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Review: Nathan VaporKrar 2.0 12l Men’s Race Vest

A full featured, lightweight running vest that is ideal for long training days and races

Developed in conjunction with endurance athlete Rob Krar, the Nathan VaporKrar 2.0 12 litre Race Vest is a lightweight, stable, form-fitting and brightly coloured trail running pack that easily swallows all the gear needed for a big day out in the hills.

Nathan VaporKrar 2.0 12l Men’s Race Vest: The stats

Best for:Longer trail runs, training or racing
Water carrying capacity:1.6 litre bladder (included) + space for 2 additional 600ml soft-flask style bottles on the front of the pack
Total storage capacity:12 litres
Number of pockets:2 large main pockets: one for the bladder and one zipped, + multiple smaller pockets
Weight:15oz / 422g

Design features of the Nathan VaporKrar 2.0 12l Men’s Race Vest

Main Fabric

Vest fabricThe outer fabric is soft and stretchy allowing you to really stuff the large pockets full if you need extra kit for changeable weather or for longer races. The fabric on the back panel is thicker and tougher but remains soft and comfortable.

Bladder

Water bladderThe vest comes with an insulated hourglass shaped bladder designed to minimise sloshing when half full. It sits in the main compartment against the back and is kept upright by a velcro strap.

Bladder hose attachment

Magnetic hose attachmentThe bladder hose can be looped over either shoulder and there is a magnetic clip on the shoulder strap to keep it in place and out of the way. This can be moved to either side to suit your preference.

Internal compression system

Vest compression strapsOn either side of the vest, towards the back, are compression straps that tighten the vest around the waist. They can be easily loosened if carrying a bigger load or tightened for a snug fit when it is not filled to capacity.

Chest straps

Chest straps on running vestThere are 2 chest straps that are attached to stiffened rails which enable them to slide up and down for a tailored fit. They can also be tightened or loosened easily, depending on your chest size.

Shoulder straps

Shoulder strap pocket on trail vestThe shoulder straps are nice and wide which spreads the load well creating a comfortable fit. The extra width also allows them to have small zippered pockets on each side – really useful for keys, lip balm etc. Inside the zip pocket on the right shoulder is a smaller pill pocket to store smaller items securely. On the left hand side there is an emergency whistle which is essential for safety and those all-important race kit checks.

Front stash pockets

Bottle pockets on running vestThese pockets are great for carrying additional water. Or, if the 1.6 litre bladder included is large enough, then these pockets are ideal for storing snacks and easy-access items. On the left-hand side there is also a water resistant zip pocket, designed for storing your phone.

Back kangaroo pocket

Trail vest kangaroo pocketThere is a small pocket at the top of the bag which closes with a Velcro tab, designed to act as a quick stuff pocket for easy-access items – a lightweight waterproof jacket or a pair of gloves, for example.

Back pockets

Trail running vest pocketsThere are 2 main compartments. The one nearest the back houses the bladder and is plenty big enough for a few more items if needed. The other pocket sits on top of the bladder pocket and is accessed via a small zip near the top. This pocket is made from a super stretchy fabric allowing you to carry all the essentials.


Review of the Nathan VaporKrar 2.0 12l Men’s Race Vest

Running vests seem to be increasing in popularity over the more traditional style running backpacks at the moment – and for good reason. Having used the Nathan Vaporkrar 12 litre vest exclusively now for 5 months during training and racing, it ticks a lot of boxes for me. With an upcoming ultramarathon, I needed a vest capable of carrying the extensive mandatory kit required by the race organisers. In addition, the vest needed to fit the medication and equipment I require for managing my diabetes, and plenty of food and water to keep me fuelled and hydrated on what would be a (very) long day out in the Lake District fells. It also needed to be fit-and-forget comfortable.

When the vest arrived in the post, my initial impressions were good. It felt like a well-made, quality piece of kit that should last a good few years of running. It seemed to be a considered, but uncomplicated design with some outstanding features and plenty of adjustability for an optimal fit. I couldn’t wait to go for a run, so I filled it to the brim, adjusted the straps, and set off out the door and onto my local trails.

The trails where I live are mostly undulating and wooded with some technical root sections, some steep downhills, some sand and plenty of mud. The vest accompanied me on all my local training runs and I found it to be very stable and comfortable when fully loaded as well as when almost completely empty. There was hardly any movement at all compared to my old backpack-style running bag or my well used waist pack. This is testament to the well thought out internal compression system and the adjustable chest straps which, together, enable you to find the perfect fit.

Man running in the woods

Water capacity

For the majority of my training runs, I used the vest without the 1.6 litre hydration bladder. Instead I opted to use one or two 600ml soft bottles in the front stash pockets, depending on how long I was going to be out for. Whilst the bladder and hose attachment system is well designed and functional, I simply didn’t require that much water, even on my longer training runs. This vest was designed in conjunction with Rob Krar. He’s based in Flagstaff, Arizona where the summers are considerably warmer and the landscapes are considerably more remote than they are in the UK. So I understand why this is a key feature, and those runners who require a lot of water out on the trail will really appreciate this. You could even use both the hydration bladder and two soft bottles for a total of 2.8 litres!

Gear storage and capacity

In addition to many hours of training, I was fortunate enough to use this vest during my longest race to date: 80km and 4000m of climbing across the Lake District, north to south. The mandatory kit list for this race was pretty extensive and a direct result of the horrific weather conditions experienced in the previous year. Gale force winds, driving rain and extensive flooding under foot had given this race a reputation and I was worried that I wouldn’t manage to get all the required kit and my diabetes equipment into the 12 litre Vaporkrar pack – it was going to be a squeeze! Two weeks before the race I had accumulated all my kit and thought I’d try it out on a training run fully loaded.

Nathan Trail Vest on man

Waterproof jacket, waterproof trousers, foil bivy sack, spare insulated jacket, running tights, hat, gloves, compass, race map, collapsible cup (for the much needed checkpoint coffee!), headlamp (and a spare headlamp), phone, cash, lip balm, insulin, blood glucose testing kit and a lot of food! To my surprise the vest swallowed up all this kit with ease. The stretchy fabric on the large pockets enables you to really stuff everything into it and the variety of pockets help to keep all the kit organised and easily accessible.

By the time it was race day, I had the organisation of my kit dialled and during the race it was amazing having everything exactly where I needed it, when I needed it. Water; on the chest stash pockets. Food; stuffed everywhere. Diabetes management kit; kangaroo pocket. Hat and gloves; kangaroo pocket. Waterproof and insulated layers; main rear stretchy pocket. I felt really organised and wasted very little time rummaging through the vest looking for things.

Carrying comfort

What I hadn’t fully considered during an event this long is how much the shape and size of the vest would change depending on what kit I was using or stowing at any given moment, or how much water and food I’d consumed. Over a long event like this, in autumn, the waterproof and warm layers were in and out of the pack constantly and therefore the shape and weight of the pack was ever evolving. Usually, with a more traditional running backpack this can cause it to bounce around when not full to capacity, but with the Vaporkrar’s multiple areas of adjustment it was a breeze to adjust on the move to accommodate these fluctuations. The internal compression system, which is adjustable on each side of the pack was instrumental in keeping it stable. A really great design feature which enables this vest to be used effectively with almost any load.

I also found that it remained stable on top of a waterproof jacket and the tight form-fitting shape meant that it could even wear the vest inside my waterproof jacket. This enabled me to keep the vest on, and in the event of a rain shower, quickly put my jacket on over the top, though it may have looked a bit strange.

This vest performed fantastically and remained comfortable for the whole race and I would definitely use it again for similar distance events without hesitation.

What I love most about the Nathan Vaporkrar 12 litre vest

The key feature that really makes this vest stand out for me is the adjustability. The two adjustable chest straps with the stiff sliding rail, coupled with the side-accessible internal compression system, enables a perfect fit and keeps loads stable when on the move. In addition, the usability of the multiple pockets means you can store your kit wherever you like, in a way that really works for you.

What I don’t love so much about the Nathan Vaporkrar 12 litre vest

It’s hard to find many faults with this vest but I suppose the one gripe is that the water-resistant pocket on the left shoulder strap was not particularly useful. The internal fabric of the pocket seems to have been coated in a thin plastic film to protect a mobile phone or other electronic devices, but in my opinion this should either be completely waterproof or not waterproof at all. In rainy weather I was required to put my phone inside a drybag and then into the water-resistant pocket as it really doesn’t do a good job at keeping things completely dry.


Verdict

Overall, I’ve been really happy hitting the trails with the Nathan VaporKrar 2.0 12 litre Race Vest and with the excellent manufacturing quality and tough stretchy materials I hope to be able to rely on it race after race. The internal compression system, adjustability and multiple pockets make this an ideal choice for the runner who wants one vest for any occasion: Whether running an ultra-marathon with a lengthy kit list or a 10km training run around your local hills, whether you load it up with gear or keep your run minimalistic – it’ll be stable and comfortable whatever you throw at it.

Header image copyright Paul Mitchell Photography

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About the author

author-giacomo-maltman

Giacomo Maltman lives for adventure. When he's not pushing his mental and physical limits on his latest biking/hiking/running challenge in some of Europe's most remote locations, you'll find him ripping up the mountain bike trails of the Surrey Hills. And when he's not doing that, he's probably eating. Giacomo gets the absolute most out of life in the outdoors, and has recently joined his local search and rescue team.

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