Monday, July 16, 2012

Nathan HPL-020 Hydration Vest Review

I realized 2 Saturday's ago, while running in the searing heat & humidity, that my normal 4-bottle fuel belt wasn't going to cut it for marathon training runs in the later parts of the summer. With a recommendation from one of my Distance Training Program coaches, I researched and purchased the Nathan HPL-020 Hydration Vest ($90 at Potomac River Running Store, Reston, VA).

The vest is marketed towards trail and ultra runners as lightweight (14 oz. empty) and comfortable, and I can assure you that after my first run, it is both. Putting the vest on with an almost-full bladder (2 liter capacity), it was indeed comfortable. The body of the vest is made of a breathable mesh, the same material as my Nathan Quick-Draw Elite handheld, so I was familiar with the material. The bladder didn't add that much extra weight to the back, and after sucking out the air in the bladder after I filled it with my Nuun mixture, there was very little sloshing around during my run.

The vest has two main pockets on each side. The left side had a zippered compartment where my iPhone fit perfectly, as opposed to my fuel belt, where it didn't fit at all. That compartment also has an elastic pouch in front, perfect for GU packs. On the right side, there is a drawstring pocket which will also work well for holding sustenance for long runs.

The sternum strap provided a nice firm fit across my chest, and it has a handy tube clip for holding the bladder tube during your run. Four side straps (two on each side) give you the ability to cinch the vest as tight as you want to your body. Also, each side of the vest has a guide hold through which you can put the bladder tube, whichever side you prefer.

The pouch holds the 2-liter bladder, which has a top closure that seals using a Slideseal (TM) closure. This makes pouring your beverage into the bladder simple and mess-free. The hose also has a bite valve for easy access with minimal spillage during your run.

There is a back pocket on the outer portion of the pouch which can hold small items like gloves, keys, wallet, etc., and also a small harness at the bottom which can hold a folded jacket. I'm obviously not going to need that during the hot summer months, but a few reviews I read on previous models said that the harness didn't hold items in that well.

One of my main complaints about this would be the difficulty in cleaning the bladder and tube. Apparently, you're able to turn the bladder inside out after rinsing it out, but I assume that's if you can remove the tube, which I couldn't. I had to hand-dry the inside of the bladder to prevent mildew from forming. The tube, on the other hand, still had a bit of moisture inside it Sunday morning; I'm hoping that it can stay mildew-free.

All in all, the vest performed as expected on Saturday's 8-miler. It takes a litle getting used to the extra weight on your back, but on the positive side, it helps keep you more upright, with shoulders back. I had a very consistent run, with good form, because of this. I just need to hydrate more - 25 ounces in 80 minutes just isn't enough. Lucky for me it wasn't that hot on Saturday.

So, to sum it up, if you're in the market for a hydration vest for summer marathon training or ultra running, you will be very pleased with the Nathan HPL-020.


  1. Very comprehensive review Dave, however over here lately I just need to tip my head back open my mouth and I'm good - so much rain in these parts.

    1. Send some across the pond for us, Gavin - we're in dire need of a good soaking rain!

  2. Thanks for the review. You got me wondering now should I just skip buying a fuel belt and get a vest??? I'm training for my half, with my next 2 goals in running being a full in 2013 and going on to run an ultra.

    Please give me your advice.



    1. Kelly, coming from someone who has a 4-bottle fuel belt, and who trained for a half using one (and used it in a half), I say go for the hydration vest, especially with summer training. 4 bottle belts hold 32 oz max, the vest I got holds 70 oz max. And especially if you're going to do an ultra, I say go for it.