Nathan Trail Mix 4 – Review

Originally posted on June 15, 2013 by Chris Baynham-Hughes

Summary: Stable, well made good sized minimal storage hydration belt. Perfect for long training runs, fell races or fair weather ultras.

Stats:

Weight: ~360g

Capacity: 4 * 300 ml bottles + what is listed as a “large dimensional pocket with a power stretch mesh pocket. I reckon it’s about 1 litre + a mobile phone/

Function/ Purpose:

I ended up buying this in a rush in an effort to reduce the covered surface area on my back. Usually I run long with the fantastic Salomon S-Lab 12 ltr Skin pack (trying saying that after a few drinks!) but I felt it was overkill for the kit I needed to carry for Transvulcania, heavy and I’d have sweated harder with it on. I have a cracking bum bag (Inov8 Race Pac 3) but it’s not suitable for much more than a fell race and it forces both hands to be sacrificed to water bottles. So essentially I convinced myself another pack was essential. Enter the Nathan Trail Mix 4.

I already own a Nathan hand held which is great. Solid bottle, cracking flow and no leakage, so when looking I was confident Nathan would be a winner. The belt itself can be shortened and your setting will hardly move as the role of excess elasticated belt is held in place by two Velcro straps and the buckle itself – essentially the belt can only slip so much before the excess meets the buckle.

I find it pretty easy to lock it in place around my pelvis rather than starting there and ending up pulling on my stomach having worked its way upwards. This is the first pack I’ve found to do this and it makes a huge difference to my comfort and performance – pulling against the stomach no matter how lightly has a restriction on performance as consciously or subconsciously breathing is affected and shallow breathing affects speed, perceived effort and general comfort. Huge tick in the box as far as I am concerned.

The Buckle has rotational play in it, is very heavy duty and easy to manage with cold/ wet/ tired fingers.

The bottles are great – flow is superb, really comfortable in the hand, easy to access with a single hand and with four of them totalling 1.2 litres they give great flexibility for filling some with plain water, some with electrolytes, etc.

I did lose a bottle on my first run. A pounding downhill and full bottle combined to dislodge the bottle (nothing an extra ½ hour of retracing my steps didn’t solve). As a result I’ve fashioned my own retention solution with some 5mm bungee cord (Shown below) and have had no problems since.

The pack itself is very small, but this forces you to stick to the essentials and in reality it’s amazing how much stuff one can fit in. The main pocket is split neatly by an unobtrusive Velcro divider which wastes no space if you just want 1 big pocket. Behind the divider is an ID tag and key hook. It’s a perfect size for a standard Pertex (or a Montane minimus jacket), some extra food, a camera, compass and whistle – although you wouldn’t really want to stick in this combination as your compass wouldn’t be true for very long!

On the outer part of the bag there is a further pocket created using a power stretch mesh and strong Velcro lid. It’s plenty big enough for a smart phone or 4 big gels even when the other pocket it full.

Real world usage:

I used this for Transvulcania and fitted the following in without any issue:

  • Hydration system (type camelback or waist belt with the minimum capacity of 1 litre)
  • Headlamp
  • Red light for back position
  • Thermal blanket
  • Mobile phone with the number provided at the registration
  • Plenty of food – at least 10 gels, some electrolyte tabs and an energy bar
  • Canon Ixus camera

The downside was having so many bottles to fill, but it was minor compared to the benefits of low surface area, staying on my pelvis and large fluid capacity. I hardly noticed I was wearing it – a relief since I’d only been for a 90 minute run before hand with it. As your bottles get uneven you can notice the change in stability, but it’s pretty minor and very manageable.

I’ve also used this for the Welsh 1000m peaks race where the kit list is:

  • Map
  • Food
  • Whistle
  • compass
  • Waterproof garments, to cover trunk and limbs to wrist and ankles

To achieve this I ditched a bottle and tied my waterproof jacket into the empty water cage. I trapped the map between my back and the pack and it stayed in place – this shows just how well the pack moves with the body and you certainly notice the elasticated belt. I’ll confess I did regularly check the map was in place and on the particularly steep downhill I just chose to hold it. Lining up to a race knowing you are as light as possible and knowing people are wondering how on earth you got all your kit in such a small bag does give you a psychological advantage.

Overall: I’m over the moon with my purchase. I paid £20 all in for it and it is well worth that. Retail is something around £40. I’d still buy it for that price knowing what I know now, although I probably wouldn’t have done so up front. That said, you get 4 very high quality leak free water bottles, given the costs of these alone it’s not bad value at the retail compared to a number of other brands/ similar gear. It really fits that gap for races or days out where you can really go stripped down – I’ll also now be using it for all fell races as it is so much more stable than anything else I have ever used. ditch the bottles or take a cheeky one with you for a longer or unusually hot race.

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