Nathan Vapor Air Review
Nathan Vapor Air Overview:
My first running vest was a Nathan HPL #020 that I bought about 3 years ago. Between training and racing, my HPL #020 has seen over a thousand miles of trail and I could not be happier with it. Needless to say, I was stoked when the Vapor Air arrived on my doorstep. The Nathan Vapor Air will be a new addition in 2015 to the ground-breaking Vapor Series. It will be the lightest vest Nathan offers, weighing in at just 9.3oz!
Intended for shorter distances, the Nathan Vapor Air still comes chock full of features. The bladder in this vest offers an impressive 2 liter capacity and 7L of storage (including the bladder). Other features include a large rear pocket, a bungee for stowing gear and a bevy of pockets on the shoulder straps and waistbands for gels, cellphone and other goodies.
Nathan Vapor Air First Impressions:
As soon as I saw the Nathan Vapor Air sitting on my doorstep, I dropped all of my other priorities and started checking out the features on the vest. My first impression was: “Wow I cannot believe how many product improvements have been made in three years.” First and foremost, the addition of a magnet to secure the hose to the vest is a game changer. Second, I could not believe how sleek the design was and how they managed to minimize the size of the product while still offering so many features. Another bonus is that the Vapor Air comes in several sizes so you can refine your fit. I used Nathan’s sizing chart and the initial fit felt great. The straps have been streamlined down to 4 adjustments; one on each shoulder and two on the chest. I found the straps to be intuitive and easy to adjust while wearing the vest. Side note: make sure your bladder is filled when you adjust your vest for the first time.
After dialing in the fit, I grabbed the hose and secured the magnet to chest strap. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the amount of excess hose. I jogged around my living room and could feel the excess hose slapping me on the shoulder. I even tried adjusting the magnet and location of the excess hose, but all that did was move the problem to my other shoulder. I knew this would drive me insane during an ultra and that this issue needed to be fixed! The obvious and risky solution was to remove the mouth piece and cut the hose.
I cut the hose incrementally to ensure that I did not take too much off. Finally, I got the hose to the perfect length such that it would not bounce around or rub on my skin. Now, it was time for a run!
Nathan Vapor Air Performance:
Since I am already a believer in Nathan product, I chose to use this vest for the first time at the Moab trail marathon. Unfortunately, this is the only picture I got at the marathon. I was having way too much un running around the desert.
The weather was nice, and I was lucky enough to start with shorts, compression socks and a short sleeve tech tee. I filled the 2 liter bladder, stuffed my cellphone in the waist band zip pocket and put a variety of chomps, gels and Bonk Breakers in the front pockets. I also put 6 salts in the pill pocket. I ran the entire race without a single complaint. Most notably, I did not have any rubbing or chaffing which is imperative with any ultra-gear.
Here are some of the real standout features that I observed during the race:
- Vest Noise – I am not sure if “noise” is a real measurement of vest quality, but it should be. I’m sure you’ve all been in a race and have heard someone’s vest sloshing water around. Or worse, it’s your vest! The noise is annoying and so is the bladder slapping against your back. The Vapor air is so quiet that you forget it’s on your back. Perhaps they should’ve called it the stealth?
- Fit –The fit of the vest was dialed. I barely felt it shift or move, even when running technical single track. I also like how Nathan moved the center of gravity of this vest up higher on your back so that the vest rests between your shoulder blades. I was skeptical at first, thinking it sat too high, but after running it for 26.2 miles, I am a fan.
- Pill Pocket – I am a huge proponent of taking salt and electrolytes. Having a dedicated pocket on the shoulder strap makes it possible to take salts while on the run without digging through your other pockets. Priceless!
- Hose Magnet – Eliminating a clip and adding a magnet is another great development. Instead of looking down to clip you hose while on the run, you can easily attach the hose to the vest without having to look down.
Nathan Vapor Air Final Thoughts:
Even though this is a lightweight vest intended for shorter distances, I think you could get away with using this vest for any ultras ranging from 50K to 50M and possibly a 100K. (As long as there is sufficient aid along the way) If you are running 100Ms, mountain ultras, or huge self-supported runs that require more gear, I recommend looking at something bigger like the Nathan Elevation. As for the Nathan Vapor Air, you will be surprised with its storage capacity. You could easily start a race with a light jacket, lightweight long sleeve layer, hat, gloves and headlamp. Then, when you heat up, you could put the majority of your gear in the rear storage compartment and stow the jacket to the bungee. All while carrying 2 liters of water and some food on the shoulder straps!
I had a great experience with my first Nathan and the Vapor Air was no different. I love the new features and love the fact that the vest is so dialed you forget you are wearing it. I fully expect this product to be just as reliable as my HPL and to get at least 1,000 miles out of it. The only quam I have with the vest is the length of the bladder hose. Other than that, this vest gets two thumbs up!
This product is offered in sizes S/M, L/XL and in Nathan Grey or Electric Blue.
When the product releases in the spring it will be offered at $150 MSRP. Don’t baulk at the price, it’s worth every penny.
Nathan Vapor Air Product Specifics:
- Over-the-shoulder load lifters keep water
and gear close to the body for maximum
- Body-mapped, super-breathable materials
for maximum comfort
- Equipped with a 2L bladder with
- Two easy-access front bottle pockets
- Front right stretch mesh stash pocket holds
- Front left pocket with “wipe clean” surface
for easy storing of gel empties
- Water-resistant pill pocket
- Front zip smart phone-compatible pocket
- Side stretch mesh pockets fit
most smart phones
- Soft-touch, no-chafe elastic
- Reflective hits for runs that last from
dusk to dawn
- Rear external shock cord for