Last fall the B.C. rep for UltrAspire, Gary Robbins, was kind enough to offer Trainharder.com a Surge pack to test and review. Over hundreds of kilometers of running in the wet, muddy BC coastal trails, Mr. and Mrs. Trainharder have had plenty of time to refine their thoughts on this pack.
When I first received this pack I was very excited to try it out during my medium to long runs. For years I have had to make do with a variety of packs, some too big, some too small, and none that fit well. I’d always end my runs with sore shoulders and back, or I had been missing something out on the trail because I wasn’t able to take it with me. Last fall I heard of the UltrAspire brand and was excited to try out one of their new packs. I mean these packs were designed for trail and ultra runners, so how could they NOT be good? And when the opportunity came up to test one out I jumped at the chance.
So now that I’ve been running with this pack for eight months, here’s what I think…
First, the pack fits snug, with little to no weight bearing load on shoulders. Perfect. I was now ending my runs with little to no shoulder soreness.
Second, the Surge pack that I tested came with lots of up-front pockets to store miscellaneous items, all the kinds of knick knacks that runners need out on the trail: bars, gels, gloves, keys, music player, etc. The pack also has room for a two litre bladder compartment which can also hold a jacket and toque and gloves. This is held nicely to the body with an elastic compression strap that minimized bouncing. Two straps with non-breakable metal buckles ensure the pack is locked on tight.
Finally, I really like the attention to detail that the designers put into the pack. The front zipper tabs n includes clasps for easily opening and closing, even with number fingers in gloves. Also the pack also came with a specialized water-proof magnetized flapped compartment for the dry storage of salt tablets.
But nothing is ever perfect right? Despite all the great features packed into this pack (sorry for the pun) there are a few things that could use minor improvements. The hose could use another piece of fabric to keep it in place. I found that the section that ran along my neck would occasionally rub against my me and cause chafing (a zap strap quickly remedied this and I haven’t had any problems since). I also found the long dangling straps a little of an annoyance, these definitely needed to be shortened (note: a follow-up with Gary has since confirmed that this has been addressed). Finally, and I’m being picky here, the dual compartment bladder, while great for reducing sloshing while running, was difficult to dry.
Overall I give the Surge two enthusiastic thumbs up. This is now my go-to pack, and I use it for all runs over an hour and a half. I would not be surprised to see a lot of UltrAspire packs out on the trails in the near future.
Well, I think he about covered all the unique specks so I’ll just jump straight to my favorite parts… I absolutely loved two things about this pack. First, the fit. This pack has a unique chest compression fit, as opposed to the more traditional shoulder weight-bearing fit. I have to admit, it took me a full run to get used to this new feel. It was snug in new places, and I kept seeking out resistance against my shoulders. But I did get used to this new feel, and I grew to appreciate the sensation of not having tight neck and shoulders after a run! Also, with this compression fit there is little to no bounce, always a joy.
Second, I loved having so many different pockets up front. With the exception of putting my jacket away, I did not have to take off my pack during any of my runs! Everything was within reach; my food, gloves, keys, phone. It was brilliant.
So now Mr. and Mrs. Trainharder have a pack to fight over. I think I should get first dibs… ladies first, right?
Editor’s Note: Alberta’s Rock Gear Distribution is handling all Canadian distribution of UltrAspire products and a number of retailers in BC are currently stocking their products.
For more information about the UltrAspire Surge pack visit http://www.ultraspire.net/products/surge/.