If you’re like me, walking into a running specialty store is like a kid walking into a candy store. There are always so many new clothes, shoes and accessories to try. One area I find myself in more often than any other is the hydration area. Different sized bottles and straps with various features, as well as vests and packs in bright colors and boasting intriguing pocket configurations always beckon me. Lets face it, water is so necessary, but never fun to carry. No matter which way we choose, water still weighs approximately 1 ounce per fluid ounce. I know this, but I am still on a never-ending quest to find that magic contraption that will make hauling water around a breeze.
On my last visit to Fleet Feet Fair Oaks, the brightly colored race vests of Nathan’s 2014 line caught my eye, and I put them on my wish list. I soon had the opportunity to give one a try.
The VaporShadow is colorful. If your goal is to blend in, this vest is definitely not for you. I appreciate the divergence from the more typical bland or neutral colors for a little bit of wild and crazy. Additionally, the vest has 360 degrees of reflective lining so you can even be noticed in the wee hours of the night.
What Can I Carry?
Pockets, pockets, pockets. One thing this vest is not lacking is pockets. I count a total of 12 pockets with various functions. Notable pockets include:
- A pill pocket (which I’ve been told works super well for an iPod shuffle)
- A hidden ice-pack pocket in the back to help regulate body temperature
- A pocket in the front with a bungee cord that can fit a 10-22 ounce water bottle (Nathan says it fits their TruFlex bottle) or any other items you want accessible
- Front zipper pocket that can easily fit 5 energy gels, or an iPhone 4 or 5 (actually I put both a 4 and a 5 at the same time, and there is room to spare). There is an additional pocket on the front of this pocket that is perfect for stashing your next couple of gels-or I see myself designating it as an easily accessed spot to store my trash.
- 2 side zipper pockets that are huge. I worried that they would chafe my arms, but I didn’t notice them at all
- 2 Large zippered pockets in the back, would work well for jackets, extra food, etc.
- A bungee cord on the back can accommodate jackets, spare shirts, and more.
- Trekking pole clips. If you need them, this vest has got them.
- You don’t need a safety whistle because this vest comes with one on an elastic strap. It does bounce around, but you can either tuck it in or just remove it.
Water-carrying capabilities. That’s what this whole thing is about, right? Here are the facts and some thoughts:
- Vest comes with a 2 liter bladder
- Bite valve nozzle on the hose has on and off positions (changed by turning the nozzle), but does not leak while running in the on position, making it easier to continually drink throughout a run.
- The bladder pocket is insulated to prevent warm weather or body heat from rapidly affecting your water temperature. I feel this is a very huge benefit, and is even useful in the winter, preventing water from freezing while out running, and also from freezing my back.
- The bladder is made from BPA-free and PVC-free materials, and is easily dismantled for thorough cleaning.
- The hose has plenty of straps to loop through to guide the hose to the right spot,
- The hose has a magnetic tube clip that attaches to the upper chest strap. It didn’t bounce or come off at any point, and was easy to drink from and quickly replace.
Focusing on the Fit:
- This vest comes in two sizes, S/M, and L/XL. The website recommends chest sizes 31-36 inches for the S/M vest, and 34-40 inches for the L/XL. The manufacturer does not give any guidance on the fit, or where on the chest they recommend measuring. My assumption was to measure where women always measure, the band of the bra. With running clothes on my band is 29 inches, so that makes the fit a bit tricky, doesn’t it? I believe that there are plenty of runners both larger and smaller than the ranges allowed by this vest.
- My vest is a S/M, and fit okay, but not great. The good news is that I think the vest would fit someone with a chest much larger than 36 inches. The straps are very adjustable, and easily stowed in elastic bands.
- My lower chest strap was as tight as it could get and had 10 inches of extra strap tucked in the band. Unfortunately, the bad news is that this lower band was still very loose on me. If you can see in the photo, the lower strap hangs down, and does not tighten all the way down. I prefer this strap to be pretty snug on vests, so I was disappointed with the fit in this area.
- The upper chest strap, or V-chest strap forms a triangle shape, and locks down the vest, keeping it from shifting and moving. I am a fan.
- A few different straps within the structure of the vest are designed to control the placement of the bladder, and are adjustable mid-run as the bladder empties. There are 2 straps on the lower sides, and 2 straps near the shoulders that function as a bladder control system. Pulling the draw cords redistributes the water and minimizes the splashing. Note: make sure to burp all of the air out of the bladder to minimize sloshing.
Overall, this is a quality vest with many features that were well thought-out. I do wish it cinched down a little tighter. This vest would be perfect for a long 20+ mile unsupported training run, especially if conditions are expected to change and clothing layers need to be added or shed. One of my bucket-list runs is to do the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim run, and this vest has the capabilities to carry everything I would need to succeed in that endeavor.
Here are the stats and info on Nathan’s page.
If you’re considering purchasing this vest, please either visit your locally owned running store, or head over to this link and buy it there. It’ll drop a few nickels into the URP fund. Thank You.
Full disclosure: Tara was provided this vest at no cost to her. They are her opinions and she was under no obligation to provide a positive review.
[This link was written by Tara Barragan. Tara is a trail and road runner from Folsom, CA who recently reviewed the Ultimate Direction Jenny Vesta vest here.]