Last Updated on July 20, 2016 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
In an attempt to be completely thorough with this review, I spent a good thirty minutes scouring the last 5 years of my email inbox, trying to figure out exactly when and where I purchased my Nathan Intensity hydration vest. Yeah, my inbox is that out of control, with messages dating back to 2009. I have no valid excuses for the lack of organization. Alas, I came up empty handed, believe it or not, despite the 11,772 messages in my inbox.
I do know that the Nathan Intensity hydration vest and I came together in the summer of 2012. I had purchased a Camelbak brand female specific pack weeks earlier that just didn’t fit right, and so I needed an alternative. I faintly remember taking to Facebook to ask other women what vest/pack they liked, and the Nathan Intensity came up multiple times. So I ordered it from somewhere…
…and that brings us to today, and what will be the LONGEST test period for a product review I’ve ever published.
Four and a half years to be exact.
My Nathan Intensity hydration vest is discolored and smells like the inside of a gym locker. Despite countless trips through the washing machine, this poor thing has done more time than any other piece of fitness/running equipment I own or have ever owned. To say it is well beyond the mileage for an honorable discharge would be an understatement.
The straps are a little stretched out, and I’ve replaced the bladder inside of the vest at lest 3 times. But I keep reaching for it, every single day, because quite honestly, when it comes to running, my Nathan Intensity hydration vest has become a natural extension of my very own body.
My Nathan Intensity hydration vest has been through countless events with me.
It has climbed ropes.
It has covered at least 60 miles and dozens of summits of Killington Mountain
It has been dragged through mud and under barbed wire more times than I can count.
It has climbed countless mountains, and up and over many rocks, trees, and other obstacles.
Its accompanied me for my first 50 miler. And my second one. And my first 100K.
And of course, it has been an invaluable resource through thousands of miles of training.
I could give you dozens more examples, but I suppose ten is enough to start with. My Nathan Intensity hydration vest is like a physical scrapbook of all of the miles I’ve run over the last 4.5 years. All of this, and the fact that I still reach for it daily, should be enough of a raving review in and of itself. But, because “Heather has used her Nathan Intensity so much, it now looks and smells like it could stand up and walk out of the trunk of her car all by itself” isn’t quite enough of a detailed review for some of you…let’s get into the nitty gritty reasons why I love this vest above all others.
(Keep in mind, these specs are pulled from the Nathan website, and apply to the latest model. Not sure if they apply to mine from 2012, but we’ll go with it.)
- Designed specifically to fit the female form
- 6L of total storage capacity (including 2L bladder)
- Patented 3-Way Propulsion Harness controls bouncing and swaying for runners
- Repositioned bladder tube now exits from top of pack to eliminate skin contact
- Front Power Stretch Mesh pockets and two rear zippered compartments store all of your essentials
- Wall Mesh shoulder straps and back panel channel air across your skin and wick moisture away
- MSRP: $80- ish. Prices vary via online retailers. I believe the original MSRP is listed at $100.
The most important thing about the Nathan Intensity vest, and the reason I have loved it well beyond it’s expiration date, is the fit. I’m not the tiniest person in the world, but I also don’t have man shoulders, which was the deal breaker for me with every other hydration vest or pack I’ve ever tried. I could never get the straps small enough to prevent bouncing or moving of the pack, especially when it was full. Likely because those vests were designed around a male frame. This was not, and has never been, the case with the Nathan Intensity. I am able to dial in the fit perfectly, thanks to the female specific design.
The sternum strap slides up and down, allowing me to choose where I want it to rest on my chest. For me, it’s “under” the “girls” (my boobs, let’s not beat around the bush) which I hear is imperative for more well endowed ladies. As the bladder empties, causing the vest to become loser, the sternum strap easily adjusts on the fly, allowing me to tighten the fit. The sternum strap also has a clasp to secure the straw of the hydration bladder, preventing it from bouncing around while moving. It is incredibly easy to pull and replace the straw from the clasp while on the run.
The side and back straps allow me to adjust the Nathan Intensity to sit higher on my back, preventing lower back pain and bouncing.
The front pouches and pockets give me ample room for storing important things, such as snacks, my point and shoot camera, and my cell phone. A running bloggers priorities, of course. Of course during a race, the camera and cell phone stay behind, and instead I’m able to jam in a small bottle of Tailwind in the cinch pocket, as well as chews and Ziploc bags full of snacks or endurolytes in the zippered pocket.
The pack itself has a large upper pocket, where I am able to keep larger items, like even more food or headlamps. Or the “trail fail whale” that we found in the parking lot. Our new mascot. The attached clip allows me to securely stow away my car key while training, and the internal pouch holds things like money or ID’s.
The main pouch is designed to hold the 2 liter bladder, but I’ve also been able to shove a long sleeve shirt or jacket, and even more food (I really like to eat) in there as well. Hell, for the 2012 Spartan Hurricane Heat, I was required to carry: One Black Sharpie Marker, 1 bandana, 1 Grade A egg, white or brown. Not hard boiled, 1 pair of flip flop sandals, 1 extra pair of white socks, 2 energy gel shots, 1 jump rope , 1 candlestick, 1 book of matches. In addition to the 2 liters of water, of course. And it all fit in the Nathan Intensity.
There is a great loop that is designed to hold up the bladder so it doesn’t sink to the bottom of the vest as it empties. Mine has been ripped and repaired, and still holds strong. (please ignore the *other* brand of hydration bladder in this photo. Oops. )
The patented 3-Way Propulsion Harness controls bouncing and swaying, and it does a mighty fine job at it. As mentioned above, I have zero issues with this pack bouncing. The propulsion harness also doubles as a great storage space for an extra layer of clothes.
And lastly, the material on the inside of the pack (skin side) is soft and breathable, preventing any chafing. Seriously, in 4.5 years I’ve never been rubbed raw by this pack, even on the rare days I decide to bare my midriff to the elements.
In closing, would I recommend this vest/pack? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I’ve recommended this particular hydration pack to dozens of people, and would recommend it over and over again, without hesitation. I have absolutely zero complaints about this product. Not one. It has withstood the test of running time, and has held up and performed well through all of the chaos and commotion I have put it through.
The Nathan Intensity will be heading to the 2016 TransRockies Run with us next month, for 6 days of running across the Colorado Rockies. I have 100% faith that the Nathan Intensity will be everything I need it to be for our latest adventure…
…even if my fellow runners can smell me coming from a mile away. Sorry guys, summer in South Carolina is pretty sweaty.
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.