Hydration vests used to be something you didn’t see on runners all the time, but these days you’ll see them attached to 5k road runners and 100 mile trail runners alike. When I started running ultra trail runs a couple of years ago, I was ready to purchase my first one and I was completely overwhelmed by the selection. Go to Amazon and you’ll see every hydration vest known to man, woman, and child in every color, design, shape, and size. And unlike many things, the price of a vest does not necessarily dictate which is best for you, as it all mostly comes down to personal preference and what you plan to use it for.
Luckily, NATHAN is a name in the running industry that people can count on to be top-notch. I’ve never been disappointed by a NATHAN product, and I knew that the Quickstart 4 Liter Race Pack would be no different.
Some runners who wear vests prefer to carry bottles in the front pockets of their packs, but they weigh heavily on my shoulders. The option of a hydration bladder is my preference, as it always feels more balanced on my body and I can leave the front pockets available for the things I want to access easily, like my nutrition, my phone, and my MP3 player for long runs. Luckily, the NATHAN Quickstart has all of the features I desire in that regard. It comes with a 1.5L bladder, which is just the right size for my needs. The quick release hose was also already at the right length for me from the get-go, though it could certainly be cut down if it were too long.
When I initially saw that the vest came in one size only, I was concerned about the fit. Women often need a bit more room up front, and not all vests cut the mustard in that region. However, the chest straps on this vest are adjustable, as well as the side straps, so I didn’t have any trouble accommodating my curves. When I tried it on for the first time, it felt very comfortable. It wasn’t too tight or too loose and it hugged my body where it needed it, even over a rain jacket.
I took the vest on a 10 mile trail run on Wildwood for the first time. It was rainy and I had to stop often on some of the hills, but I completely forgot about the vest. For one, the water in the bladder didn’t slosh even a little bit. For another, there was ZERO leakage from the hose, which has not been my experience with other bladders. The simple bite valve worked great and didn’t make a huge mess like some hoses do when you “set them loose” for that first drink.
Moreover, the vest was lightweight. I carried a little food and my car key in the zippered pocket (I LOVE zippers for running .. I don’t feel like valuables are secure any other way and there’s nothing worse than losing a car key in the middle of a forest, but I digress) and an electrolyte drink in the stash pocket. I could fit my phone in the zippered pocket, but it required more effort than I wanted to deal with getting it in and out. I also had a rain jacket, which I took off at mile 2 and stowed away in the back zippered pocket behind the bladder. The vest never got hot or heavy, (thank you Nathan for the mesh on the shoulder straps!!) so I felt like I was carrying nothing at all.
I do want to mention that this vest might not be enough for a huge epic trail run, depending on how much you prefer to carry. It’s considered a minimalist pack, and I can see why. I tend to pack pretty light and depend on aid stations at many races to help with the nutrition and refills on my liquids, so it would likely meet my needs for any race. But if you plan to carry more, you’d have to stash more in the back zippered pocket, which actually has a decent amount of room. I personally don’t like having to constantly take my pack off to reach for things in the back, but I like having that be my “throwaway zone,” or the place I ditch the things I won’t need again after a certain point, like gloves or a jacket. However, the pockets in front aren’t huge by any stretch of the imagination, and there aren’t other hidden nooks and crannies like some vest have.
When I got home from my run all muddy and tired, I had trouble trying to detach the hose from the bladder to clean it, but that’s not surprising considering my skills at such things are pretty weak. It may be much easier for you.
To sum it up, I’d give this vest two thumbs up. And at a price point of $70, you are really getting a great quality item for your hard-earned money.
Products & Price:
Specs (from website):
- 5 L Hydration Bladder Included
- Front Storage for nutrition and phone – fits most large-format smartphones
- Main back zippered pocket for extra layers and other running essentials
- Adjustable front and side straps for dialing in a perfect fit
- Soft perimeter binding prevents chafing
- Weight without Bladder: 5.5 oz/156 g
- Weight with Bladder: 9.5 oz/269 g
- Storage Capacity: 244 cu in/4 L
More about NATHAN:
Driven by a real understanding of athlete needs, NATHAN’s team of innovators sweat the details, because it’s the details that help you push your potential. As the market leader in creating ground-breaking Running Essentials’ gear, NATHAN’s performance-driven products help you have your best run.
NATHAN’s essential offerings, built for road warriors, ultra runners, triathletes, couch to 5Kers, and every dedicated athlete in between, include industry-leading and best-selling hydration vests, belts, handhelds, bottles, running paks, active visibility and reflective vests, and other gear, all designed to help you run stronger and longer.
Used and abused by hundreds of thousands of athletes across the globe, NATHAN Running Essentials’ products are available in specialty running shops, outdoor retailers, and sporting goods stores in 45 countries and counting. Run stronger and longer at NathanSports.com, tweet us @NathanSportsInc, like us on Facebook NATHAN, and share with us on Instagram @NathanSportsInc #WeRunWithYou
Thank you to NATHAN for providing us with a sample pack. Please read our transparency page for info on how we do our reviews.