Nathan VaporHowe 2.0 12L Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Comfortable, lots of storage, great pockets
Cons: No trekking pole attachment, expensive
Manufacturer: Nathan Sports
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We said it two years ago, and we'll say it again now: the VaporHowe 2.0 is the best women's running pack we've ever tested. In every metric we tested for, from weight to comfort to storage, this pack excels.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to making something comfortable (or uncomfortable). For this metric, we judge each pack's materials, stretch, fit, and breathability to give an overall picture of how pleasant it is to wear for hours on end.
The VaporHowe is one of the most comfortable running packs we've ever tested. The first thing we noticed about it is its incredible fabric. The entire vest is made with a silky smooth, super soft material that is great next to the skin. This is the only women's vest that we tested that we'd really be happy wearing just a sports bra with; others are too rough, and we'd always want to have a t-shirt on underneath them. The front closures, which move up and down a sliding rail, are highly adjustable as well, so finding your perfect fit is easy.
This pack has a bit of stretch through the back, which we love during big athletic days. We find the fit to be accurate, with arm openings and a back width that fit all of our testers regardless of their body shape. We didn't have problems with breathability either, despite the higher level of coverage on the back. We did get some feedback from runners with larger breasts that it is more difficult to find the right fit in this pack, so as always, we recommend trying this pack on before committing to a non-refundable purchase.
Running packs are surprisingly complex products, so we dedicated an entire scoring metric to talking about all the little details. We'll discuss pockets and storage more a bit later, so, for now, we're focusing on all the things that make these vests great investments for runners.
The first thing we have to talk about is trekking pole storage. The VaporHowe 2.0 does not have external trekking pole storage, though the older version did. We're not sure why this was changed, but it could nearly be a dealbreaker for some. That being said, you can probably slip trekking poles into the stretchy pocket with the bladder, but there's no way to access them without taking the pack off. If you don't normally run with poles, this may not matter much to you, but truthfully, this is the one thing that might actually prevent us from purchasing this vest.
On the flip side, there's one feature that we really like on this pack: the magnet. The hydration system, which we'll explain in more detail below, is set up for a rear bladder. The bladder hose runs through a pocket on the top of the shoulder and down to a magnet on the chest strap. This magnet does a great job of holding the hose in place, unlike other clips we've experienced. Other features of note are the fact that the bladder is insulated to stay cool longer, the pack is body-mapped, there's a safety whistle, and reflective areas all around for better visibility.
Every running pack is unique, and most tend to accommodate a wide range of hydration systems. For this metric, we judged each product's included system most heavily, while also making notes about their abilities to fit other systems.
One big change for the current VaporHowe 2.0 is in the bladder. The newest version of this pack comes with a 1.6-liter insulated bladder. We love how much storage is in this pack, and this increased water storage is one of the things that makes this a great option for long days. We like how easily the bladder fits into and attaches to its rear pocket, compressing everything for better stability, and the magnetic attachment that helps keep the hose in place.
Volume to Weight Ratio
To keep things fair, we created a ratio of volume to weight, instead of simply scoring the packs based on their size or weight separately. Since larger packs might weigh more just because they're bigger, it's more dynamic to look at a ratio that tells us how much weight you have to carry for each liter on your back.
According to Nathan, the VaporHowe holds a whopping 12 liters of gear storage. We had no problem packing plenty of snacks, layers, water, and even a bit of climbing equipment for big days out in the backcountry. This would easily be our first pick of all the women's models in this review for days when a large capacity is key. More importantly, this vest is also light when compared to its volume at 13.2 ounces. While other packs that we tested weigh less overall, they're also much smaller in volume. The VaporHowe's weight-to-volume ratio is one of the best we tested.
Finally! Our favorite metric. Running packs are all about pockets, and we use this metric to critique their shape, size, location, and utility.
The VaporHowe 2.0 has space for just about everything you'll need. Upfront, there are two long stretchy pockets that do not close and two small stretchy pockets that have a small velcro closure. These are great for front bottle storage, if you decide to go without the rear bladder, or for your smartphone and a snack. The small pockets are great for energy gels and other quick bites to keep you going before you want to take off your pack. On top of that, there's also a front zippered phone pocket. While we never worried that our phone would fall out of the stretchy pocket, it's nice to have the security of a water-resistant zippered space right in front. There's even a shoulder pill pocket as well!
The rear of this vest has a full-length pocket for the hydration bladder, a shorter stretch pocket with velcro closure, and a full-length zippered pocket. On the previous version of this pack, we really liked having a full-length rear pocket without a zipper for stuffing in bulky layers. While the current version of the VaporHowe technically has the same amount of space available, we don't necessarily love the configuration quite as much, though it's still pretty fantastic all around.
Here comes the tough part. The VaporHowe is the most expensive women's model we tested. The materials are exceptional, the storage is huge, and the water system is excellent. But, if you're a serious distance runner looking for a long-term investment, or if you're embarking on a big challenge and need only the best equipment, we think this pack is worth the price.
The Nathan VaporHowe 2.0 12L is the clear winner of our Editors' Choice Award for best women's running pack. We love its comfortable, adjustable build and found great use in its massive amounts of gear and water storage. Despite an expensive price tag, this pack really is the cream of the crop and one we recommend with enthusiasm.
— Lauren DeLaunay