If you're looking for a high performing alternative to chest-mounted soft flasks, the Nathan VaporAir 2.0 is a good option. While it doesn't offer the ultimate comfort you get with our Editors' Choice, it gets the job done and has enough storage options to keep you going throughout the day. The easily accessible pockets, adjustable fit, and large hydration capacity make this a truly effective and functional hydration pack for running. There are two critical issues, though, that put this vest out of the running for any awards. The flank fit adjustment straps were unnecessarily hard to use, and times when we had the hydration reservoir filled, and the front of the pack was light, the pull towards the back was uncomfortable.
Nathan VaporAir 2.0 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Easily accessible Hydrapak bladder, lots of pockets, extra storage capacity, magnetic hose clip
Cons: Expensive, some comfort issues
Manufacturer: Nathan Sports
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Vapor Air 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. The comfort level and fit adjustments have strayed a bit from past Nathan vests, which is unfortunate because we had high expectations for this pack.
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, located inside a pocket (meaning its 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 through. 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 required large easy to adjust v-straps along the flank to keep the pack from bouncing all over.
The sternum straps 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 the magnetic clamp for the hydration hose. The VaporAir is still a functional pack, and if it had attained the comfort level of some of the other high-end models, it would have been closer to being in the running for an award.
Features & Design
For basically any desired hydration pack use, the VaporAir had the features we wanted. The hydration capacity is expandable, it has a bungee jacket trap on the back, it's equipped to attach collapsible poles, and even has a magnetic hose clamp.
As far as design goes, we feel that the fit of the vest should be intuitive, quick, and easy. The past version of this vest was indeed quick and easy as well as comfortable. This new fit system is not so intuitive and didn't adequately manage the weight of the 2-liter water reservoir.
The VaporAir comes equipped with one of the better hydration reservoirs we have used. 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 the hose from its shoulder straps. The magnetic hose clamp on the chest strap also proved to be an excellent way to keep the hose tidy when it wasn't in use. The added bonus of the magnetic clip was not having to look down when reattaching. If we just got the hose close, it would clip.
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. Of all hydration packs tested that utilize a bladder, this bladder/hose/clamp combo was our favorite.
The VaporAir 2.0 isn't a cavernous running pack. It is designed for ultra-marathons where you encounter aid stations periodically and have the ability to refill your stores. That being said, there is plenty of space to pack along any required race equipment like extra layers, certain water capacity, or first aid supplies and lights. We put together a typical but slim kit we take out running and stuffed it into the VaporAir. Everything fit fairly easily, and we had a bit of space left for either more food or extra layers.
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 from the test group, though. 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 did appreciate having ample sized and easily accessible zippered breast pockets to keep things like our phone and single car key. Sometimes, during our testing with other vests, it was challenging to find an appropriate place for these items.
While Nathan designed this pack to be a competitive ultra vest, our testing revealed it to be a bit heavier than other ultra-focussed vests. The VaporAir weighs 14.11 ounces, putting it toward the bottom of the pack for weight among the vests we tested.
For anyone who has a strong preference of a hydration bladder over chest mounted soft flasks, the VaporAir 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.
With the 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 vest we have tried in the past.
The Nathan VaporAir 2.0 is hydration reservoir style pack. Overall it functions well but has a few issues, mainly the fit and comfort. The hydration system, pockets, and storage capacity all get the job done.
— Brian Martin