PRODUCT REVIEW: Nathan Race Vest
It goes without saying that when you’re going to be on your feet engaged in any kind of physical activity for an extended period of time– you need to stay hydrated! While your best performance is going to depend on your training, your nutrition, and how properly you’ve hydrated before a race, that doesn’t mean you should race without your own food and water (or even replacement electrolytes), or completely depend on water stations during a long race (we’re talking a Super, Beast, or a long enduro race–this will depend on your body’s specific needs).
A hydration pack is an investment, but, it’s one we agree with making. We originally tried out a Camelbak racing pack but found that, although the brand is reliable, the vest is not conducive to OCR racing at this time. It broke and we had to return it after one race. (Don’t get me wrong, I have a daypack Camelbak that has lasted me a decade with no signs of slowing down– but I could never use a daypack in OCR.)
Enter the Nathan Sports hydration packs. This was a bit of a risk because we were tending to lean towards an Osprey when returning the Camelbak simply because our backpacking backpacks are Osprey and they are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. However, they all seemed a little bulky for what we were looking for. Nathan Sports tended to know exactly what we needed and were looking for. Not too big or bulky, not too small that it wasn’t practical, and super lightweight– like it was designed with an OCR race in mind.
Men’s Nathan Race Vest:
First up, the men’s VaporKrar Race Vest. This is the hydration pack I ended up purchasing when returning the Camelbak. It has lasted over a year through a handful of Spartan Beasts, Supers, and probably a hundred training runs. There is enough storage to easily get to my food during a race (I like to carry CLIF shot bloks, Justin’s chocolate nut butter, and a small energy bar of some sort).
It’s got two soft hydration bottles in the front for easy access, though you can also fit a larger bladder in the back if you needed to. The snaps on the front house a magnet so that if you do insert a larger bladder, you can keep the mouthpiece of the tube in front and not flying around everywhere. There are also small pockets with a velcro closing in addition to two more zipped pockets on the front. I don’t listen to music or bring my phone during races, but the pockets are helpful and handy during training sessions when I do want to carry those things. The back also has significant reflective striping, which is nice for if you’re racing when it’s dark out like during a Hurricane Heat or World’s Toughest Mudder.
After a year, the only signs of wear and tear that this vest is showing is a couple of tiny snags that are more than likely from barbed wire crawls. It’s easily washable and drys quick.
The cons: the threading on the water bottles isn’t the most ideal. It can sometimes be difficult to thread the caps back on, so you wouldn’t want to deal with this during a race. Definitely stop at the water stations in conjunction with this vest so you don’t risk having to re-fill mid-race. I’m guessing at some point I would want to replace them anyway just to get new, clean ones; so it’s not the end of the world.
I wish the straps were a little better in terms of staying as I adjusted them. They stay on the vest well, but they loosen as I go a little bit. Just wish there was a way to keep them a bit more snug.
All in all, this vest does its job and is pretty amazing.
Women’s Nathan Race Vest:
Let’s talk about the women’s VaporMag. When I signed up for my first Beast, my husband recommended I look into purchasing a racing vest since he loves his so much. See his review above. 😉
Short story: while this is the only racing vest I have personally used, this race vest rocks. I am not one that likes to carry things with me when I run. I don’t wear sunglasses, a hat, etc. because I feel bogged down by them or they move around and irritate me. I like minimalist trail running shoes because it doesn’t really feel like I’m trapped in shoes instead of being barefoot. You get the point. This race vest basically molds into my body and fits like a glove while offering just enough storage to carry the necessities while maintaining a minimalist feel. I spent an hour trying on every single vest that REI had for women, and this was the only one that had everything I wanted plus felt like it fit properly.
When they say the vest is designed specifically to fit a female form, it’s so true! The vest doesn’t push into weird spots or rub against anything it shouldn’t, and the snaps on the front are positioned perfectly without being annoying but can also be adjusted for comfort. Nathan Sports definitely got this right!
The vest is extremely lightweight and the inside is a soft mesh that drains quickly after obstacles like a dunk wall any sweat is quickly wicked away. The vest has two small pockets on the front with a velcro closing and a roomy zipped pocket on the back (which I have no trouble getting in and out of without even taking the vest off). The back also has a pocket for additional storage if you needed it.
The threading on the water bottles was improved for the women’s vest and I have not had any problems with mine. The lids are super easy to thread and seem more sturdy than the ones my husband got on his VaporKrar. Comparing them side-by-side, it’s obvious that they made improvements to the way the lids thread.
The back of this vest also has reflective striping for those night races and I’m loving the color as well (I got the hibiscus).
This vest has truly been so amazing so far for both races and training runs. I can move freely while still knowing that I have everything I need for a great performance!
Do you wear a racing vest? Is there a specific style or brand you like?
Feel free to submit your own review!