With a long history of well-designed running vests, packs, belts, and handhelds, Nathan has recently tried their hand at a running sling. The concept is a fairly new one, and comes on the heels of Janji’s successful Multipass Sling, the first major running sling on the market. With the new Limitless Sling, Nathan builds on their active-storage expertise and reaches out for a piece of the pie. Nathan says that the new Limitless Sling is “designed with the runner in mind”, but I believe the pack’s versatility is really where it hits its stride.
Nathan Limitless 8L Sling Features:
- Main sling compartment features a dual zipper for left and right use and provides easy access to the hydration flask and storage
- Small zippered pocket, lined with brushed tricot, is ideal for sunglasses, phone or keys
- Contoured shape for distributed capacity and a clean look
- 5 mm foam shoulder strap and back body with mesh exterior for breathability
- 25 fl. oz. soft flask with hose
- Removable Run Strap (with clip) allows for a bounce-free run and can be worn on the left or right side
- Weight: 10oz
- MSRP: $120
A hydration generalist in specialist clothing
I’ve been running for over a decade, and I am shamelessly reliant on my at-hand hydration. There was a time when I’d go out for long runs with nothing but shoes, socks, and short shorts, but after too many dehydration events, I’m almost always packing water these days. At first, it was just standard water bottles, but then running vests and handhelds offered new convenience and long-distance support. When Nathan came out with the Limitless Sling, I thought it was an interesting idea, but silently wondered if running vests were already the peak solution to runners’ storage needs.
After running and hiking with the Limitless 8L Sling consistently for a month, I believe my initial thoughts about the sling were a bit off. It’s not a substitute for a running vest, but more of a do-it-all general-activity pack. For a variety of reasons, it’s actually not all that great for running – and we’ll go into those reasons – but it is a stellar little bag for your everyday outdoors excursion, whether that be hiking, biking, or swinging around town.
Let’s start with pockets and storage. The sling has two elastic side pouches sized for a couple bars, as well as a surprisingly expansive zippered elastic pocket on the shoulder strap. This shoulder strap pocket is perfect for a phone and some keys, and its elastic nature keeps things from bouncing around. Beyond these, the pack’s body has two main compartments. One is a small front pocket with a fleecy liner- which is great for storing sunglasses or a wallet – and the other is a large main pocket with an internal hydration sleeve.
The large main compartment is worth addressing specifically. It held all kinds of things for me on my runs and hikes. It had no trouble eating up a light jacket, some food, and a headlamp. Where the main compartment can cause trouble is when it’s under or overfilled. When underfilled on a run, the contents of the pocket hop around, since there’s no elastic quality to the compartment to keep the load in one place. When overfilled on a run, the whole back tended to jump and jostle. That’s not terribly surprising since, as a sling, it doesn’t have the two-shoulder load-support offered by backpacks and vests.
And that jostling brings us to the straps. The shoulder strap is relatively comfortable, and can be set to lie on either shoulder, which is a perk. It connects to the pack’s body with two lengths of nylon webbing, which adjust to tighten around the torso. The fitting process is made awkward by the fact that the adjustment buckles are on the back of the pack instead of the front – an unusual design decision. After having adjusted the pack and gone out for my first run with it, I observed a couple notable things. First, because the nylon webbing isn’t stretchy and the pack fits around the ribcage, the sling only fits either on the inhale or on the exhale, but not both. And second, the resulting jostling of the bag from inhale to exhale rubbed the non-shoulder-strap-side’s webbing against my ribcage, causing a hotspot.
A successful running bag really can’t have a static torso fit, cause hotspots, or leave a load fully loose in a pocket to bounce around. But an all-purpose activity sling? Sure. Running packs are put to a level of stress that hiking and biking packs never are. So, it should come as no surprise that throughout my testing, the sling performed beautifully in non-running activities. It didn’t jostle. It didn’t chafe. Main pocket contents didn’t bounce around. It did everything well. For all activities except running, this pack nailed it.
As for my beloved hydration, this pack checks the boxes. Nathan set this sling up with a 750mL Hydrapak soft flask equipped with a long tube which reaches down to secure at the base of the shoulder strap. The tube length is just right and the 750mL size is perfect for most outings. If I’m to get picky, securing the nozzle while running can be challenging, and the main compartment should really have a built-in loop for those of us who want to occasionally swap in a hanging 2L bladder. All told though, these are minor concerns. The pack stores and delivers water well overall, and that’s about all a camel like me can ask for.
- Versatile for a number of activities
- Hydration pack is a good size and great quality
- Comfortable for most activities, once adjusted
- Lots of storage
- Can be set up to fit over the right or left shoulder
- Webbing buckles are on the back, making adjustment more difficult
- Retrieving and storing the mouthpiece while running can be an intensive process
- Doesn’t include a hanging loop to swap in a larger hydration bladder
- When underfilled, the main pocket’s contents can hop around while running
- Can only be adjusted to fit on the inhale or the exhale, resulting in jostling while running
- Nylon webbing can cause hotspots while running
The Bottom Line: Nathan Limitless 8L Sling
Running packs have to be perfect, or they wear on you over the long miles. For me, Nathan’s new Limitless Sling doesn’t cut it for running because of its static fit and jostling load. With that said, it is a versatile and excellent all-arounder for folks looking for a sling that can handle most 1-day outdoor, non-running activities.
Buy Now: Available at REI