I Review: Nathan Firebreaker 6L Hydration Vest
I'll have to start this review off with a disclaimer and a little behind the scenes. I am a member of REI's Advisor Program. I am 100% unsure of what this is or what it means but every now and again I get an email from REI asking me to take a survey. They ask me about how I participate in certain activities, what makes me like or dislike certain products, and what I would like to see REI do in the future. It's pretty fun! From what I can tell, when REI is thinking about bringing a new product or brand into the store, they will ask some "advisors" to test the product. They pick who tests what gear based on your answers to all the surveys - somehow I got picked to test this hydration pack! So I received this running pack/vest for free so that I could review it for REI. I was asked for honest feedback. There are a lot of detailed reviews on this pack on the REI website now (including mine!) so I am assuming they are all from other product testers.
I think this is a great idea for REI to do this because I find that items on the REI website are so rarely reviewed which can make it hard to make a decision when you can't make it into a store. I wanted to give an even more detailed review here, and REI doesn't know that I am doing so... so hopefully I'm not breaking the code of the advisors or something (I kind of feel like an outdoors Illuminati).
Okay on to what I thought about this pack. I love it! Here's the thing. I haven't ever run with an actual running vest before. I have just been jerry-rigging a small backpack and figured it was working fine. I assumed anything I put on my back would bounce annoyingly and the straps would chafe my neck- sacrifice for the run right? Wrong! There is a better way!
I am guessing I would have loved any running vest because it would have solved my main issues (bouncing and neck rubbing) but there a few things about this one that I really like beyond just solving those issues.
First, it has a big pocket on the front left strap that fits my iphone! And all theiPphone 7 users rejoiced! I don't think one of those monster plus phone would fit, but my standard iPhone 7 fits like a glove. I like to run with wireless headphones, so having my phone right there makes the connection really strong and would allow wired headphones to work as well. You're always ready for that mid stride photo opp too.
I also love that this pack has some actual storage. I can fit a 2L hydration pack (this vest comes with a really nice one that obvi fits perfectly, but my camelback works too), a light jacket, gloves, and snacks. I also use this pack to run to work and fit a dress to change into and a salad packed in a ziplock (if you think running to work is crazy that's because you haven't tried it). This pack is well thought out and has several places you secure your hydration hose to keep it from flopping all over the place. If you have this pack loaded up you will experience a little bouncing, but not a lot and you get used to it after a few minutes of your lunch hopping around on your back.
The straps allow you to adjust it down to minimize bouncing as well. the slim design of this pack keeps the load close to your body and secure. However something I don't love about this pack is that it is a "one size fits all" product when that size will definitely not fit all. There are a lot of people out there who love to run long distance who aren't a size small, if you wear a size large t-shirt I am not sure this will fit you. I am built pretty slender and the straps are loosened a lot as you can see in this photo:
I think this pack should probably come in two sizes. I don't think simply lengthening the straps woul make this pack work for a larger runner. If you wear bigger than a size medium t-shirt, I would try this pack on before purchasing or make sure you can return it easily after buying it just in case. I am also not sure how comfortable the straps and storage on the front would be if you are more busty so another thing to think about.
All-in-all I think this pack is really well thought out and well designed. It works great for me and if you are like me and didn't have any sort of vest made for running, this will be life changing! I don't run super long distances, I max out around 8-10 miles so if you run longer than that I have heard people prefer belts or lower profile vests.