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Let your backpack give you a little hug!

by Editor
Thursday 11th April 2013
Tags  Sandra Bowers   |   Nathan VaporWrap   |   Nathan   |   hydration

Product review: 2012 UK Ultra Trail Running Champion Sandra Bowers reviews the Nathan VaporWrap

After years of running with many different hydration backpacks, I may finally have found my perfect partner…

Over the years I have suffered serious pain and discomfort from wearing badly fitting packs and been frustrated with different issues, ranging from trouble accessing pockets to sloshing water reservoirs becoming irksome after hours of continuous running and everything in between!

I had entered the 40 mile version of the Compton Downland Challenge, but courtesy of a rather nasty cold with cough I decided to only run the 20 mile version and take it very easy. I wanted to trial my new Nathan VaporWrap and enjoy the views along the way. The race had been “sold” to me due to the fact that a little bit of the route runs along The Ridgeway... Perfect opportunity to reminisce and also dream of things that might one day be…

The VaporWrap is available in both male and female fit. I chose to trial the male version in size S/M, which is available in Nathan’s trademark orange and grey colours. I am a size 8-10 and was able to adjust the vest for a perfect fit on my small frame. The vest has side, shoulder and chest straps allowing adjustment to ensure a perfect fit for the variety of sizes and shapes us humans are available in!

The 2 litre reservoir sits in a protective insulating bag inside the actual vest. It is easily accessed and can be removed by the person actually wearing the vest at the time. Putting it back in is a little bit harder unless you remove the vest and then it very simply drops in without any fuss, unlike some hydration packs which require a written explanation and at least two working hands – have you ever tried fiddling with a reservoir and backpack when your fingers are so cold they refuse to work…?

2012 UK Ultra Trail Running Champion Sandra Bowers reviews the Nathan VaporWrap

Photos of Sandra courtesy of tzruns

The reservoir is very easy to open/close, refill and clean. It has a large opening for refilling, which is sealed by folding down and securing with a sliding clip. The bite valve is quite literally that, no locking mechanism to confuse me as I can never remember what is open and what is closed – on many a very long ultra I have gotten really grumpy thinking I had a defective hose or a blockage, until realising that I was trying to suck water from a locked pipe!

Now this is the really cool bit, anyone that knows me will understand... It has got loads of little compartments! Little hiding holes for all the goodies that one requires during a very long ultra. Side pockets for Clif Bars and Clif ShotBloks; secure front pockets for phone and emergency “stuff”; rear pockets for space blankets and spare clothes as well as a peanut butter bagel; extra bottle holders at the front – perfect for a ready-made portion of Dioralyte and a packet of baby food. There is even space for an MP3 player for when I am trying to keep awake at 1am in the middle of an ultra.

As I was only going to be running for a short while on Saturday I had opted to carry only a few things with me during the run. ShotBloks, Clif Bars, Clif Gel (chocolate of course) my telephone and some water in the reservoir. Plus of course my route map and directions in case I got lost along the way.

My immediate thought as I secured my VaporWrap chest straps was just how comfortable it felt. It felt just like someone was giving me a little hug. It didn’t feel like a parachute upon my back or a lump with sticky out bits to catch my arms and neck upon. Even my pig tails didn’t catch on the shoulder straps.

I decided to have a piece of ShotBlok very early in the run, just to see if I could access the side pocket to remove and replace any left overs without dropping anything or having to stop running. Very easily done, the zip was simple to open and close, no need to carry left overs in my hands for many miles – yes, I have been known to do that in the past!

I was also very much aware that during the entire run I did not have to fiddle with the straps or readjust any of them. I have previously found that most other hydration bags have tended to bounce around as I run, loosening the straps, resulting in them needing to be tightened every few miles or so, or when the reservoir becomes empty.

I also noticed that that when I removed the vest, there was no evidence of sweat or salt staining on the straps – I guess that as there was no contact with my skin it was protected! All previous back packs have required an emergency hosing down after accompanying me on a run!

The next test for the Nathan VaporWrap was to try it out while wearing a cani-cross belt. As someone that runs with dogs (huskies) sometimes I wear a belt that I attach them to via their own harnesses and special bungee lines. Running this way allows my hands to remain free (for accessing pockets on backpacks…) and also allows me to run quicker than normal by asking the dogs to assist me. Picture huskies pulling a sled in your mind, but replace the “sled” with me and my Nathan VaporWrap and you will understand…

I was delighted to find that the belt and vest work well together. The vest is short in length and therefore does not infringe with the back of the belt, which sits on the top of my hips. The only problem that I had during our two hour run together was that every time I removed something from a pocket the dogs turned their heads around as soon as they heard the rustle of paper – they are both big fans of Clif Bars!

One thing I have not yet tested is the performance of the reflective writing and strips when running in the dark. When I first tried it on (during the day) Ian immediately commented on how brightly the words NATAHAN and the other strategically placed reflective strips were reflecting the sun coming through the front window. This will be extremely useful during the night-time sections of very long runs - Ian will be able to spot me from miles away by just shining a light!

I have a permanent little scar on my shoulder from where a hydration pack damaged me during my first ever ultra distance event. Over the years and miles that I have run since that day, I have yearned for a great many things from a backpack, most of which the Nathan VaporWrap delivers. I have been on a quest to find the perfect partner for a very long time and I may well have found him. The perfect running partner that even gives you little hugs as you run….;-)

Thank you 9Point9 for supplying me with this awesome hydration vest

Read an Interview with Sandra Bowers (HERE)

We even had a chat with Sandra's Huskies Kez & Kroi which you can read (HERE)


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