Nathan HPL 020 Hydration Vest Review

Nathan-HPL-#020-FrontLast summer when I decided to up my mileage to tackle a marathon, I knew I had to do something about hydration during the long runs. The handhelds work great for shorter runs. I have tried a few hydration belts, but can’t stand having something tight around my waist plus the constant bottle bumping my rear end was driving me nuts.. I also found during a hot run that I couldn’t carry enough water in a 3-4 small bottles with the waist pack.

Enter the Hydration Vest.

This was my first vest, so I didn’t have a preconceived idea of what I was after. The first decision was what kind of bladder size I wanted. There are a variety of bladders ranging from 1 liter to 2.5 liters, If I was going to drop this kind of coin on a vest, I might as well get something that can hold enough water for whatever I planned on doing (hiking, day long runs, etc). You always have the option of not filling it all the way depending on how long you are going to be out. The dry weights between the smaller and larger vests/bladders was pretty minimal, but something to consider.

The other item I knew I wanted was some storage; easy access pockets up front, along with some pockets in the back. The Nathan HPL 020, had both of those. The front has a single zipper pocket along with a mesh sleeve and another shock cord pocket.

Now that I’ve had it a while and put a few hundred miles on it, I’m still very pleased with the purchase.I picked one up for about $80 from a local REI (They can be had for about $50 now I think).

There are several straps to adjust how the vest rides on your shoulders/back, and I will typically adjust them once or twice during a long run. The main shoulder straps

The two pockets up front have plenty of storage for my phone, camera and some shot blocks/gels. I wouldn’t mind having an extra sleeve or two to hold some additional gels. (something the next model up 028 now offers).

Drinking from the tube while running can take a little getting used to. It’s a bite nipple valve so you just lightly squeeze with your teeth to open it up and suck on it. I haven’t had any problems with either the bag or nipple leaking during runs.

Nathan-HPL-#020-BackThe downside to running hydration vests in general that i’ve found are

  • Sweaty Back – These make you sweat more, that’s for sure. You can negate that somewhat by filling the back with some ice before you run.
  • Sloshing Sound – The constant sloshing can bother some people, I can easily tune it out, not a big deal for me.
  • Limited to a single source – This can be a big one for some. With a belt, you can fill one bottle with water and another with some kind of electrolyte drink. You don’t have that flexibility with the vest. I’ve never found a drink other than water that doesn’t make me feel bloated while I run, so it’s a non issue here.