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Nathan Vapor Air 2L Review

Top Pick Award
Price:   $150 List | $111.79 at Amazon
Compare prices at 5 resellers
Pros:  Easily accessible Hydrapak bladder, comfortable, lots of pockets, extra storage capacity
Cons:  Needs another hose strap, expensive
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Nathan Sports
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Wednesday

Our Verdict

For those who prefer a bladder hydration system instead of chest-mounted bottles, we recommend our Top Pick for Bladder Hydration System: the Nathan Vapor Air 2L. This is a men's specific model, but Nathan also produces the Vapor Airess, which is essentially the same pack but shaped to fit women. With its awesome features like the magnetic hose clamp, hydrapak water bladder, and external bungees for additional carrying capacity, the Vapor Air includes everything that a distance runner might need. On top of all that this pack is incredibly comfortable, and has tons of easy to access pockets. Frankly, we loved this pack and couldn't stand the idea of not giving it a Top Pick Award.

See how the Nathon held up against all of the contenders in the complete, Best Hydration Pack review.


RELATED REVIEW: The Race to Find the Best Hydration Pack for Running

up to 5 products
Score Product Price Weight Carrying Capacity External Storage?
92
Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN 12SET $185
Editors' Choice Award
14.6 oz 12 L Yes, "Kangaroo Pockets"
86
Nathan Vapor Air 2L $150
Top Pick Award
14 oz 7 L Yes, bungees
74
Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 2.0 $130
13.3 oz 7 L Yes, bungees
72
Patagonia Fore Runner Vest 10L $129
15.8 oz 10 L Yes, external sleeve
71
CamelBak Ultra 4 $115
19.6 oz 2 L No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Nathan Vapor Air 2L reminds us of one of the earliest running vests on the market — the Nathan HPL 020 — which is probably why we like it so much. However, it is a far more refined version that is much more comfortable, has far more storage, and includes many features that were annoyingly lacking from our first HPL 020. We love how easy it is to access the top of the bladder for quick on-the-go refills, and also love that Nathan continues to incorporate Hydrapak bladders in their hydration packs. These bladders, which fold over on top and have a slide-on clamp, are some of the quickest and easiest to refill to the brim. The incredibly easy to use magnetic hose clamp easily bonds the hose to the chest, meaning you don't have to fumble around or even look down for where to clamp your hose after drinking, it just attaches itself! These features and more easily seal the deal for winning our Top Pick for Bladder Hydration System.

Performance Comparison


We love the Vapor Air's bungee set-up for attaching additional layers to the outside of the pack. This enables the pack to stay sleek and small  while still carrying everything you need.
We love the Vapor Air's bungee set-up for attaching additional layers to the outside of the pack. This enables the pack to stay sleek and small, while still carrying everything you need.

Comfort


We awarded the Nathan Vapor Air 9 out of 10 points for comfort. We loved its easy to adjust shoulder straps and elastic mesh side panels, which Nathan uses instead of side straps. The pack does not bounce around while running, and the adjustable sternum straps make it easy to crank down the tightness as the bladder empties. Overall we have nothing to complain about, except that it wasn't as form fitting as the Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN 12SET, and so we couldn't rate it as the very best.

Not only did we appreciate the side pockets for holding extra food  we loved how the sides of this pack are constructed of stretchy mesh that hugs the body snuggly while running and still provides the most comfort.
Not only did we appreciate the side pockets for holding extra food, we loved how the sides of this pack are constructed of stretchy mesh that hugs the body snuggly while running and still provides the most comfort.

Features & Design


The Nathan Vapor Air has an incredible set of features, basically everything you would need or expect from a top rated hydration pack. Besides the magnetic hose clip which we have already gushed about, it has external bungee cords for attaching extra clothing, pole straps that are intuitive to use, reflective tape for night running, a breathable mesh back, and an attached whistle.

We loved the magnetic hose clamp on the Nathan pack. No need to look or fumble around to unclasp or re-clasp the hose. The moment they were close to each other the hose would attach itself magnetically. A cool innovative feature.
We loved the magnetic hose clamp on the Nathan pack. No need to look or fumble around to unclasp or re-clasp the hose. The moment they were close to each other the hose would attach itself magnetically. A cool innovative feature.

Pole straps that hold the poles securely out of the way when not in use. The only downside of this setup is that you must remove the pack to rig up the poles.
Pole straps that hold the poles securely out of the way when not in use. The only downside of this setup is that you must remove the pack to rig up the poles.

Hydration System


Amongst the three packs that came with a bladder hydration system, the Nathan Vapor Air was far superior to either the Patagonia Fore Runner Vest 10L or the CamelBak Ultra 4. The included Hydrapak bladder holds two liters of liquid and is easily accessed through an open bladder pouch. The hose detaches easily from the bladder for ease of cleaning, and you are able to thread the hose through either the top for over the shoulder access or the bottom if you prefer it to run under your armpit. The magnetic hose attachment point is a huge plus. Although not specifically designed for such use, the chest pockets are big enough for bottles should you prefer that method.

The bladder in this pack is accessible through an open at the top pouch  meaning you can just reach in for easy filling without removing it from the pack.
The bladder in this pack is accessible through an open at the top pouch, meaning you can just reach in for easy filling without removing it from the pack.

Storage Capacity


This pack is not huge, but it still works. It has only two pouches on the back, one of which is filled by the bladder. The other main pocket is a single zippered pocket that is plenty large enough for all your accessories or one piece of clothing. To account for the lack of internal space, Nathan has added external bungees which allow you to strap on any extra clothes you might want to bring. While it's not perfectly ideal, it is versatile.

Pockets


The pocket set-up on the Vapor Air is almost as good as the Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN 12SET, however, since it lacks a kangaroo pouch, we gave it 9 out of 10. What we really liked about the pockets was that they are either water resistant (in the case of the pill pouch), or made of slick material that is easy to wipe clean. When the remnants of a race's worth of GU packets are stuck inside your chest pockets, the ability to easily wipe them clean is a very welcome addition to any pack. It has two huge breast pockets for food and accessories, two additional gel pockets, one expandable zippered pocket for a phone, one small Velcro pill pocket, and two side zippered pockets for food that are easy to reach.

The breast pockets on this pack are big enough for use with water bottles or soft flasks if you prefer that hydration method or just want to carry extra water.

The pockets on this pack are plentiful and huge! We also liked that they are easy to clean material. Notice the hose coming over the shoulder. We were forced to make a modification by adding a loop of duct tape to keep the hose from flapping around while we ran.
The pockets on this pack are plentiful and huge! We also liked that they are easy to clean material. Notice the hose coming over the shoulder. We were forced to make a modification by adding a loop of duct tape to keep the hose from flapping around while we ran.

Weight


With an empty bladder this pack weighs an even 14 ounces, making it the second lightest one in our review.

Best Applications


This is an amazing hydration pack for running for anyone who prefers a bladder and hose hydration system over chest mounted bottles or flasks. It is ideally suited for ultra races or long wilderness runs, and would be really comfortable for hiking as well.

Value


With an MSRP of $150, this is the second most expensive product in our review. But simply put, you get a lot of useful features and comfort for your money here that you won't get with the more affordable options. We think it is a great value.

Conclusion


The Nathan Vapor Air 2L is a hydration pack in the style of the old-school CamelBak, but refined with added comfort, pockets, and a feature set that make it state-of-the-art. For those who prefer a bladder on their back, this is the best pack on the market, and for that reason we awarded it our Top Pick for Bladder Hydration System.

Another day of testing packs at a long ultra race. This is about a quarter of the way into the Bighorn Mountain 100 mile in Wyoming. Our Top Pick Award winner worked fantastic.
Another day of testing packs at a long ultra race. This is about a quarter of the way into the Bighorn Mountain 100 mile in Wyoming. Our Top Pick Award winner worked fantastic.

Other Versions


VaporAiress 2L
VaporAiress 2L
  • Cost - $150
  • Women's version
  • Specifically engineered women's race vest

Andy Wellman
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