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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 Hydrapak bladder, lots of pockets, extra storage capacity, magnetic hose clip
Cons:  Pricey, some comfort issues
Manufacturer:   Nathan Sports
By Brian Martin ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 13, 2020
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 12
  • Comfort - 30% 5
  • Features - 25% 7
  • Hydration System - 15% 9
  • 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 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 are unnecessarily hard to use, and when we had the hydration reservoir filled, the front of the pack was light, but the pull towards the back was uncomfortable.

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Pros Easily accessible Hydrapak bladder, lots of pockets, extra storage capacity, magnetic hose clipComfortable, 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 Pricey, some comfort issuesExpensive, must buy hydration bladder separatelyNo trekking pole attachment, expensiveBulkyItchy material, tight fit
Bottom Line The features and awesome hydration system make this vest a joy to useA 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 VaporAir 2.0 Salomon ADV Skin 12 Set Nathan VaporHowe 2.0 12L Ultimate Direction FKT Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set
Comfort (30%)
5
9
9
7
6
Features (25%)
7
8
7
9
8
Hydration System (15%)
9
8
8
7
9
Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)
5
8
8
9
6
Pockets (15%)
8
9
9
9
9
Specs Nathan VaporAir 2.0 Salomon ADV Skin... Nathan VaporHowe... Ultimate Direction... Salomon ADV Skin 8...
Weight (ounces) 14.1 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!) 0.50 0.90 0.91 1.24 0.67
External Storage? Yes, bungees Yes, "Kangaroo Pockets" Large rear pocket Yes, bungees, many external zip pockets Two 0.5 L soft flasks
Type of Water Storage Internal Bladder (included), can accomodate front bottles (not included) Two 0.5L soft flasks (included), plus bladder sleeve (bladder not included) 1.6 liters One 0.6L bottle included 1 liter
Pole Holders? Yes Yes No Yes Yes

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 have strayed a bit from past Nathan vests, which is unfortunate because we had high expectations for this pack.

Performance Comparison


The Nathan VaporAir 2.0 is loaded with features but lacks the...
The Nathan VaporAir 2.0 is loaded with features but lacks the ultimate comfort necessary to put a pack in the running for an award.
Photo: Brian Martin

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 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 require large easy to adjust v-straps along the flank to keep the pack from bouncing all over.

While most packs we tested are more self-explanatory with fit...
While most packs we tested are more self-explanatory with fit adjustments, the VaporAir requires a bit more trial and error.
Photo: Brian Martin

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 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


For basically any desired hydration pack use, the VaporAir has the features we want. 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.

The chronic sagging of this vest in the back was annoying. When the...
The chronic sagging of this vest in the back was annoying. When the front of the pack is loaded down, it isn't as big of an issue.
Photo: Brian Martin

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 doesn't adequately manage the weight of the 2-liter water reservoir.

Hydration System


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 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.

The Nathan 2 liter reservoir is easy to fill and didn't leak at all...
The Nathan 2 liter reservoir is easy to fill and didn't leak at all. It's also one of the lightest reservoirs as it doesn't have any unnecessary plastic attachments or handles on the outside.
Photo: Brian Martin

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.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Volume to Weight Ratio


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. Our testing revealed it to be a bit heavier than other ultra-focused vests, weighing 14.11 ounces, putting it toward the bottom of the pack for weight among the vests we tested. For a performance pack that fits 7L of gear, we expect a lighter weight, and because of this, it didn't score particularly well for the volume to weight ratio.

Not the heaviest, but far from the lightest.
Not the heaviest, but far from the lightest.
Photo: Brian Martin

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.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

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 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.

While the breast pockets do hold quite a lot of food and gear, our...
While the breast pockets do hold quite a lot of food and gear, our testers' hands were a bit too big to fit down inside them making it a bit difficult to get some items out.
Photo: Brian Martin

We did appreciate having ample sized and easily accessible zippered breast pockets to keep things like our phone and a single car key. Sometimes, during our testing with other vests, it was challenging to find an appropriate place for these items.

Both shoulder straps had large zippered pockets that are both easy...
Both shoulder straps had large zippered pockets that are both easy to access and large enough for a smartphone plus extra food.
Photo: Brian Martin

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.

Brian Martin