The Nathan Zelos was the first running vest that I purchased, prior to this season I had no reason for own this type of pack. For short runs I use a Nathan Trail Mix 4 hydration belt, but for longer runs including my 8.5 mile run from work to home, I needed something with a little bit of cargo carrying ability. I also intended to use the vest for my longer OCRs as well.
After a miserable 8.5 mile run with my Osprey Manta backpack I realized I needed something better for running. The Manta is a great backpack, but not a great running backpack. It bounced and moved way too much for me to be comfortable; I needed something that was geared specifically to running. So, I sat down and figured out what I wanted in a vest. The list was not incredibly long. It needed to be: comfortable, stable, light, capable of holding at least 1.5 liters and able haul a small amount of stuff from the office to home. To start my research, I did something highly unusual, instead of going to the internet, I went to my local REI to see what they had in stock. When I was there, I got to try on a vast selection of vests from Camelback, Nathan, Osprey and one or two others. After, multiple trips to the store and then some internet research, the final two contenders were the Zelos and the Osprey Rev 6. Both packs met all of my needs; but in the end I went with the Zelos for several key reasons. It looked better (to me), it carried slightly more water in the bladder and it has front pockets which can hold various items from a water bottle (included) to nutritional products to my cell phone. So a Zelos it was and since Christmas was only a week away, I relayed the information to my wife and son.
So for Christmas, a new race vest was bestowed upon me and after about five minutes I had the vest adjusted and ready to go. Now I just had to get ready for my first run. That was going to be a couple of months away since I was in the process of rehabbing a sprained ankle.
Fast forward to mid-February. My first run with the vest was on the same route from work to home that was miserable with Osprey backpack. But this time the run was pleasant. The pack stayed in place with virtually no movement or unwanted bouncing and it fit the things I needed to carry home. I won’t say that I couldn’t feel it while I was running, but it wasn’t distracting or uncomfortable in any way. The use of the vest for road running was a success. I continued to use the vest for my runs home with great satisfaction. The next test would be taking it out for a run on the trails.
To test that out I went over to one of our local parks with a 5.5 mile running trail. It is fairly well maintained and doesn’t have any serious up or down hills. On the trail, the experience was no different that on the road, everything stayed in place and the vest was very comfortable. So far the Zelos was two for two.
Finally, the last part of the testing on the vest would be on some of the trails up at Sugarloaf Mountain. These trails have a mix of just about everything, from 40% grades, to rocky and rutted single track to gentle and well maintained trails. For this run the results were identical to all of the others the vest performed great.
In the end the Zelos has been worth every penny that it cost.