Nathan VaporAir 2.0 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Easily accessible bladder, lots of pockets, extra storage capacity
Cons: Pricey, some comfort issues
Manufacturer: Nathan Sports
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Nathan VaporAir 2.0
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|Pros||Easily accessible bladder, lots of pockets, extra storage capacity||Durable construction, comfortable fit, versatile features||Comfortable, great fit, tons of easily reachable pockets, versatile||Easy to access storage, lots of pockets including useful zippers, great fit and adjustability||Ample storage, simple and successful design, approachable price|
|Cons||Pricey, some comfort issues||Runs slightly large||Expensive, must buy hydration bladder separately||Included bottles create a pressure point against the ribs, coarse mesh against the neck||Lower quality bladder, minor pain points over longer distances|
|Bottom Line||An overall great running hydration pack that has a few minor comfort issues||Durable materials and ample storage combine with a comfortable and secure fit to make this pack ready for the mountains||A comfortable fit and exceptional pockets make this among our favorite packs on the market||Designed by and for the fastest trail runners in the world, this vest has the fit and features to race fast||An entry-level hydration pack for trail running with ample storage at a great price|
|Rating Categories||Nathan VaporAir 2.0||Ultimate Direction...||Salomon ADV Skin 12...||Salomon Sense Pro 5||REI Co-op Swiftland 5|
|Hydration System (15%)|
|Volume to Weight Ratio (15%)|
|Specs||Nathan VaporAir 2.0||Ultimate Direction...||Salomon ADV Skin 12...||Salomon Sense Pro 5||REI Co-op Swiftland 5|
|Weight (with included hydration vessels)||13.8 oz||11.7 oz||13.4 oz||8.1 oz||13.9 oz|
|Included Liquid Capacity||2L||1L||1L||1L||1.5L|
|OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!)||0.51||0.88||0.90||0.62||0.36|
|External Storage?||Yes, bungees||Yes, bungees||Yes, kangaroo pockets||Yes, kangoo pockets||Yes, bungees|
|Type of Water Storage||2L reservoir (included)||Two 500mL soft flasks||Two 500 mL soft flasks (included), plus reservoir sleeve (reservoir not included)||Two 500mL soft flasks||1.5L resevoir|
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
— Jeff Colt
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