Nathan X-Treme Hydration Backpack Review

I recently picked up this mountain biking pack at TR24.  I have always been a bit dubious of water-bladders, preferring a waist belt bottle system.  I have been looking at getting a pack for some time, though had only really looked at bottlecentric packs, until I came across this one.  It might have been exhaustion, it might have been euphoria but I was excited that I got to try this pack on, and that it wasn’t super expensive.  I originally tried the 2L pack on, but opted for the 3L pack only because of the extra water, but because of the extra storage that the pack has – heaps of hidden little pockets.

So, here’s what Nathan say about this pack:

To design a mountain biking pak that is incredibly stable while allowing for full range of motion, Nathan has developed the unique X-Factor Harness™. It crosses the body for a solid ride and dispersed weight distribution, and offers a handy, easy-access pocket. Top Nathan features such as Titanium Belts and Airmesh backing keep XC Race Series paks cool under pressure.
Planning for the unexpected is necessary for a day on the trails. The X-Treme offers the most comfortable way to carry gear without sacrificing your speed or range of motion.

And here’s what the pack looks like in promo-shot form:

nathan10_xtreme_0 nathan10_xtreme_frontAnd here’s what the pack actually looks like:

rsz_2013-08-11_171443 rsz_2013-08-11_171529 rsz_2013-08-11_171532

Starting with pre-wearing, the pack has a very customisable fit, with velcro-adjustable shoulder straps, which you can see here:

IMAG0098On the inside of the pack you can see the tip of the velcro tab, the entire length from the opening to where the mesh ends is, on the inside, velcro- so while it doesn’t sound initially like it would hold that well, it really does.  You can just see that on the actual strap there are some yellow sewn lines, which are a great guide for making sure each strap is the same length.  I have made mine fairly small, because I think that feels the best, but I played around and am pretty confident that this pack could actually fit almost anyone – the adjustable shoulder straps, coupled with the lengthy side straps would make this quite a comfortable pack for almost anyone.

And yes, it is comfortable to wear.  There is some bounce, I (obviously) felt more bounce when the pack wasn’t fitted, but the bounce isn’t uncomfortable in the least.  I have found that the bounce almost flows with my running step, which makes the pack move well with my back.  A few times I have had some slight chafing around my neck – it depends entirely on which shirt I am wearing, and I have given up the idea of wearing a strappy singlet while wearing this pack.  There are two real points to this: the positive, a bit of bodyglide really cut the chafing out; the negative, I find the actual material a bit itchy.  I’m not super worried about it, because I do have very sensitive skin and often find materials itchy that other people don’t.

A large part of the comfort factor in the pack is the X design at the front.  I really hate running with something strapped around my waist.  I find that, to prevent too much bouncing, I have to have a belt so tight around my waist that it  really cuts of my breathing.  The X design of the Nathan X-Treme really changes that – there are not really any pressure points because the weight of the pack is evenly distributed over the shoulders and carried in the middle of the body, rather than being held onto my the shoulders (like a regular backpack) or held on the waist or hips.

The bladder itself is a huge 3L, which is more than enough for me.  It’s very easy to refill, and can be refilled without taking the bladder from the pack, just by unzipping the back panel, and slipping the top-clip off the body of the bladder:

IMAG0099

Like the vast majority of bladders, the hose comes out from the bottom, which is great.  I did find that I needed to cut the hose down to make it the right length (i.e. not RIDICULOUSLY long).

Price: I picked mine up for a fantastic £35-, but it seems the cheapest I can find it online is around £78.

So there you have it, and here’s the roundup:

Pros

  • Customisable fit, easy to fit
  • Comfortable, weight carried in the center of the body rather than on the shoulders or waist
  • Doesn’t interfere with the natural movements of running

Cons

  • The straps that connect the large internal pocket are annoying.  They are way too long, and I find they often hit the backs of my arms when I’m running.  It’s easy to fix by tucking them in to the zippered front pocket.
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