Nathan has been a name in hydration packs for as long as they have been around (or at least as long as I have been a runner). Their newest option, the VaporAir Lite, checks all the boxes in what to look for in a running vest whether you’re the casual weekend runner or training for a longer race.
The VaporAir comes with plenty of options for hydration. A 2L bladder (with magnetic hose clip) is included and the front pockets allow for up to two 22-ounce flasks (not included). Shoot, if you filled yourself up that way – we are talking about 110 ounces of liquids!
I honestly haven’t had a new running pack in over half a decade so there was surprisingly a lot of tinkering and toying around with determining how I was going to utilize it. While I have loved my old pack (aside from 5 years worth of smell), it did have its drawbacks – primarily a lack of a super adjustable fit. While there was obviously some customization, I felt like I could never get it adjusted to 100% my liking from run to run. There was also a lack of easily-accessible storage – with no pockets or storage within easy grasp.
The VaporAir Lite seemingly has not issues in either of these fronts.
The name VaporAir Lite is actually quite fitting. Before adding water to the mix, the vest weighs in at just 7 ounces prior to adding anything. That means the vast majority of the weight you are carrying is going to be the vital need – water – instead of weight from a bunch of heavy fabrics and additions.
The fit capabilities are very in tune with the fact that no two running bodies are the same. I mean, why should we expect everyone to fit the exact specs of a pack?! The VaporAir Lite has 2 sternum straps for adjustability and the fit of the pack overall feels like it sits higher on my torso – a definite change than my previous pack and something I like. The mesh construction is comfortable, as is the felt-ish lining as well.
Now on to the money maker in this vest – the adjustable sizing that leads to the perfect fit for YOU.
First Note – I had the damndest time figuring out how to size this properly when I first tried this on. I received their L-XXL, which is quite the variable size range. Upon receiving, I stretched the sternum straps as long as they would go…and I still could not close them without them feeling like they were going to explode if I took a deep breath. I am not a small runner (~190 lbs.), but there is no way I am an XXL. I was flummoxed after about 20 minutes of trying to figure out what the heck was going on and if I had received a defective pack or something.
Come to find out that the vest is actually designed with an adjustable back panel to achieve the perfect fit regardless of size! I mean – duh. Simply pull the enhanced Velcro apart to fit on your torso and then utilize the straps on the side to perfect the adjustment. Once I realized this, things made a LOT more sense. And considering that this is their improved feature – perhaps I should have done my homework up front a little better! Reading the instructions is important kids!!
It’s super easy to adjust and the stick is really secure. This is great on multiple fronts – the first being the obvious reason of having it tight and comfortable without unwanted bounce. The second awesome component is the ability to quickly and easily size up or down depending on your layering. If you are out on a run and, inevitably in the PNW the skies open up and rain comes down, its super easy to quickly change your sizing to account for the additional jacket you tossed on (or vice versa). No need to fumble around with straps and clips and hinges – just pull apart and reattach. So simple, yet so great.
I have found that the felt outside piping has gotten stuck to the Velcro a few times when washing and – though it hasn’t caused any problems yet – I am interested to see if this changes over time.
Beyond that, the standard straps also exist on the sternum and also on the side back to further achieve your optimum fit.
Like I mentioned initially, one big drawback in my old faithful vest was the lack of accessible storage space. The VaporAir Lite has 7 pockets – two each (one larger and one smaller) on both “sleeves”. The smaller pockets can be cinched down to securely hold your valuables.
The back has 2 larger pockets – one for the hydration pack and another stretchy one that does a surprisingly good job at securing items without too much extra bounce to them. The final pocket is under these on the back – the least accessible one during a run, but a great option for storing items you aren’t typically going to need in-activity access to (i.e. wallet/credit cards/phone/keys). However, it is still possible to use the attached zipper cord to pull open if you need to. My storage problems are solved!
As a runner who normally doesn’t carry water unless I’m planning on over an hour, the VaporAir Lite has been a great gear addition. This (dumb) decision has historically been because of a lack of a good pack I felt met my needs. It may not be the ideal pack for super long ultras where more than 4L is necessary, but it can hold up to many medium to long runs along the way.
Obviously, this pack is resonating with a lot of runners. I reached out to my Nathan contact querying as to why I couldn’t find the item on the Nathan website and was told that it sold out so quickly they had to remove it until restocked! I have added the REI link below.
Products & Price:
- VaporAir Lite | $125
- Weight with bladder: 11.49 ounce
- Weight w/o bladder: 7 ounce
Thank you to Nathan or providing us with test pack. Please read our transparency page for info on how we do our reviews.