There’s long distance, and there’s loooong distance.  Or there’s long, unpredictable distance.  Nathan’s Elevation Hydration Vest is built for those looking to go beyond long, or beyond the predictable.

Nathan Elevation Features:

  • Weight: 14.1 oz / 399.7 g
  • Storage capacity: 945 cu in / 15.5 L without bladder
  • Two front bottle pockets and one front zip smart phone-compatible pocket
  • Stash pocket over left front pocket fits several gels
  • Pill pocket for electrolyte tabs
  • Internal stash pocket and key clip
  • Hydrapak reversible 70 oz / 2L fluid reservoir
  • Trekking pole clips
  • 3-way propulsion harness to stabilize movement of bladder and cargo
  • Dual adjustable height sternum straps
  • Drink tube clip
  • Wall mesh shoulder straps
  • Perforated back panel for breathability and weight reduction
  • Reflective trim
  • MSRP $150

Nathan Elevation Hydration Vest Review

Elevation is Great for Long-distance Trail Running

Sometimes when a company with a long-established reputation and dedicated following decides to introduce a new product, the best way to describe it is in comparison to the company’s existing products.  Such is the case with Nathan’s Elevation, which has similar features and styling as a couple of other outstanding Nathan packs, but enough differences to distinguish it in the product line and to meet the specific needs of a particular subset of trail runners.

Nathan Elevation Hydration Pack Testing

Rainbow not included

That subset is best described as “people who like to carry stuff.”  With nearly 16L of cargo space, the Elevation is Nathan’s largest capacity hydration pack.  The pack is described as “UTMB capable,” which is a tag the company also applies to its VaporWrap and VaporCloud packs.  However, the cargo capacity of the Elevation exceeds both those other packs significantly – the VaporWrap has 8L capacity, and VaporCloud has 11L – so Nathan has effectively stepped up the storage space from big to cavernous.

Styling of the Elevation differs from the Vapor packs in that it’s a yoke-style pack that fits loosely, with the front and back compartments connected by dual thin straps.  The Vapor packs use side storage pockets to connect the front and back, and have compression features to make them more form-fitting and snug against your body.  The Elevation also lacks the insulation sleeve that the Vapor packs use to keep the reservoir cool in warm weather.  In our testing, the Elevation rides very comfortably, even when loaded down with several pounds of fluid and gear.  The lateral straps take a bit of tinkering to find the “sweet spot”, but once it’s there, the pack holds its position nicely without causing any irritation or discomfort over several hours.

nathan elevation and zelos front

Zelos vest on L; Elevation on R

From a design standpoint, the Elevation most closely resembles the Zelos pack – so much, in fact, that sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the two (especially when they are the same color).  In fact, all of the storage pockets are identical on the front side, except for the fact that the Elevation doesn’t come with an 18-oz SpeedDraw flask like the Zelos does.  The front pockets provide storage for a smartphone, a stash pocket for empty gel wrappers, and a waterproof pill pocket for electrolyte or salt tabs.  Both of the larger pockets can accommodate standard water bottles or Nathan flasks, but they’d have to be purchased separately.  One distinction in the Elevation is a second sternum strap to help stabilize the heavier loads this pack can carry.

nathan elevation and zelos side view

Zelos on L; Elevation on R

Turing these packs on their sides reveals another difference between the Elevation and the Zelos: vertical storage space on the Elevation is greater, and there are large mesh stash pockets positioned diagonally on either side.  In my testing, these are somewhat difficult to access on the fly, but are good for single-time stashing or retrieval of items in the middle of a run.

nathan elevation and zelos back view

Zelos on L; Elevation on R

On the back side of the pack, the Elevation places a horizontal zipper pocket on top of the main cargo pocket.  You lose the criss-cross bungee cargo cord from the Zelos, but with plenty of room on the inside, a bungee probably isn’t essential.   The Elevation also has trekking pole clips that aren’t included on the Zelos.

Fluid reservoirs on the Elevation and Zelos are identical: both use a reversible and extremely user-friendly plug-and-play 2L Hydrapak system that exits the pack over the right shoulder.  Given that the Elevation is designed for ultra-long distances, it would be nice if it accommodated a 3L reservoir, but the pack length would have to be slightly longer for this to be feasible.  If you can’t stop for refills and need more than 2L of fluid on your trip, you need use a bottle or two in the front pockets.

Nathan Elevation Hydration Pack Testing

Although it has some similarities with other Nathan packs, the Elevation is clearly a go-to pack for two distinct user profiles: runners who enjoy day-long adventure runs, or those participating in high mountain ultras – yes, such as UTMB, but also plenty of U.S. races in the Sierras or Rocky Mountains – where conditions can vary dramatically from hour to hour, and you need a lot of “just in case” gear at your disposal.

The Good

  • Huge cargo capacity for a lightweight pack
  • Comfortable, stable ride even when loaded down
  • Several storage options on front straps
  • User-friendly reservoir

The Bad

  • Diagonal mesh pockets difficult to access
  • Would recommend increased fluid capacity, either with a larger reservoir or including SpeedDraw flasks.

The Bottom Line: Nathan Elevation

For runs of a few hours or less, you can probably stick with any of Nathan’s smaller packs – but if you’re going long and need to take a bunch of stuff with you, the Elevation can bring it along quite effectively and comfortably.

Buy Now: Available at Campsaver.com

About Author

Donald is a physical therapist, ultrarunner, barefoot aficionado, and father of three with more than 20 years of experience in endurance sports. When he's not training for ultramarathons, he enjoys hiking or slacklining with his family in Monterey County, CA.

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