It’s common wisdom that running is a very simple method of exercise. On the surface, it appears that the only thing required to start running is a pair of legs. However, the timelessly popular pastime of running is deceptively complex, as any runner looking to improve their experience will quickly realize. Locking down an effective routine and finding a reliable pair of running shoes are only the tip of the iceberg.
Since running is an exercise that heavily engages the cardiovascular system, excessive sweating is often associated with a long and effective running session. This sweating leads to a loss of moisture in the body, necessitating proper hydration. The simple answer to this problem is to carry a small water bottle during each running session. However, this can become a more serious issue when running for longer periods of time or in dangerous environments. To address these specific circumstances, many athletic accessory designers have created different forms of hands-free storage for runners to stow not only water but also other necessities. The Nathan Fireball is one of these products, designed to offer the most utility to trail runners and hikers while being wrapped in an appealing package.
- Comfortable and stable fit
- Multiple forms of hydration storage
- Highly breathable shoulder straps
- Excellent low-light visibility
- Lightweight and durable
- Disappointing storage options
- Potential for skin irritation
While this is mainly intended for storing water, the high versatility of this running product means that it can be used as a general portable storage bag, similar to a backpack. For example, the expandable back pouch designed to hold a bladder offers enough room for many other items that can come in handy for long hikes and trail runs, such as a map, a GPS device, some food, or an emergency survival kit. More storage is available in the front, with one of the shoulder pouches featuring an extra pocket. This pocket is very small but it can still be used to hold essentials such as pills or small snacks. Something worth noting is that these features can definitely be useful for runners but they shouldn’t be the main selling point. If an individual is simply looking for storage during a hike, they would be better off buying a full backpack.
This same design philosophy can be observed with the Nathan Fireball. Based on appearances, this racing vest seems to be predominantly made from a polyester mesh fabric. This material is nearly translucent in all areas except for the rear pouch, resulting in a design that is light as a feather and accommodating to individuals prone to sweating or heat flashes. While these are important features for a running vest that certainly come in handy for the Nathan Fireball, this style of design doesn’t result in a great deal of durability. This could become an issue for runners who wish to take this vest with them on trail runs but if they manage to exercise proper caution it shouldn’t be a major concern.
While this does mean that some comfort can be derived from the lighter nature of the Nathan Fireball, one area in which this running vest can begin to feel uncomfortable is in regards to its weight distribution. Whether runners use the back pouch to stow a water bladder or just assorted accessories, this will most likely result in most of the Nathan Fireball’s weight being distributed to its rear. This is a common feature of most similar storage apparel such as backpacks and is usually mitigated through the use of tight straps on the front. This running jacket does offer one such strap that connects the two shoulder pouches toward the top of the wearer’s chest. Additionally, holding one or two water bottles in the front pouches can correct the weight distribution issue. However, these design caveats aren’t as well implemented as they are on backpacks due to the lighter and less durable materials used.
Individuals who would find this size difference to be a positive feature are those who aren’t as concerned with storage. These runners would be more concerned with having an easy way to store a decent amount of water that can be accessed without very much fuss and won’t add a great deal of ballast that would slow down their running times. For these particular people, the Nathan Fireball makes sense over a more traditional running backpack. However, they can find an accessory that provides even more convenience at an even lower weight if they pick a hydration belt instead. Those who would see the smaller size of this running vest as a negative are probably the hardcore trail runners. These individuals are used to carrying extra weight for their various survival tools and accessories and will want something that has a greater resilience to the elements.
The reason why this is the case has to do with the concessions made in this product’s design. As previously mentioned, the nearly translucent polyester-based material that makes up the Nathan Fireball’s shoulder straps and vest offers an impressive lightness and breathability at the expense of its durability. While resistant to errant fraying, it isn’t unrealistic to see tearing after taking a nasty fall while running on a rough trail. For these reasons, this running vest may not be the best choice for trail runners. One area in which more effort was placed for the purpose of durability is in the rear pouch. Since it is meant for holding water bladders, which aren’t as sturdy or resilient as standard water bottles, the designers compensated by using reinforced fabric for its housing.
While the lack of a water bladder can be disappointing, something nice about the Nathan Fireball is that it can accommodate different models of water reservoirs. Runners who already own a reservoir from another company such as CamelBak can easily place it in this running vest, provided that it is the right size. Depending on the model, this product can either hold a 1 ½ liter or 2 liter bladder. If a runner doesn’t want to store a bladder in the rear pouch and simply use the two included flasks, this reinforced pocket can be used to stow other small items. This can come in handy for holding small essentials such as a smartphone, keys, snacks, or a map. Without adding a rear pouch, the Nathan Fireball can hold enough water through its two SpeedShot flasks to provide adequate hydration for roughly an hour and a half of running. Adding a bladder will drastically increase this amount.
Comparisons aside, this is a decent looking running accessory. High-quality materials were used to make it and all available color schemes are well-coordinated. Some use palettes of cooler colors to accessorize well with clothes or shoes while others use bright neon colors to increase visibility for the purpose of safety. Many of these color options can be found when shopping through third-party online retailers but others can only be found through the manufacturer’s website. One final word about the Nathan Fireball’s style: wearing it without the two flasks in the shoulder pouches will help to make it look more like a running backpack and less like a diaper bag or combat bandolier.
Fortunately, the passing of time has seen the price for this product drop, albeit not to as much of a degree as some budget shoppers may like. Still, it’s possible to find the Nathan Fireball at a cost that is 25% lower than the suggested retail price. This does mean that some sizes and color options won’t be available to purchase but it may be worth it for individuals who see an option they like. Unfortunately, even with the discount, this product is overpriced. For the same cost, runners could purchase an adequate backpack capable of holding more items and a hydration belt that could hold their water reservoir. The only way that this hydration vest is a better buy than that combination is if the customer is more interested in a lighter accessory since the Nathan Fireball weighs only 3 ounces on its own.
- Lightweight and breathable construction
- Pouches for water storage on shoulder straps and rear
- Includes two 12 oz SpeedShot flasks
- Fits water reservoirs of up to 2 L
- Pockets can be used for storing other items