough room for your trail running essentialsAn affordable running partner with a great design, built for the grittiest trails you can find
Rating Categories Nathan Pinnacle 12L Nathan VaporHowe 2.... Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set Nathan TrailMix 7L... Osprey Dyna 6 - Wom...
Comfort (30%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Features (25%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Hydration System (15%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)
9.0
9.0
6.0
7.0
3.0
Pockets (15%)
10.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Nathan Pinnacle 12L Nathan VaporHowe 2.... Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set Nathan TrailMix 7L... Osprey Dyna 6 - Wom...
Weight (without hydration system) 7.20 oz 7.09 oz 10.16 oz 7.13 oz 10.69 oz
Carrying Capacity (liters) 12L 12L 8L 7L 5L
Included Liquid Capacity (liters) 1.6L 1.6L 1L 2L 1.5L
OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!) 1.6 1.69 0.79 0.98 0.46
External Storage? Yes- large rear kangaroo pocket, front nutrition or soft flask accomodations. Yes- Nutrition pouches on the front Yes- many bungees and one kangaroo-esque pockey Yes- rear daisy chain, pole holder loops, and nutrition pockets. Yes- back flap pouch, front external pockets, zipper pulls are bungee loops, plus a bottom loop that runs horizontally
Type of Water Storage 1.6 liter hourglass, insulated reservoir 1.6 liter hourglass, insulated reservoir 2 soft 500mL bottles 2 liter reservoir 1.5 liter reservoir
Pole Holders? Yes No Yes Yes Yes

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.

Performance Comparison


There is nothing better than a day in the forest with everything you...
There is nothing better than a day in the forest with everything you need easily stowed in your vest.
Photo: Ally Meller

Comfort


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. 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. Overall, with the proper fit, this vest is sure to offer you all of the storage you need for even the longest days on your feet.

The snug, apparel-like fit of the Pinnacle 12L makes it an...
The snug, apparel-like fit of the Pinnacle 12L makes it an ultra-comfortable choice for long days on the run.
Photo: Ally Meller

We noticed that the Pinnacle provides a more dispersed weight distribution profile compared to other hydration vests. The ability to stuff your pack full and run with the weight equally distributed 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.

Feeling lightweight and free in the super cozy Nathan Pinnacle 12L.
Feeling lightweight and free in the super cozy Nathan Pinnacle 12L.
Photo: Ally Meller

Features


The Pinnacle is stacked with features. From its stealth pole holders to its well-thought-out pocket placement to its ultra-breathable fabric, this is a vest done right. Nathan reconfigured the pack to be light while maintaining ample storage capacity.


The pack contains two easily accessed kangaroo pockets. These are in addition to the water-resistant breast panel pockets, both with zippered closures. The right breast panel pocket even has a small pill pocket with a safety whistle in case of emergencies.

We love the front zippered pockets - they store our gear safely and...
We love the front zippered pockets - they store our gear safely and securely.
Photo: Ally Meller

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!

We love how comfortable this vest is, even when stuffed to the brim...
We love how comfortable this vest is, even when stuffed to the brim with all of our gear.
Photo: Ally Meller

Hydration System


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.

When the pack only contains the bladder, the water has a tendency to...
When the pack only contains the bladder, the water has a tendency to slosh. Next time, we'll load up some more snacks to alleviate this.
Photo: Ally Meller

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 magnetic hose clip helps keep your water access clear for when...
The magnetic hose clip helps keep your water access clear for when you need it most.
Photo: Ally Meller

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 our own soft flasks and still found the weight to be well-distributed. Ultimately, we are pretty satisfied with the hydration system.

Look at how big the front pockets are!
Look at how big the front pockets are!
Photo: Ally Meller

Volume to Weight Ratio


Here we have another metric in which the Pinnacle shines. The total volume of this hydration pack is 12L, and it weighs in at 7.2 oz without the hydration bladder. This makes its volume-to-weight ratio one of 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.

This hydration pack offers a slender profile when it isn't jammed...
This hydration pack offers a slender profile when it isn't jammed full of gear.
Photo: Ally Meller

Pockets


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.

Upon first glance, the Pinnacle may not look like it has 15 full...
Upon first glance, the Pinnacle may not look like it has 15 full pockets, but it does!
Photo: Ally Meller

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.

With so many pockets you can really customize your trail kit.
With so many pockets you can really customize your trail kit.
Photo: Ally Meller

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.

The front pockets are spacious enough to accommodate even...
The front pockets are spacious enough to accommodate even lesser-used nutrition items.
Photo: Ally Meller

Value


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. This pack is durable, smartly designed, and has an excellent storage capacity. While it isn't a budget buy by any means, it is versatile enough to suit all of your running needs.

For a vest this comfy, we think the higher-than-average price is...
For a vest this comfy, we think the higher-than-average price is totally worthwhile.
Photo: Ally Meller

Conclusion


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 the Pinnacle. With 15 easy-to-access pockets, an insulated hydration bladder, and surprisingly low weight, we think you'll love toting this pack on all of your adventures as much as we did.

A hydration vest that's this reliable will get you through training...
A hydration vest that's this reliable will get you through training runs and race days with ease.
Photo: Ally Meller

Ally Arcuri