Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Gear Review: Nathan Hydration Vest

Since I'm admittedly a huge gear-whore, I decided to start doing periodic reviews of some of the products that I love, some that I abhor, and anything new and cool that I come across. Meet my latest investment:The Nathan Intensity. It's a women's specific hydration vest from the Nathan Sports line. Some of the features (as taken from their website) include:
-- women-specific shoulder straps and torso length
-- 3-way propulsion harness
-- 2L bladder
-- dual front pockets

Price paid
: $84.95 (this included shipping and handling)
Location: This product seems to be backordered at several places. I found it in-stock at You could probably find it at just about any online running or sporting goods store, and also at REI (online only).

I have become increasingly dissatisfied with my fuel belts. They are great for some of the shorter runs, but I think they are contributing to an upset stomach after about 10 miles, they aren't quite large enough to hold water for the longer runs (on routes where there is no option to refill), and there is no spot for maps/phone/fuel without adding on a bunch of extra pouches. And I'm sorta tired of looking like a mall cop with all of the crap hanging off my waist. I have tried 2 different camel backs, 1 off-brand pack, and 1 from Gregory. None of them fit the bill when it came to exactly what I was looking for: light weight, small enough to fit a girls frame without smooshing the melons, no weird straps that will rub and chafe, and roomy enough to hold everything without being majorly bulky. I was very skeptical when I ordered this one.

My first impressions out of the box:
1) The bladder seals by rolling the top down and sliding a hard-plastic seal over the top, rather than a screw top.
2) There are no shoulder strap adjustments and I thought this was weird.
3) It's super light.
4) The back pocket could be a tad larger.

Here is a view of the top of the bladder, with the sliding seal at the top:
My impressions after a run:
1) I actually like the sealing mechanism. It's a cinch to fill and it's easier to get the extra air out than the screw tops.
2) The fit is AWESOME! It doesn't matter that there are no shoulder adjustments. The waist adjustments are plenty. The pack rides high enough on the back that it feels like it's just sort of floating there. I had the bladder completely filled, and it still didn't weigh the pack down.
3) The front pockets are sort of hard to access, but I do like that there are pockets in the front at all. Genius. Also, the pockets did not get in the way of my arm movement.
4) No jostling! No bouncing! Win!
5) My only real complaint: the chest strap is not meant for buxom ladies. It is adjustable. However, the highest position is pretty much directly across the nips and the lowest position is underneath the girls. I think that underneath is the most comfortable for me.

The front view. Ignore the big wet spot on my belly...user error.

I'm pretty sure this will be a keeper. Based on the short test run, I am extremely happy with this pack, and already love it infinitely more than my waist belts. The true test will be my 20+ miler this weekend.

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