Nathan VaporAiress ReviewAugust 26, 2015
- Comfortable ride high on the back
- Exceptionally lightweight
- Wide variety of easy-access pockets
- Three different sizes available
- Limited carrying capacity
- Uncomfortable trekking-pole placement
- Hydration reservoir difficult to re-insert when pack is fully loaded
The Nathan VaporAiress is about as light as they come—a slimmed down version of Nathan’s popular Vapor series of ultrarunning packs. It rides high on the back and doesn’t bounce. However, its storage capacity is quite limited, and a few design flaws inhibit the pack’s practicality.
The concept behind this 7-liter pack was to lighten up (by a whopping 50 percent!) Nathan’s popular VaporCloud and Vaporshadow packs while preserving Nathan athletes ability to carry all their mandatory gear at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. True to its name, the VaporAiress feels exceptionally light. It rides comfortably high on the back, with adjustable sternum straps and over-the-shoulder “load lifters” to dial in the fit. With both the men’s VaporAir and women’s VaporAiress packs available in three sizes each, Nathan has done a commendable job stepping away from the one-size-fits-all model and working to accommodate a wide variety of body types. Do note that it fits a bit large, so if in doubt, size down.
This was the biggest disappointment of this pack. Although it advertises 7 liters of storage capacity, I found it difficult to stash anything substantial in this pack as compared to other packs in this test. The narrow, non-expandable fabric of the compartment made it difficult to accommodate awkward or bulky items like a brimmed running cap or large headlamp. The main rear compartment held only a few items before its capacity was maxed out, and the external bungee was not substantial enough to hold much of anything. With just a couple cords (rather than a full criss-crossing bungee web), most items I tried to stash in the external bungee wound up falling out after a few minutes of running and jostling. The side mesh pockets are great, though they require a great deal of elbow mobility to reach while wearing the pack.
There are lots of nice ideas at work here, including a whistle and ample front pockets for easy, on-the-go access to essentials like snacks and electrolyte pills. As with the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest, though, I don’t love the side-zipper entry into the main compartment, as I find it easy for items to accidentally fall out of it while accessing my gear. Likewise, gels and gel-wrapper trash fell out relatively easily from the loose, non-bungeed pockets on the outside of the front bottle pockets.
The included 70-oz reservoir on this pack is excellent. As a top-loading reservoir, it’s easy to press excess air out of it to minimize liquid sloshing on the run. The easy on/off bite valve stays in put with a magnetic clip along the sternum strap—a handy innovation that I certainly appreciated. It was difficult to re-insert a full hydration reservoir into a fully loaded pack; a lot of the gear had to be removed from the pack in order to get the reservoir back in—far from ideal for race scenarios.
Two front-bottle pockets also exist, though bottles are not included.
This could be a great pack for daily training runs or relatively well-supported races, but I found it too small to fit everything I need for long solo adventures in the backcountry, or to accommodate the full mandatory kit for the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc for which it was purportedly designed.I do appreciate the option to use either the included hydration reservoir and/or the front-bottle pockets. I also grew excited when I saw the trekking-pole loops on the rear, as they offer fully adjustable cinches to keep the poles in place while running. (Many other comparable packs offer non-adjustable, elastic loops, and with enough jostling, poles tend to slip through these.) However, the loops are placed awkwardly on this high-riding pack, so that I felt my trekking poles digging into my shoulder blades as I run; unfortunately, this rendered them un-usable to me.
One final complaint on the VaporAiress: while the men’s VaporAir is available in two different, tasteful color ways, the women’s pack is available only in hot pink with orange trim. On a personal level, I would appreciate a second, subtler color option, just as the men have.