Nathan TrailMix 7L - Women's Review
Cons: Less gear storage
Manufacturer: Nathan Sports
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
— Lauren DeLaunay