By Melissa Gunner
Two early releases in the UltrAspire lineup for Spring 2020 are available this month: the new Basham race vest and the Spry 3.0 race vest. Both vests utilize UltrAspire’s ErgoFit Design with longer, more tapered shoulder straps than most running vests. This design positions the pack slightly lower on the runner’s neck and the chest straps curve inward, allowing for a full arm swing without irritation from the vest’s fabric or straps.
The Basham vest was designed in collaboration with elite ultrarunner Amanda Basham, and is a new addition to UltrAspire’s race line. The new design utilizes lightweight materials and focuses on performance for the competitive athlete in trail and ultra races. The Spry 3.0 is an update to the previous 2.5 model and is part of UltrAspire’s essential line, designed for athletes of all skill levels to use on both road and trail. A new element incorporated into both packs is the UltrAcool light mesh on the shoulder straps. The new material is very lightweight and breathable with strong durability. Both vests are one-size-fits-most, and can be easily sized down to a women’s XS or up to a men’s XL through the adjustable chest and side straps.
I tested the vests while training for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler this past November in the Marin Headlands. The Spry 3.0 was used on training runs of 20-30 miles, when I was less worried about carrying extra weight and didn’t want to have to stop and refuel. Its large fluid capacity was perfect for hot days, especially when hauling extra water for my canine training partner. For race day, I went with the lightweight Basham, which allowed me to carry multiple types of fluids and easily switch out bottles.
UltrAspire Basham Race Vest
The defining characteristic of the Basham Race Vest is its small overall footprint, with an impressive amount of storage built into its reduced surface area. The small footprint gives athletes decreased friction and better heat dissipation when compared to similar racing vests, but still offers 2L of cargo capacity. It has two large bottle compartments in the posterior, and several smaller pockets situated throughout the vest. The key feature of the back of the vest is the horizontally-situated, insulated bottle compartment, which accommodates one UltraFlask 550mL bottle (included with the vest) and proved to be very handy for quick access to hydration. One drawback of this design is that the bottles can leak easily if they are not sealed correctly, so the athlete must be extra vigilant when stashing bottles. A large quick-stash pocket sits above the insulated bottle compartment and allows for storage of bulkier items with its four-way stretch mesh. A magnetic closure at the top ensures contents are secure while remaining easily accessible.
Though only one UltraFlask 550mL bottle is included with the vest, the Basham can easily hold another bottle vertically in this quick-stash pocket for longer ventures. However, the vertically-stored bottle is a bit more difficult to stash quickly while wearing the vest (especially if you have any shoulder issues – it’s a big reach) and this pocket is not insulated, so it may mean a warm second bottle when the time comes. An additional quick stash pocket on the outside of the insulated bottle compartment is suitable for larger items, while smaller storage pockets in the shoulder straps can accommodate nutrition and various accessories, including a large cell phone. The zipper pocket on the left shoulder strap has convenient, sweat-resistant backing and can hold contents which won’t get wet.
The Basham has two straps in the front to hold the pack in place, and they do the job impressively well. Bouncing of the vest was quite minimal, even on steep descents, with two full bottles in the back. The UltraFlasks sat flush in the pack and felt as comfortable as soft flasks or a reservoir but were easier to fill and handle. Unfortunately, sloshy bottle noises were present while wearing the pack with these flasks, though the noise was more muted than most bottles due to their hybrid material.
UltrAspire Spry 3.0 Race Vest
For those who prefer a pack with a higher fluid storage capacity, the Spry 3.0 Race Vest is a great option. Updates to this vest include a sweatproof liner under the back panel and a large, lined zipper storage pocket on the back of the vest for holding items that can’t get wet. The quick-stash pocket on the Spry model is similar to that of the Basham and made of the same four-way stretch mesh, but large enough for a reservoir. Disappointingly, the Spry 3.0 is listed to accommodate their 1L reservoir ($31.95) and UltrAspire does not include reservoirs with any of their packs. Not wanting to buy a new reservoir, I forced in a regular 1.5L Hydrapak reservoir and it worked just fine.
Each shoulder strap has a small hook strap to thread the hose of the reservoir through so it stays locked down and accessible. The back panel of the vest has a shock cord which can work to secure a jacket or bulkier item, or strap down the reservoir in its pocket so it sits taut to the wearer’s back. Two large pockets are oriented at a diagonal on the front straps, and have an elastic cord at the top of each pocket which is essential for use when stashing smaller things (my car key and phone dropped right out when I forgot to tighten down the elastic). UltrAspire claims that these two large pockets can fit any of their bottles, though again, no flasks or reservoir were included with the vest so I did not test this explicitly. A few other miscellaneous pockets on the shoulder straps – one with a magnetic envelope-style closure and another with an elastic cord – can carry all other necessary items.
Features and Specs:
|Fluid location||Dual front flask pockets||1-1.5L in rear compartment|
|Fluid containers included||One 550mL
|Weight (with fluid containers)||9.4 oz
(with 550mL bottle)
|6.4 oz (vest only)|
The UltrAspire Basham and Spry 3.0 packs will be released this month and are available for pre-order at www.ultraspire.com.