In late February, I ran my first long run of 2023 in the Nathan VaporAiress 3.0 7 Liter Women’s Hydration Pack ($160.) I started the 14-mile run in the dark from Smith Rock State Park in Oregon, where it was two degrees Fahrenheit at the trailhead. What a way to kick off training for the Western States 100!
Preparing for the run, I’d filled the hydration pack’s 2-liter bladder with water. Within two miles, the bladder was frozen solid, so I got to practice running while slightly dehydrated with a giant ice cube on my back. While it made for a memorable experience, I couldn’t blame the pack for this one — in single digit temperatures, I should have known better.
I continued wearing this hydration vest on almost all of my long runs through the spring. As temperatures grew hotter and my training runs got longer, I used the vest’s 7-liter storage to hold the morning’s layers, gloves, and enough food to practice fueling at my 100-mile pace. I also carried extra hydration on my last couple long runs, since Smith Rock State Park is an arid environment without much shade or any water sources.
This pack is neither ultralight nor particularly heavy. I appreciate Nathan’s use of soft, smooth materials and a fairly streamlined design that doesn’t have too many “dangles” — a gripe I have with some other packs. I’ve used other Nathan hydration packs before, and this one met my expectations based on those experiences. I generally wish Nathan packs sat a little higher on my torso, but aside from that, this is a solid pack that met my needs while feeling comfortable for hours on end, and was easy to use even after fatigue set in.Shop the Nathan VaporAiress 3.0 7 Liter Women’s Hydration Pack
Nathan VaporAiress 3.0 7 Liter Women’s Hydration Pack Construction and Fit
The Nathan VaporAiress 3.0 7 Liter Women’s Hydration Pack is thoughtfully constructed, with easy-to-reach pockets, plenty of storage, and a wide range of adjustability. I appreciate that this pack is available in women’s sizes from XXS to 3XL, which includes sternum circumferences from 26 to 50 inches (66 to 127 centimeters). I measure 28 inches (71 centimeters) and tested size XXS. I don’t think of myself as particularly small-framed up top — I often wear size medium tops — but I admit that I struggle to find hydration vests that fit snugly on my torso and don’t bounce or hang heavily on my shoulders.
This hydration pack, like other Nathan packs, can be adjusted two ways. First, by using the two straps on the front of the back that buckle together, which can be tightened or loosened, and they slide up and down. And second, via the internal Adaptive Fit straps inside each of the front zippered pockets. I love how easy it is to adjust the front buckle straps and slide them up or down mid-run. I tended to keep these straps cinched as tight as possible, and they stayed put once I made my adjustments.
I had a bit more trouble with the internal straps. On several occasions I noticed my pack sliding and bouncing, so I stopped and cinched them tighter. This did the trick. Yet on at least one other occasion, late in the spring, when the pack was fully loaded with 2 liters of hydration and several hours’ worth of food, I tightened the internal straps, and they soon became loose again. I eventually knotted the stretchy straps to help keep them from loosening, but it was a frustrating experience.
I noticed that the Nathan VaporAiress 3.0 7 Liter Women’s Hydration Pack fit me better during early spring running, when I was wearing more layers underneath and carrying slightly less water and food in the pack. When I was down to just a tank top and carrying a lot more water, I experienced more movement with the pack and felt the weight on my shoulders. At the same time, I recognize that I’m on the smaller end of the size range and am extra sensitive to bouncing packs. I appreciate Nathan’s wide range of sizing and generally simple adjustment system.
I also love the materials Nathan uses in its packs, including this one. Every Nathan pack I’ve had has felt smooth and soft against my skin and I’ve never experienced chafing in a Nathan hydration pack.
This pack sits a bit lower on my torso than I would like. I prefer hydration packs that sit up a little higher on my upper back and shoulders, and I’ve found that Nathan hydration packs, including this one, reach to my lower back. I don’t mind this as much on 15- to 20-mile long runs in mild weather, where I’m not carrying as much or needing maximum ventilation. And I wouldn’t go so far as to call it uncomfortable. Other runners may prefer this fit, especially those with a long torso.
Nathan VaporAiress 3.0 7 Liter Women’s Hydration Pack Storage and Hydration
When it comes to storage and hydration options, the Nathan VaporAiress 3.0 7 Liter Women’s Hydration Pack has more than enough capacity for a long adventure run while maintaining a sleek and streamlined design. It’s probably got more storage than you need for an ultra race, depending on the frequency of aid stations on the course, but it also wouldn’t feel like too much for most runners. Plus, when it’s empty or only lightly loaded, it fits closely and stays put. On the other hand, it may not have quite enough storage for a highly involved mountain run where you’re carrying several layers plus a water filter, first aid kit, and other gear. But it’s perfect for your six- to eight-hour training run or summertime mountain adventure.
On the back of this hydration pack, a large, zippered pocket is perfect for holding a jacket, gloves, or beanie, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, backup headlamp, or any other necessities for a long day in the mountains. It doesn’t have a ton of room, but it can hold a few small items. There’s also a bungee cord on the back and on the shoulders for carrying a jacket or poles on the outside of the pack. My inclination is to ignore the bungee — I’d rather carry a jacket inside the pack where I won’t risk it coming loose and getting lost — but I can see the benefit to having a layer close at hand in fickle mountain weather.
On that note, the pack also has a kangaroo pocket along the base that’s ideal for stashing a jacket, gloves, or extra food — anything you might want to ditch or be able to access on the move. Finally, the back of the pack has two more narrow pockets, though one is really a hydration sleeve for the included 2-liter bladder. This is a good hydration system, where the hose comes out the top and over the shoulder to connect to the front of the pack via a magnet. I like the design but noticed that the hose detached from the magnet a little too easily. I have a similar setup on my mountain bike hydration pack and for whatever reason, that magnet holds the hose much better. Also, the hose is long and requires some fiddling so that it’s not flopping around. As I continue using this pack, I’ll consider trimming the hose slightly shorter.
On the front of the pack, the pocket options are fantastic. There are two zippered pockets, and four additional top-loading pockets. I usually store my phone and other small essentials like ChapStick and packet of salt chews in the zippered pocket while stuffing the others with gels, waffles, chews, and other fuel. I love having my food close by, and the multitude of pockets help me keep it organized so I can quickly grab what I need. The top two pockets — which are the deepest — can also hold 22-ounce soft flasks, which are sold separately. I used the pockets this way on a particularly hot, sun-exposed long run in early summer. The shallower front pockets have cinch closures to keep things from bouncing or falling out.
Nathan VaporAiress 3.0 7 Liter Women’s Hydration Pack Overall Impressions
Overall, I appreciate that the Nathan VaporAiress 3.0 7 Liter Women’s Hydration Pack is thoughtfully designed without being overbuilt. Aside from a few occasions on which I had trouble securing the fit and my personal preference for a slightly higher fit on my torso, I think this hydration pack offers a versatile fit that will work well for many runners. I especially like this pack’s broad range of sizing, simple buckle closure, and easy adjustability.
I also think that Nathan did a great job with the pocket design. On long runs and ultras, we want our food and other supplies to be securely stowed yet easily accessible. Nathan achieved this with its four stash pockets and two zippered pockets on the front of the pack, and a zippered pocket and kangaroo pocket on the back for a jacket or other items that you don’t need to access as frequently during a run. I would have gone without the bungee cords on the back, but to each their own. This pack has a nicely streamlined design, whether it’s lightly packed or fully loaded.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Nathan’s hydration packs, including this one, are made with smooth, soft materials that feel comfortable against the skin. I’ve run in a variety of weather and environmental conditions while wearing this pack and had no issues with chafing. Additionally, I love the light purple color of this hydration pack. I’ve worn other packs over the years that quickly discolored as they absorbed sweat and trail dust, and this one has maintained its light purple color even after many hours on dirt beneath the hot sun.
To explore other packs, see our article on the Best Hydration Packs for Running, which includes another Nathan option.
Call for Comments
- Do you use a hydration pack for running? What is your favorite brand or style?
- Have you tried the Nathan VaporAiress 3.0 7 Liter Hydration Pack? What do you think?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]