The Nathan VaporMag ($95 MSRP) was developed in collaboration with world-class ultra runner Maggie Guterl (URP interview right here) and is designed with racing in mind! This streamlined pack is well-sized to allow you to carry all of the essentials but not any excess to weigh you down. The lightweight and supple vest fabric, along with the mesh accents, will help you stay cool in even the hottest and most humid conditions.
Specs for the Nathan VaporMag
- Volume Capacity: 2.5L
- Weight Without Soft Flasks: 4 oz/113 g
- Weight With Soft Flasks: 7.2 oz/204 g
- Sizing: S, M, L (note: Nathan website lists only S, M, L, however their size chart indicates an XXS, XS, and XL option; this indicates that Nathan no longer has the XXS, XS, and XL in stock, they are however available on Amazon. This is important as you really need to dial in the size of this vest)
- Color options: Hibiscus/Magenta Purple
- 2 medium size front pockets for soft flasks
- 2 small front pockets for gels, keys, other small items
- Lower back stash pockets; easily accessible for layers or an extra bottle
- Lower back zip pocket for items you need to be secured
- Upper back storage
- Comes with two 12ox ExoShot soft flasks with extended sip tubes
What’s good: the new, differentiating, or simply well designed or built features of the vest.
So light you will barely even know you are wearing it, the VaporMag excels in warm and/or humid conditions when you need carrying capacity but don’t want to be weighed down. The lightweight, and super stretchy fabric is so supple that it is plenty comfortable if it comes in direct contact with your skin. I took this for a spin while wearing a tank top with very thin straps to see if I had any hot spots during the run. I was quite happy to find I had none post-run.
Nathan really got the size and designs of these bottles perfect. This is the first vest with the front pocket/soft flask combo where I haven’t had even the slightest struggle working the bottles into the pockets. The medium-sized front pockets allow the two 12oz Exo Soft flasks to easily slip into place (no gymnastics required!). The sip tubes are held in place by elastic and well positioned to sip on the go. Unlike most soft flasks, Exo Soft flasks have a small, rigid piece of plastic that is vertically positioned to provide a small measure of stiffness to the bottle, making it much easier to manage than a traditional soft flask.
The Nathan VaporMag is tailored for a women’s form. It’s features and setup are the same as VaporZach (Men’s Racing Vest; listed as unisex), but the cut is slightly different. The torso length is shorter, the bottles are set a bit higher, and the sip tubes are positioned higher. The bottle sit mid-chest, with the bottle cap right about at the top of the breast and the bottom of the bottle just about two finger widths above the bottom of the ribcage. The straps for the sip tubes pull the bottles towards the body, which allow them to comfortable wrap around your breasts. The bottle position, sip tube straps, and supple fabric make this a winning design for a women’s anatomy. From slow-paced recovery runs, to more intensive tempo runs, the bottles were comfortable and never felt as though they were too bouncy.
Built for Racing
The VaporMag is built for the streamlined racer. It’s big enough to carry the essentials, but not so big that you can accidentally weigh yourself down by carrying more than you need. The two 12oz bottles may not seem like a lot of fluid, but how often in a race do you find yourself needing much more than 24oz of fluid between aid stations? And if you are in a race situation where you need extra fluid, you can easily slide a 20oz bottle into the back stash pocket and access it while on the go. Note: If you do find yourself needing more fluid, both the UD 500ml bottles and Salomon 450ml bottles fit the front pockets.
The back stash pockets provides side access that is well-positioned to allow you to strip gloves or arm sleeves and tuck them away without breaking stride. This pocket is also large enough to take a jacket, long-sleeve top, or other layer. Of course, if you need to strip a long sleeve or jacket you will need to remove the vest to do so.
What could be improved: tweaks or improvements that could be made to make the vest better.
The VaporMag has a VERY small size range. Each size has a 2 inch range (chest size), so measure twice before deciding on your size. I would recommend sizing down rather than up. You can always loosen the straps, but if the vest is too big you won’t be able to tighten the straps down enough to reduce bounce. According to the size chart I should fit solidly in the small size and yet I found I had to fully cinch down the straps, and even fully tight, it didn’t feel snug enough. At this time, on the Nathan site they are only showing size S, M, L. However, their size chart indicates XXS, XS, and XL are available. I found all sizes available on Amazon. Make sure you get the right size. This is a pro and a con in my opinion. Pro: Such a small size range allows you to really customize the fit. Con: You may end up having trouble changing up your layering system with such a small size range.
The front cinch straps are very thin and have a tendency to “walk” while on the move. I had to repeatedly retighten them while running. The straps also have a velcro tab on the end, to ostensibly prevent the dreaded strap flap. However, the straps are quite short, so flapping really isn’t a concern, and the velcro tab is so small that it is difficult to secure. Velcro also has the tendency to abrade clothing so I’m not a huge fan of its usage on vests.
Secure front pocket
Adding a small zip pocket to the front of the vest that could be used to securely hold electrolyte tabs or a key would be a nice touch.
Slightly larger front pocket
The bottle pockets are large enough to easily fit a phone, but the secondary pockets are not large enough to hold a phone securely (As you can see from the photo above, you can fit the phone in the smaller front pocket; however, with this setup I did have the phone fall out of the pocket midrun so I wouldn’t recommend it). So if you want to carry two bottles you’ll need to tuck your phone in the back stash pocket. Not a deal breaker, but it does make the phone a bit less accessible if you find yourself in an emergency situation.
When to use it: the situations or scenarios where the Nathan VaporMag excels.
Racing! As mentioned above, this pack is PERFECT for a race scenario. It’ll help you keep your racing kit to just the essentials. Why load yourself down with a 2L bladder or carry three extra layers if you don’t really need to? The vest is also great for shorter runs in warmer temps where you don’t need to carry a lot of fluid.
How it compares: my current go-to pack and how this pack compares.
The VaporMag rides higher than the UD Adventure and Race Vesta and is positioned similarly to the Orange Mud Gear Vest 2.0. The fabric is super light which makes this one of the coolest (temperature wise) vests that I have worn of late.
Should you purchase? My overall recommendation on whether to purchase this vest or not.
I think the VaporMag is very comfortable and does what it is designed to do exceptionally well. It is an excellent pack for racing, shorter runs, or runs where you have access to refill your bottles. If you have the funds to have more than one vest then I would highly recommend picking up the VaporMag to add to your collection. If you can only have on vest in your toolkit, I would recommend sticking to a vest that is a bit more versatile.
Purchasing Information for the Nathan VaporMag
If you are interested in purchasing the Nathan VaporMag please visit your local, independently-owned running specialty store to check them out. Local stores are a great resource for the community and need your business. If that’s not possible, please consider using this Amazon Affiliate link. It’ll drop a few nickels into the URP coffer and they’ve got a great return policy. Click here to go straight to the VaporMag on Nathan’s website.
Your Reviewer: Sarah Bradham
I started my love of gear as a climber and as I turned my attention to running I shifted from carabiners, ice tools, and crampons to hydration packs, midsole foam types, compression clothing, and everything in between. After several years of foot injuries, I’m enjoying getting back to my beloved muddy and rocky trails near my home in Portland, Ore. In my work life, I enjoy coordinating an annual Mountain and Ultra Running Camp at the base of Mt. Hood with Yassine Diboun, Amy Sproston, Joelle Vaught, Krissy Moehl and Jeff “Bronco Billy” Browning.
This product was provided to URP/me for review purposes. Compensation was neither offered nor requested and all words and thoughts are 100% my own.