Nathan VaporHowe 2.0 12 Liter Women’s Race Vest

There’s a lot to love about the Nathan VaporHowe Women’s Race Vest. It’s lightweight, breathable, bottle and bladder compatible, and can swallow a good amount of gear for race day and unsupported long runs. The insulated bladder keeps your water cooler longer, and while the fabric is lightweight, the front pockets don’t noticeably bounce even when utilizing the 18oz insulated bottles. Of all the packs I have been testing this summer, this is the pack that I find myself reaching for most often for my daily runs when I don’t need to carry a lot of gear.

Specs

  • Size Options: XXS–XL
  • Color Options: Purple
  • Volume Capacity: 12L
  • Weight with bladder: 14 oz
  • Materials: Apparel-like fit with a lightweight, breathable structure
  • Included: 1.6L insulated, hourglass-shaped bladder
  • Features:
    • reflective striping on front and back
    • zippered smartphone pocket (that fits large phones—iPhone 8 plus fits perfectly)
    • bottle pockets (bottles not included)
    • very lightweight fabric
    • internal compression to tighten load against your back
    • zippered back pocket
    • front stash pockets in front for gels/bars
    • built-in whistle

What’s good: the new, differentiating, or simply well designed or built features or aspects of the vest.

The fabric is lightweight, super breathable, and yet it maintains its structure well. Unlike some of the other super stretchy vests, the Nathan VaporHowe feels like it wraps your torso snuggly—yet it allows you to breathe—and somehow manages to eliminate the dreaded bounce of some of the other packs with front bottles. The front bottles (sold separately) are designed a bit longer and narrower and wrap over the chest comfortably. There is a reflective strap for the bottle tube to go underneath and then a sleeve at the top of the shoulder for you to tuck bite valve so that the tubes don’t hit you in the face while moving.

The zippered smartphone pocket is one of the best on the market. The large zip opening allows for many different sizes of phones, including the large plus size phones. The zippered compartment provides security for the phone, and the water-resistant sleeve ensures that you don’t drown your phone in sweat. The compartment is easy to access while on the move so whether you need to get to your phone quickly for security reasons, to answer a call, or to change your tunes, you will have no trouble doing so.

The chest straps are on a slider rail providing easy adjustability. The side adjustment straps increase the usability of the VaporHowe 2.0 across multiple seasons. I loved last year’s VaporMag, but without the side adjustments, it was pretty limited in its size range. With this added feature on the VaporHowe you can rest assured that you can go from summer running in just a tank top to winter running in multiple layers with ease.

What could be improved: tweaks or improvements that could be made to make the vest better.

While there are a lot of things I really love about this vest, there are some things I would change. When using the vest with the hydration bladder without much else in the back panel, the vest can get really floppy. There isn’t enough structure to the back panel to eliminate the bounce of the hydration bladder. When the back panel is filled with other gear—jacket, gloves, headlamp, etc…—it fills up enough space that the bladder is held tight to the back. An easy way to eliminate this problem is to bring back the back bungee cord from past iterations of Nathan packs. The bungee allows you to tighten down the back panel when there isn’t much gear in it, improving the bounce issue. It might add a bit of weight, but it really improves the comfort.

The zippered back panel has a very small opening. They could have easily used a zipper that was 2 or 3 inches longer that would significantly improve the usability of this very large zippered pocket. But with such a small zipper, you are limited in what you can fit into it.

Eliminate ALL the velcro. I don’t know about everyone else, but I hate velcro on packs. It doesn’t do a great job of holding a pocket closed and it catches on clothing, easily destroying nice technical fabrics as you try to quickly shove them into or pull them out of the velcro-tabbed pockets.

The secondary front pockets could be a bit bigger. At their current size, they easily fit gels and chews, but full-sized bars are a harder fit. An extra inch in size would make a big difference in usability.

When to use it: the situations or scenarios where this vest excels.

As its name implies this is a great racing vest. It’s got space for everything you need while racing, without weighing you down with extra bells and whistles that you don’t need. You can lighten your load by choosing to go with bottles or a hydration bladder or pack both if there are long stretches between aid stations or you are out for a long, unsupported run. There is enough space to throw in a jacket, gloves, extra food, a headlamp, and some emergency gear, but there isn’t enough space that you will overpack—you will need to be judicious with what you bring with you. While there are no attachment points for poles, in a pinch you can thread your poles through the back stash pocket (unless you have burly snow baskets).

How it compares: my current go-to vest and how this vest compares.

Over the summer I have been running in the Ultimate Direction Women’s Halo Vest, Salomon Advanced Skin 8 Set, the Raidlight Responsiv 6, and the Nathan Vapor Airess 7L (look for reviews of all of these vests this week). Of all of these vests, I found myself going back to the VaporHowe Women’s Race Vest and the Salomon Advanced Skin 8 Set the most. The VaporHowe for days when I didn’t need to carry a ton of gear with me, and the Salomon when I needed to throw in all the gear. The two vests ride very differently. The VaporHowe has much less bounce and more of a sense of structure—it feels like it “hugs” your body—than the Salomon does.

Should you purchase? My overall recommendation on whether to purchase this vest or not.

I think the VaporHowe 2.0 Women’s Race Vest is a solid purchase and one I would definitely consider if I was looking for a lightweight racing vest. It’s cool, comfortable, and offers you a lot of options depending on your desired racing setup. In addition, it is holding up extremely well and is easily washable. The price is comparable with other vests on the market.

Sizing: Runs true to size. Review the sizing chart, measure your bust, and purchase accordingly. Size tested—XS.

Purchasing Information: where to go to purchase.

As always, we recommend heading to your local running specialty shop to purchase your running ear—support local stores! If you don’t have a local shop or they don’t carry this item, you can always head over to Nathan’s website and purchase directly.

Your Reviewer: Sarah Bradham

I started my love of gear as a climber and as I turned my attention to running I shifted from carabiners, ice tools, and crampons to hydration packs, midsole foam types, compression clothing, and everything in between. After several years of foot injuries, I’m enjoying getting back to my beloved muddy and rocky trails near my home in Portland, Ore. In my work life, I enjoy coordinating an annual Mountain and Ultra Running Camp at the base of Mt. Hood with Yassine Diboun, Amy Sproston, and Joelle Vaught.

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