And so here we are. It’s Friday, we can still go and clock some local training miles within reason in the UK and to top it off, this is the finale of my 5 trail/ultra running vest/pack review series.
The inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 2-in-1 Vest has been left for last for a reason. Other than having the longest and least catchy name, it has the most going on. If you haven’t guessed already, it is 2 products, combined into 1, providing flexibility, adaptability and real bang for your buck. If you like all the bells and whistles, options galore and the majority of your kit to hand at a moments notice, this may be up your street. Down your trail? On your summit?
*If you’d like to skip to the video – scroll to the bottom*
inov-8 aren’t a brand who bring packs out on a regular basis, their packs/vests tend to stick around for a while and there’s a clear difference of evolution when the next is launched. I remember talking to a friend when the 2-in-1 was first launched, the biggest question that came from the images was “would it work?” See, the idea of a 2-in-1 is great, one pack to cover you for pretty much all running needs bar something like the Cape Wrath FKT, where you need more volume for sleeping systems and larger kit.
One vest for flat out minimalism, the other for hefty mandatory kit lists and big days out in the mountains.
On the face it, from the front, the Race Ultra Pro looks like your typical running vest. In fact it looks very similar to the Race Ultra Pro 5L and to the casual observer, you would think they are the same. But there is a subtle difference, the key to the 2-in-1’s adaptability.
Hang on we’ll get there.
Two 500ml soft flasks are on the front (I’ve misplaced one) and they can either sit in the standard soft flask pockets/sleeves, or lower down, utilising straws, much like was the norm for a while on the older Race Ultra and Race Elite series of vests. However, this time you are presented with the opportunity to change these dependant on your needs. You can even mismatch if that will drop 2 seconds off your PB.Simply pull the bite valve off and feed the straw through, or reverse this action. I opted to use them as a standard flask as I like the pockets. Oh and there’s a collapsable mug to!If you’re like me and love pockets, this will be satisfy that storage craving. In fact, I struggle to use all of them! At the top of each shoulder you have a stretch mesh pocket – good for a key, loose change, a £5 note – anything you want to forget about and only grab if you really need it. Below this the two soft flask pouches offer additional storage, with the right pocket having a zippered pocket which consumes my iPhone 7 with ease (recommend putting the flask in before your phone) and the left a large pocket that can take several gels.
But wait, there is more.
If you opt to use the flasks without straws, you have two cavernous pockets, with zips! I’ve had a hat, spare gloves, buff type thing in one, with room to spare and the other filled with 4 bars, 5 gels and a Sony RX100 camera. These are true Tardis like areas and one I love to use as I also know, the contents are secure.
There is a further pocket on each side, I’ve had a map, compass in these when I ran the Kong Mini Mountain Marathon earlier this year. Inside said pockets are two green webbing tabs used to tension the back system. Simply, erm, pull them? You get the idea.
Last time using this image, I promise.
So you can carry more on your chest than Arnold managed in Commando, but does it stay in place? The last thing you want is your bandolier of grenades giving you a black eye.
As with many of the vests on test, the Race Ultra Pro 2-in-1 makes use a pair of daisy chains to offer an extensive number of attachment points. The green webbing is low profile and uses an arrow like clasp to pull against it. These are very secure, but, if they come out, say in kit inspection as I had the mini mountain marathon, they are the fiddliest on test to get back in. The bucket are large enough for using with gloves and the chest/sternum straps have elastic loops for securing that excess material! I haven’t made the most of them for the photo shoot, but I love them. I don’t care how light a pack is aiming to be, for the 0. whatever grams it adds, its something less in my peripheral vision on the trail.
Unlike any other whistle on test, this one is removable – its at the top of the right shoulder. Should you need to use it, you can either contort your neck or unclip it. Just don’t go loosing it.
The back provides a pocket large enough for a waterproof jacket, waterproof trousers, survival bivi bag and mid layer. On the left, under the large reflective logo is a reflective strip where you will find a second smaller zippered pocket.
One thing to note, when theres a zip, theres a long zip pull, using paracord with a reinforced rubber finger loop. You can use all with gloves.
On itself, the Race Ultra Pro 5L is a great pack, but this is the 2-in-1. Theres a party trick. The mullet of running packs? Business up front, party at the rear?Across the back of the vest are 5 attachment points, the same used by the whistle, that allows you to increase the volume by 10 litres, adding the rear pocket/bag/extension/big gear holding bit of material on. These little clips are really strong and aren’t going to come undone by accident, there’s a’ technique’ to removing them. The additional 10 litres means you can carry a lot more kit. Pretty obvious really. All connection points have a compression strap attached, so you can tailor the volume of the additional pouch, as well as cinch down the kit inside it.A big ass zip opening means you don’t need to check your kit isn’t migrating out, a large bungee helps reduce the volume further and/or attached wet kit to the outside. For anyone running behind you, two external stretch mesh pockets give you the option of putting anything you can’t be bothered to carry in them or use your buddy as motivation to run faster.
Fill them up with Haribo and take one each time you catch up.
Mountain Sugar Rush Intervals.
In practice, I’ve used the pocket as a gear bag off the vest – I can fit my shoes, towel, wash bag, trainers and clothes inside. For slower days this winter I’ve used it so I cram more safety kit in when in those hilly things.
Don’t forget your safety kit.
And to finish, let’s talk poles.You can stick them on the back, but I wouldn’t. I like keeping things up front if they’re going to be used. The one time I raced with poles on my back was the then Clif Bar 10 Peaks Long Course – now the Kong 10 Peaks. New to pole use, I figured use them later on the in the race. So I set off with them on my back and only pulled them out when the final fell, Skiddaw, stood between me and finishing. They would have been a lot handier earlier on, trust me on that one.
Double wrap the green elastic loops round either end and boom, you are secure. No fancy system, no clips and A+B=C. A system suited to be half awake, on the edge of early on set of hypothermia, with numb hands. If you’re reading this outside of the UK, do come and run our races after the current situation has cleared, they aren’t all wet and cold. Promise.
As stated in the overview post, introducing the 5 pack/vests on review, they are all very different and therefore, you can’t really directly compare the majority.
What I can say is inov-8’s Race Ultra Pro 2-in-1 was the pack I’ve reached for most when I’ve had the option and testing was completed. For me, it has what I’m looking for most; plenty of storage options, a secure fit and adaptability to what I am doing.
It just works.
To find out more about the inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 2-in-1 – CLICK HERE
Product provided by inov-8 – This is not a paid advertisement or sponsored post