Monday, 2 July 2012
Ultraspire: OMEGA race pack review
ULTRASPIRE: OMEGA RACE VEST STATISTICS PACK- Ultraspire OMEGA Weight- 350g (self measure: manufacture says 337g) Fit/comfort- 8/10 Accessibility- 10/10 Durability- 8/10 Storage- 9/10 Miles Run- 181miles Longest Run- 34.5miles (5:53 hours) Initial impressions: I knew the Omega was Ultraspire’s ‘version’ of Salomon 12L S-LAB pack (I test this in July ’12 and own one in September ’12) and I knew it was Krissy Moehl’s UTMB race pack so my expectation (and excitement) was high. I actually tried to buy one of these about 5 months ago but it seems that if your outside the US than you were out of luck. That's until ULTRAmarathonrunning come up trumps with there new online store which distributes worldwide. Straight out the packaging I was immediately impressed by the lightness and softness of the materials. For Packs that carry 15L of gear it will definitely not be beaten on weight and construction. It also looks so compact that I seriously doubted I would ever fit all my kit required for UTMB. I also had to work my way through the plethora of pockets and gizmo’s stored around the pack and like most Ultra Distance runners it felt like Christmas every time I saw something new. I have tried so many race packs that I never truly believe I will find something brand new in a pack but I was proved wrong by Ultraspire here, goes to show that if all your Research and Development is in racing hydration then you’re going to have one heck of a product. Construction and storage: The pack is essentially designed with 3 large storage units and loads of little satellites of storage orbiting the bag. The first large storage pocket is for the internal bladder and, as expected, is at the back and it comes with a 2litle Hydrapak (this is the same brand that Salomon have just switched to for 2012 and now use with the S-Lab Vest). These bladders are always effective and simple to use- fold the flap down to conceal then slide the top unit over the bladder to secure. The bladder also has a thin blue divider that runs down the middle and this is not just for aesthetics it actually stops water from pooling and prevents the irritating water bulge on your lower back when the bladder is half full, if you have run with Camalbak products you will know what I mean here. The main pocket initial looks very small but once you open it out and start stuffing it you can fit quite a lot in. The flexible materials of the bag means you can just keep stuffing it and once full, to my delight, I found it did not bulge in any uncomfortable places during running. The third big pocket is a big flexible mesh at the front which I managed to squeeze in all my nutrition products, camera, headtorch, hat and gloves. The top of the pocket has a plastic rim which helps maintain structure and by keeping it away from the main compartment it means that storage capacity isn’t affected by stuffing the pack full. Both side of this large mesh pocket are two smaller mesh pockets which are both deep and flexible for maximum storage (maximising storage and having no space waste is a common theme here and a well thought out process by Ultraspire). Once the race vest is on you then start to notice the useful gizmo’s on the shoulder straps that run down the front of the body. You guessed it- more pockets and a lovely addition of a magnetised pouch for something small to be stored. The only thing that is not immediately obvious and I found to be a small issue is which strap to feed the bladder nozzle down. You can strap it through the magnetised pocket but this neutralises the use of the pocket and the other side just doesn’t have anything to truly secure it- I will have to make an adjustment here. Possibly by buying a small Velcro strap and attach to the bag to keep the nozzle down without costing me storage space. I must add that I have made adjustments to every pack I have ever owned- with the Omega I only needed two, RESULT! Fit: The second adjustment I made was to slightly cut (I always need the Swiss army knife!) the long fastening straps so they did not flap around so much when running. This is a common problem for me being a 6foot 3inch skinny man. My back length means I need a large pack to sit right but then as it’s a large pack it presumes everything else is large- I had to full the fasteners to maximum tension to get the optimum ride. Other than this minor flaw the Omega is the most comfortable bag I have ever used by an extremely long margin. It feels like an extension of your tension and I am genuinely shocked at how comfortable it is. No back bulging and nothing moves within the pack when you run, everything seems secure. I also cannot work out how a full Omega pack seems vastly lighter than my OMM and Inov8 when they have exactly the same gear and water amount in? Engineering brilliance. Usability: Accessibility during a run is a huge deal for any ultra runner. I believe refilling the bladder could certainly be made easier as the shoulder straps can get in the way a bit but I have no complaints anywhere else. The two side pockets to the main compartment are easy to get into on the move and considering my shoulders lack a decent range of motion I still managed to get my arm into the big front pocket whilst on the move, this was massively helped by the plastic ridged rim on the pocket which helps to ease the pocket open when you need to. The main compartment does not open out massively so if you are the type of runner that packs a bag without a thought process as to where and when you will need things then you may struggle rooting around. With so much care and attention that goes into the bag it is always going to be case of finding how best to use the space for yourself but be rest assured you will have the space. Verdict: Best pack I own and will be used at UTLD 100 and CCC this year, no question. Plenty of storage with an amazing fit. Yes I have one or two things I would change, fasteners are ridiculously long and the where to put the bladder nozzle conundrum needs addressing. This pack was trialled and testing courtesy of Keith at the Ultramarathonrunning store who are the first in the UK to stock the ULTRASPIRE range. The SPRY pack is the baby brother/sister of the OMEGA so if you don’t need the UTMB type storage space then it’s a great option. You also have the KINETIC which brings back old school bottle hydration in a pack (review of this from me to come). Check out the web store for the rest of the range too, it’s certainly money well invested and to be frank you will not know how you ever coped without this pack after just one run! All images are with a loaded pack.