Nathan Sports VaporHowe 4L Race Vest Review

Nathan Sports VaporHowe 4L Race Vest Review

There is gear that is designed on a drafting table or a computer by a designer or engineer. Sometimes the results are great but there is still no substitute for bringing together the minds and experience of the actual athletes who know exactly what they want to see. Today, I’m taking a look at a hydration vest designed for racing by the super-fast trail runner Stephanie Howe and designed in concert with the folks at Nathan Sports. This is the VaporHowe.
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Soft. I’m sure I’ll be using this word a lot throughout this review. The VaporHowe is built using a very soft fabric – which is perforated in spots – rather than a more traditional mesh. Whereas many if not most hydration packs go-to material is ripstop, I found this to be just as durable. To be fair, this never got torn, so I’m not sure how it would perform with regard to arresting a tear once it starts like ripstop would. It has proven to be quite durable in many situations and conditions (mud sliding and briars, etc).

The vest is made using 2 main fabrics. Everything against the skin feels a bit thicker with a feel that seems like it would shed water ostensibly to cut down on sweat and moisture absorption. The external or outward facing fabric is a bit thinner yet has the same very soft feel. It actually resembles the softness and malleability of a tech shirt. All of the fabric has areas of perforation for better ventilation.

Nathan Sports VaporHowe 4L Race Vest Review | Gearist

Looking at the front of the VaporHowe, there are two sternum straps which are both vertically and horizontally adjustable. The top right strap is fitted with a magnetic contact point for hose attachment and also includes a removable magnet for your hose. (The VaporHowe does not come with a bladder – more on that later) There are two additional adjustment straps at the love handle area which are hidden in a pocket area so the straps are not flapping around.

Storage on the front is plentiful. There are so many pockets. The right shoulder strap has three. The top is a small narrow stuff pocket that could hold, for example, a lip balm. The middle is the pocket that holds one of the included 12oz ExoShot soft flasks. The bottom is again a small stuff pocket but is topped with a hook & loop closure. The elastic strap at the top (above the top small pocket) is meant to keep the extended bottle straw under control.

The left shoulder also has three pockets. The top is a zippered pocket not quite large enough for a phone) but great for securing keys, I.D. or a credit card/cash and has an additional smaller pocket within for things like salt pills. There is an emergency whistle inside as well. Again, the middle pocket is for the soft flask and the third is identical to the right side stuff pocket.

Moving around to the back of the back of the VaproHowe, the upper half has a hook & loop closed pocket which measures ~8” x ~6” perfect for things like a phone or whatever else you can shove in there. Below this is a fairly large and stretchy pass through pocket that is accessible from each side. This open pocket goes across the lower back and is a good place to shove a jacket or other items that you would like easy access to, without having to remove the vest to get to them. Each of these pockets is easy to reach.

The bladder pocket is large enough to fit a 1.5 liter bladder. There is a hook & loop hanger strap at the top and hose routing options on each shoulder depending on your preference. Though a bladder is not included with the VaporHowe they do provide two ExoShot soft flasks. These flasks hold 12 oz and have straws attached that allow you to drink from them without removing them from their pockets. They also have a plastic spine so that they are easy to get back into place after refilling them and hold their shape as they are emptied.

Nathan Sports VaporHowe 4L Race Vest Review | Gearist
I typically wear a size Small of Extra Small in tops and went with a size small in the VaporHowe hydration vest. I decided to go with the larger size because I would rather have it be too large than too small. I found the fit to be spot on and with all of the adjustment straps I was able to get a good snug fit even with the pack empty.
Nathan Sports VaporHowe 4L Race Vest Review | Gearist
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The feature that really stood out in my mind during the testing of the VaporHowe was its comfort. There are many straps for adjusting the vest to get a great fit which eliminates bouncing and chafing from rubbing, even when loaded down with gear. The fabric is incredibly soft, and with all of the perforations, very breathable as well. It is quite light weighing 6.4 oz/ 181 g (without Soft Flasks); 10.4 oz/ 295 g (with Soft Flasks).

Storage and accessibility is another important feature of this vest. There are numerous pockets on the front, sides, and back of this vest and all of them are accessible while wearing. Being able to reach things easily is, of course, a huge plus when racing.

HYDRATION SITUATION:

I would love to address the VaporHowe’s hydration at this point. As I mentioned above the vest does come with two 12 oz  ExoShot flasks that have a straw in the lid. This is such a great idea that makes drinking from the flask easier, however, the threading on the neck is tough to line up just right and requires some patience to get it on correctly, otherwise, there is leakage. I have heard from others that unfortunately had the same issue. It is for this reason that I do not use the ExoShot flask with the VaporHowe during races. It would be a huge hassle at the aid stations. Another flask (hard or soft) will fit just fine. I do, however, use this vest (sometimes with the ExoShot) on many of my training runs. It has the capacity to comfortably carry the 1.5 liter bladder as well as the two 12 oz flasks. This capability has gotten me through some longer unsupported runs.

DURABILITY:

The longer I use this vest, the more impressed I am with its durability. When I first started wearing this VaporHowe, I thought I had to be careful with it and use it on gentle runs in nice weather (because of the incredibly soft fabric). Over the months, through different seasons and so many training miles, I have really put it through the ringer. It has been filled with gear, stretched to the max, rained/snowed on, taken through briars and down mudslides of the Barkley Fall Classic and still looks and performs the same as it did on day one. I have washed it in the machine, the sink and hosed it off multiple times. It still looks fine including the orange color and all of the reflective accents. This pack is durable.

Nathan Sports VaporHowe 4L Race Vest Review | Gearist
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I have to say that I had my doubts about this vest at first. I was not sure how something with open pockets that was very soft and seemed so fragile could be a worthy partner on my crazy adventure runs. It wasn’t love at first sight for me, but I have to say it’s now the pack I use on most of my runs.

Yes, this pack is pricey at ~$150 (PLEASE CHECK THE LINKS BELOW FOR MUCH BETTER PRICING!!  |. LINK) but I’d say it is worth it. When we are paying upwards of $120 now for a good pair of running shoes, why would you expect to pay less for a piece of essential equipment that will last just as many, if not more miles? With that being said, I do think at that price, a bladder should be included.

The VaporHowe is a very durable, capable and comfortable pack that fits like a piece of clothing. You can go for miles upon miles in this vest and it will last probably longer than some shoes would. I have worn it for hundreds of miles and it has held up like a champ. On a side note, I do love the orange color and have nicknamed it my life vest…it has saved me many times.

Check out the VaporHowe 4L Race Vest at our partner links below!

(and when you buy stuff, the places where you buy it show us some love!)

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2 Review

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2 Review

New Balance has been in the business of making feet happy since 1906. So why has it taken me so long to get my feet into some? An attitude of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I have been stuck in a shoe rut, my friends. Guilty of going back to the same brand time after time. Well…I am happy to say, I am breaking out of my rut and these shoes are to blame. With a focus on comfort, fit and performance let me introduce you to the New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2.

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As usual, let’s start by taking a look at the outsole. New Balance has used Vibram Megagrip rubber which is an all-terrain material that is responsive in wet and dry conditions, being sticky and soft. The ~3mm lugs that cover the outsole, are reminiscent of the hexagons that have always appeared in the design of the Fresh Foam line. Along with the many lugs, there are 2 very prominent flex grooves in front and behind the metatarsal heads.

I have taken the Hierro V2’s on runs in all conditions. In fact, my first week wearing them I logged over 40 trail miles. I was  able to get them on snow & ice as well as dry, rocky terrain. They were definitely responsive however, as with all shoes, nothing will prevent slipping on ice. For these sections of the trail I was wearing my Kahtoola Microspikes and they worked very well with the Hierro’s.

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2 Review | Gearist

So far I have logged over 75+ miles in the Fresh Foam Hierro V2 and contrary to what you might expect from a softer feeling outsole material the durability is excellent, in my opinion. I am not seeing any noticeable wear and can still see the pressure map design that is etched into the outsole.

For the past several months the Saucony Peregrine 6 [REVIEW HERE] has been one of my favorite trail shoes (3 pairs!) and I was shocked to find a shoe that could equal it and in many aspects exceed it.

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2 Review | Gearist

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The Fresh Foam Hierro V2 has a midsole made from a single piece of EVA (Fresh Foam) which gives a nice soft and even feel underfoot. There is a 4mm drop from the 26mm heel to the 22mm forefoot. As with the rest of the shoe, the midsole maintains the hexagonal exterior design from previous Fresh Foam shoes, but a bit flattened out from earlier models.

The Fresh Foam Hierro V2 is not only my first pair of New Balance, but also my first experience with Fresh Foam. It’s immediate comfort is impressive and a pleasant surprise. I’ll get to this more in the RIDE section below, but I have to say that the smoothness of the single piece EVA underfoot is wonderfully noticeable. Having a “no break-in” period (and being so soft and flexible) I was able to take them out of the box and onto a 10 mile run with zero issues.

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2 Review | Gearist

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Once again the hexagons appear in the 3D printed support structure over a lightweight no-sew, dual action mesh on the Hierro V2. New Balance defines this Fantom Fit as a “skeletally engineered upper that provides ultralight support and fit created by fusing two thin of materials with a no-sew process.” It feels like single piece construction but it’s not since there are two layers in the Fantom Fit and also, the collar is a separate piece.

The toe protection is a heavier bit of the 3D printed structural material laid over the toes as well as taking care of the ball of the foot on the medial and lateral side. I have found this to be a huge help with most of my runs being on rocky trails. While being covered in this design, I have found the Hierro V2 to maintain good breathability.

The collar has a good amount of foam which I really like. Having a narrow heel, the foam helps to get a good snug fit that prevents my heel from slipping and reduces the risk of blisters. I have also found it can prevent rocks from getting down into my shoe. In my opinion, it’s just very comfortable and just as above, comfort is king here.

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2 Review | Gearist

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For my foot (narrow heel with wider forefoot) I have found the Hierro V2 to have a great fit. The heel cup is fairly rigid with a good amount of foam which, as I mentioned above, is a feature that works for me. I enjoy the snug fit and being  able to get a good lock down in the heel area.

When I run I tend to be more of a mid to forefoot striker. The Hierro has a roomy midfoot-forefoot area that allowed my toes to splay nicely. It is also important to note that New Balance offers the Fresh Foam Hierro V2 in wide widths – From the standard “D” to  2E and also 4E extra wide! This is rare, unfortunately.

This type of fit combined with the Fresh Foam & flex grooves is a winner in my opinion and gives me just what I am looking for in a shoe. I have loved the feel of the Fresh Foam Hierro V2 on my many trail runs and have to say that I have also enjoyed running in them on roads as well.

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2 Review | Gearist

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As you can see, comfort is the name of the game here with the New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2. From the moment I slipped my foot into this shoe I’ve been impressed with it’s comfort, performance, durability and versatility. I feel that this shoe checks all of the boxes in my book. Having logged more that 75+ miles on all kinds of terrain, it has held up beautifully. The shoe is priced about where we’d expect it to be, though it is a part of the overall uptick in shoe pricing (it would seem) at about $125 – check our links below for some deals.

As I said above, this shoe is a winner in my opinion. If you are new to trail running, I feel that this would be a great shoe to get you started. If you are stuck in a “shoe rut” and enjoy a responsive luggy durable trail shoe that offers a wide toe box and comfortable cushion, I would say give the Hierro V2 a try…you just might love it as much as I do.

Please help support Gearist by checking out the Fresh Foam Hierro V2 at our partner links below!

(AND DON’T FORGET TO BOOKMARK GEARIST.COM/AMAZON!)

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2 Review | Gearist
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2 Review | Gearist
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2 Review | Gearist
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2 Review | Gearist

Saucony Rock-It Bra Top & Scoot Mini Capri Review

Saucony Rock-It Bra Top & Scoot Mini Capri Review

I’ve always really enjoyed Saucony gear and am familiar with their shoes & apparel, so I was excited to try the Rock-it bra Top and the Scoot Mini Capri. This was going to be an easy and fun review for me! [Bonus: Now I have the song “Rocket Man” by Elton John stuck in my head]

First, let’s take a look at the Rock-It Bra top. Not having much to “work” with up top, I was relieved to discover that it is a classic pullover, racer back style bra that’s great for running or low/medium impact sports. I usually wear this type of bra on my runs and for yoga & cycling. I don’t require much support, so this style is great for me or for someone with A-C cup size. I usually wear a 32 B/C and small fits me perfectly. The one I tested is very colorful – “Peach Sorbet” – and I love all of the happy colors!

Saucony Rock It bra Top Review | GearistThe Rock-It Bra top has dual layer construction that gives it a nice thickness and support. It’s flat seams and excellent wicking make it very comfortable to wear. I have worn it on many runs and love it!. Great support and breathability! The fabric is made of Powerknit EX + Powerknit LT 2.0. Now, I usually run to work, 6+ miles (…so it gets a bit sweaty) and I have to say that it has not been a problem leaving it on during my shift. It dries quickly and does not chafe or feel uncomfortable on me making it one less thing to change out of when I get there. Yes..I am the stinky shop girl! Then I wear it on my run home – Lucky me! It has become my “go to” bra.

Now on to the Scoot Mini Capri. They are the same print as the bra…a bright colored peach sorbet print. Made with 4 way stretch fabric to wick away moisture & really move with you. Like the Rock-it top, the Mini Capri has nice flat seams and the Powerknit EX & LT fabric. They include a nice wide waistband with a zippered pocket on the back for storage for a key or something small.

I usually just wear black bottoms, so wearing this bright print was new for me. No blending in or hiding in the crowd in these – I was going to be seen! My first run in them was on the night that we do our “pizza run”. We meet up at the local pizza place and run 3 miles around the park back to the restaurant. It’s always fun and I don’t have to cook dinner so it’s a win-win for me! The weather was 45ish and sunny. Normally, I would wear shorts & long sleeve, but thought it would be a good night to try out the Scoot Mini Capri’s with the sun setting andSaucony Scoot Mini Capri Review | Gearist temps surely dropping (I don’t like feeling hot. I’d rather be a tad cold, actually!). They are fairly thin and lightweight with mesh behind the knee for more breathability and ease of movement. I was sure I would get hot and be unhappy, but I was just fine! They were very comfortable and I stayed cool. The fabric is soft & stayed put! No tugging at them during the run or pulling them up, etc. I usually wear a small and these, being a small, fit me well. I used to think capri’s were for wearing in cold weather, but the Scoot is surprisingly lightweight enough to be worn when it’s warmer out as well …I’ll be wearing them again very soon and am excited to have more options! Sometimes I run out of clean running shorts…especially on big mileage weeks! Who has time for laundry when there are better things to do like running! I should mention that the bra & capri are machine washable and hang dry.

Saucony has the Rock-it Bra Top priced at $38 & Scoot Mini Capri at around $58. I believe these are essentials and when you find something that works for you it’s worth every penny! I’m pretty picky when it comes to running gear….also, kind of a bare bones type of person. We all have our favorites (everybody’s different) and we know what works for us. There are things we can do without, but a good bra is something we girls need. I was happy with these two items and how they felt on me. I will definitely keep them in my go-to bag!
Here’s to many bright happy springtime miles!

Thank you so much for helping to support Gearist by shopping for this Saucony gear at our partner links below!

Kathoola NANOspikes Review

Kathoola NANOspikes Review

I’m a runner…a runner who loves to run outside. In any kind of weather. That being said, there is one obstacle that I have had trouble with and that is ice. I can adjust my pace and apparel and deal with pretty much anything that comes along, but with ice there is always the potential for injury. When I was asked to review the Kathoola NANOSpikes I was so excited! Testing a product to help tackle the ice problem…yes please! I have recently moved to Denver,CO from Chesapeake, VA and I am loving the all that it has to offer. The terrain and weather are so different here. There are so many trails to run on and explore and the weather is just as diverse! It is late January right now and the running conditions are a bit sketchy with all of the freezing and thawing, especially on the trails. There is a lot of mud, slush and tons of ice. So…being the runner that I am, all of those things appeal to me…maybe I’m weird, but I look at it all as a fun adventure! I want to be outside!!

Kahtoola NANOspikes Review | GearistMy first run in the NANOSpikes was on a path around the park near my house. It was hard packed snow that had been walked on and had turned to a lumpy icy mess. I had carried the spikes (attached to my running vest) to the path to avoid running with them on the pavement. They fold up small, are super light weight and even come with a carrying pouch. The stretchy rubber made pulling them on over my sneakers very easy and quick. It took no time at all and I was off and running! There are 10 tungsten carbide spikes for each foot. 6 in the forefoot and 4 around the heel. I am more of a forefoot runner and felt very confident with each step as the spikes dug into the snow/ice and allowed for a nice push off. They are comfortable to wear, very low profile, light (3.75oz each) and I hardly felt them on my feet! I wear a size 8.5 running shoe and the size small fits perfectly.

Kahtoola NANOspikes Review | GearistFeeling confident I could handle the ice now, it was time to hit the trails. We headed into Boulder and ran the Mesa trail. Again, I was very impressed with how the NANOSpikes performed! Having traction on the ups and downs of the trails is a must. I felt completely at ease with a sure foot through the mud, slush and best of all, the ice. I had peace of mind that my foot was going to stay put and allow me to stay upright! It is very freeing to know that you are not limited to only running in ideal conditions. Having traction in the mountains has brought so much joy to my winter running. There is so much beauty out there and so much exploring to do! No excuses, right?


 

So far, I have run about 60 trail miles using the Kathoola NANOSpikes and they are holding up very well. At $40, I can’t imagine winter running without them. The price is right, they are low profile & very easy to carry along and use. Like I said before…I will run in anything and having the spikes makes that possible!

 

Thank you for helping support Gearist by checking out the Kahtoola NANOspikes at our partner links below!

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Review (Women’s)

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Review (Women’s)

 With the amount of gear Gearist reviews in a calendar year, it’s quite a feat to make it on our Gear of the Year. Our editor, Brandon, had nothing but amazing things to say about this shoe. Naturally, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Is the women’s model just as good? In short: you bet!

If you want to find out more about the specific technologies of the Zante, head on over to Brandon’s review of the men’s version HERE. I’ll focus on highlighting some of the distinguishing parts of the Zante that made it stand out to me, as well as hit on some points that make it different from the other model in the Fresh Foam line, the New Balance Boracay.

 

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Similar to the other shoe model in the Fresh Foam line, the Boracay, the Zante has a very flat, full-contact outsole. The hexagons that make up the pattern of the outsole are not as dense as in the Boracay and also have a slightly softer and more flexible feel. This probably contributes to the smaller mass of the Zante in comparison to the Boracay. As a road shoe, the Zante grips as well as it needs to, even having solid traction when on wet concrete or asphalt.

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Review (Women's) | Gearist

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The stack height of the Zante is 23 mm at the heel and 17 mm at the forefoot. In comparison, the Boracay stacks up at 22 and 18 mm, respectively – though to look at the shoes side-by-side you’d think the Boracay had more stack. So, the Zante has a bigger drop (heel to toe offset) than the Boracay, which is surprising given how flat you feel in the Zante. Sure, a difference of 2 mm is hard to tell, but the even, horizontal feel of the Zante is one of the first things I noticed. I would wager that it has a lot to do with the less-cushioned construction of the Zante.

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Review (Women's) | Gearist

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The Zante has a very breathable upper mesh which also has quite a bit of stretch. It’s more pliable than that of the Boracay, which meant that my toes could move up and down and splay more freely. I naturally gravitate toward shoes that have a breathable construction simply because I feel more comfortable in them and develop far fewer blisters (if any). In terms of upper construction, I’d give the Zante a 5 out of 5.

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Review (Women's) | Gearist

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This shoe fit my foot like a glove. Because I have very average arches, I’m not usually someone who looks for shoes with arch support, but the Zante has an arch that sits under mine like it was custom molded. That being said, the Zante might be a great option for someone with higher arches while the Boracay has noticeably less of an arch.

Road Runner Sports

Overall, the Zante is recognizably slimmer in all aspects, and it simply feels like there’s just less “shoe” all around. My personal preference is a shoe with less material overall. That’s because it gives me the sense that I have more ground feel and I just feel generally less restricted. That being said, it’s no surprise that more cushioned shoes are popular among many athletes because they feel more comfortable in them.

A size 8 women’s shoe weighs 6.6 ounces. This is where the Zante really differs from the Boracay, which is 1.3 ounces heavier than the Zante. For me, this is a big selling point. Both models are impressively comfortable on short as well as long training runs. I already mentioned it above but I just felt a bit more freedom in the Zante. Its reduced material and weight make it more pliable and therefore offered my feet a greater opportunity to move naturally.

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Review (Women's) | Gearist

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I couldn’t agree with Brandon more; the New Balance Zante is one of the best shoes out there. As a neutral road shoe, I would highly recommend it to any runner. Convinced? You can get the Zante for a mere $100, which is a definite steal for this well designed and constructed, comfortable trainer.

 Thank you for supporting Gearist by checking out the Fresh Foam Zante at our partner links below!


Deals for New Balance 1980 v1 Fresh Foam Zante Women

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