Review of Nathan Trail Mix 7 Liter Women’s Race Pack

For years I ran with a Nathan hydration waist belt and was pretty happy with it. I say that, but it was honestly more like a love/hate relationship. I loved having my favorite Nuun on my long runs plus a small area for my phone and Honey Stinger chews but I hated having to constantly push the belt down when it inevitably slid up my hips, further and further up my waist.

Finally, last October I took the plunge and bought a running vest, namely the Nathan Trail Mix 7 Liter Women’s Race Pack. From here on, I’m going to call it a running vest even though Nathan calls it a race pack. I had seen running vests primarily on marathoners and trail runners but also half marathoners and debated for a couple of years whether to buy one. Why the delay in buying one? Well, running vests are considerably pricier than running belts, about twice the price. Still, I thought since I could also take my vest hiking it would be dual-purpose and well worth it (plus no more struggling with it during runs).

I ran my fastest 5k ever wearing my Nathan running vest!

After looking at several other companies’ running vests online last fall, I thought I’d go to REI to try one on and see which I liked the best. I tried on an Osprey, Salomon, and this one by Nathan. I just liked how it fit better than the others plus it didn’t seem like more than I needed. The Trail Mix 7 Liter comes with a 2 liter hydration bladder, weighs just 7 ounces without the bladder and 11 ounces with it (empty of course). It’s also specifically designed for women, has multiple adjustable straps, three pockets in the front, and three zippered pockets in the back.

Another reason I bought my running vest at REI is their generous return policy. You can return anything within a year of purchase. I wasn’t sure how breathable and comfortable the vest would be for summer runs, so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to test the vest out, including for hot, humid runs.

So how did it hold up for those hot runs? Great! I thought for sure I’d have a hot, sweaty back and would be too uncomfortable to wear the vest during the summer months (which, let’s be honest, the heat kicks in during the spring here and doesn’t cool down that much until mid-October) but never once was it an issue. I also took my vest hiking every chance I had, including Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park-┬áRedux. The 2 liter hydration bladder is the perfect amount for me, and believe me, I drink a ton of water when I’m hiking.

When I go out for a long run, I don’t run with the hydration bladder, but I do run with a 500 mL flask in one front pocket, a 10 ounce flask in another front pocket (each has Nuun Endurance), and Honey Stinger chews in the third front pocket. In the back pockets, I have my phone and some emergency supplies should I ever need them (things like Bandaids, tissues, a mask during COVID, migraine pills, and things like that). There’s plenty of room in the back pockets, even with the full bladder. When I’m hiking and have the bladder (it’s full of only water), that goes in one back pocket and my emergency supplies go in the other back pockets.

So far you may have noticed there are only pros mentioned here. The only con I have is the adjustable straps don’t always stay put on long runs. Occasionally I have to grab them (usually both come loose at the same time) and tighten them again. This only takes a second, though, and is really a minor point. There’s probably a way to hook them to something once you tighten them, but I haven’t researched that because it’s such a minor thing.

The Nathan Trail Mix 7 Liter Women’s Race Pack comes in the pink color I have and a blue color that was out of stock when I bought mine. I just checked Nathan’s website and the blue is currently out of stock. They only have the men’s version on the REI site. That’s perhaps also a con I have about this vest: there apparently aren’t enough blue vests that they’re consistently out of stock. If anyone from Nathan (or even a competitor brand of running vests) just happens to be reading this, make more colors of running vests for women. Not all women exclusively like pink and purple.

Do any of you run with a hydration vest? Are you on the fence about buying one?

Happy running!


I Ran My Fastest 5k, but Does It Even Count?

We’ve all heard the saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I thought about this when I recently ran my fastest 5k but it was a virtual race. Normally I haven’t been into virtual races but I chose to run this one because I saw there was going to be swag bags to the first 350 registrants, a virtual leaderboard, and virtual awards at the conclusion. Competitive? Me? Perhaps.

That brings me back to my thoughts about my “race” time. Both Garmin and Strava show my time for the 3.1 (actually 3.11) miles that I ran, but because I live in North Carolina where our COVID numbers aren’t that great compared to other states and we still aren’t allowed to have in-person races yet, this was a run, not a race. Or was it?

What defines a race? Swag? Check. An official course? Nope. Chip-timed? Nope. Other people running at the same time you are? Sort of; they weren’t running with me, but there were plenty of other people running, walking, and biking on the same greenway where I ran that morning. A leaderboard with results? Check. Awards? Check. A specific day and time that the race starts and ends? Not even close since people have the whole month of September to run 3.1 miles and record their times.

Even though a lot of boxes are checked, I’m not sure I would call this a race for one simple reason: there were no other runners with the sole intention of running 3.1 miles on the same exact course that I was running that day and time. To me, it was still just a run.

Catching my breath after I finished my 5k/3.11 run

It’s a shame really that I can’t claim this 5k as my fastest 5k ever, despite the fact that my watch claimed it was my fastest 5k when I saved the run. It does make me want to go out and run an official 5k just so it’s “official.” Well, kinda. To be honest, running this 5k was HARD. I had to mentally push from about 1.5 miles until I finally reached 3.1 miles. By the end I had a side stitch as well, which I never get. I’m not sure I want to suffer like that again.

Then again, who knows? Maybe once races start back again I will sign up for an official 5k just to prove to myself I can do it again, on an official course that’s chip-timed, with other people on the same course as me, starting at the same time as me. Even if I don’t finish quite as fast as I did for this virtual 5k or run or whatever you want to call it, I will know it “counts.”

How do you stand on virtual races? Love them/hate them/indifferent? Have you gotten any PR’s during virtual races you’ve done?

Happy running!


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