Gear Review: Nathan HPL #020
When I picked up the race vest – yes Nathan calls it a vest, not a pack – I couldn’t believe how light it is. I had the same impression when I was acquainted with the Nike Lunaracer+ a couple of years ago. The military may be partial to the Camelbaks and Oakleys but since I’m not entering a warzone, toughness is really not that high on my criteria. What I look for however, is a lightweight package that is sports specific and able to carry a few more things. The vest terminology is very appropriate in the case of the HPL (Human Propulsion Lab) #020 because it wears like one. It feels like a part of your running top rather than an appendage.
Another important feature to have for a hydration vest/pack would be the ease of use. This not only means how easy it is to put the unit on and to take off but also how easy it is to refill the bladder to its capacity. The High Sierra bag I have have the typical screw-on cap located near the top of the bladder which made it difficult to top up fluids to the max. I managed only about half of the maximum 1.5L before risking a spillout.
In the case of the HPL 020, once you take the slider off, you can open the mouth of the bladder as wide as possible to take in the fluids. You’ll want to toss in a couple of electrolyte tablets which you’re at it. The tricky part is to first detach the clip which attaches the bladder to the inside of the vest. With practice the process can be made swiftly enough.
The next most important aspect for me would be the carrying capacity. Somehow the Nathan is designed to carry just enough stuff without being bulky. In the next few photos, you’ll see the carrying options provided by this vest. I’ve no doubt it will take on all my hydration and fuelling needs come race day. Additionally the external shock cords located just above the propulsion harness can carry a lightweight jacket or cap, should you want to carry them. There are mixed reviews on the bite valve (some changed to the Camelbak bladders, tubes and bite valves) but after last Sunday’s field test, I can say that I love it.
Field test update:
The HPL came through the hot run with flying colours. Loaded with fluids, it felt like it’s part of my upper body. Nathan branded it as a vest and there’s no better way to describe how I felt wearing it. Not that I’m about to but I believe I could run topless wearing it. Since I packed quite a bit of ice cubes in the bladder, there were some noise when I started off but once they melted, I was surprised at how quiet the pack was, even with the bladder still half full (or half empty). Very little sloshing was noticed.
The engineers and designers of the HPL really did well with the mesh and breathability. Despite the heat (the was a layer of salt on my face when I completed the workout) and humidity, my back remained comfortable. No chafing as well from all the potential trouble spots. I had no problems with the bite valve. In fact it was very easy to take in fluids – just pull the head up and gently nibble on the soft rubber tip. I didn’t have to suck hard. Yes, we’re on the subject of hydration pack here folks!
Check out The No Meat Athlete’s excellent video review of the HPL #020 below. The other reviews of the Nathan HPL #020 can be found here.
With a price tag of a mid to top range Camelbaks, the HPL #020 is by no means a budget option. Since a gear malfunction is what I don’t want to risk halfway into a trail race, I gritted my teeth when I parted my cash for it.
Note: There’s also a model specifically made for women called the Intensity but I think this one will also do just fine since the sternum straps are adjustable.