After two ultras and countless training miles over 15 months of service, my Nathan Minimist vest stinks. I mean it, it really reeks. When I strapped it on this morning over clean running clothes, I had to check myself — had I grabbed a jacket out of the hamper? No, that infernal odor is one with the pack, and probably always will be. It’s only distracting during those crucial moments when I’m wearing it indoors as I get ready to leave; the stink is inescapable. Much of the reflective material on the vest is peeling so I’m afraid to wash it and risk losing those nighttime safety features. So, the stink is here to stay. But with a vest this suited to my needs, I’m okay with that.
Value. I scooped this vest on Amazon in December of 2013 for $52.02 before tax and it came with its 1.5L hydration bladder. Out of the box the pack is ready to go, unlike some high end models that require the bladder to be purchased separately.
Lightweight. I get all of the features I need (a zipper pouch for the bladder, a zipper key pocket, an open stash pocket, an open stuff pocket, two chest straps, and a velcro pocket) in a thin, lightweight vest. I haven’t yet even so much as considered overnight runs, so I don’t need a full backpack. I can carry what I need (e.g. Clif Shot Bloks, keys, Imodium, and a rain shell) in the vest and save myself the weight of extra layers of fabric — critical during a long run.
Durable. With the exception of the peeling reflective elements, this vest is in fantastic shape. No tears or stretching/warping in the fabric. The velcro still sticks and isn’t fuzz-encrusted, and the zippers operate smoothly.
Comfortable. In addition to not weighing me down over the long haul, the soft shoulder strap material doesn’t chafe. I wouldn’t recommend wearing this vest without a shirt since the chest straps would probably be rough on bare skin, but shirted up, it works great.
Slosh-free. The bladder is fairly quiet normally, but goes into ultimate stealth mode if I turn it upside down and suck the air out until I hit the water before inserting it into the vest. Incessant sloshing is second only to jangling keys in annoyance during solo runs (moaning/huffing and puffing runners during the late miles of a race is the overall most annoying noise while running!), so I’m thrilled that this isn’t an issue with this vest.
Fit. It can be tricky to dial the fit in from day to day if I’m dressed differently due to the weather. An improperly adjusted vest is distracting — too tight and it becomes hard to breathe; too loose and it bounces so much that the straw comes loose from its clip and/or strap and starts slapping around.
Straw tastes terrible for the first few months. I mean inhumanly terrible. I don’t turn my nose up at Florida’s funky, swampy tap water when I vacation there, and I found myself having to spit out mouthfuls of water that had spent too long marinating in the chemical-laden plastic of the straw. Just horrid. It’s no longer an issue, but when the pack was new, I started considering buying a replacement bladder.
I couldn’t find the Minimist on the Nathan website, so it may not be available except from specialty retailers, but if you can get your hands on one, it’s a good lightweight option. The 1.5L bladder is too small to go super long without refilling, but I’ve had the good fortune to have access to a route with a water fountain, so that hasn’t been an issue for me. Overall, this hydration vest scores 8/10 for me.