Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Product Review: Nathan VaporKrar 12L Men's Race Vest

I've been running with this pack for almost a year now. I'm not sure why the hell it took me so long to review it, but at least I've gotten some pretty good mileage into it now.

The pack is named after one of Nathan's sponsored elites, Rob Krar. I don't know anything about him, except he must be fast and probably has a beard.
But I can tell you about my experiences with his pack. And while you read this, why not listen to some Ozric Tentacles?

Not an Elite, no beard either.

As of this writing (3/18/18) the VaporKrar actually comes 2 sizes. A 4L and my 12L.
I can't tell you much about the 4L other than it has less storage and doesn't come with any kind of bladder. This review is for the 12L only.

Prior to this I'd been running mostly with the Camelbak Marathoner.

And I was pretty happy with that pack. I beat the piss out of it doing OCR's, snowshoe races, etc. That was a solid,sturdy pack.

But with that durability comes a cost. The fabric on the Camelbak was rather rough. I run with no shirt on, and that fabric would tear me up something nasty.

So when the opportunity came to pro-deal the Vapor, I did. 

This thing retails for around $175. I'm going to tell you this up front, no running pack is worth that kind of money. Holy shit! THAT IS SO EXPENSIVE. If you're fortunate enough to have lots of money to throw around on gear, then maybe. But still!

The nitty-gritty now:

I have a size XL. I'm about 6ft and between 175/190lbs depending on what the hell I'm doing. Look at the video up there, that's what I looked like 5yrs ago. But the XL fits me pretty damn well. (Always try on a FULL hydration pack before purchasing.)

There are 4 points of adjustment, one at each hip, the sternum and belly. The sternum and belly pull in opposite directions to keep overall tension square.
These two adjustments are attached to the vest on these slidey rod things.

I had to sew mine in place with dental floss to prevent them from sliding up and down.

Which is great for setting up the positioning, but not so great because the damn clips kept sliding up and down on those rods. A little needle and dental floss later, I solved that problem. (Always remove the bladder before modifying any hydration pack.)

With all the adjustments set, this pack sits pretty nicely, especially if you're using the provided bladder. And that is rather important, a standard bladder will have a tendency to slosh a bit more, where as the supplied bladder is specifically built. 

See that Hour Glass Shape? That will prevent sloshing.

< Hour Glass Figure

  Hour Glass Shape>
And there are also little baffles in the bladder to help prevent slosh. This bladder also comes with a hose quick release, making it easier to funnel the tube through the pack. The hose attaches to the sternum strap with a magnet (see Sternum strap in pic above).
There's a nice easy open top to this bladder too, making it easy to clean and add ice.
This bladder holds just less than 2L.

The fabric throughout the pack is soft. Nice and soft. However, it doesn't feel overly durable. I would recommend NOT rolling in the mud with this pack. The fabric felt cooler in summer heat than my previous pack and running with no shirt only makes for a few select raw spots, easily prevented with some applied Body Glide.

It gets real hot, real muggy here in Myrtle.

SO MUCH STORAGE!  Nathan says you can carry 12 Liters worth of shit in this pack, I believe it.
There are 2 pockets rib level on each side of the vest. You might be able to jam a standard water bottle into them, but you'd be much better off using the trendy new soft water bottles (Hydrapack). However a standard size celly or any race nutrition will easily fit in these pockets.
Each shoulder also has a zippered pocket, one with a whistle/key loop and smaller change pocket. I found these pockets ideal for carrying GU or sport beans, anything solid in these pockets didn't feel comfortable for me.
The back of the pack has a huge pocket for stashing whatever the hell you feel the need to take with you. There is no zipper on this pocket, but it's a great place to stash stuff you may want a team mate to grab for you while on the go.

Another quality picture. At least you can't smell the damn thing.

Beside that main pocket is another pocket. This one vertically zippered. Open this pocket up and there is a huge amount of storage and even another secure pocket which would also easily fit a celly.
Behind and above these two large pockets is another pocket accessible from the top of the pack. This one isn't huge but does offer a place to keep thing separated. I stash my Emergency Butt Paper in this pocket.
And of course there is the main bladder pocket. The bladder will be held in place with a Velcro loop and as mentioned earlier, you can route the house through the pack. Also worth noting is the fabric difference here. Between your back and the bladder is some different, still soft, perforated material. This is great for Carolina heat. Fill that bladder up with ice, and it'll keep you cool for bit. This fabric is also on the inside of the shoulder straps.
There is one more pocket, at the hip adjustment straps. This is an open horizontal pocket. I haven't used it yet, but it would be a great place to stash an readily accessible  jacket or extra pair of pants. 
There may even be some pockets I haven't found yet...

There are Trekking Pole attachments on the back of the pack.
But of course, I have ghetto poles that don't fit. So no picture for you.

There is some pretty decent reflectivity throughout the pack, but always have illumination when running in the dark.

Long story short. There is a shit-ton of storage in this comfortable pack. Thus the $175 price tag. 

I have run a ton of races in this. Some of them fully laden with supplies, H2O and nutrition. The pack does sway a bit on me. It's not ridiculously distracting, but I'd be a liar if I said it never swayed or bounced. 
But think about it! If you have 3.5lbs of water and another pound of food/gear with you, all strapped to your back, it's gonna sway a bit.
If you have your adjustments set, are using the fancy supplied bladder and pack your gear correctly...you can severely minimize any bouncing and bopping and shit.

Two things to note on this pack. The adjustment straps frayed a little. They seem to have stopped frayin, but this could be a huge issue. And they had that tendency to slip up and down on the adjustment bars. (See picture way up.)
The length of the tube from the bladder may confound some. I've known some people to cut the tube, I just re-routed mine through some sown in loops to prevent the tube from bouncing.

This is not an overall reflection on the pack or even really detrimental, but worth noting before purchase.

 And try as I might, I can't get the stink out of mine.

Here's a review on some similar shorts to what I'm wearing here.

Here then is my summary:
This is a great pack. It is awesome.
I still can't fathom the ticket price, but indeed there are a ton of features here.
If you need a pack to run far in, I'm talking 50k and better, because you need to carry food, water and gear, this might be a great option for you.
If you find you're mostly doing shorter or fully supported races, this might be more pack than you need.
I'll emphasize again to try this pack In Store. Bring your normal gear, fill the bladder up and try it IN STORE. Make sure you have the right size for you, and make sure this is the right pack for you.

Yep, there it is. A year later and there's my thoughts.
Thanks for reading.

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