Nathan VaporAir 3.0 Hydration Vest Review

I received the Nathan VaporAir 3.0 hydration vest in the beginning of the summer, which was perfect due to nice weather. I immediately started wearing it for long distance running, hiking and even via ferrata trails. Now, VaporAir 3.0 is not my first hydration vest from Nathan. I also have the previous model, the Nathan VaporAir 2.0. The Nathan VaporAir 3.0 features some nice improvements compared to the 2.0 model, but I’ll write more about this in the comparison section below. In the last half of a year, I thoroughly tested the Nathan VaporAir 3.0 hydration vest. It accompanied me on several long-distance runs, a few via ferrata trails and many short hikes. Here is my first-hand review. In case you have questions about this product, or I forgot to describe something drop me a line in the comments below.

Table of Contents: 

The Basics

Nathan VaporAir 3.0 is a spacious hydration vest

Nathan VaporAir 3.0 is a spacious hydration vest

The Nathan VaporAir 3.0 is a relatively large hydration vest. Nevertheless, it’s super lightweight. It weighs only 8.8 oz. (227 grams). It has a capacity of 7 liters and comes with a 2-liter hydration bladder. Therefore, it’s a very versatile product that’s suitable for a wide range of activities. It can be used for short runs as well as for day-long hikes if you pack minimalistic. I figured out you can even attach a helmet to it with a little hack. So, I also used it for via ferrata trails.

Nathan Sports, the company behind the vest, is famous for producing top-notch hydration vests and packs. It was established in 1994 and gained a strong reputation in the outdoor and running industry. Nathan Sports is especially known for making innovative products that excel in terms of quality and durability. Knowing all this, I was eager to put the VaporAir 3.0 vest to the test. Nevertheless, first I had to figure out what’s my size.

Sizing

The vest can be easily adjusted in width by pulling this strap inside the pocket

The vest can be easily adjusted in width by pulling this strap inside the pocket

Nathan Vapor Air 3.0 is available in three different sizes (XS-M, L-XXXL and 1X-3X). The bigger the size, the wider the vest. The XS-M size fits chest circumferences from 30 in. to 38 in. (76.2 cm to 96.5 cm), the L to XXXL fits chest circumferences from 38 in. to 48 in. (96.5 cm to 122 cm) and the 1X to 3X size fits chest circumferences from 48 in. to 58 in. (122cm to 147cm).  Now, the vest is of course also adjustable in width and it’s super easy to adjust it. You simply put the vest on, buckle and tighten the two chest straps to the middle and then you pull the two straps in the zippered pockets on the front side of the vest. That brings the vest closer to your body. See the video here.

I decided to go for size XS-M and the vest fits me perfectly. My chest diameter is 37.4 in. (95 cm). Nevertheless, if my chest were 2 in. wider, I wouldn’t be able to wear the vest comfortably. I decided to go for the smallest size because my VaporAir 2.0 was size L-XXXL and in the summer when I typically lose some weight the vest was on the limit of being too large. I could completely tighten the sternum straps and the side adjustment straps. I guess I’m just unlucky to be right in between Nathan vest sizes.

Fit and Comfort

The vest is very comfortable

The vest is very comfortable

Fit and comfort are where Nathan hydration vests truly shine. So, I actually wasn’t that surprised when I put the vest on, and it was so comfortable I quickly forgot I’m wearing it. When you’re running the bounce is almost not felt and the vest sits firmly against your back. The included 2-liter hydration bladder is narrow and long which additionally increases the stability of the hydration vest as it brings the center of gravity closer to the spine. The shoulder straps are also wide so that they nicely distribute the weight and are comfortable also when the vest is fully packed and heavy.

The inner side of the vest is made of super breathable mesh fabric. This mesh fabric is very soft and pleasant to the touch. During the testing period I didn’t experience any chafing or rubbing, and I often wore the vest over a thin base layer. In summary, I couldn’t be happier with how comfortable and well-fitted this vest is.

 

The vest fits snugly around the body

The vest fits snugly around the body

There is very little bounce when you're running

There is very little bounce when you’re running

I've been also wearing this vest on via ferrata trails

I’ve been also wearing this vest on via ferrata trails

Pockets and Compartments

Plenty of pockets and compartments

Plenty of pockets and compartments

The Nathan Vapor Air 3.0 is a relatively large hydration vest and thus it has many pockets and compartments. The main storage area is divided into two big compartments. The compartment closest to your back is intended for hydration bladder and has a hook so you can attach the hydration bladder. The outer compartment is perfect for storing clothes, food etc. These two compartments don’t have a zipper. They’re simply open at the top.

Behind the two big open compartments the hydration vest has a sizable pocket with a zipper. This pocket is very long but somewhat narrow. When the two compartments are fully packed it’s kind of hard-to-get stuff into this pocket.

On the front side the vest has two zippered pockets, two deep Velcro pockets and two pockets that close with a drawcord. The two zippered pockets are quite large and perfect for storing valuables and a smartphone. The deep Velcro pockets are convenient for storing longer items such as a selfie stick or a power bar. I recommend against storing small items in these two pockets. You’ll have trouble getting them out since the pockets are very long and narrow. The drawcord pockets are designed for soft flasks. They accommodate flasks up to 22 oz (0.65 l).

 

Storage options on the back side

Storage options on the back side

The soft flask pocket with drawcord

The soft flask pocket with drawcord

The Velcro pocket on the front side

The Velcro pocket on the front side

Attachment Points

Bungee cord on the shoulder strap

Bungee cord on the shoulder strap

The vest has four loops on the back side which enable you to securely attach trekking poles. Trekking poles should be attached so that they form an x. That way they won’t disturb you when you’re running or hiking. I was happy with this attachment system. I found it especially useful for via ferrata trails. The only thing to keep in mind here is that the poles should be short when collapsed as otherwise they’ll bother you during activities. See our list of high-quality trekking poles that pack small here.

The hydration vest also has bungee cords on the front of shoulder straps and on the back. The bungee cord enables you to attach extra gear such as clothing or even a climbing helmet. I found a way to attach my Petzl Sirocco climbing helmet to the rear bungee cord. Nevertheless, this might not work with every climbing helmet. See the images below.

 

A hack to attach climbing helmet to rear bungee cord - Top

A hack to attach climbing helmet to rear bungee cord – Top

A hack to attach climbing helmet to rear bungee cord - Bottom

A hack to attach climbing helmet to rear bungee cord – Bottom

Climbing helmet attached to the vest

Climbing helmet attached to the vest

Hydration Bladder (included)

Nathan VaporAir 3.0 comes with HydraPak hydration bladder

Nathan VaporAir 3.0 comes with HydraPak hydration bladder

The 2-liter hydration bladder is from HydraPak. HydraPak makes good hydration bladders with innovative features. The included hydration bladder is reversible and dishwasher safe. I really like the fact that you can turn it inside out because this makes cleaning and drying so much easier. Therefore, I also haven’t put it in the dishwasher yet. Nevertheless, I have no doubts that the hydration bladder will be fine in the dishwasher. The bladder also features bite valve and a wide opening at the top for easy cleaning and filling. The only thing that I missed here is the on/off lever. It’s useful for preventing leaks, for example when you have the vest in the trunk of your car.

Unboxing Video

Nathan VaporAir 3.0 vs Nathan VaporAir 2.0

Nathan VaporAir 2.0 - Back

Nathan VaporAir 2.0 – Back

So, what’s the difference between VaporAir 3.0 and 2.0? Should you upgrade or just keep the 2.0 model? In terms of fit and comfort there is very little difference. Both hydration vests provide an excellent fit and are extremely comfortable to wear. The 3.0 model is slightly more breathable because it has more porous mesh fabric.

Nevertheless, there are quite a few differences when it comes to pockets, compartments and attachment points. The main storage area of 2.0 model has three compartments unlike the 3.0 model which has only two compartments. I didn’t find this a big downside as two compartments there are enough for my needs. Behind the main storage area both vests have a large zippered pocket. This pocket is designed much better on the 3.0 model because it has a larger entry (zipper) so it’s easier to get things out of it. On the front side, the 3.0 model replaces the two zippered pockets at the top of the shoulder straps with a bungee cord. Surprisingly, I didn’t find myself missing these two pockets. Moreover, their absence contributes to enhanced breathability due to the presence of mesh fabric in their place. Another difference is that the 3.0 model has bungee cord all over the back side. I was really happy with it because it enabled me to easily attach gear such as bulky clothing and a climbing helmet.

So, should you upgrade to the 3.0 model? I would only recommend upgrading if you miss bungee cord on the 2.0 model. I find bungee cord super useful and that’s the only reason I would upgrade from 2.0 to 3.0.

 

Nathan VaporAir 3.0 - Back

Nathan VaporAir 3.0 – Back

Nathan VaporAir 2.0 - Front

Nathan VaporAir 2.0 – Front

Nathan VaporAir 3.0 - Front

Nathan VaporAir 3.0 – Front

Verdict

The Nathan VaporAir 3.0 provides excellent fit and is very comfortable to wear. With a capacity of 7 liters, it’s great for both long distance running and speed hiking. Many pockets and compartments enable you to organize your gear, so you don’t fiddle with it when you need it. I was also really happy with the bungee cord. The bungee cord enables you to attach larger items to the vest. For example, bulky clothing or a climbing helmet. The included hydration bladder is also high-quality. It’s dishwasher safe and reversible allowing easy cleaning and drying. All in all, I think the Nathan VaporAir 3.0 is a great option if you’re looking for a spacious hydration vest for running and hiking.

If you have any questions about this product, drop me a line in the comments below.

 

Rating

Design
Quality
Comfort
Functionality

We field tested this product. The rating shows its overall performance.About Rating

Pros:

  • Fit
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Storage capacity
  • Bungee cord for attaching bigger items
  • Many pockets/compartments
  • Reversible hydration bladder
  • Magnetic tube clip
  • Easy to adjust

Cons:

  • The hydration bladder doesn’t have on/off lever

 

Details

Tested by: Blaz
Review published:
Review updated:
Product: Nathan VaporAir 3.0
Final rating: 5 out of 5

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Author Information

Blaz

Outdoor enthusiast with experience in all types of hiking and mountaineering. Hiked in the Alps, Iceland and other countries. In love with via ferrata trails and snow-covered slopes. Check out my hikes.

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