The Nathan TrailMix 7 is a heartily engineered, trail-specific hydration system. It wears like a small, snug backpack and quickly became one of our affordable favorites for long, meandering trail days. As its name suggests, it has a total capacity of 7L, which includes 2L of water storage. This frameless design has well-contoured shoulders and multiple cinch straps to ensure a proper fit. The front pockets are deep enough to accommodate soft flasks, but those do not come included. If you're looking for a simply-designed pack to take on day trips into the backcountry, the TrailMix might be the one for you.Editor's Note: This review was updated on December 1, 2022, to provide more helpful recommendations.
Cons: Less gear storage, less frills
Manufacturer: Nathan Sports
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Nathan TrailMix 7L - Women's
$94.81 at Amazon
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$99.95 at REI
$125.00 at REI
|Pros||Affordable, ample water storage, user-friendly, durable||Rugged, affordable, comfortable, intelligent hydration system, solid pole holders||Well-featured, comfortable design, breathable, useful bungees||Simple, compact, easily navigated pockets, affordable||Customizable fit, comfortable fabric, good storage capacity|
|Cons||Less gear storage, less frills||Poor volume to weight ratio, less soft||Volume to weight ratio isn't great, no hydration system included||Poor volume to weight ratio, less comfortable||Velcro isn't always comfortable, sloshy, heavy|
|Bottom Line||This is an affordable pack that offers ample storage with enough room for your trail running essentials||An affordable running partner with a great design, built for the grittiest trails you can find||This well-featured vest offers thoughtful pocket placement and a comfortable fit but is sold without a compatible vessel for toting liquid||This is a rugged and affordable pack that can stash all of your goodies for shorter mountain excursions||This pack has a lot of well-placed pockets, but lacks some of the comfort and fit features that make for a favorite long-distance gear hauler|
|Rating Categories||Nathan TrailMix 7L...||Osprey Dyna 6 - Wom...||UltrAspire Momentum...||REI Co-op Swiftland 5||Nathan Vapor Airess...|
|Hydration System (15%)|
|Volume to Weight Ratio (15%)|
|Specs||Nathan TrailMix 7L...||Osprey Dyna 6 - Wom...||UltrAspire Momentum...||REI Co-op Swiftland 5||Nathan Vapor Airess...|
|Weight (without hydration system)||7.1 oz||10.7 oz||8.0 oz||8.5 oz||11.5 oz|
|Carrying Capacity (liters)||7L||6L||6L||5L||4L|
|Included Liquid Capacity (liters)||2L||1.5L||0L||1.5 L||1.5L|
|OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!)||0.98||0.56||0.75||0.58||0.34|
|External Storage||Rear daisy chain, pole holder loops, and nutrition pockets||Back flap pouch, front external pockets, zipper pulls are bungee loops||Shoulder pocket, shockchord||Zippered main pocket, Exterior mesh pocket, 4 Chest mesh pockets, Lash points||2 front pockets, back kangaroo pockets, main compartment|
|Type of Water Storage||2L reservoir||1.5L reservoir||4 500 ml bottles (not included)||1.5L reservoir||1.5L reservoir|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The TrailMix aims to give you just what you need for shorter excursions. It's comfortable and breathable with well-conceived pockets, all at a far less wallet-draining price than other options.
The TrailMix 7 offers balanced comfort and durability. The thick material is not as silky smooth as other vests we tested, but it lends itself well to dirty days deep in the woods. Even when stuffed to the brim with goodies and gear, the weight is evenly distributed and comfortable as you run.
The front closures connect with clips and can be cinched to your heart's content. This pack also offers the option to adjust underarm space, a feature that we find totally necessary to accommodate a wide range of body shapes. Because this pack is frameless and only supported by two vertical, parallel pieces of boning on the front panels, we think the comfort offered is top shelf. Despite its hearty countenance, this pack never chafes or rides up, making it an exceptionally comfortable choice for hikes and trail runs alike.
One of the things we love the most about the TrailMix is that it takes gear-hauling back to basics. Many of the hydration vests we've tested over the years have offered diagonal zippers, secret pockets, and esoteric closures. Sometimes it is easier to wrap your mind around a grueling run when your gear is simple, which is something we truly love about the TrailMix. We love that it rides like a mini backpack instead of a complicated sports bra.
The bladder hose hook on the right breast panel holds the extra-long hose in place, and the reflective branding makes this pack an appropriate choice for running in dim light if that's your jam. We love the daisy chain on the back panel as well. We found it to be super useful for attaching things that we couldn't store inside the pack. Moreover, this pack has 4 separate loops that make for convenient and comfortable trekking pole storage. The nylon and polyester body are tough and durable but breathable enough to be worn in the heat. We've tested fancier packs, but this option is a true winner for the price.
The TrailMix comes equipped with a 2L bladder with an incredibly long hose. While we found the hose to be a bit too long, you might find the length offers the option to run with it configured in whatever way you like best. We often tucked it behind the main closure straps to eliminate bounce, which worked well. The TrailMix has large breast-panel pockets that can accommodate soft bottles if you prefer those to a bladder. We typically don't run with both bottles and a bladder, but we do love having the option to decide based on our excursions. When we did test this vest with both hydration systems in tow, we found that the weight distribution was good, though imperfect. We don't recommend the TrailMix as our favorite pack for running with 3+ liters of water.
This pack offers the standard structure for securing your hydration hose, both atop the shoulders and again with bilateral loops on the clavicle. The hose hook can slide up and down the breast rail but is securely fastened to the right side. We had a bit of trouble squeezing the full 2L bladder into its narrow-mouthed compartment. With a full bladder, the available real estate also dwindles quickly. We experienced some sloshing on our testing runs as we began to deplete our water supplies, but ultimately, that is mild enough for us to look beyond. We have learned a thing or two about sloshing during our time as hydration vest testers, and in this case, the affordable price point allows us to look beyond some minor noise.
Volume to Weight Ratio
When weighed without the hydration system, the TrailMix weighs in at 7.13 oz. This is a standard and predictable weight for a frameless pack. The volume to weight ratio lands at an average number. We've tested packs with better and worse ratios, so this one is fairly unremarkable.
Oftentimes, we have found that the less expensive hydration packs are built with more affordable materials, which tend to be heavier. We believe this to be the case with the TrailMix, but if durability is what you're after, this volume to weight ratio is just right.
As we've mentioned, the TrailMix is a back-to-basics option amid a sea of high-tech running packs. This pack features a large back pocket that is split into two compartments with a zippered closure. The deepest, or closest to your body, is the compartment for the included hydration bladder. This is separated from the other chamber by a sturdy piece of fabric with elastic at the top. The most superficial pocket on this pack also has a zippered closure and runs the length of the pack. This one is embellished with a useful daisy chain.
The front panels each have long pockets, specifically designed to house soft bottles. The right panel has an additional pocket that is perfect for storing nutrition that you need access to on the fly. Each of these three pockets has light elastic at the top. Because this pack comes with a hydration bladder, this is predominately how we tested it, save for a few runs with soft flasks in an attempt to be thorough. Without the bottles, the front pockets are easily accessible and useful for small bits of gear you want quick access to.
We found that the pockets aren't quite snug enough to only house a smartphone. One reviewer reported storing her handkerchief and iPhone 12 Mini in the same front pocket to eliminate the bouncing of the phone. The TrailMix doesn't have many specialized pockets, which makes it awesome for navigating while your hands are cold and your mind is tired. Even though there isn't a specific key pocket, we felt safe enough tucking them down into the depths of a zippered pocket for safekeeping.
Should You Buy the Nathan TrailMix 7?
The TrailMix is a high value product. Its functionality paired with its affordable price tag makes it an awesome choice for a lot of runners. This pack offers supreme comfort and durability for much less than many other vests on the market. If you are in the market for a comfortable vest with a modest yet ample capacity, you'll love the versatility and affordability of this hydration system.
What Other Running Hydration Vests Should You Consider?
We remain excited to explore the trails with the Nathan TrailMix 7. From its digestible price point to its long lifespan to its simplistic functionality, we love trail days with this sidekick. If you're on the hunt for an affordable trail running hydration vest, look no further because this one is likely to be your best match. However, if you want something with a little more storage, check out the Ultimate Direction Mountain Vesta 5.0 with its 12.7-liter capacity. If you like the carrying capacity of the TrailMix but want something that is even more rugged and slightly better-featured, we enthusiastically recommend the Osprey Dyna 6.
— Ally Arcuri
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