Thursday, May 24, 2018

REVIEW: Nathan VaporKrar & VaporHowe 12L Race Vests

As hopefully you are aware, the hubby and I tackled the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago, completing our Rim2Rim2Rim adventure in approximately 16 hours. It was absolutely one of the most amazing experiences we've done thus far!

Let's be real, attempting to cross the Grand Canyon twice is NO cake walk! With an elevation change of 20,000 feet, and a potential temperature change of 70+ degrees, this trek requires some serious planning. Once we had decided to take on the challenge, the first step was figuring out how to train for the beast (which we did by using a 50-miler ultra training plan and incorporating stair workouts and trail runs). After having the training plan, next up was figuring out THE GEAR!

Not only have I worked with Nathan in the past on some giveaways, but the hubby and I love and use their products regularly! (Any run over 3ish miles we both have Nathan Handhelds we carry with us and whenever I'm running in the dark I have multiple of their visibility lights I rock to keep me safe and seen!) Shortly after setting our date in stone I reached out to my contact to see if they would be interested in outfitting us with some of their hydration packs. Although the hubby and I both had packs (I had been using the same Nathan Intensity Race Vest for the past 5 years and the hubby had one I received as a reward for fundraising for the AFSP one year), I knew we needed to step up our game.

Well, let's just say the sweet folks at Nathan HOOKED IT UP! They offered to send the hubby and I both a 12L Race Vest (the hubby got the VaporKrar 12L Men's Vest and I got the VaporHowe 12L Women's Vest) - OH HECK TO THE YES!

As all of you should know, you shouldn't try anything new on "race" day... that means you've gotta train with what you are planning to use on your BIG day. Well, unfortunately the vest they were sending me was out of stock, so in the meantime they sent me the VaporHowe 4L Women's Vest so I could get the feel of the pack and make sure everything would work for me. The first test would be a soggy 17 mile trail run - and let's just say they passed with flying colors!

The first thing we both noticed was the apparel-like fit with a lightweight, breathable structure. They literally fit like a glove. The VaporKrar comes in sizes ranging from XS to XL and the VaporHowe offers XXS to XL sizes (and is really designed to fit the female form specifically) to give you that perfect fit. There was no strange rubbing or bad bouncing. The vests fit snug and super comfortable. The compression system tightens the load against your back for stability and it sits high enough to feel ergonomically correct. The fabric reminds me of a tech shirt feel and it dries super quickly.

It rained on us for the first 15 miles of this run and yet our packs were dry by the time we got to the car!

And, let me tell you, we know a thing or two about the vests drying quickly because we brought them with us on our three week van trip up and down the West Coast where we did the majority of our runs in the rain. (Thankfully a few days before we left the VaporHowe 12L Women's Vest was restocked and one made its way to me before we hit the road!) 

We got in about 18 runs on the road and these must have been the only two sunny ones ;) 

Like I said, soggy trail miles were definitely done with these packs!

After getting in a handful of long runs with these vests we were both sure they'd be perfect for the Grand Canyon (actually, I'd say after the first run or two we were sold, but you gotta fully test them before you make a huge commitment, right?!). Because, let's remember, R2R2R is not a sanctioned race... It's not even a race at all... It is an unsupported ultra (depending on the trail(s) you take it could range from about 42 to 48 miles) where you have to take EVERYTHING you need with you (including layers of clothes, external batteries, headlamps, purification tablets, ALL THE FOOD, etc)! So the vest is not only important when it comes to comfort and hydration needs, but also how much gear you can fit in it!

I told you we brought everything with us ;) 

Thankfully these packs stood up to the test! We jammed them full of goodies and had zero issues the entire 16ish hours!

The VaporHowe 4L comes with two 12oz ExoShot soft flasks, with extended straw tubes to easily sip fluids without
removing flasks from the front pockets so I put those in the VaporHowe 12L so I would have more hydration on me.
(Thought I'd mention it because you may notice them in the front pockets during the Grand Canyon run.)

Even when we thought the packs were "full" we were still able to squeeze our jackets and gloves into them (we warmed up QUICKLY once we hit the trail and started to de-layer within the first mile or two). The material's stretch allowed us to fill every nook and cranny (and we still had room to spare!). There are tons convenient stash pockets for your essentials!

As you can see, there are even spots to attach your trekking poles to the bag! PS I may have felt a little like a
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle with the "shell" on my back, but it was never a burden or too cumbersome. 

The temperatures got up in the 90s while we were in the bottom of the canyon and I never felt like the pack was too hot or making me uncomfortable. We were also in and out of them every 45 minutes or so because we were doing our best to stay on top of our nutrition (one of the most important aspects) and they were super easy to take off/ put on/ get into.

I do have to say, after wearing my luggage on my shoulders in Boston the previous week, once we hit about the 14 hour mark of wearing this pack my shoulders did start to suffer. I would like to mention that I have fibromyalgia and one of my trigger areas is my shoulders so I'd attribute the pain to my fibro and NOT the bag, but you know I've gotta #KeepItReal so wanted to mention it. The hubby said he felt comfortable the entire time (well, his legs didn't, but that's another story ;)). 

My face says "when can we do this again?!" and his says "why do I let her talk me into these shenanigans?!".

All-in-all I would give these vests two MAJOR thumbs up! They did exactly what we needed them to and MORE! I have no doubt these will be accompanying us on many more adventures! I think if I had two critiques I'd say the women's pack color could be darker (don't get me wrong, I love bright colors, but these lighter colors definitely show dirt easily and they tend to get grubby quickly on the trails) and could use a waterproof zippered pocket in the front (I love having my phone handy to take photos and since we did a large chunk of our runs in the rain in the PNW during training I noticed the lack of a convenient, accessible, waterproof spot meant my phone stayed in my bag more often than I would have liked). But, honestly, those are nit-picky things in the grand scheme of things. When I asked the hubby if he had any suggestions or critiques, he thought for a couple minutes and said, "Nope, that vest is pretty BOMB DOT COM!" So there you have it ;)

What type of hydration gear do you bring with you on your runs?

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