I received the UltrAspire Alpha vest to test out during the JFK 50 miler. I had voiced my disappointment with my current Nathan pack while working at Fleet Feet Boulder and my boss suggested I try UltrAspire since we are planning on carrying them in 2015. The alpha is the most popular race vest in the UltrAspire line. And let me tell you, after using it and discovering all of its hidden compartments, awesome features, and comfortable fit, I can see why it is their #1 seller!
Fit and Feel
I took it out for a spin only one time prior to JFK (bold move I know), but I was desperate to not use my old pack for the race. Although this run was only about an hour long, I could already tell that certain things that used to bother me were not issues with this pack. One of the first things I noticed was the fit. I have the green, small sized Alpha, and once the straps are adjusted, it fits extremely snug and hits a little lower down the back than the typical hydration pack. The lining is so soft and flexible that I can barely tell when it is on. The mesh is extremely breathable and the sweat-proof sides keep the pack light and airy throughout the entire run. This pack passed the biggest test I could throw its way.
I did not chafe. At all. I am 100% serious. Up until this pack, I have never worn a pack for over 2 hours and not chafed somewhere on my back or ribcage, or a place I didn’t even know came into contact with the pack. This pack stayed comfortable and breathable the entire 50 miles and I will continue to use this for all of my future endeavors. All ultrarunners know that the last thing you want to have to worry about during a race is chafing and discomfort, and with the alpha, I will no longer have to worry about this with my hydration pack.
Can you actually reach into the back pouch?
The answer is yes. I was a little skeptical at first too, but it is very easy to reach into the back of the pouch and pull out a bar or t-shirt or whatever it is you crammed back there. This was very helpful during JFK because I stored all of my Lara bars back there and then just put the wrappers into the side pouch. It makes for a very convenient system while on the move, no stopping needed!
Other compartments and features
The back compartment also has an external shock cord. This was the first vest that I have used with a shock cord, and I really like it. You can shove gloves, socks, or jackets in there and the tightly drawn cord keeps them from falling out and most importantly out of your way. Even though this pack is smaller, it can carry more than my other, larger packs, due to some of these features.
It also has two front drawstring holsters. These are ideal for water bottles, food, cameras, or whatever you may want to bring along with you on your adventure. For JFK I stored a water bottle in one and food in the other. They can be adjusted easily to fit extremely snug, which minimizes the bouncing or escaping of the contents. But the bungee-tightening system is extremely easy to close and open while on the move.
The Magnon Electrolyte Pocket is water resistant and allows your salt pills and electrolyte tablets to stay intact during the entire run. With a magnetic closure, it is easily accessible and basically closes on its own! My pills didn't even get wet when I accidentally spilled water, which eventually froze, all down the front of the pack.. success!
The bladder holds up to 2 liters! However, I only filled it up to the 1-liter mark for my race to keep the pack a bit lighter and because I have a tendency to underestimate my hydration needs for a race. Regardless, the 1-liter filled bladder stayed in its place with very minimal bouncing. No one likes feeling like they have an extra jiggle to their back. Even when the bladder is filled to 2 liters, it stayed relatively light and non-bouncy, which is good for all day adventures!
The drinking tube is easily opened with a pull and then does not require any unnecessary actions aside from simply drinking. This is nice, you don’t feel out of breath after trying to drink some water. Believe me, some drinking systems aren’t so friendly on the lungs. I don't want to get a workout trying to hydrate, thats rather unnecessary.
Alpha for the win!
I love the alpha pack. It helped me snag 3rd at JFK, has accompanied me on some all-day treks, and is great for training runs. I have never been happier with a hydration pack and will continue to use UA products throughout my running career!
Thanks to the UA team and local Boulder tech rep for introducing me to such an awesome product!
Fluid Capacity: 2 L (70 fl. oz) Reservoir
Weight (includes Reservoir): 11.99 oz
Total Volume: 442.37 c.i.
Product Dimension (inches):L/XL: 16x.5×17 S/M: 15x.5×17;
Check it out for yourself at http://ultraspire.com/product/alpha/
Happy running! :)