This pack was my holy grail of packs. I had been obsessing for weeks between the 4L Howe or Krar and when I finally found one in stock on REI, I started stalking it and waiting for it’s arrival. It looked to have everything I wanted in a pack and while I was a little concerned with the sizing (silly me, I thought it would be too big), I went with the chart and ordered a medium (I’m a US size 4-6 and a 34B).
The Nathan Vapor Howe is hands down the worst made pack that I have ever seen in my entire life. Right out of the package it had staining in several places. On the inside, the back, the shoulder, the bottle pockets and a few other spots. Not one section of the stitching looked right. Lose threads, crooked stitches, spots where it looked like the machining got jammed, it was a hot mess. The perforations in the back weren’t even cut out all the way and I have a few half circles remaining that would need to be cut with scissors to remove. Every single little velcro pocket was sewn badly and a few almost pulled off the pack just by opening them. There was some dark material sewn into the sternum rail and the top was already starting to pull out. It was so bad, my friend and I postponed our run so we could take it back to REI who was equally appalled by the condition. This is not a cheap pack, this was $150.
Manufacturing aside, there are some big issues with this pack on a usability scale. First off the velcro. Each pocket has this tiny patch of super sharp velcro that would easily snag onto the pack itself if you didn’t line it up exactly. I don’t know about you, but when I run and shove things into pockets, the last thing I want to worry about is if the velcro is going to snag my shirt or gloves or itself.
The bottles….oh the bottles. They have this ridge on the top and bottom side and bottom that would require getting those suckers in pointing out or that rough ridge pokes you in the chest. It’s also hard to put the bottles into the pack because of those ridges.
The fit was also awkward. Remember that I said I was a size 4-6 and a 34B? I’m a XS/S in Salomon’s packs and I ordered the MEDIUM in this one, I had to let out a bit on the side and it still was tight around the ribs. I went by the size chart exactly and could not get that bottom strap in a spot that wasn’t going to chafe me by the mere act of breathing. The straps have no give to them at all.
I contacted Nathan and they said to return it to REI and that they would notify their team to the issue. So now I’m scrambling to find a lightweight pack for an upcoming race. I would definitely give this one a miss until Nathan figures out their manufacturing out.