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Monday 27 January 2014

Gear Review: UltrAspire Surge Race Pack/Vest

What UltrAspire say:

“This is one of our athlete's favorite packs because of the way it hugs the body. A light weight racing vest with dual side compression and 2L hydration compartment for those who prefer a reservoir. It's so comfortable, you'll forget you have it on.”

How much: £71.99 from Ultra Marathon Running Store 

What I wanted:
In a nutshell, something light, with lots of pockets.

I wanted a vest that would hold a water bladder rather than carry a handheld bottle (the slosh sound annoys me* and I can only comfortably carry these in my right hand for some reason!) I was running a 50 mile race so needed something that would hold enough food to take me through that. I tend to get backache if I carry too much weight on my back so I wanted something lightweight that I could strap on tightly to reduce bounce while running.

So something light, comfortable and which would hold a water bladder and enough food for a 50 miler.

So … what was the verdict?

I occasionally get back problems but wearing this didn't cause any pain or issues even with the 2 litre water bladder full as the pack fitted so snugly. If I made sure I adjusted the straps as the water level dropped, then I could keep the pack snug to my body. It was easy to adjust on the move.

I’m a fairly average-sized female runner and it fits me very well, although there is plenty of strap for adjustments to be made. I even tried it on my 4 year old and it could be adjusted to fit her.

Chafing & Blisters
None. I’ve worn this on a 30 mile run with the water bladder full at 2 litre capacity and vest fully packed and also tested it with the water bladder part full and had no chafing, marks or blisters either time.

There is a hole in the hood for the hose to fit through. This a bit fiddly as it gets in the way of the material hook to hold the bladder in place. Looks as though it's designed for the hose to run up the back of the bladder and there is a centrally padded part but I didn't want the connector to rub so fitted it backwards and it works fine this way.

I had been very concerned when I’d received the pack as it as it looked tiny. (I’d chosen it online as a Christmas present) but once I started packing the food and bits and pieces in there seemed to be plenty of space and plenty of pockets. There was a zip compartment on the front which was great for essentials and the zip stopped me showering the floor with coins and gels every time I bent forward to tie my shoes. There was a pouch on the other side strap for my phone or which would hold a water bottle. I used it for my phone and it meant no faffing about when the phone rang or for the occasional photo.

Even more importantly I could even put hand into back pocket to retrieve snacks. Brilliant if you're a gannet like me. Snack access is important!

The bladder seals at the top with a sliding seal rather than a circular cap which is very handy and means you don’t have to worry about a bad seal or a twisted thread leaking and soaking the contents of the pack. I'm speaking from experience here. I loved that it was clear whether the bladder is sealed or not. These are also available on their own from the Ultramarathon Running Store for £23.99. 

  • 2 litre hydration bladder is included in the price.
  • The pocket on the pack hood is very handy for easy access to hydration tablets and plasters. 

  • There's a pocket that seals with a magnet on the left strap. Not entirely sure what this is for but you probably don't want to check your bearings with a compass near this.
  • There's a hook on top of pack to hang which is handy when it's fully packed. Unfortunately on my pack test it had to pass the 'Can it hang on the back of loo doors' test. It does.
  • The pack is fairly water resistant. I have run with it in rain and hail and the pack contents stayed mainly dry although for long run loo roll probably best to seal inside a plastic bag unless you want to go on a Big Leaf search.
  • There are loops in various places for buffs, gloves etc which is handy and places you could add keyrings, carabinas etc as you wish.
  • Rubber loops on the zips for easy unzipping with gloves. It's easy to undo the main strap on pack with or without gloves.
  • Pack is sturdy and feels and appears well made.

  • The front pocket has holes in the bottom. I didn't realise this the first time I used the pack. Luckily I was running laps and and managed to retrieve most of the lost goodies on the 2nd lap.
  • The material hook to hold the bladder in place inside the pack gets in the way of the hole in the hood for the hose which makes it a bit awkward if you want to thread the hose through but it's a minor inconvenience and not one which affects the use of pack.
  • The clips across the body to hold the pack in place can be awkward to unclip when hands are cold. It's not too bad but can be tricky to release the pack from your back.

Value for Money
It’s middle of the road as far as price is concerned and having had several packs which have been discarded for various reasons (uncomfortable, silly design, not enough pockets, not enough storage), I’m very pleased with this one and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to others. It performs like a much more expensive pack.

Points out of 10: 9
Light as a feather when on and fully adjustable. It lost a point as the easily reachable front pocket has holes in it and I don’t want to lose snacks on the run!

Lightweight yet sturdy, this pack performs far beyond its modest price. It fits snugly and doesn't move when you're running and can be adjusted to fit most sizes. It offers excellent value for money and has enough storage for plenty of food on the move. I'd buy it again.

Specifications (Taken from UltrAspire website)
  • Large hole microfiber mesh for ultra breathability
  • 2 Litre Hydrapak hydration bladder included
  • Dual side compression with Compressi-flex™ for stable load without restricting movement
  • Quick access hydration compartment
  • Stretch mesh energy gel pocket
  • Patent pending Magnon Electrolyte Pocket™ with easy worry- free magnet closure
  • Light weight zippers pulls easily grabbed even with gloves, cold or numb fingers
  • Left mesh pocket over zippered inner pocket for securely stowing night time accessories, energy foods and other necessary gear
  • Contoured shape profile for comfortable stable ride
  • Stretch mesh quick stash panel for easy access
  • Top zippered pocket for head lamp, cell phone or other supplies

Weight: 290 grams ( 430g with reservoir )
Colours: Pitch Black, Ultra Red

*Tip for all runners using a bladder – if you squeeze all of the air out of it you don't get the irritating sloshing noise.


  1. What do u think of it now the ultra is complete? Should I get it for tr24 and saltmarsh75?

  2. Hi Angela, I can't recommend it enough. I carried it for the 50 miler absolutely full up and it didn't shift around at all. I had no chafing and it was really very comfortable. My two running buddies were ALSO wearing identical vests and we all agreed how well they perform. Couldn't fault it. Plus I didn't keep snacks in the front pocket this time :)

    1. Cool, I might just go for it! The price is pretty good, and I'm sure with sensible packing i could make it more comfortable for me than it was when I tried it with you...

    2. It DID have an entire set of party clothes in, plus makeup and snacks when I let you try it on. See! Handy for ALL eventualities! Even when TfL goes on strike, we can get around it with sensible kit!! ;)

  3. Cool! It’s lightweight, full of pockets, and fairly priced. Looks like just you just found a perfect running gear for you. I would love to see you in action sporting this!

    Paul Cherry @ VestPac

    1. Thanks Paul! You can never have too many packets on a vest! :) If you want to see me in action keep an eye out at Endure 24, TR24, Equinox 24 and Saltmarsh 75 this year!! Or you can cheat and check out the pics here: ;)