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Nathan TrailMix 7L - Women's Review

This is a comfortable, affordable pack with just enough room for your necessities
Nathan TrailMix 7L - Women's
Photo: Nathan Sports
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $100 List | $99.94 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Affordable, breathable, lots of water storage
Cons:  Less gear storage
Manufacturer:   Nathan Sports
By Lauren DeLaunay ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 13, 2020
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69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 12
  • Comfort - 30% 8
  • Features - 25% 6
  • Hydration System - 15% 7
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 6
  • Pockets - 15% 7

Our Verdict

During our hunt for a budget pick, we were immediately drawn to the Nathan TrailMix 7L. Nathan is the manufacturer of our women's Editors' Choice Award winner, the VaporHowe, so we wanted to know how their more affordable products compared. After weeks of testing in the rugged backcountry of Yosemite, we were thrilled with this pack. Its comfortable fit, super adjustable design, surplus of pockets, and modest price tag make this pack a no-brainer for our women's Best Buy Award winner.

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Pros Affordable, breathable, lots of water storageComfortable, great fit, tons of easily reachable pockets, very versatileComfortable, lots of storage, great pocketsTons of storage, comfortable, expandableExcellent hydration system, great storage and pockets
Cons Less gear storageExpensive, must buy hydration bladder separatelyNo trekking pole attachment, expensiveBulkyItchy material, tight fit
Bottom Line With room for your basic needs and plenty of water, this is our go-to budget optionA comfortable fit and exceptional pockets make this model our favorite pack on the marketNo matter what the mission entails, this large, comfortable vest has you coveredThe highest expandable capacity for gear and water among the running packs we testedOur favorite hydration system with tons of storage, but lacking in comfort
Rating Categories Nathan TrailMix 7L - Women's Salomon ADV Skin 12 Set Nathan VaporHowe 2.0 12L Ultimate Direction FKT Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set
Comfort (30%)
8
9
9
7
6
Features (25%)
6
8
7
9
8
Hydration System (15%)
7
8
8
7
9
Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)
6
8
8
9
6
Pockets (15%)
7
9
9
9
9
Specs Nathan TrailMix 7L... Salomon ADV Skin... Nathan VaporHowe... Ultimate Direction... Salomon ADV Skin 8...
Weight (ounces) 12.2 13.3 13.2 14.5 12
Carrying Capacity (liters) 7 12 12 18 8
Included Liquid Capacity (liters) 2 1 1.6 0.6 1
OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (Bigger is Better!) 0.57 0.90 0.91 1.24 0.67
External Storage? One 2 L bladder included Yes, "Kangaroo Pockets" Large rear pocket Yes, bungees, many external zip pockets Two 0.5 L soft flasks
Type of Water Storage 2 liters Two 0.5L soft flasks (included), plus bladder sleeve (bladder not included) 1.6 liters One 0.6L bottle included 1 liter
Pole Holders? No Yes No Yes Yes

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.

Performance Comparison


This is a great accomplice for a hot summer day in Yosemite.
This is a great accomplice for a hot summer day in Yosemite.
Photo: Steven Tata

Comfort


Yes, packs are designed to carry things, but when they cause irritation or chafing, we might as well leave them home. For this category, we evaluated each vest's material comfort, adjustability, fit, breathability, and stability. Spoiler alert: the TrailMix excels in all of these.


For such an affordable pack, we were instantly impressed with how soft the TrailMix was on our skin. While not the softest of the test bunch, we'd much rather have this cozy mesh against our skin than the rough mesh of other models. The mesh is super breathable as well, making this a great choice for hot days.

This pack has a lot of adjustability, which is one of our favorite things about it. There are two lateral straps on each side and two across the front, providing a lot of options for fit. The chest straps are on a sliding rail, making it easy to pick their ideal location and switch it up whenever necessary. The multitude of straps also make this vest incredibly stable, with very little bounce no matter what type of terrain you may be on.

The TrailMix's next-to-body material is soft and ultra-breathable.
The TrailMix's next-to-body material is soft and ultra-breathable.
Photo: Lauren DeLaunay

We also received feedback from some of our testers that this pack is a great option for women with larger breasts. The straps adjust in so many places that it's possible to find the perfect spot on the chest for this pack to sit, and then it's easy to cinch it down, so it stays in place.

Features


This metric focuses on all the little details that make a running pack so much more than a backpack. We look for things that make each product easy to use in a wide range of activities, specifically targeting the runner.


The TrailMix has easy-to-use bungee cords on the back for convenient trekking pole storage. While there's no bungee to store bulky items like a jacket, there is a small daisy chain on the rear of the pack. That said, it's hard to imagine what we'd use this for, as anything attached to it would bounce around quite a bit.

Easy trekking pole attachment is a major plus with the TrailMix 7.
Easy trekking pole attachment is a major plus with the TrailMix 7.
Photo: Lauren DeLaunay

Other than that, this pack is pretty simple. There are zippered pockets for important storage (which we'll describe more below), but no key clip or whistle. Still, this pack was clearly designed to be lightweight and affordable. Our reviewers agree that it has everything you need for the average run. If you're looking for something with all the bells and whistles, you'll have to spend more cash.

Hydration Storage


In this category, we reviewed each product's included hydration system while also making a note of the capabilities to include other systems. The TrailMix comes with a 2-liter bladder and hose and does not easily fit front bottle storage.


The 2-liter bladder included with this pack is one of the largest hydration storage systems in this review. It helps drive home our conclusion that this pack is designed with hydration in mind more than anything else. There's a convenient hole for the bladder hose to slip through, with a small holster on either side so you can pick and choose which side works best for you. On the side of the TrailMix is a plastic hook for the hose. While this does hold the hose in place, it's a bit too big, allowing some slippage. Unless the hose is stuffed back above your shoulder, it's inevitable that it will start to bounce, as gravity pulls the hose through the hook. There are two small stretchy pockets in the front of this pack that could, in theory, hold bottles, though they are not very large, and we had trouble finding compatible bottles.

The TrailMix's bladder is easily attached, and the clip helps keep...
The TrailMix's bladder is easily attached, and the clip helps keep the hose in place.
Photo: Lauren DeLaunay

Volume to Weight Ratio


The TrailMix has 7 liters of gear storage and 2 liters of included water storage, making it a unique blend of a great hydration system with smaller gear storage. That being said, it weighs almost as much, at 12.2 ounces, as other options with much more storage. It does have one of the largest bladders that we tested, however. And without the hydration system, it weighs less than 8 ounces.


Interestingly, we experienced other packs that didn't have much more storage than the TrailMix but felt much roomier. The rear pockets are not stretchy and cannot be maxed out nearly as much as packs with stretchier pockets. This leaves the TrailMix with a mediocre ratio and score in this cateogry.
This pack is super adjustable, with two lateral straps and two front...
This pack is super adjustable, with two lateral straps and two front straps to help you find a great fit.
Photo: Steven Tata

Pockets


Finally, we've arrived at our all-time favorite metric. Running packs are all about pockets, and for this category, we wanted to know everything: where the pockets are located, what size and shape they are, what type of closures they have, and what we can fit in them.


While the TrailMix doesn't have nearly as many pockets as some of its larger competitors, it is thoughtfully designed with a designated space for all the essentials. On the front of the pack, there are three pockets. Both sides have a long, stretchy mesh pocket with no closure, and the right side has an additional smaller stretch pocket. These are perfect for storing the few things you might quick access to, like a smartphone and small snacks. You can easily fit a phone in these front pockets and never felt like it will bounce away despite the lack of closure.

The TrailMix's pockets are small but purpose-driven: we can easily...
The TrailMix's pockets are small but purpose-driven: we can easily fit snacks and a smartphone right up front.
Photo: Lauren DeLaunay

The outermost pocket on the rear of this vest is a long, zippered area. The opening is narrow, but this is a great place to store important items like keys and a headlamp — thing you want to be locked away behind a zipper for safe-keeping. Behind this pocket is a full-length area that encompasses the bladder sleeve. You can fit a small layer or two in this area as well. While this pack doesn't have room for tons of extras, it does have plenty of space for the things you'll need on shorter runs or races. Some of our testers appreciate the lack of space, because having extra space often means packing unnecessary items, just because you can.

Value


The TrailMix 7 is a great deal. Other models cost twice as much, and generally all you get out of that is increased storage and features you might not even need. Of the budget-friendly women's vests we explored, this one is our clear favorite.

Light and carefree in El Cap Meadow with the TrailMix, whose 12.2...
Light and carefree in El Cap Meadow with the TrailMix, whose 12.2 ounces keep us bouncy on our toes.
Photo: Steven Tata

Conclusion


The smaller size and 2-liter bladder of the Nathan TrailMix 7L make it the perfect choice for runners looking for a hydration pack more than anything else. It has just enough room for the bare necessities and doesn't compromise on comfort. This pack is a no-brainer for our Best Buy Award, and we can't wait to see where it takes you!

Shorter runs on sunny days are a great time to use the breathable...
Shorter runs on sunny days are a great time to use the breathable albeit smaller TrailMix.
Photo: Lauren DeLaunay

Lauren DeLaunay