Review: Nathan Firecatcher Hydration Vest

smallrunLast year I made it a goal to run Brazen Racing’s Summit Stomp Half Marathon. In 13.47 miles, there is approximately 2,492′ of elevation gain which makes for gorgeous views and a fun challenge. As I prepared, I realized I really needed a better way to stay hydrated and my Nathan handheld just wasn’t cutting it on some of my longer runs. Unlike with road races, there was a real risk of getting lost and finding myself far from an aid station asking a ground squirrel for directions to the nearest watering hole. Not my idea of fun. Enter the Nathan Firecatcher Hydration vest. She’s a beauty.

Vests rarely fit me well- usually there’s lots of bounce, uncomfortable chafing poor fit across my chest. It seems many runners with anything from a large B to D cup size (and greater) has felt my pain here: It’s HARD to find hydration packs that accommodate breasts. I have breasts. Not only do I have them, but at the time of the Summit Stomp, I was nursing my littlest son my chest was as ample as ever. I asked around and did a fair amount or research before purchasing the Firecatcher. I will admit I was swayed by the bright colors in my purchase, but I have no regrets.

This vest is fantastic. I’ll start with the pros:

  • Slide adjustable chest strap- you can move the strap up and down, over, or under your chest. With some play, I have learned I prefer the strap to ride over my chest and this vest allows for the perfect placement of YOUR choice.
  • Highly breathable and durable mesh.
  • Three nice pockets. There is a little velcro sealed ‘pill’ pocket, and an expandable zippered pocket that is perfect for a few Gu’s, tissues etc. When not in use, it lays totally flat. There is also a small additional pocket in front of water bottle on the left.
  • Gorgeous bold, fun colors in two options- both with reflective trim. The colors are Purple Cactus Flower/Tangerine Tango for those drawn to brighter colors and the more subdued but lovely Nathan Blue option for people who prefer it.
  • Decent storage capacity: 335 cu/in – 5.5 liters. Compatible with a 1.5L bladder.
  • Two 10oz flasks fit the front pockets perfectly and are a great place to stash your Tailwind or other drinkable fuel. (It’s often best to just use water in the bladder.) These flasks are a soft, squeezable plastic that is great for getting a good drink, quickly. If you’d prefer larger bottles, I have found my standard Nathan Quickdraw bottles fit the adjustable front drink holders just fine.
  • No problems with chafing, bounce, shifting or any niggling spots. Very comfortable overall.

And for the downsides:

  • When I ordered the vest it came with the two front bottles (those cute little yellow flasks) and both were extremely leaky no matter how hard I tried to get them to seal. I contacted Nathan and they have offered to replace the bottles. Great customer service. Easy fix.
  • The chest strap does tend to slip and loosen a little. It has a band to hold excess strap in place but this really just doesn’t work over long distances. My solution was to tie the excess strap in a knot. Works great, stays put. Problem solved.

Overall I think this vest is great for slightly chestier (is that a word?) runners. I’ve had no problems with it over the course of the last year and it’s held up really well through numerous adventures and a fair amount of abuse. I would absolutely recommend this vest and the price is nice as well- I got mine on Amazon for around $50 and it’s my favorite vest to date.

Happy running!

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