Review - Nathan X Trainer Plus

Thursday, May 31, 2007

I've been looking for a new waist pack for a month or so now to replace my aging and short on storage Ultimate Direction Groove. I tried The North Face Xenon 2 bottle pack. However, because of my relatively small waist (28''-29") the pack wrapped too far around and my elbows were always hitting the bottles. I don't know if the same would happen with other two bottle packs, but my guess is there's a good chance it would. Given that and the fact that I don't mind a handheld, I decided to seek out a single bottle pack with some extra storage for things like, carbo gels, salt pills, band-aids and the other little essentials I take on my long runs and the events I participate in. I came across the Nathan X Trainer Plus. Nathan has a good following and presence in the ultrarunning community so I threw some questions out to the Ultralist about it and looked for existing reviews or even multiple views of the product and came up empty. (Nathan, please put pictures of your products from different angles and more detailed product descriptions) From what I could tell by the limited information out there it seemed as if it was what I was looking for in a waist pack, so I went ahead and ordered one. Also, since I could not find a review or pictures other then the stock one from Nathan I decided I'd write my own review and post some pics to shed some light on this pack.

Part 1 - Design

The X Trainer Plus follows the standard Nathan colors of gray and yellow. The 22oz. water bottle is held horizontally and has a lip on both sides and is supposed to keep the bottle from sliding out. The X Trainer Plus includes 2 pockets, a pouch containing a 5 oz. flask, and a shock cord.

side view, pocket #1. The pocket pictured above can be found on the regular X Trainer as well. It's big enough to fit a small digital camera like a Olympia FE-210 (3.5" W x 2.5" H x 1.2" D), a normal sized men's wallet or a hand full of carbo gels. It could expand to be a bit larger, but would depend on what was in the flask pocket. If you kept the flask or anything hard in there, expansion is minimal. In addition, a key clip is located in this pocket.

- The rest of the features below are what separates The X Trainer Plus from the standard X Trainer as far as I can tell -

Top view, pocket #2. This is the largest pocket that spans almost the entire width of the pack (approx 8'') and has a depth of about 5'' in the deepest spot tapering down to 2'' in the corners, see the picture directly above. It will hold a good amount of small gear, but since the back of the pocket is the part of the pack that will be touching your back, flatter items will probably ride better and keep bounce down. Though given that the back is well padded, you could get away with stashing some bulging items in it. I was able to shove an Ultimate Direction 20oz. bottle (without the lid on) in it and zip it up. Obviously not a practical application, since the main bottle will not fit properly anymore, but I wanted to give an idea of size.

Front view, pocket #3. A 5oz. flask is included with this pack and can be filled with carbo gel if you happen to buy gel in the bulk bottles. Another thought would be to fill this with some sort powdered mix since the opening on the flask is pretty large and would be easy to fill and pour out. I don't buy gel in bulk and would usually have mixes at drop bag locations therefore I decided to see what else I could get in the pouch. It will expand a bit because of its' mesh panel down the front. There is also a cinch cord at the top of the pouch to hold the items in. I was able to get 5 Hammer Gels (1.25 oz each) into the pouch, so if you use GU (1 oz each) getting 6 in there should work. As you can see from the picture above, a hard drive based music player will fit as well as pushing the extra cord from your headphones to keep them from tangling. I use a Zune which is slightly bigger then an Ipod. It slid right in and the cinch cord was tightened to secure it in place. This pouch could accommodate cell phones ranging from small to large. One thing to note about this pocket is that it does not close completely. The cinch cord leaves about a 1'' round gap at the top, but given the angle it sits most items will not come spilling out very easily.

Front Bottom view, shock cord. A nice addition to the pack is the shock cord on the bottom. You could easily attach a super light shell, extra shirt, socks, arm warmers or whatever else you take off or put on (I'm thinking summer weight items here).

Part 2 - Performance

After really studying this waist pack and looking at what it had to offer, I was ready to put it to the test. I filled up the bottle, stufffed a few gels, threw my MP3 player in the pouch, and headed out the door. I warmed up with a short 1/4 mile walk with my wife. We then parted ways and I took to the paved trail. I ran a few steps and had to tighten the belt a little more. Within 2 minutes or so, I pulled the bottle out for a drink. It was not that easy to get back in place, but I managed to get it. A few minutes later and I noticed the pack was bouncing a lot. I reached back and the bottle was 1/2 way out. I pushed it back in, tightened up the belt again and continued my run. Once again the bouncing became noticeable and the bottle was coming out. After about a mile, I'd had enough. I turned around and headed home to get this thing off.

I would guess that the problems I had with this belt is the same issue I had with The North Face pack mentioned above, my waist The body of the pack takes up most of my back. Because of that, the area where the belt connects to the holster is right on the far outside part of my hip and creates a gap on each side where the belt it not touching my waist , thus causing bounce. I tried to wear the belt high, low and in the middle, but none of it seemed to work for me no matter how tight I got the belt.

Final thoughts

I was really wanting this to work out. I had high expectations for this belt, but unfortunately it did not work out for me. I don't know how it would fair on someone with a larger waist, but I assume that if the area where the belt attaches was on the person's back as opposed to the "corner" of the hip, bounce would be reduced. So my recommendation (for what it's worth) would be if you have a waist under 30'' you may want to look elsewhere then the Nathan X Trainer or X Trainer Plus, maybe the Nathan Elite 1 Plus since the bottle sits at an angle and allows the pack to conform better. At a minimum, if you can, double-check and make sure the belt fits tightly all the way around (no gaps). I could not find this item local so I bought on-line without trying on first. Oh well, on to the next piece of gear, which is the Nathan Speed 2 (I finished the run mentioned above wearing this one)

Posted by Travis at 8:33 PM  


wow that's detailed! You should get a side job of doing product review :) I'm really particular about things like bouncing, my gear has to just kindof mesh with me. For hydration needs only, the fuel belts work for me, but they don't have space for storage. Don't know what I'm going to do when I start doing longer trail runs one of these days.....

Jenn said...
2:25 AM  

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