UltrAspire is known for its innovative approach in the hydration vest space, and their design philosophy emphasizes minimizing the footprint of the vest against your body while still providing adequate storage for a variety of adventures. This spring, UltrAspire updated two of its popular unisex minimalist vests, the Alpha 4.0 and Momentum 2.0. Some construction elements of these two vests are similar, and we’ll review those before describing specifics of each pack.
Both the Alpha 4.0 and Momentum 2.0 use UltrAspire’s ErgoFit harness system, which has a slight S-shape compared to traditional vest straps. Angled shoulder straps are wider around the neck, then contour slightly toward the midline in the torso to avoid interference with arm movement. Relatively long straps give the pack a low center of gravity for stability, which also helps to reduce the degree of bouncing when the vests are fully loaded with cargo.
Front straps are connected by elastic Max O2 sternum bands, which can be cinched down tight to secure the vest, but still have stretch and elasticity to accommodate heavy breathing. Updates to both vests include a larger sweat-resistant pill pocket on the right strap with a magnetic closure, and a new stretch mesh phone pocket on the left strap that replaces the previous zipper pocket. This new pocket is secured by a top bungee cord, which accommodates a larger variety of phone shapes, but also leaves the top of your phone exposed to grit or moisture. Neither of these vests uses a sweat resistant barrier on the phone pocket, so your phone case will definitely take on moisture moving through the lightweight mesh straps.
Like its predecessors, the Alpha 4.0 offers an impressive amount of storage for a relatively small pack. The cargo spec is 6L, but large mesh pockets and external shock cords make it seem like that spec can easily be exceeded. Updates to this model include a reconfiguration of the rear passage pocket, which is separate from the main zippered storage pocket. This passage pocket has magnetic closures that have good closure strength, but open easily when needed. This is an ideal place for stashing clothing layers, as the mesh expands to accommodate large garments, and the bottom of this pocket has been reinforced to prevent punctures or tears. Below the passage pocket, a pair of looped shock cords offer storage for poles or an ice axe.
The main zipper compartment accommodates a 2L reservoir,* and the new insulated sleeve can be positioned against your back to keep fluids cold, or against the outside of the reservoir for the less common occasions when you want to keep fluids warm. It can also be removed entirely if you’re looking to maximize space in the zipper compartment. This is useful because otherwise, the 2L reservoir occupies most of the main zipper compartment and makes a tight fit when scrunching in any large-ish cargo.
*This is where we’ll pause to say that neither of these vests come with hydration accessories included; those must be purchased separately. The intent is to give users multiple configuration options, but it’s also kind of a bummer that nothing comes standard. Here are the most common hydration accessories to consider purchasing along with the Alpha 4.0 or Momentum 2.0:
- 2L reservoir, $35 (fits Alpha 4.0 only)
- 500ml soft flask with bite cap, $18 each
- 500ml soft flask with straw and bite valve, $21 each
- 550ml hybrid bottle, $15 each
One design aspect of the Alpha 4.0 that we really like is the large, mesh zippered pockets on either side. Often this space goes unutilized on vests but UltrAspire maximizes it. These pockets have the same stretch mesh as on the rear passage pocket, and the zipper closure provides peace of mind that things won’t gradually work their way out. We also really like the soft Ultracool polyester mesh, crafted in a honeycomb pattern to provide a slight degree of lift off the skin for airflow, but with enough contact surface to draw moisture away. This mesh rides soft against bare skin and has nice thermoregulation when temperatures get warm.
The Momentum is sort of an oddity in the hydration vest space, as one of the only models that is designed to carry bottles on the back. Dual bottles rest in a V-shape in the small of your back, and on the original version of the Momentum vest, the positioning of these bottles proved very hard to remove them from the pockets. This was addressed with a major design change on the 2.0 version, and the introduction of fluidic holsters. Basically, this is a fancy name for magnetic clasps that release when you pull downward on the bottles, so your angle of pull to remove the bottles becomes almost horizontal instead of diagonally upward. When you return the bottle to the pocket, you tilt it upward and the magnet attaches back in place to secure the bottle in an upright angled position. It’s sort of simple but also sort of ingenious, and the new design makes it far easier to remove the bottles from the vest. When returning them, you still have to feel around a little bit, but once you get the hang of it, you become more efficient at handling the bottles.
In between the bottle holsters, the large rear storage compartment of the Momentum 2.0 is now a 4-way, mesh top-loading pocket that closes with a single cinch cord, removing the zipper closure from the previous version. This is similar to the mesh found on the Alpha 4.0, with nice stretch capacity to accommodate large items and clothing layers. Inside this main compartment is a small, zippered pocket which provides nice protection from moisture, but is impossible to access without taking the pack off entirely.
Another significant change to the Momentum 2.0 is the use of a single layer Ultracool Lite polyester mesh that is thin to the point of being transparent. The polyester draws moisture from the skin but doesn’t retain any moisture itself. It rides fairly comfortably but with a somewhat coarser feel than the regular Ultracool mesh. Side panels on the Momentum 2.0 have horizontal stretch mesh pouches, but no way to secure them shut. Small fabric loops below the front straps are designed for pole or axe storage, but there’s no way to adjust their size or tension, so whatever you put there has to be the right fit.
The new UltrAspire Alpha 4.0 and Momentum 2.0 vests are now available at www.ultraspire.com.
|Alpha 4.0||Momentum 2.0|
|Hydration storage||2L reservoir in back, 2x 500ml flasks or 550ml hybrid bottles (not included)||2x 550ml hybrid bottles, 2x 500ml soft flasks (not included)|
|Strap material||Ultracool 3-layer mesh||Ultracool Lite single layer mesh|
|Front storage||Sweat-resistant pill pocket, top cinch phone pocket, large dual stretch mesh pouches||Sweat-resistant pill pocket, top cinch phone pocket, large dual stretch mesh pouches|
|Side storage||Dual zipper pockets||Dual pouches|
|Rear Storage||Zippered, full-length main compartment; full-width pass-through pouch; external shock cords||Top loading, stretch mesh pocket with cinch cord closure; small sweat-resistant interior pocket|