Nathan Sports Zipster Running Belt
Today we are going to talk about stuff. No, really–Stuff. Specifically, runner stuff, though our focus product has applications beyond that practice. Phones, keys, emergency $20 bills, protein gels, and medical supplies all fall under the Stuff banner.
If you have ever gone for an outdoor run or long walk, you surely had to pick and choose what to take with you and how best to transport it. It seems men’s shorts, sweats, and thin pullovers have the unfair advantage of adequate pockets. Your editor once became enamored with a pair of galaxy compression leggings, snatching them off the shelf to wear at a 5K the next day. Imagine her dismay when she found a single mesh pocket, big enough for a stick of gum and facing the wrong way. She still placed third in her age group, but she didn’t give those shorts a glowing review.
The Nathan Zipster, by stalwart run specialists Nathan Sports, presents a cozy solution for members of every gender. The belt features a simple, consistent shape, with moisture-wicking fabric and a low profile zipper front pouch. The absence of a strap makes it one of the most body-friendly hip packs we have seen.
Weather and water-resistant (not waterproof-few similar products are)
Two zippered pockets with thin, unobtrusive zippers and four pockets in all
Comes in four different solid color choices
No adjustment needed--snugs around your waist like a one-piece compression garment
Fits waist sizes from 24 to 40 inches, roughly the same as your jeans size (use Nathan's size chart)
Keeps your ID and debit cards straight, with quick and easy access via the zipper
Has a Nathan logo, but it's unobtrusive and not garish
The zipper is near the top, not in the center; makes you more prone to jams and snags
Nathan has a couple of products by this name, which can be confusing
Your body sweat can soak through the fabric, so may want a baggie for your phone
Though the stretchy fabric may lose shape and become loose over time, it will never chafe you and the price is reasonable enough to replace the product every year or so. It's not a deal-breaker, especially when you consider how quickly a $150 pair of sneakers can lose their cushion if you are a hardcore outdoor runner. The expense is part of the sport, and we want to emphasize how reasonably priced the Zipster is.
It is also big enough for most iPhones. And even with an iPhone 11, there's more room for whatever else you need to carry. The Zipster doesn't have any medical-need specific features, like a port for those who have to carry an insulin pump everywhere. But it's flexible enough to make something like that work or to carry an EpiPen for those of us with serious allergies.
If you want music while you run, there is an opening to thread your earbud jack and wire through. Changing your playlist, even on the fly, is easy peasy with the zipper.
Although we have to say, on the negative side, that zipper pull is tiny and blends in with the body of the Nathan Zipster. It also makes us wonder how heavy duty the zipper is, and how well it will hold up over time. Zippers have ratings, and we are big enough nerds to both know that and be concerned about it. Again, not a deal-breaker, but there are plenty of runner belts out there with bigger zippers and grippier teeth, having pulls you can find even in the dark or in a sudden rainstorm. But they almost all have straps and buckles to deal with, along with the migration problems we mentioned earlier. If you're looking for something that will stay in place, hold your phone still, and provide the most comfort, the Zipster is your best bet.
Nathan brings that same innovation to the Zipster belt, and to everything in its catalog. Everything they make is sport-specific to runners and hikers. Whether your event is a 5K, day hike, or ultramarathon, Nathan Sports will have something you can use. They even make belts just for race numbers, as well as a detergent that's gentle on stretchy fabrics and bungee laces that turn any sneaker into a snug, form-fitting slip-on that won't work loose over time.
That form-fitting, compressive, stretchy construction is a hallmark of Nathan products. They are tough but have enough given that you won't experience discomfort. The bigger items, like the hydration pack, are typically made of soft nylon. It holds the water vessels in place, whether you are running, cycling, or walking. The fabrics are easy to clean but typically can't go in the drier. It will shrink them. But hanging the Zipster out to dry overnight is easy. In a pinch, you could wash the sweat off with a gravity shower and hang the belt up at an overnight campsite.
A Word About Hygiene
All this talk of stinky gear raises the question: if Nathan products are geared towards runners, and runners sweat a lot, why not make a moisture-proof pocket inside the belt? We aren't sure. Our guess is that neoprene or other dry pockets would add too much bulk and weight, defeating the purpose of having something so cozy you'll forget it's there. You can avoid damage to your phone, or a soggy post-run snack, by wrapping must-keep-dry items in a plastic Ziploc baggie that won't add weight or take up precious space.
Why It Is Different
One other thing to consider, that only urban adventurers will get. Your editor uses a typical fanny pack, with a big compartment, nylon shell, multiple zippers, and a strap/buckle system. She loves it and wouldn't want to change. A common trick is to pull the straps tight--not tight enough to cause discomfort--and then stow your large tablet computer between the front of your hips and the back of the pouch.
This works with a more traditional pack. You can walk all over town, and the tablet will be there for directions or making cardless payments. It's also nice to have something to read during rest breaks, or when you reach a walking destination. We quit lugging around hard copies of books years ago.
This trick probably wouldn't work with the Nathan Zipster. The fabric compression is tight enough to stay in place, but not tight enough to prevent the tablet from falling out. You'd end up with your tablet in a backpack, which is inconvenient when you need to snap a picture in a hurry or do similar urban adventure tasks. Your editor can't possibly be the only weirdo who carries a tablet with her pelvis, so we are throwing this in there to help you make a purchase decision. We all have our own quirks and go-to solutions, and no fitness product can be everything to everyone.
The Final Word
The fabric will stretch too much and lose shape over time, even with proper care. Cleaning is easy, either by hand or in the gentle cycle. Don't put the belt in the drier; hang it up to air dry. You may face frequent washings since the Zipster is not sweat proof or antibacterial.
For the amount of money, Nathan Sports wants, we say this belt is worth it if you are someone who just can't stand straps and buckles and wants something that won't move around during strenuous activity. But the zipper is quite small and could pose a problem in the dark or under inclement weather. Its placement near the top of the pouch also means possible jams, especially when zipper teeth meet soft fabric. If you are okay with these and some of the other drawbacks we mentioned, then the Nathan Zipster is for you. Otherwise, shove your iPad in front of your pelvis and carry on, like your fearless editors. This is a situation that really comes down to personal preference.