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June 23, 2014 Comments (0) Featured, Gear Reviews

Nathan Zeal & Zelos Review

Nathan Zeal: $125: Carrying Capacity – 8.6L with 2L reservoir and 18oz front water bottle

Nathan Zelos: $125: Carrying Capacity – 8.7L with 2L reservoir and 18oz front water bottle

Average miles run at time of review (per tester)- 78

Another great vest that Nathan let us test is the men’s Zelos and women’s Zeal Race Vests. While the structure of the vests are nearly identical (the main difference is in the front left pocket), Nathan has continued to strive to make gender specific vests, not only in color, but size, fit, and function. The Zeal and Zelos fit right in with the rest of the line.

These vests make a great everyday vest with a motto of “less is more”. They are light weight but still capable of 8.6L of storage, including a 2L bladder and 18oz SpeedDraw flask in the pocket up front. Plenty of storage pockets and a water resistant pill pocket really increase the convenience of this pack. This pack is designed for those looking for something slightly more substantial than the HPL #020, allowing for longer stretches between aid stations or bigger adventure runs.. Let’s see how they stacked up with our testers.


Fit & Comfort- 3.75

One of the biggest challenges any hydration vest company has is to try and create a vest that fits the widest range of users. Obviously, body size and running style have a big

impact on whether a particular vest works well for a person, but the general target for any company is to create the best overall fit. Nathan strives to deliver the best possible fit for all users. Our testers liked the overall feel of the Zeal and Zelos, but did share a few concerns with the ability to reduce bounce and chaffing.

“The front of the pack had only one snap to close. This made the upper part fit well but the bottom a bit loose. When I had food/fluid in the pack, the bottom slapped my torso a bit while running. If walking, this was not a problem. The pack rides high on the back, which is better for running. Some packs sit low and don’t allow the hips to move as well.”

“The compression buckles rubbed on the inside of my upper arm. After 20 miles, I was chafed, and it was quite painful. The overall fit was ok, other than that.”

In regards to the front pouches bounding, we recommend sliding the single cross-chest strap down (yes, it is moveable) lower. While it may slightly reduce flex across the chest, it will reduce the overall bounce of the front pockets, especially if you’re carrying a phone or other heavy device.

Storage Capacity- 4

As stated earlier, the Zeal and Zelos are the next natural step up from the HPL #020, allowing for an enlarged rear compartment that runs the length of the entire vest. Both fit into the mid-range size for storage, allowing for enough space to carry you from aid station to aid station on a hot day, and likely up to several hours solo out on the trail. Our testers were happy with the overall available space and felt like both vests represented their position within the Nathan line.

“For the size, the Zelos held a lot of food/fluid. I stuffed the pack with gels and bars, with plenty of room left over. I even put a small jacket in the pack at one time.”

“Had room for a lightweight jacket, 1 1/2 liter bladder, and enough food for 4 hours.”

Ease of Access- 4

We at TAUR speak of “Ease of Access” as the ability to reach front and side pockets, undo draw strings, and clip/unclip buckles. Nathan has been in the hydration industry long enough to dial in the subtleties of making a vest easy and useful. Their tried and true tested design for the front pockets is apparent in the Zeal and only minor changes to one of the pockets on the Zelos. With no side pockets ease of use comes down to which pocket you need and when.

“Easy access. It’s nice to have front pockets so you don’t have to remove the pack while running.”

“The zippered pocket (in the Zeal) is big enough for my cell phone, but nothing else. I liked the small zippered pocket up high: was good for putting my keys in, and they didn’t jingle around.”

Reservoir & Valves- 3.75

Nathan uses a standard reservoir system across all of their vests and therefore scores tend to be consistent throughout each of our reviews. One aspect of these vests that varies from others we’ve tested so far is the addition of a water bottle to the Zelos. Unfortunately, as will be seen in a future water bottle review, the Nathan bottles have a tendency to be a bit brittle and even leak. This was the case for our tester and a source of frustration.

“The snaps, bladder, and valves all worked well. No issues.”

“The water bottle that is supposed to go in one of the front pockets constantly leaked, so I swapped that out for my own bottles.”


Quality – 4

Nathan has historically produced phenomenal quality products. They are reliable, durable, and can be expected to last for up to several years. A new issue has been identified across the line (and already been addressed in a previous review) where draw strings on the front right pocket will come unstitched. Nathan is aware of the issue and working towards resolution going forward.

”The fabric, plastics, and snaps all worked well. The pack is well constructed and would hold up to several ultrarunning seasons.”

“The draw cord on the front pocket broke the third day I used the pack. The cord-lock device was faulty and didn’t lock down on the cord. The rest of the pack was well made.”


Nathan has done a great job of filling in the space between their historic HPL #o2o and the new Vapor Shape and Wrap. This moderate pack allows for the same feel and comfort as the #020, but without the heat gain of the heavier vests. Ultimately, each vest comes down to the runner and what they are looking for, but we at TAUR feel this a great everyday vest for any runner.

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