Gear Review – Nathan Hydration X Trainer Mutation

Time for another gear review… Today I’ll give a few thoughts on the Nathan Hydration X Trainer Mutation. The X Trainer is a single bottle system, as opposed to something like the Nathan Speed Series which holds multiple smaller bottles. I’ve been using the X Trainer for quite a while thanks to some weight loss which rendered my previous hydration belt useless.  With that said, I’m glad the X Trainer has become my default belt as it has all the features I was looking for.

We’ll work our way from front to back for this review of the X Trainer.  Starting up front, the waist strap has an elastic element to it, and Nathan says X Trainer is one size fits all.  The belt seems like it would indeed fit a large range of people- any slack taken out of the waist gets rolled up and held down by some integrated velcro straps.  On the left side of the belt is a small zipper pocket.  The pouch material is somewhat elastic, so you can stuff it fairly full.  I usually carry my cell phone, pill dispenser and house key.  The pocket has a small plastic loop that you can hook your keys on, which is nice if you’re in the pocket a bit during the run and worried about your house key slipping out.

On the right side of the belt is a holster for a gel flask.  This is one of the things that sets the X Trainer apart from my previous fuel belt.  Previously I would have to either skip taking gel with me, or try to stuff a flask in my pocket.  (I could use single serving packets I suppose, but as a cost saving measure, I usually save those for race day.)  So, needless to say I’m a huge fan of the holster.  The X Trainer comes with a gel flask which allows you to carry about 5 servings of gel if you choose.  The holster has a elastic loop which holds the flask secure.

Finally, we find ourselves at the rear of the belt, where the hydration bottle is located. The bottle included with the X Trainer holds 22 oz., has an o-ring sealed cap with a built in carabiner.  The bottle does not have a self-sealing cap, that is to say you have to manually pull out the cap to get some fluid.  Many of the newer hydration bottles are self-sealing (squeeze the bottle and water comes out, stop squeezing the cap shuts itself), but I’m glad the X Trainer came with the traditional bottle.  I’ve tried using the self-sealing bottles from time to time, and they tend to leak during the run, dripping on the back of my legs.  Plus, most bottles don’t have the o-ring seal and tend to drip just a bit from the liquid sloshing from side to side.  One other note, the carabiner on the cap helps removing the bottle while running- it can be hard to grab a standard bottle because they tend to settle low and snug in the cradle.

The cradle the bottle rests in has three notable features. First, the cradle is open on both sides, allowing for ambidextrous access.  The cradle also has a a layer of insulation which seems to help keep the bottle chilled, but I’ll have to see how the insulation handles the warmer Arizona temps when they roll around. And finally, built into the cradle is a three point shock cord system.  The shock cord tightens against the cradle with a simple pull, and it perfect for holding gloves or even a wind jacket if needed.

A few final thoughts on the X Trainer…  The belt takes a run or two to get used to.  The first time out I had the belt a little loose and found it would bounce enough to get on my nerves.  That problem was fixed after simply adjusting the best for a more snug fit.  Along the lines of fit, I should mention I’ve never had issues with the X Trainer riding up or twisting on me.  The belt stays place once it gets fit properly and doesn’t wiggle in the least.  Lastly, for the next version I hope Nathan considers having the gel holster insulated.  I’m not a huge fan of having the sun cook my gel while I’m running.  Even a thin layer of insulation would be awesome, as currently the holster is a mesh material.  That said, I’m a huge fan of the X Trainer and recommend it hands down.  Nathan has really done a great job with this hydration system and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next!

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