Nathan’s new backpack has lots of real-need workout features on the inside, but keeps it a secret with a simple, stylish look.
A separate compartment for wets/stinky things
Tons of internal organization (think: tri transition bag)
A really cool foam roller keeper
Slightly shallow water bottle pockets
Not really ideal for actual running
Not everyone likes to scream “I’M AN ATHLETE” when they walk into the office, through the airport, or meet up with friends after a workout. Bags with actual athlete features often look more at home in a transition area or at the finish line of a marathon than they do…well, pretty much anywhere else. So instead, style-conscious athletes who want to bring something subtle to the gym end up sacrificing function for form and suffer, as most fashionisti must always do, with something that looks great but works very poorly. This is why Nathan’s latest bag line attracted my attention: Not that I’m a particularly stylish athlete, but rather because I like to be a little bit sneaky about my athletic aptitude.
Nathan Sports Runaway Ultimate Marathon Travel Pack: The Basics
As a collector of many many many backpacks—it’s kind of My Thing, ask my wife—I always get excited when a bag looks different or has different features or has a combination of both. This low-key pack from Nathan has a list of nearly secret features that even took me a while to figure out. The unique highlights:
- Two water bottle side pockets and hydration bladder pocket with (very) discreet hose port
- External bungee loops for either a yoga mat, a foam roller, or some other cylindrical tube-shaped item
- A lower, easy-access softly padded pocket for sunglasses or (more likely) your phone
- Externally accessible laptop sleeve
- Four separate, zippered internal pockets
- A separate bottom pocket for wet/gross workout items
The last and most basic thing about this pack? It’s style. You don’t see hardly any of the above features, and it blends in well with that Fjallraven/Herschel-style of bag that’s so popular right now.
Nathan Sports Runaway Ultimate Marathon Travel Pack: The Good
Aside from the obvious and already-stated plus that this is a super stealthy pack, even the features themselves are (mostly) well thought out. The laptop compartment is cavernous and the fact that it can be accessed from outside the main compartment means it won’t be a huge hassle in airport security. The internal organization is more than you’d normally find in a daypack of this size and resembles one of those super Type-A triathlon transition packs, even though you wouldn’t know it when it’s zipped up. We also love the separate bottom compartment, which fits shoes up to size 12, a swimming wetsuit (barely), and anything else medium-to-mildly wet or gross—though we wouldn’t put a soaking wetsuit in here, particularly given its proximity to the cell phone compartment. There’s also some very cool load compression that doubles as a yoga mat/foam roller loop, making a lot of these features work double duty (a good thing for keeping it simple). Finally, we really really like the nearly secret cell phone packet at the bottom of the bag—it was a head scratcher at first, but if you leave your bag out in public while you train, a weird bottom zippered side pocket is literally the last place a thief would look for your phone or wallet.
Nathan Sports Runaway Ultimate Marathon Travel Pack: The Just Ok
While we love the hydration bladder sleeve and side hydration pockets, the side pockets are pretty shallow—making a bigger water bottle a slightly risky proposition. It’s also too bad that neither the outside of the bag nor the inside of the bottom compartment are quite water resistant enough, but there’s a good chance that diminishing either of their permeability might start to detract from the bag’s style and/or low weight. Finally, though the straps are fantastic—smooth with super-important excess strap management—it’s a little bit of a misrepresentation to say that you could run with this pack for very long. The back padding is not quite up to the task, as it would become soaked in sweat near instantly, and the pack’s shape is unlike most running packs. You could probably run to the bus or a mile or two to the gym, but I wouldn’t “go for a run” with this bag.
Nathan Sports Runaway Ultimate Marathon Travel Pack: Conclusions
Overall, this is one of the most exciting packs I’ve used in a while, in part because it has the guts of a technical athletic pack, but the skin of something more cool and hip. I love that it costs less than the Herschel and Fjallraven packs that it emulates and still deals with the sweaty messes we create along with our own Type-A organizational tendencies. Some real thought went into not only the style of this design, but the features as well—leaving out lots of things we pretty much never use while including the stuff we need all the time.