Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review : Nathan HPL #020 Hydration Vest

  • Gear type : Hydration
  • Use : Endurance running
  • Price : 120$

Nathan’s line of hydration vests are a frequent sight in ultra running events. Their clever design, lightweight build and versatility have made many adepts over the years. All vests use the same bladder type and patented bite-valve that is highly functional and, an important matter for its durability, easy to clean and maintain.

The HPL#020 is Nathan’s original vest. Now with a broader offering of hydration solutions, it sits between the Minimist, an ultralight stripped-down model, and the Endurance, a full-featured vest with plenty of additional storage.

Field test
I have been using an Endurance model for a number of seasons now and I’m very pleased with it. This is a very well-conceived piece of equipment, obviously made by runners. No matter what size you are, it will adjust to your torso and sit lightly on your shoulders, won’t swing around and offer minimal slushing (the effect seems to be more obvious when the bladder is really full).

The HPL #020 is similar in almost every point to the Endurance, save for an extra couple shoulder strap pockets that count for an ounce of added overall weight and the positioning of the back storage compartment, that sits on top of the vest rather than at the bottom.

Like its bigger brother, the HPL #020 offers a rubbery gizmo that might not look like much at first, but that is very useful to stash a lightweight extra layer you were wearing in the morning (say, a vest). Just squeeze it in between the gizmo and the bag, pull the shock cord and you’re done. I have used it several times while running in the Copper Canyons, as can be seen in this video (at 1:05, 2:26, 2:48) and it never failed me. 

Another noteworthy test, although involuntary, is a pretty bad spill I took while running the trails above Creel one morning, crashing on rocks and rolling over. My vest, its bladder and even the tube came out of it unscathed, which for me speaks volumes about their toughness. The bladder itself is surprisingly sturdy; you can flip it inside out to dry and the material stays floppy like new.

The HPL #020 is a very good hydration vest. Personally, I have to say that I prefer the Endurance model because it has more front pockets, but I’m known as a runner who brings a lot of “stuff” on the trails. Like all the other models, the HPL #020 offers very good balance, sturdiness, breathable fabric and ease of maintenance. Nathan vests are widespread among ultra runners, both on trail and road.

High points
  • Lightweight and breathable material
  • Very adjustable
  • Front pockets on the shoulder straps
  • Extra storage in the back compartment + shock cord
  • Sturdy bladder system
  • Easy cleaning and maintenance

Low points
  • Not as many front compartments
  • Higher back pocket raises the center of gravity
  • Kinda sits in-between the Minimist and Endurance

The equipment for this personal review was supplied by Nathan Performance Gear, free of charge, without any conditions.

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