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Nathan VaporKrar 12L review: a feature-packed hydration pack for ultra runners

Exceptionally light and effective, the Nathan VaporKrar 12L is recommended for runners who’ll be hitting the trail a long time

Nathan VaporKrar 12L
(Image: © Nathan)

Our Verdict

The Nathan VaporKrar 12L is the ultimate pack for long-distance trail runners who log multi-hour runs or compete in ultra-distance races.

For

  • Snug, connective fit
  • Reflective highlights for safety
  • Dries/evaporates moisture quickly

Against

  • Steep price tag
  • Some stitching lacks durability

Nathan VaporKrar 12L: first impressions

The Nathan VaporKrar 12L is made with very lightweight, well-ventilated materials and boasts a design that fits like a snug shirt and helps comfortably cinch the pack close to the body with an effective tri-closure chest strap system. 

It keeps everything snug and compact without bouncing, no matter if the hydration reservoir is mostly full or mostly empty. (The bladder is insulated, which is a nice touch, because it’s rated to keep water cool 38 percent longer than non-insulated reservoirs.) 

In addition to carrying the fold-top hydration reservoir, there’s room for a waterproof shell, running leggings, base layer, gloves and a running hat in the rear pouch and stash pocket. There are four pouch pockets on the front straps for carrying additional soft bottles (not included), energy snacks, a lube stick, sunblock or a mobile phone, as well as two small, narrow zippered pockets. 

Most sections of the pack are perforated for enhanced ventilation which helps reduce the chance for sweat soak-through. The hydration reservoir is easy to refill without removing it from the pack, a feature that comes in especially handy at race aid stations. This pack is covered with reflective highlights for safety, is machine washable and also comes in a women’s model (VaporHowe 12L Race Vest) with female-specific fit features. Both are ideal for long trail racing and training endeavors, especially in hot weather conditions. All of which makes it a serious contender as one of the best hydration packs.

Specifications

RRP: $200 (US) / £160 (UK)
• Weight (empty): 3425g / 15oz
Hydration Capacity: 1.6L insulated hydration reservoir (included)
Gear Capacity: 12L
• Colors: Astral Aura / Deep Ultramarine / Hibiscus

Nathan VaporKrar 12L: on the trails

We tested this pack on a variety of medium-length runs (10km to 20km) and longer, multi-hour runs (20km to 40km) in the foothills near Boulder and in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area along the Continental Divide. We liked it as a pure running pack and even tried to simulate race conditions that entailed running to makeshift aid stations to refill. 

We gave this high marks for being compact and close to the body, leaving us nothing to worry about as we rambled along our simulated race course. The 2L hydration reservoir would normally seem a bit excessive on the run (that’s a lot of weight to carry!) but this pack did a good job keeping it balanced and securely in place without sloshing around. 

The only thing we weren’t entirely pleased with was the magnet system aimed at keeping the drinking tube in place on the run. (At times, it was hard to connect the magnet and at times it would pop off and flail around while we were running.) 

We also added our own 18 oz (500ml) soft flasks in the front pockets because it was clearly designed for that possibility. The back panel didn’t do as good as a job as we would have hoped at wicking moisture away in hot conditions, but it seemed better on warm and cooler days where excessive sweating wasn’t an issue.