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Nathan VaporAir 2.0 Review

An overall great running hydration pack that has a few minor comfort issues
Nathan VaporAir 2.0
Photo: Nathan
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Price:  $150 List | $149.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Easily accessible bladder, lots of pockets, extra storage capacity
Cons:  Pricey, some comfort issues
Manufacturer:   Nathan Sports
By Jeff Colt ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 14, 2021
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 12
  • Comfort - 30% 6
  • Features - 25% 8
  • Hydration System - 15% 7
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 5
  • Pockets - 15% 8

Our Verdict

If you're looking for a high-performing alternative to chest-mounted soft flasks, the Nathan VaporAir 2.0 7L is a good option. While it doesn't offer the ultimate comfort you get with our top-scorers, it gets the job done and has a great set of features. The easily accessible pockets, adjustable fit, and large hydration capacity make this a truly effective and functional hydration pack for running. However, two critical issues put this vest out of the running for any awards. The flank fit adjustment straps are unnecessarily hard to use, and the zipper access for the large rear pocket is quite small.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Nathan VaporAir 2.0
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $149.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$125.96 at Backcountry$149.00 at Amazon
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$89.95 at REI
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Pros Easily accessible bladder, lots of pockets, extra storage capacityAmazing pockets in arm's reach, carries a lot of gearMinimalist, lightweight, accessible pocketsComfortable, great fit, tons of easily reachable pockets, versatileAmple storage, simple and successful design, approachable price
Cons Pricey, some comfort issuesSome stiff materials on the chest, pole carry is hard to execute while movingDoesn't carry heavy items well, some unwanted stretchExpensive, must buy hydration bladder separatelyLower quality bladder, minor pain points over longer distances
Bottom Line An overall great running hydration pack that has a few minor comfort issuesA comfortable and capable choice for big mileage when gear accessibility is mission-criticalThe best race vest on the market with form fitting stretch so it can store more gear comfortablyA top-notch running pack, with excellent pockets and a comfortable fitAn entry-level hydration pack for trail running with a great price and ample storage
Rating Categories Nathan VaporAir 2.0 Nathan Pinnacle 12L S/Lab Sense Ultra 8... Salomon ADV Skin 12... REI Swiftland Hydro
Comfort (30%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
Features (25%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Hydration System (15%)
7.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)
5.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
4.0
Pockets (15%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Specs Nathan VaporAir 2.0 Nathan Pinnacle 12L S/Lab Sense Ultra 8... Salomon ADV Skin 12... REI Swiftland Hydro
Weight (with included hydration vessels) 13.8 oz 13.6 oz 7.9 oz 13.4 oz 13.7 oz
Carrying Capacity 7L 12L 8L 12L 5L
Included Liquid Capacity 2L 1.6L 1L 1L 1.5L
OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!) 0.51 0.88 1.01 0.90 0.37
External Storage? Yes, bungees Yes, kangaroo pockets Yes, back pouch pocket Yes, kangaroo pockets Yes
Type of Water Storage 2L reservoir (included) 1.6L hourglass reservoir Two 500mL bottles Two 500 mL soft flasks (included), plus reservoir sleeve (reservoir not included) 1.5L reservoir
Pole Holders? Yes Yes Add on Yes No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The VaporAir 2.0 is a functional and capable hydration pack for running. It is loaded with features, accessible pockets, and enough hydration storage to get you deep into the mountains. However, the comfort level and fit adjustments miss the mark.

Performance Comparison


The VaporAir 2.0 is a feature-rich pack but we always felt it. The...
The VaporAir 2.0 is a feature-rich pack but we always felt it. The best packs fit and carry in a way that we forget we are wearing them.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Comfort


The bar is high these days in the comfort of a running vest. During the testing period, our main area of frustration with the VaporAir was the imbalance felt with a full hydration bladder as well as the difficulty dialing in the flank adjustments.

When pulling either side of the adjustment strap, which is located inside a pocket (meaning it's nearly impossible to adjust while moving or if you have things in the pockets), you don't feel the strap becoming snug until you pull an excessive amount. The result for us was a less than perfect fit, as well as some frustration with the design. Throughout our testing, we found that vests with hydration packs require large easy to adjust v-straps along the flank to keep the pack from bouncing all over.

This strap, concealed within a zippered pocket, controls the...
This strap, concealed within a zippered pocket, controls the adjustment across the side of the vest. Make sense to you?
Photo: Jeff Colt

The sternum straps, on the other hand, are easily adjusted by sliding the clips up and down the mono-rail on each side of the shoulder straps. The upper clip also contains a metal button for the magnetic clasp attached to the hydration hose. The VaporAir is a highly functional pack, but comfort is so critical, and we never found a point of balance, fit, and function.

Features


For basically any desired hydration pack use, the VaporAir has the features we want. The hydration capacity is expandable, it has a great pole carry system that doesn't interfere with arm swing, and offers a variety of pockets and storage solutions to help keep you on the move instead of having to stop to readjust.

We loved the pole carry system as the pack is narrow enough to keep...
We loved the pole carry system as the pack is narrow enough to keep the poles from interfering with arm swing.
Photo: Jeff Colt

We aim to be critical of basic features such as reflective banding, emergency whistle, pockets with designated purposes, and secure zippered storage. The red VaporAir 2.0 that we tested has subtle reflective stripes that don't seem to stand out against the dark design, though it looks like the other colorway may have better visibility.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Hydration System


The VaporAir comes equipped with a 2-liter hydration reservoir. It is lightweight, easy to fill/hold open with one hand, and is totally leak-free. It also comes equipped with a quick-release hose that allows you to quickly remove the bladder without unthreading it from its shoulder straps. The magnetic hose clamp on the chest strap is an excellent way to keep the hose tidy when not in use — if we just got the hose close, it would clip.

Unfortunately, the 2L bladder that showed up to test this spring had...
Unfortunately, the 2L bladder that showed up to test this spring had a leak upon the initial fill. We tested using another Nathan bladder instead.
Photo: Jeff Colt

The stretchy chest pockets are certainly large enough to add some soft flasks if you want to expand the capacity of this pack and potentially balance out some of the weight from the two liters on the back.

We did find that using two soft flasks provided a better balanced...
We did find that using two soft flasks provided a better balanced ride.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Volume to Weight Ratio


The VaporAir 2.0 isn't a cavernous running pack and is made with heavier, water-resistant materials. It is designed for ultra-marathons where you encounter aid stations periodically and have the ability to refill your supplies. Our testing revealed it to be a bit heavier than other ultra-focused vests, weighing 13.8 ounces, putting it toward the bottom of the field for weight among the vests we tested. For a performance pack that fits 7 liters of gear, material choice makes a big difference. Instead of relying on stretch, the VaporAir 2.0 builds out all of that volume with heavy fabric.

While not the heaviest vest, it only carries half a liter of gear...
While not the heaviest vest, it only carries half a liter of gear per ounce of weight.
Photo: Jeff Colt

While it did fit our slimmed-down running kit along with any required race equipment like extra layers, specific water capacity, or first aid supplies and lights, it is as heavy as other packs that carry twice the equipment.

We could fit our entire kit with ease, but we tinkered with the...
We could fit our entire kit with ease, but we tinkered with the weight distribution trying to find a balance that worked with our stride.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Pockets


As a long-distance race-oriented hydration pack, there are ample pockets for packing in the essentials and keeping them organized. The layout of the pockets isn't our favorite, though, and the large back compartment is only accessed with a small zipper. We spent a lot of time using both hands to simultaneously push items through the pack's skin while reaching into the deep, narrow chest pockets.

We appreciate these smaller zipper pockets for ibuprofen or even for...
We appreciate these smaller zipper pockets for ibuprofen or even for micro trash, but the hydration hose directly interferes with accessing this shoulder.
Photo: Jeff Colt

We did appreciate having ample-sized and easily accessible zippered breast pockets positioned behind the front pouch pockets. These water-resistant pockets housed things like our phone and a single car key. The downside, if you use these nice pockets for storing essentials, you can't access the adjustment straps for the flanks.

Storing the phone directly against the chest and behind the front...
Storing the phone directly against the chest and behind the front pouch pockets made for easy access and limited interference when grabbing snacks.
Photo: Jeff Colt

The breast pockets are big enough for use with water bottles or soft flasks if you prefer that hydration method or want to carry extra water.

Value


With amazing options on the market offering fantastic comfort and expandable hydration systems, it's hard to say this pack offers incredible value. If you're a long-time Nathan running pack user, definitely try one of these on before you jump into it blindly, as the fit is significantly different from the several Nathan vests we have tried in the past.

Conclusion


For anyone who has a strong preference for a hydration bladder over chest-mounted soft flasks, the Nathan VaporAir 2.0 7L is a pretty good choice for trail running. It has ample storage for equipment and food and has one of the best hydration systems we tested. It would be a stretch to make this pack work for really long days out without a resupply, but you might be able to make it happen if you know fair weather is in the forecast and you aren't afraid to leave behind the bulky layers.

Hydration hoses do provide the easiest access to water while running.
Hydration hoses do provide the easiest access to water while running.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Jeff Colt