Nathan Pinnacle 12L Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Amazing pockets in arm's reach, carries a lot of gear
Cons: Some stiff materials on the chest, pole carry is hard to execute while moving
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Nathan Pinnacle 12L
|Price||$149.99 at Amazon|
Compare at 2 sellers
$139.95 at REI
|$154.88 at Amazon|
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$160.00 at REI
$99.95 at REI
|Pros||Amazing pockets in arm's reach, carries a lot of gear||Durable construction, comfortable fit, versatile features||Comfortable, great fit, tons of easily reachable pockets, versatile||Easy to access storage, lots of pockets including useful zippers, great fit and adjustability||Ample storage, simple and successful design, approachable price|
|Cons||Some stiff materials on the chest, pole carry is hard to execute while moving||Runs slightly large||Expensive, must buy hydration bladder separately||Included bottles create a pressure point against the ribs, coarse mesh against the neck||Lower quality bladder, minor pain points over longer distances|
|Bottom Line||A comfortable and capable choice for big mileage when gear accessibility is mission-critical||Durable materials and ample storage combine with a comfortable and secure fit to make this pack ready for the mountains||A comfortable fit and exceptional pockets make this among our favorite packs on the market||Designed by and for the fastest trail runners in the world, this vest has the fit and features to race fast||An entry-level hydration pack for trail running with ample storage at a great price|
|Rating Categories||Nathan Pinnacle 12L||Ultimate Direction...||Salomon ADV Skin 12...||Salomon Sense Pro 5||REI Co-op Swiftland 5|
|Hydration System (15%)|
|Volume to Weight Ratio (15%)|
|Specs||Nathan Pinnacle 12L||Ultimate Direction...||Salomon ADV Skin 12...||Salomon Sense Pro 5||REI Co-op Swiftland 5|
|Weight (with included hydration vessels)||13.6 oz||11.7 oz||13.4 oz||8.1 oz||13.9 oz|
|Included Liquid Capacity||1.6L||1L||1L||1L||1.5L|
|OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!)||0.88||0.88||0.90||0.62||0.36|
|External Storage?||Yes, kangaroo pockets||Yes, bungees||Yes, kangaroo pockets||Yes, kangoo pockets||Yes, bungees|
|Type of Water Storage||1.6L hourglass reservoir||Two 500mL soft flasks||Two 500 mL soft flasks (included), plus reservoir sleeve (reservoir not included)||Two 500mL soft flasks||1.5L resevoir|
Our Analysis and Test Results
There is a certain distance threshold where runners no longer want light and minimal; they want capacity and creature comforts. The Nathan Pinnacle 12 strikes a balance between form and function, with 11 pockets that are accessible while cruising on the trail and one larger storage pocket for emergency essentials. Stretch fabric offers a snug initial fit, but as gear is added and sternum straps are cinched, the pack reaches a new level of suspension, limiting bounce and feeling really… nice. Limited adjustments elsewhere on the pack are a downside, so be sure to choose the correct size. This vest shines in every category, but we are most impressed with the design and convenience of the pockets, making it a standout choice for bigger adventures and longer ultramarathons.
Nathan introduced the Pinnacle 12 as a lighter update on the previously reviewed VaporKrar and VaporHowe vests. While the Pinnacle maintains much of that DNA through the chest pockets and shoulder straps, it also has some important updates that improve fit and comfort.
The chest straps are two simply designed buckles on rigid webbing that can be vertically adjusted along pliable rails for an ideal fit. While this has never been our favorite system as the vertical rails are hard and can cause pressure alongside the sternum, it is among the easiest to adjust, and the rigid webbing straps work well with the high-stretch material used throughout the rest of the vest.
While some vests sit high on the back, forcing you to contort to reach the flank/rear pockets, the Pinnacle 12 extends lower down the back, distributing weight evenly and boosting the utility of its accessible storage. The more layers you stuff into the vast pockets, the more supportive it fits. If you do really overstuff the three back pockets, the hydration bladder pressures the top of the back, creating some discomfort. Though most every run we loved the fit and feel of this vest, it doesn't have the same adjustability as many other hydration packs we reviewed, so trying it on for size is a good idea.
Features are only as excellent as they are intuitive. Nathan streamlined some features while adding versatility to others. Basics like a storm whistle, reflective banding, and multiple options for food, water, and gear storage are well designed.
Akin to most packs, you still have to remove the Pinnacle 12 in order to store trekking poles. Technically you could draw your trekking poles while on the move, as the vertical kangaroo pocket designed to store them does have a second point of access on the right flank. We preferred to use this pocket for additional layers, gloves, or food as the flank access has a small piece of velcro holding contents in; regardless, we love this feature. We preferred to store the trekking poles in the larger diagonal zip pocket, but this was just a user preference.
Behind the front pouch pockets on each shoulder strap are waterproof zippered pockets that can fit an oversized phone; the right one contains a pill pouch and a storm whistle. Additionally, the Pinnacle incorporates two different materials on the back panel; one where the hydration bladder sits against the back and a different, more breathable mesh along the sides of the back. Whether you choose to use soft flasks or the included 1.6L bladder, the pocket design paired with the feature set can comfortably carry enough water and gear for a 100-mile race.
Included with the vest is an insulated, hourglass-shaped 1.6L bladder and hose with a magnetic clip for management. Two large pockets on the chest are compatible with soft flasks, but our policy is to test each pack with the system that is included upon purchase.
Fortunately, the Pinnacle 12 showcases a premium bladder and hose system that is lightweight, can be filled with one hand, and never leaked on us. The clever hourglass shape of the bladder worked well with the longer vest design and prevented unwanted sloshing. Routing between fabric layers over the shoulder and under a loop provides comfortable hose management, and a magnetic clip keeps the hose stowed instead of flapping about. We still tucked the hose into the left lower pouch pocket for further security.
A small velcro tab at the top of the vest keeps the bladder upright and in place against the back. The quick-release feature on the bottom of the bladder releases the hose for easy refilling, while a high-flow bite valve delivers high-quality H2O.
Volume to Weight Ratio
At 13.6 ounces, the Pinnacle 12 can almost carry 1 liter of gear for each ounce of material. This vest can be made lighter if you substitute the bladder system for soft flasks, but we loved the pack as we tested it. Worth considering, though, as there is so much storage across the back that having a bit more water weight up front should provide better balance.
This category favors packs that can carry more gear, but we preferred the vests built with elastic materials that perform well when close to empty and fit snugly when loaded down. We found that we could comfortably stuff this vest with layer-on-layers, snacks, and accessories, but when we placed a Nalgene in it while walking around town, there wasn't the necessary pack structure to carry such a heavy item effectively.
We know that you can stuff more than 12 liters of gear in this pack, but advise against it — the materials are made to stretch, but if overstuffed, they risk stretching out. We were able to pack all of our kit essentials and a whole lot more without impacting comfort. While fast and light is the saying that gets thrown around, runners will want some creature comforts 24 hours into a race. With the Pinnacle 12, you get a great fit the more you pack into it.
Can we drool over these pockets now? Bravo Nathan, Bravo. We have dreamt of a hydration pack for running that can carry lots of gear, have all of it accessible on the go, and be easy to resupply at aid stations. Nathan's Pinnacle 12 is the closest we've seen to this dream realized.
Front pockets first. Nathan positioned two waterproof zippered pockets behind the soft flask pockets, large enough for an oversized phone, map, or other gear that is flat or soft. We found these pockets add to the vest's comfort, and we prefer them to the positioning of zippered pockets over the collarbone. By positioning them behind the soft flask pockets, there is less interference if you are taking out your phone for a quick photo or refilling your bottle. The right one even includes a small internal pouch for electrolyte tabs or ibuprofen. Below the hydration pocket on each side is a smaller nutrition pocket with a hook and loop closure.
Flank pockets. Two small flank pockets can accommodate gloves, a buff, or more snacks and rely on the vest's stretch material to keep supplies in place. Positioned just behind these flank pockets are hook and loop closures that permit easy access to larger back storage compartments without letting gear fall out. The left kangaroo pocket can store loads of gear but doesn't have a secondary access point as the right side does.
And finally, the back pockets come through, providing ample storage, fast resupply, and remain accessible while wearing the vest. How, you might ask? The outermost rear pocket has a velcro closure at the top, and the vast compartment extends down to an access point at the right flank with another closure. To the left of this compartment is a long diagonal zipper that accesses the only pocket reserved for emergency inaccessible gear. Below this pocket is the large left flank kangaroo pocket. Behind these outermost back pockets is a simple pouch that is only 6" deep, so a rain layer remains accessible over the shoulder while moving.
Should You Buy the Nathan Pinnacle 12L?
Looking for a larger pack for bigger days? For your first hundred? For your fiftieth hundred? From seasoned veterans of ultramarathons to any runner looking to get their feet wet, legs muddy, or elbows bloody in the full-day race scene, checking out this vest should be high on your priority list. For the passionate runner looking to get a pack that will help them reach new distances, take a closer look at the Pinnacle 12. We are very familiar with the competitors in this review and think that Nathan did a great job improving on their packs and borrowing some great elements from other successful running vests out there. We strongly recommend this vest for the ultramarathon enthusiast.
What Other Running Hydration Packs Should You Consider?
This is the most expensive vest we tested. It also happens to be among the highest performing. While you will get close to comparable performance from the other top pick packs like the Salomon ADV Skin 12 Set and the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 6.0, we are enthused by the features and pockets of this vest and stand by our evaluation. We love the feel, can reach everything we need when we need it, and don't finish epic days with sore collarbones or a chafed lower back.
— Jeff Colt
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