Ultraspire Omega Race Vest Review
Guest post by friend and Ultrarunner Bart Rein
I have been an ultra runner for many years now, always preferring trails to roads. I use a hydration pack on most runs and always for run over 10 miles. I have used several different brands over the years and have used one of the more popular ones for the last couple. I had grown increasingly frustrated over several aspects of the pack I had and was eager to try the Ultraspire Omega. I had several training runs with it and then used it for my most recent 50k The HAT Run 50k.
The fit stood out immediately as an improvement over what I had been using. Once I had made the initial adjustments along the sides, the two connection points across the front made it simple to maintain a fit that stayed snug without the pack bouncing in the back. What helped to this end is a very clever detail added by the people at Ultraspire. The connection point along the back has an elastic component on the inside of the pack that allows the fit to be snug without binding. There are adequate pockets that are accessible from the front. One zippered, one mesh for trash in front of the zippered pocket and one pocket that close with a bungee cord that was large enough for me to stuff my gloves into it when I didn’t need them anymore. There is also a small pocket with a magnetic closure that is perfect for stashing salt pills or ibuprofen. There is also a small thin pocket where the hose attaches to the front of the vest that you can use for car keys or in my instance, I stashed the Ultraspire collapsible, reusable cup so I could take water from an aide station without creating trash from a paper or plastic cup.
This year’s HAT Run 50k started with snow on the ground at 32 degrees which transitioned into shoe sucking mud at 50 degrees by the end of the race. The Omega had more than ample room to store essentials ( band aids, salt pills, ibuprofen, toilet paper, extra drink mix, and nutritionals ) as well as clothing options for the swing in temperatures that we had that day. There is a quite large capacity storage compartment, a zippered top compartment and a separate compartment for the bladder. The other packs I’ve used have a bungee along the back for you to quickly stash a shell or shirt that you’ve taken off. Those items have also fallen out after several miles and I’ve had to stop and pick them up and restash them. The Omega has a unique pouch that clips into the top zippered compartment that firmly holds whatever you put in there, even through a poorly executed cartwheel that I did at the finish line. It’s easy to access yet held my shell and extra shirt throughout the race.
The bladder has it’s own separate compartment which means it doesn’t take space in the storage compartment. Ultraspire has also overcome what has always been a huge pet peeve of mine. The bladder attaches to the compartment with a Velcro strap so IT DOES NOT FALL DOWN INTO THE COMPARTMENT! It stays in place.
Really couldn’t find anything that I disliked about the product but did find one point of personal preference. I did find the infusion valve a little awkward to use. It did have a very high rate of flow but having used bite valves only in the past, I couldn’t get used to the pull on/push off feature of the infusion valve. It was a quick fix for me. I replaced the valve with Hydrapak’s Blaster Bite Valve which solved the problem for me. Great flow rate in bite valve that I was used to.
My overall impression is that the Omega is now my go-to pack. It performed flawlessly through a long race in far less than ideal conditions. Literally snow to mud. Started the race with long sleeves and a jacket and ended the race in a t-shirt and a ball cap. It didn’t bounce or cause chafing issues. I had plenty of room leftover in the pack for more gear if I wanted. It held all the nutritionals and extra hydration mix that I needed and a large enough capacity that while I refilled once, I could have gotten away without the refill. I would recommend this product to anyone.
The Omega pack began as a custom pack for Elite Immortal Krissy Moehl’s return trip to the UTMB at Mont Blanc to defend her record and first place finish. But, many of our immortals saw prototypes of this pack and wanted it too! We thought there must be more runners out there who would feel the same way about this incredibly light weight and surprisingly accommodating, pack. Though a challenge to create a pack that was both light enough to wear for a hundred plus mile race, and large enough to stow all the necessary equipment, this paradox has found itself a home in the Omega. The Omega is a larger version of the Surge pack.
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Regarding fit, I am 6’5″ 200 lbs. I have not found a hydration pack (other than Osprey) that fit larger runners. Do these packs come in various sizes?
From Bart “Only one size. 6’5″ only 200lbs seems like it would fit him. I don’t have it opened up much at all and I’m a pretty wide guy”