We were sent the Nathan VaporAir 3.0 7 Liter Hydration Pack to test, and it did not disappoint. This review will detail our experience with the hydration pack while putting it through the ringer of testing.
We tested this pack while hiking, trail running, and running through the Utah’s backcountry and a 50k ultramarathon (Canyons Endurance Run). We used it in temperatures ranging from low 20s to upper 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
A little background on our testing: We are trail runners, fisherman, hikers, skiers, bikers, and we take our nutrition, our safety, our comfort, and athletic performance very seriously. Therefore, we make sure we test all the gear we recommend thoroughly.
Where To Purchase
Your local running store.
Nathan has been one of the top brands in hydration for runners for several decades. They have become a market leader in running vests and hydration solutions due to their high quality products that are well thought out, well designed, and highly respected by the running community.
Learn more about Nathan’s mission, awards, and values here.
About The Vest
The VaporAir 3.0 is designed to fit snug to the body, reduce bounce while running, and have a significant amount of storage. It is extremely versatile and useful for everything from a few mile hike to ultramarathon (supported or unsupported).
Compared to the 2.0 the 3.0 has newly exposed air mesh shoulder straps, colorful bungee cords on front shoulders and back center panel for additional storage options, low profile hardware on sternum straps, and new back zipper pocket.
Features: the vest has a ton of features, and if you have not used a Nathan vest before some of the features may not seem perfectly intuitive off the bat. Don’t worry though we will dive into all the specialized features that make this pack so amazing throughout this review.
Fit: this vest is a unisex fit, but there is a female specific version (not tested).
|Hikes / running / trail running / ultramarathons
|7 liters (427 cubic inches)
|Yes (comes with 2 liter bladder with quick release valve)
|No (can fit bottles / flask up to 22 oz.)
|With bladder: 13 oz.
Without bladder: 8.8 oz.
|XS-M: 30 – 38 inches
L-XXXL: 38 – 48 inches
1X-3X: 48 – 58 inches
|Unisex & female version
In Depth Review
Hers how the vest performed during our testing:
I have worn a handful of vest in the past, and this is by far the most comfortable I have used. I am 6’3” and 160 pounds with about a 36 inch chest and used the XS-M size. The fit (once properly adjusted) was phenomenal, and due to the high adjustability of the vest was able to keep it snug wearing everything from multiple layers to a very thin shirt. This is due to the Adaptive Fit Straps inside the front two zippered storage pockets. The Adaptive Fit Straps tighten the lower portion of the pack bringing everything close to the body and removing any bounce. On previous packs I have used the lack of Adaptive Fit Straps lead to bouncing, which further lead to chafing taking away from my experience in the mountains. I was extremely impressed with this feature and how well it worked on even on long days in the mountains.
This pack was designed with maximum storage in mind. The amount of pockets is actually insane with:
Three per side with one being zippered. These pockets are great for storing your valuables, nutrition, and water flask.
Zippered pocket: these are actually quite large, and I typically use them to store my phone and keys. From a sizing perspective I have the large iPhone and they are big enough to fit it and still zip up while on the move. Additionally, since the fit is so good my keys do not jangle.
Small cinch pockets: I use these to store nutrition and trash from the nutrition I take. While they may look small, I have been able to fit six gels into one of the pockets!
Large sinch pockets: this is where I store my soft flask. Unfortunately, the mouth on the ones I have is slightly to large to make it an easy fit, but with some finagling do fit snuggly. That being said, they are larger than normal soft flasks so if you follow the recommended sizing by Nathan (flask up to 22 oz.) I am sure there will not be an issue.
Elastics: personally I do not use these, but they can be used for keeping your bladder tube more secure (see below for additional solution), or clipping items on like lightweight gloves.
Chimney pockets: these are the two closest and largest pockets to your back when wearing the pack as shown in the image. The closest one is for holding your bladder and the further out one being for holding something you will not need immediate access to but easier access than holding gear in a zippered pocket such as rain jacket, or other layers.
Recommendation: if you are running on a cold day keep the bladder in the closest pocket to keep the water from freezing, but if you are out on a hot day keep it in the further pocket with your rain jacket in the closer pocket. This will help keep the water cooler as the rain jacket will insulate the bladder from your body heat. Think of this pocket as storing larger items you may need to pull out while on the move / need quicker access to.
Zippered pocket: based on this pack I would consider this a medium sized pocket as it tapers in towards the bottom. This pocket is best used for things you will not need immediate access to while running such as first aid or a headlamp. We recommend using this pocket to store things you won’t need to pull out while on the move, as you will have to remove the vest to access them.
Kangaroo pouch: this pocket starts at the base of the pack and runs up about two thirds of the back. It has elastic bands on the edges to keep your belongings stored safely. I like to use this pocket for additional nutrition, generally solid foods, as the pocket allows me quick access with more storage than the front pockets.
Elastics: I have only used this for storing additional layers that I take off while running and do not want to finagle with getting into my pack on the move. Note, make sure whatever you put in this needs to be extremely secure as if it falls out there is a high likelihood you will not notice it and may lose said item.
Overall, the pocket design and capacity is phenomenal, allowing you to bring everything you need for a significant amount of time in the mountains.
As mentioned previously, there is a significant amount of storage which is why we also recommend and use the vest for day hiking. You can bring everything you need – inReach (or similar device clipped on to front elastics), nutrition, water purifier, first aid, and additional layers. It goes without saying, but to ensure we cover our basis, we do not recommend this vest for anything longer than a day assuming you are unsupported.
This pack does a great job of pulling the moisture off your body with two layers of moisture-wicking air mesh on shoulder straps and back interior providing maximum breathability. That being said, most vest do this well. One piece that has held up extremely well on this pack is the zippers. Due to sweat I have had zipper pockets on other packs stop working / break, which while out on an adventure is extremely problematic. This vest has been put under a significant amount of stress and a lot of sweat with zero zipper failures.
I have never used a bladder system like this, but have fallen in love with it and actually use this bladder in other packs now. The fold and lock system (for lack of a better term) that is quick and never leaks. The bladder is 2 liters providing you with enough water for just about any adventure you will go on (and enough storage to bring a simple filtration system).
Additional features / tips:
- The magnetic connector for the tube makes it easy to keep the tube in place and allows for easy access.
- We also recommend cutting the tube to your desired length. I ran for a few weeks without doing this and it was very annoying as the long tube would bounce around and was not as easy to use. When cutting the tube do it with a full bladder as it will be the best representation of how long you actually need it, and always leave a little extra as you can always cut more but cant add any back.
- Additional recommendation to reduce bouncing, after filling your bladder and connecting the tube turn it over (putting the tube connector at the top) and suck out all the air. This will keep the water in place as you drink it and remove all bouncing.
This is a very stylish vest (only comes in the one-color option) that provides additional functionality in its style as there are reflective aspects on all sides of the vest. However, please do not pick a vest based on style but on functionality, style should only be looked at as a plus.
Overall Rating: 5/5
Based on our use this vest receives a 5/5 rating for the following reasons: maximum comfort / fit, lack of bounce, high amount of capacity, superior breathability, reasonable price, and great bladder system. Even though this vest was sent to us, we used and rated it independently of receiving it. Comparing the vest to other vest brands we have used this vest is superior in just about all aspects. The only thing we cannot speak to is longevity as we have only been using it for one season, but based on the stress we have already put the vest under expect it to hold up very well in the long term.
Howdy – my name is Ben! A mountain transplant from Houston, TX with a passion for pushing my limits. As a weekend warrior I enjoy spending time in the mountains skiing, touring, trail running, backpacking, speed flying, and taking life one step slower.
As an Eagle Scout I have been honing my outdoor skills since a very early age, and look forward to using that knowledge to help you push your limits and enjoy the outdoors in a safe / fun manner.
By week I work for a digital marketing and production start up handling finance / accounting, legal, and company strategy.
Connect with me on Instagram (_bendoingthings_)