Osprey DURO Running Pack Review


Born in ’74’, the Californian brand of Osprey has long provided a great example of innovation in backpack design. For me, Osprey packs have personified quality, great build, longevity. They offer an ‘All Mighty Guarantee’ and they will always prefer to repair products rather than replace them. Currently when waste is commonplace, this is a great USP!

From adventure treks, holidays, commuting, cycling, skiing snowboarding and summiting mountains, Osprey can be seen around the world. For 2017, Osprey will launch DURO – a series of products aimed at runners.


Three packs, DURO 15, DURO 6 and DURO 1.5 are available in s/m and m/l with two colour options, electric black and silver squall.




and the DURO HANDHELD (here)

In addition, there will be 500ml and 250ml soft Flasks and a series of bladders that will work along the Osprey line of products.

We received the DURO 15, DURO 1.5 and the DURO HANDHELD in January and have been fortunate to test and try the products in multiple locations and scenarios. Day-to-day running in the UK, a 10-day training camp in Lanzarote and working and racing in Costa Rica at the multi-day The Coastal Challenge.




Let’s be clear, launching any running pack in a saturated market is brave. There is no shortage of choice out there, so, any new product really does need to offer something new and different, or, it needs to offer what is available in other products but it needs to do it better!


The DURO 15 is rich on features and comes in two sizes, S/M and M/L. On the front, the pack is classic ‘vest’ fitting with two bottle pockets occupying the left and right sides. Supplied are two 500ml soft flasks with straws that allow drinking on-the-go with no need to remove the bottles. On the left outer front is a zipper pocket that would take an iPhone 7 Plus (reference for size), cash, cards or other items. On the outside is a small open topped stretch pocket for snacks/ gels etc. The right-hand side has just the open topped stretch pocket. Fastening between the left and right sides comes from two straps with a unique fastening system that really works. Also, easy to open and close with gloves on.  There are six adjustment points for a snug fit.


Unlike many vests, the DURO 15 has a waist belt which provides a zipper pocket on either side. These pockets are spacious and can hold substantial snacks or even essentials such as windproof, hat and gloves. I like this! For me, the waist belt provides added comfort and stops any swing or bounce from the rear.


The rear of the pack is where all the storage comes and sitting closest to ones back is a large zippered pocket that holds a 2.5ltr bladder. Remove the bladder and you have more storage.


The next pocket is also zippered and is small with two mesh pockets inside. This is designed for smaller items such as wallet, phone, keys, gps, camera etc. It’s not waterproof so a small dry bag would be required.

The third pocket also zippered and is the main storage area and you will have no problem adding a jacket, trousers, gloves, hat, base layer and so on. It’s roomy.

Storage doesn’t stop here. On the last zippered pocket is an open-topped stretch pocket with male/female buckles that provides a great place to add say a jacket that may be needed and then not needed. It’s not the type of pocket that can be accessed without removing the pack but it’s a great storage space and extremely flexible that adapts to the contents

Finally, on the rear right and left are two zipper pockets that can be accessed with a little dexterity without removing the pack. These are also a stretch fabric and they are very roomy.

On the outside rear is a loop for a light attachment and there are also two straps, left and right, that will allow you to pull the pack tighter and closer to your torso.


Like I said, this pack is full of features. One could say it’s an Osprey trademark but all the features come with a weight penalty. One thing is for sure, this pack will last and last and you won’t be struggling to store things… a downside may be that you can’t find them after?



It fits like a glove. I absolutely love the feel of this pack against my body and the big difference for me is the waist belt. It just adds some additional comfort and security. It also adds two great pockets. The chest straps work a treat to get a comfortable and secure fit and the adjustment from the waist and two lower left and right side straps really allows me to get the pack close and snug. It’s a winner.

It’s possible to reach around to the rear of the pack and access the two lower zipper pockets. These pockets are ideal for food and items such as a lightweight jacket, gloves, hat, buff and so on.

The other pockets on the rear can only be accessed by removing the pack. If using a bladder, the feed pipe comes from the rear and neatly comes to the front and the mouth piece is held in place by a magnet.

This pack will take loads of kit and space is not a problem. Fully loaded, the pack is snug and secure and whilst running it’s possible to have the pack snug against the body with little or no bounce. Importantly, it’s possible to adjust how tight or how lose the pack is whilst running. This is important, as you remove contents or drink the contents of the bladder.

Padding in the pack is very good and it’s extremely comfortable against the body. In addition, bungee cords allow poles to be attached securely when not in use.

Quite simply, this is a great pack and the only downside is the weight in comparison to other brands and the reduced capacity of the two front soft flasks – it would be great if these pockets could hold 700-800ml flasks or bottles.


Niandi on the 15L

“The 15 is a good pack for trekking, fast packing, hiking and long races such as UTMB. On first impressions, I thought it may work for a self-sufficient event or multi-stage event like MDS, sadly not, you’d need more volume – 20/25L version would be great! Also, it is not the lightest of packs but it is very durable and extremely well made, it will take years of abuse and use. Although this pack takes 500ml soft flasks, I am not convinced by the 500ml soft flasks as they are not as easy to fill as bottles and bottles can be used in camp after to hydrate. On a pack with this capacity, I would like to see 700-800ml bottles up at the front. Great chest fastening system like the 1.5ml and loads of adjustment = No bounce! I like the fact it comes in two sizes, I had the  S/M. The rear has loads of room and pockets and it would be perfect for a race like UTMB or an overnight mountain marathon. In Lanzarote, we did an overnight bivouac and I carried spare clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and food and it worked well. The addition of a waist belt also helps to secure the pack against ones back and reduce any movement, it also adds 2 pockets for ‘on-the-go’ essentials around the waste – these are roomy pockets. Like the 1.5, this pack also takes a bladder and it comes supplied with a 2.5L. It’s not the lightest pack when one compares it to the competition but it’s full of features and a pack I will use time and time again.”


The DURO 1.5 echoes many of the features of its big brother but it’s a minimal and slimmed down version that is ideal for shorter races or races where mandatory kit requirements are minimal. The front of the pack is a copy of the DRURO 15 but and this is a big but, the large pockets only take 250ml soft flasks. It is possible to replace the soft flasks with hard bottles but be warned, not all bottles will fit. I had two OMM 500ml bottles which are narrow and they worked great. Two small open stretch pockets and one zipper pocket are the same as the Duro 15.


This pack has no waist belt and to clarify, it doesn’t need it as the overall contents and weight is considerably less than the DURO 15. The rear has two zipper pockets, the one closest to the back will hold a bladder – ideally 1.5ltr and if you don’t use a bladder, it is the main storage space with good capacity. The second zipper pocket is small and contains a key loop – it’s ideal for a camera, phone, wallet etc.


Lower down the pack are two open stretch pockets that can be accessed whilst wearing the pack. These are relatively small. You could get gloves and hat in one side and a windproof on the other side. Or you would use them for food and snacks.


Two pole attachments and two adjustment straps finish off the rear along with a web loop for a rear light attachment.

Like the DRURO 15 this pack fits well, is secure, comfortable and a pleasure to wear. Space is compromised but then again, it is a 1.5L pack. If you need more space, you’d use the DRURO 6 or DRURO 15.

It’s a pack that is ideal for fast and short races where aid stations would be regular and the requirement for mandatory kit is minimal. I think it would suit Skyrunning races, fell races, trail marathons or even ultras providing aid was regular – every 10km?

Niandi on the 1.5L


“The 1.5 was a good fit, great adjustment and the fastening system is easy to use and fast. Great for multi-day events when one is not self-sufficient and when one only needs to carry a minimum. You can put extras in the back pocket like a rain jacket, space blanket or some extra snacks. You can use it with or without a bladder Osprey 2L or 1.5L both fit. I preferred the latter as the 2L was a tight squeeze. I like the magnetic system on the drinking tube – no unnecessary flapping. The pack front pockets only fit 250ml soft flasks, this is a huge drawback for me and any other runner in my opinion. The need for 500ml minimum is essential. As things stand, one would either need very regular checkpoints to refill bottles or one would be forced to supplement with a bladder – I don’t like using bladders! I also think rigid bottles are a better option. I managed to buy 2 x 600ml plastic drinking water bottles which were slim enough to slide into the front pockets and these sat quite smugly. There are 2 little stash pockets on the front for carrying snacks and 2 stash pockets on the back too for snacks or other essential items. The ones on the back are not that easy to access while you are running, especially if you are on technical terrain. The sac is not great in terms of easy accessibility and capacity for snacks and energy bars. The back pocket is zipped too so you’d need to take it off to refill the bladder or access kit. There is a nice little zipped pocket on the left front pocket for putting a page from a road book, tissues, mobile phone or cash/ cards.”

 You can view the DURO range HERE

Duro is a range of running packs designed to carry all you need for your preferred distance, including running waistpacks, hydration vest style packs and handheld solutions.

Product images ©osprey


Compressport Ultrun 140G Pack – Race Vest


Just when you thought a running hydration vest couldn’t progress any further in terms of design and fit, Compressport tip the apple cart over and come up with the ULTRUN 140G PACK which is available in a male and female versions. On test, we have the male version, you can view the female version HERE.

On first impressions, this pack is considerably light, good looking (red and black always works) and most definitely makes you look twice due to some very unique design features. The pack comes in one size and although Compressport say the pack will expand to many different sized people, I do wonder how big? I tried the vest on over a jacket and then a down/ padded jacket and it still fit with comfort. Ultimately, I think if you have a big chest, it may well be a good idea to try on in store before purchasing.

In total, the pack has 10 pockets that vary in size which are all made from expandable and stretchy mesh, The benefits of this are easy to see, if you are being minimalist, the pack remains small, lightweight and you have no excess material flapping around. If you need to carry anything from i jacket to a whole list of mandatory kit, the pack can expand and stretch to your needs. It can actually expand considerably. The other plus side is that mesh holds everything tight and therefore reduces bounce. The down side? Well, you just need to plan carefully on how you fill the mesh pockets. Just make sure essential items go in last so that they are near the top.

Weight of the pack on test is 169g which of course is considerably light. It’s closest rival/ competition would be the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 3 which weighs 129g, review HERE.

Compressport say it has taken 3-years to develop the pack and it boasts the ability to hold 3.6L of liquid in addition to the usual mandatory kit for an ultra-trail race. The liquid capacity is calculated as follows:

  • 2 x 500ml or 2 x 750ml bottles on the chest pockets.
  • 1x 600ml soft flask sitting in the lower back.
  • 1 x 1.5ml bladder in one of the compartments in the upper section on the back of the pack.

Unfortunately the pack comes with no bottles or soft-flasks. A major flaw in my opinion. I would at least expect 2 x soft-flasks for the front of the pack and due to the unique design of the pack, I would like to have seen a 1.5l bladder for the rear. I’m not a fan of bladders but I wonder how easy it is to purchase a bladder, off-the-shelf that will fit in the Ultrun 140G?


I must note here, the option to sit a hard bottle or soft flask in the lower back is an inspired idea. It sits in it’s own sleeve which can opened on the right or left. As mentioned, I am not a fan of bladders so to have 2 x 5-750ml bottles on my chest and a spare bottle in my lower back is ideal. To clarify, you wouldn’t want to keep adding or removing the bottle from your lower back. You can access it without taking the pack on and off but it would be a little messy while trying to run. The idea here is to carry a spare and then change it with an empty bottle on the chest. A soft flask does sit more comfortably here but is harder to add and remove. Don’t need an additional bottle? This pocket can be used for a windproof, gloves, buff, hat etc.


In regard to capacity, the pack is spacious and it’s ideal if you want to carry essential items such as:
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Windproof
  • Lightweight trousers
  • Buff
But I am not sure how much more it could take? For example, I don’t see how it would be possible to add mandatory kit for a race such as UTMB where waterproof jacket and trousers are required in addition to other base layers. This is not a criticism, I am just clarifying that the Ultrun 140G has a limit.
Sitting high on the torso, the Ultrun 140G fits comfortably with little or no bounce and the design allows for plenty of breathability. Compressport call this Ventilation 360º.
 Fastening at the front is quite ingenious using a knotted lace pulled through holes on the left and right. It’s so simplistic it’s brilliant and it is fool proofing even when wearing gloves.
The lower fastening method uses a classic male/ female buckle that again is large enough to be opened and closed whilst wearing gloves.
As you would expect the pack has a whistle which sits on the upper right hand shoulder strap. It’s possible to remove this and place elsewhere should you wish.
The bottle pocket will accommodate  a 500 to 750ml bottle or soft flask and it has a draw cord to ensure that either system is held in place. A smaller bottle or flask fits more snuggly and has less bounce.
©iancorless.com_Compressport-00196 ©iancorless.com_Compressport-00194
On the outside of the bottle pockets its a small elastic pocket that would hold a gel/ gels and/ or hydration tablets etc.
On the hips on either side are two mesh pockets with a tab and velcro fastening. They are designed for on-the-go access to food and or other essential items. You can squeeze cloves or a hat in them too should you wish, but not at the same time as food!
Sitting just under these pockets and 2 elastic cords with a toggle. They are used for attaching poles and finally the system works with many of the new shorter poles such as the Black Diamond Z pole. The poles are intended to attach to the side but I also got them to sit in my lower back underneath where the bottle would sit.
The ergonomic design has been created to allow for complete comfort and I can confirm, it feels great. It’s refreshing to have a pack that has had a refreshing rework in design over what is currently available from other brands. At the end of the day, it’s a race vest and many products are available to choose from. If you are looking for a vest, I would recommend giving this a look.
It’s still early days for our testing and so we will come back with an update in a few months.
What’s wrong with the pack?
Well, not a great deal. It fits, it’s comfortable, it holds essentials and provides plenty of options to carry liquid.
However, on-the-go access is limited to just the 2 small side pockets, which for many runners will hold food. So, should you need your jacket, gloves, hat or any other item, you will need to remove the pack. To be fair, this applies to most other packs, the exception coming with the larger packs offered by inov-8, Salomon and other similar brands.
Click on the images to view larger:

Compressport can be found HERE




Niandi Carmont recently ran the Compressport Trail Menorca, an 85km race on the island of Menorca, Spain. Knowing the race would be semi self-sufficient, the need for a comfortable hydration system would be required. RaidLight stepped in and provided the new RAIDLIGHT GILET RESPONSIV 8L vest so that it could be tested in a ‘real’ situation. On first looks it would be easy to think that this pack is female specific, apparently no. It also comes with a hint of blue for those gentlemen who are not in touch with their feminine side.

RaidLight say:

The Responsiv 8L is a combination of bag/vest. Lightweight and ergonomic.

The Responsiv 8L race vest allows you to carry essentials and hydrate with ease, with the bonus of being ultra light at only 160 grams!

The bag has recently been awarded the prestigious Janus Design Award (2015), awarded by the Institute of French Design


Hydration is always an issue when you compete in a self-sufficient or semi self-sufficient trail race or even when training. There are multiple ways of carrying energy drinks and water but what most of us look for is a system that is:

  • Hassle-free – no fumbling around, fidgeting or groping
  • Provides easy access – you can hydrate easily on tricky technical sections of a course or when fatigued in the latter stages of a long trail race
  • Is quick and efficient – you can refill quickly when passing through the feed stations, wasting as little time and energy as possible
  • Is comfortable – no chafing, no bouncing, no sloshing, no leaking
  • Allows you to manage your water supply efficiently and gauge how much water/energy drink remains until the next feed station

Raidlight’s new Gilet Responsiv 8L ticks all the above boxes for me. It’s a great little pack.


What I like:

  • It comes in 2 sizes: Small/Medium & Large/Extra Large. I used the smaller version as it’s probably more suited to the female body type and lighter runners. It also comes in grey/ pink! For the men, grey/ blue.


  • The vest is equipped with 2 micrometric adjustment systems; I have seen this before on a pair of TNF Shoes called the Boa and a TNF pack. This system provides for an even more “customized” fit. These are located on either side just under the arm openings. So there is no messing around with dangling straps and buckles to tighten. Basically, as you remove items from the pack (food, water and so on) you can adjust the pack in minute detail so that it remains close to the body.



  • It weighs just 160g and that is ultra-light!
  • Designed to be used with RaidLight’s new soft flasks (optional extra) which come in 2 sizes either 350ml or 600ml. So depending on how far apart the feed stations are on a course and what your own personal hydration needs are, you can use either one or the other or a combination of both. The RaidLight soft flasks are also equipped with straws which make drinking on the go extremely practical. The flasks fit comfortably into the 2 front pockets and are extremely easy to remove and slip back in. I found the straws a little distracting as they came close to my face, however, on the shoulder straps, two access holes are available should you use a bladder (the pipe would feed through these on the left or right). I found that I could push the soft flask straws in here. Perfect!



  • The pack is made of a breathable flat-seamed mesh (thermal adhesive), which doesn’t chafe and please note ladies it is very pleasant to wear over a t-shirt, a sleeveless tank or even a crop top.
  • The stability is reinforced with two pectoral buckles on the front of the pack

©iancorless.com_Raidlight-0479 ©iancorless.com_Raidlight-0440

  • The stash pocket on the back can be used to carry a bladder (Velcro strap supplied) or mandatory race kit. I used it to carry a survival blanket, a mobile phone, a lightweight wind stopper and some extra food

©iancorless.com_Raidlight-0452 ©iancorless.com_Raidlight-0456

  • There are two tiny pockets underneath the main soft flask pockets; they can be used for lip balm, sunscreen, gels, tissue paper and gels/ food. For me, this is where the pack fails and needs greater improvement. I personally found I had too little room for ‘on the go’ nutrition and I used a lightweight fuel belt to store additional energy.


I would recommend using the Gilet Responsiv 8L for any self-sufficient race or training run. It’s ideal for short outing and longer runs but I do think the lack of food storage impacts on its use for very long self-sufficient runs. If you are racing with adequate feed stations and the opportunity to replenish liquid and food, then it’s a great pack. For me it was ideal on the Trail Menorca Costa Sud, an 85km trail race with 7 feed stations, relatively hot weather (36°C) and a course which is technical in parts but without any major difficulties. Importantly ladies, this pack is one of the most comfortable I have tried. I don’t have big boobs but as you will know, anything that doesn’t sit comfortable is a real problem. The Raidlight was great in this area and gents; you have nothing to worry about. If it works for us ladies, it will work for you too!


This is a neat little product by RaidLight that works for men and ladies. Importantly, this pack is really comfortable for ladies and the option of two different sizes (S/M, L/XL) means that you can get a pack that fits you! This can also be fine tuned with the micrometric adjustment systems. The downside is on the go access to food/ gels as storage is minimal.

The vest will be available in June 2015.

Go to RaidLIght HERE to find out more

inov-8 RACE ELITE 24 pack review

1-Race_Elite_24-845x1024inov-8 continue to push the boundaries and after the successful launch of the original Race Ultra Vest (3L) and the recent launch of two larger capacity and re-designed RACE ULTRA VESTS vets; 5L and 10L, the UK innovators have introduced the RACE ELITE 24.

Grounded in the fells of the UK, inov-8 has long provided mountain marathon runners with the perfect footwear to tackle mud, rock, bog and scree. The addition of very specific race apparel and packs have afforded the discerning runner with a one-stop shop for all that is required to race (not sleeping bags or tents). inov-8 packs have been popular in mountain marathon, fast packing and overnight adventures for some time. However, the introduction of the new RACE ELITE 24 is almost certainly going to turn a few heads.


If you look at the pack from the rear, it is at first glance a very simple design. Almost duffle bag like in shape, the pack is a long black tube with a two-way zip that splits the pack in two. Adorned with adjustable bungee that moves from the outer edge to the middle in a zigzag shape. The bungee passes at the bottom of the pack and mirrors the opposite side. The two elastics then meet in the middle of the pack at the top (above the zip) and here you pull the elastic tight to compress the pack and remove any excess space and/ or fabric. As you look at the pack from the rear, attachments are available on the left for running poles but most importantly, this pack is ice axe friendly! I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked when doing a pack review, ‘can it hold an ice axe?’ Ice axe compatibility may well make the RACE ELITE 24 the new ‘go to’ pack for those who like to travel fast and light in the mountains without compromising on carrying capacity.


The front of the pack is the revelation!

inov-8 have taken the ‘vest’ from the Race Ultra Vest and added it to the RACE ELITE 24 potentially making it one of the most form fitting and comfortable 20+L packs on the market. Pretty much all brands now incorporate a vest or vest like system when designing new packs. Why? Well, it works, pure and simple. The design is more comfortable, it distributes the weight of the packs contents and it adds additional storage.


Joe Grant running with RACE ELITE 24 ©inov8

Joe Grant running with RACE ELITE 24 ©inov8

The main compartment of the pack is split down the middle with a zip that has two zipper pulls. When open, you have a wide-open space to add contents. The pack has no dividers, pockets or clutter. So, add your kit, zip it up and off you go. This design is particularly good as it provides immediate access to all contents. It’s possible to divide contents in waterproof dry bags or plastic bags and therefore ease of use is a real plus. If you are using the pack with less contents, then all the weight will go to the bottom of the pack. Excess fabric and space can be removed by tightening the adjustable bungee. The pack is long and for me, this may well be a stumbling block for some users. This has nothing to do with a person’s height but torso length. If you have a short torso, the RACE ELITE 24 may well be too long for you? I understand why inov-8 has made the pack the length it is. If you are doing a mountain marathon, you will be carrying a tent and therefore the tent poles will need to fit inside. I guess it may be possible to attach poles to the outer but in my opinion it wouldn’t be ideal.

The front of the pack as mentioned has the vest fitting system with an upper and lower chest strap to retain the pack in place. There are also upper and lower side straps that provide fine tune adjustment so that you can have the pack as tight or as loose as you require against your torso. This system is particularly useful, as it will allow you to wear additional layers and still have the pack fitting. A whistle is provided and the left side mirrors the right with an upper larger stretch pocket, a smaller stretch pocket and then a large zipped pocket. The large zipped pocket will take inov-8 500ml soft flasks with extended straws so that you can drink without having to remove the bottles. The straws fit through an upper and lower elastic loop on either side of the pack.

The multiple front packets provide immediate access to anything I needed whilst running. I had a phone, camera, bars, gels, keys, compass and money all at hand. Perfect. The front zipper pockets add extra security if not used for the soft flasks.

The soft flasks with extended straws are a revelation and make ‘on the go’ drinking a breeze. It also makes refilling very easy.

Fabrics are light and breathable as the original. Of course with any vest, you are going to get a hot spot on your back. You can’t avoid that with this style of product.

The front fastening system has also changed from the original. This pack no longer uses the small quick release system that some found fiddly on the previous vest. Now it has 2-fixed straps, upper and lower and both use the classic male/ female quick release fastening system that is much easier to open and close should you be wearing gloves.

You can attach poles to the rear. I tried but didn’t find this to be a good option for me. More often than not, the new folding poles such as Black Diamond or Leki are shorter in length. This makes fastening more awkward and problematic. To resolve this, I attached two adjustable bungees to the shoulder straps and I store my poles folded across my chest; works for me and makes storing and access to the poles easier. It’s a personal thing. However, you can hold an ice axe on the rear of the pack and as mentioned previously, this will be a huge plus for many!

I personally would like inov-8 to design a front pack that could be added as an optional extra. Front packs are a little like Marmite; some love them, some hate them! For me a front pack can often balance the weight of the rear and provide some equilibrium. It also means that you have additional on hand storage for essential items. Looking at the bigger picture, with some tweaks in the design, the RACE ELITE 24 may well be a great pack for multi-day self-sufficient races such as Marathon des Sables.

inov-8 athlete Joe Grant has been using the RACE ELITE 24 during the winter and recently said,

‘I started testing the Race Elite 24 pack last winter, mainly for running and some winter climbing. For these activities, I needed a pack that would be runnable, stable and light, but still able to hold a decent amount of gear.’


‘Again, the vest system worked really well at keeping the load stable and allowing me to run on sections of trail that I’d typically have to hike with a conventional style pack. I’d carry a camera, water and food up front for quick access.’


If you are racing long distances, heading to the mountains, fast packing or racing a mountain marathon, the RACE ELITE 24 is without doubt worth checking out. The pack really embraces fast and light with minimal clutter. If you are looking for bells, whistles and multiple pockets in the main compartment, then this pack is not for you. If you like a pack that can hold plenty of kit: clothes, jacket, waterproof trousers, sleeping bag, tent, cooking equipment and food in a space that is easy accessed. Then the RACE ELITE 24 is for you.

The vest fitting system is a revelation for a pack of this size. The multiple pockets provide storage and access for on the go items such as food, gels, camera, phone and the two 500ml soft flasks provide easy on the go hydration.



  • Simple design.
  • Very light.
  • Vest fitting.
  • Adjustable bungee.
  • Easy access to main compartment.
  • Soft flasks with straws.
  • Ice axe compatible.


  • May be too long for some?
  • Only capacity for 1L of water unless you add a bladder to main compartment.
  • Main compartment has no structure, which may be an issue for some?

Product weight 330g

Price TBC

Availability TBC

Check out inov-8 HERE

inov-8 logo

inov-8 Race Ultra Vest 2015 *New Product Review


The 2013 incarnation of the inov-8 Race Vest was a revelation. It was arguably the most simple and minimalist pack on the market that fit and functioned perfectly for the task at hand. It had a unique design, the ability to carry 2-bottles and/ or bladder and in addition it had a series of really useful and importantly, ‘usable’ pockets. No pack is perfect, however, I did say the Race Vest was close.

Many agreed. The pack sold incredibly well and it won awards.

However, it did have some restrictions. In reality, the pack was perfect for 1-day races when minimal mandatory kit was required. But if you where doing a longer event such as UTMB then the original pack had limited space. I actually was able to put all my mandatory kit in the pack but I had to be creative and yes, I had to have the smallest and lightest kit available.

©iancorless.com_S0152108RaceUltraVest2015I personally don’t think this is a fault of the pack! The original Race Vest had a use and if used in the scenario for which it was intended, then it was arguably one of the best packs available.

When the product became available to purchase (early 2014), a few tweaks had been made from the original prototype, which I was using. The key change was in the upper. My pack would allow the 2-bottles to fit low (near the rib cage) or high on the shoulder straps. After testing, many people commented that the shoulder straps rubbed around the neck, so, Matt Brown, the designer, reworked the design, narrowed the straps (which did provide a better fit) but unfortunately this meant you couldn’t fit the bottles in the upper position. A real shame in my opinion! More importantly, original retail samples had a couple of question marks on durability. Many runners complained of some less than perfect construction. This was soon nipped in the bud but as we all know, this is never a good thing.

Below, the original Race Ultra Vest with bottles: 


Jump to the inov-8 athlete retreat in the English Lakes, spring 2014. A weekend of running: looking at new shoes, apparel and accessories for the coming year (2015). Needless to say, as a running aficionado, I love this. I love to see how a brand takes past and current ideas, develops them and comes up with something new. The new apparel looked incredible, new shoes were promising; particularly the new Ultra 290 shoe and then we saw the packs… the new Race Vest.

Similarities could be drawn to the original 2013/2014 model but boy oh boy. This was a complete overhaul taking all the features from the original, adding tweaks and then coming up with something new. inov-8, Matt Brown and the rest of the team had pimped their packs!

No longer was one pack available but three: 5ltr, 10ltr in this style and a larger 24ltr for mountain marathon or multi-day events. Using the ‘vest’ fitting system, these new packs in one word are awesome.

I said in my original Race Vest review back in 2013 that ‘This new product from UK company; inov-8 may very well be the next key moment in pack design stripping away complication and providing a pack that would almost make a perfect accessory for Batman.’

It was a bold statement and one that I still hold. However, that unique innovation has moved up a step and lessons have been learnt.


So, what is new?

  • Larger capacity (3 different sizes)
  • Pole fitting attachments
  • Redesigned vest
  • New soft flasks with extended drinking straws
  • Dump pockets
  • Zipper pockets

I have 2-packs for testing, the 5ltr and 10ltr. They are exactly the same, obviously the only difference being capacity. For the purpose of this review, I have tested and photographed the 10ltr as I feel this will be the most popular option. However, I will say that the 5ltr does have far more capacity than the original Race Vest despite them being arguably, on paper, the same size!

My test product is a prototype and I am aware of some tweaks that will be made based on my review and the feedback I provide. So please refer to this review and I will update with any key changes and revisions that may happen over the coming weeks/ months.

The vest fits like a glove. I never expected anything else. You put it on and immediately it is like adding another piece of well fitting clothing. Unlike the original Race Vest, this pack will not have adjustment straps on the side. Therefore, the pack will come in a variety of sizes so that you can get the product that fits you! I believe this will be S/M and M/L and fit has been tweaked under the arm to a better fit under the arm from my prototype.

Why no side straps?

Well, two large ‘dump pockets’ have been added to the pack. It made sense. This was an area not utilised in the original design and now you have 2-easy access pockets for food, clothing or any other item you may need.

For me though, these dump pockets make the ideal location for storing the new soft flasks. This wasn’t the original idea of designer, Matt Brown. However, after 1-week of testing, I contacted Matt and told him of the way I was using the pack. It made perfect sense to me. It had the bottles in an easy access and comfortable place, the new ‘extended straws’ meant that I could feed as and when I wanted without removing them and if I needed to refill, I could just pull them out, take off the top, fill and replace. In addition, you could still use the dump pockets for additional storage either under or over the soft flasks. I typically put my gloves, Buff or other essential items in this area. Being a photographer, I have often replaced one soft flask with a camera. Yes, they are that adaptable.


On the front of the pack, you have zip pocket on either side. These pockets are for the soft flasks, however on my prototype they were a little too small and tight. For me, they are perfect for valuable items such as phone/ money/ credit card or similar. Matt Brown has confirmed for me that the zipper pockets have been re-designed and made larger accommodating the flasks with ease and comfort, ‘I used the updated sample at CCC and kept the bottles in the zipper pockets, a lot easier to remove and get back in again,’ said Matt. So, the choice will be yours? I do recommend you try options and see what works for you.

Several other stretch pockets are available that work well for keys, food and or gels.





The front fastening system has also changed from the original. This pack no longer uses the quick release system that some found fiddly on the previous vest (I didn’t). Now it has 2-fixed straps, upper and lower and both use the classic male/ female quick release fastening system.

The rear of the pack has 2-zippers: one on the outside of the pack that allows access to an uncluttered open pocket.


On the reverse, the part of the pack that would sit against your back, has a zipper that would allow direct access to a bladder should you wish to use one.


Of course, this is perfect, especially in long events when you are carrying mandatory kit. You don’t want to be pulling kit out to get to a bladder. In addition, elastic cords have been added to the top and bottom to attach poles.


The large open pocket (10ltr version) held with ease:

  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof pants
  • Buff
  • Gloves
  • Base layer
  • Compass
  • Gps
  • Phone
  • Arm warmers
  • Beanie
  • Gels/ bars

And I still had space to squeeze other items in. No question, it’s perfect for a UTMB style event or similar. Should you carry fewer items, the adjustable bungee drawstring on the pack will allow you to compress unwanted space.

The pack has an optional (purchase extra) 2ltr bladder that sits within a temperature control sleeve and this easily slides into the rear zipper pocket. The feed pipe is insulated and can be used on the left or right hand side of the vest. Ideal should you require the option to carry 3ltrs of liquid: 2ltrs in the rear and 1ltr at the front two soft flasks.


It may come as no surprise that I find the pack perfect. I have yet to find an issue with any aspect of the design.


The soft flasks with extended straws are a revelation and make ‘on the go’ drinking a breeze. It also makes refilling very easy.


The vest fits like a glove, does not bounce and is extremely comfortable even when filled to capacity.

Fabrics are light and breathable as the original. Of course with any vest, you are going to get a hot spot on your back. You can’t avoid that with this style of product. Having said that, I have yet to find a pack that doesn’t do this…

10464062_10152436307373891_1576851184164900850_nThe rear large zippered pocket requires some thinking when packing, as it is just an open space. You push things in and keep pushing. I recommend if using a bladder, add this first and then pack. Place the items you are likely to need less at the bottom and then work your way up leaving the most essential items at the top. It’s not rocket science but good to think ahead. Once the bladder is in place, you don’t need to remove it as it has a separate zipper access thus allowing refilling as and when required. It works really well. As mentioned previously, you can fit all mandatory kit (UTMB requirement) in the spacious pocket.

You can attach poles to the rear. I tried but didn’t find this to be a good option for me. More often than not, the new folding poles such as Black Diamond or Leki are shorter in length. This makes fastening more awkward and problematic. To resolve this, I attached two adjustable bungees to the shoulder straps and I store my poles folded across my chest; works for me and makes storing and access to the poles easier. It’s a personal thing.


The multiple front packets provide immediate access to anything I needed whilst running. I had a phone, camera, bars, gels, keys and money all at hand. Perfect. The front zipper pockets add extra security if not used for the soft flasks.


I used the two large dump pockets for my soft flasks and then placed gloves, buff and some snack items on top. This works great but you need to think when coming into an aid station… if you just pull out the soft flask, what is on top will hit the deck!

 action photos ©marcuswarner


I raved about the original Race Vest (2013/14 model) and hailed it as arguably the ‘perfect’ pack. In refection, I was wrong. It was perfect to a point. The new range of packs (in 3-sizes) have addressed the issue of storage (or lack of) and with the addition of soft flasks with straws, these packs offer everyone the opportunity not only to get the right size to fit them but also the correct capacity for your needs. For me, if you were only going to purchase one pack, the 10ltr would be the most logical option.

Although we haven’t done a full test from a female perspective, initial feedback has been good. As I am sure you can imagine, this very much depends on the lady and the chest size.

We will update this review with a female viewpoint ASAP.

Finally, inov-8 has come up with another winner. I’d recommend this pack to anyone and everyone. The 10ltr does have some strong competition from many other key brands so ultimately it will all come down to personal taste. But if you are ordering online without seeing the product have confidence, you won’t be disappointed.

Check out inov-8 HERE

Availability? This pack is a 2015 model and as such will retail in early 2015. Pre orders and enquiries should be sent to inov-8

Price? 5L £110 / 10L £120 inc bottles

Note: I was asked on Facebook about a lack of negative comments. It’s simple really, I don’t have any. My comments re the zipper pockets being too small and tight was my big gripe which ironically made me look at storing the soft flasks in the dump pockets. Matt Brown, the designer has reworked these pockets and as he says, he personally used the pack for CCC with no issues. I do hope to get a couple of images from Matt to show this tweak to the design.

The North Face FL Race Vest


The North Face FL Race Vest is a race vest that has been well over 12-months in the making. I first had a look at this pack in November 2012. It was a prototype that had been created in preparation for Jez Bragg‘s epic run on the Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand.

FL prototype 2012

FL prototype 2012

FL prototype 2012

FL prototype 2012

You will see the above images are a more minimalist version of the current FL Race Vest, however, lessons were learnt from the prototype and with feedback from Jez Bragg and Lizzy Hawker, the current model has been developed and tweaked with the TNFUTMB and similar long distance races primarily in mind.

I picked up my current vest just days before the 2013 edition of the TNFUTMB and it was reassuring to see that my vest was exactly the same as the ones being used by Rory Bosio, Jez Bragg and the rest of the TNF team.

Rory Bosio wearing the FL Race Vest after dominating the 2013 TNFUTMB.

Rory Bosio wearing the FL Race Vest after dominating the 2013 TNFUTMB.

Race vests have become the ‘norm’ in regard to race packs. All the leading brands are developing new systems, new sizes and new designs in the quest for the ultimate product. Certainly, Salomon have very much paved the way recently with S-Lab 5lt and 12ltr. In addition, my recent review of the inov-8 Race Ultra Vest had me 99% convinced that in my opinion, this new product by the UK brand was currently the ‘best’ available of its type.

The North Face FL Race Vest sits between the inov-8 Race Ultra and Salomon S-Lab products. Although the inov-8 product is supremely comfortable and perfectly designed, it may just not be big enough for a tough or long race when mandatory kit will stress a packs capacity. By contrast, the Salomon S-Lab 12ltr has been designed with long racing in mind and offers an excellent form fitting pack that many swear by. At 8ltr capacity, the FL Race Vest sits nicely in the middle ground and actually may very well be the perfect size for a mountain 100-mile race like TNFUTMB or similar.

Like all current vests, the FL comes with a bladder that sits inside a mesh pocket within the main compartment of the pack. However, if you are like me, you may very well prefer bottles or soft flasks? The front of the FL has two upper drawstring pockets that can accommodate bottles/small soft flasks or other items. I initially tried two 500ml bottles but found the ‘balance’ all wrong. When running they would feel far too close to my face and noticeable bounce from the weight was annoying. However, replacing the bottles with two smaller soft flasks that could accommodate 250ml each, this irradiated bounce and made the whole system not only infinitely more comfortable but also more practical.


On the outside of the upper pockets are small stretchy mesh pockets that would hold gels or similar products.


The lower part of the front vest has two Velcro closure pockets that may be useful in holding valuable items such as phone, keys, gps, camera and so on. Equally, you could add any food products for easy access on the go.


Behind the Velcro pockets are two larger mesh stretch pockets. They are capacious and ideal for gloves, hat or buff type products. In actual fact, they are so spacious you can add soft flasks to increase liquid capacity.


The rear of the pack has an upper zipper pocket that can hold a phone, keys, camera or any other item of value .


Directly below the upper zip pocket is a capacious stretchy open pocket that can be accessed from the top or the left/ right side. This pocket has been designed so that you may add or remove essential items while still moving… gloves, hat or jacket!



Two smaller zipper products have been added to the left and right hand sides of the larger rear mesh pocket. These pockets may also be accessed without removing the pack. They are small but ideal for money, keys or similar sized items.


On the upper right hand side of the rear of the pack, is a blue bungee cord designed to hold ‘poles’ when not in use. Equally, at the bottom of pack on the rear is another blue bungee to hold the opposite end of the poles.


A key feature of the pack is the adjustability on the side and the front. Underneath the arms are two independent straps that may be lengthened or shortened to get just the correct fit.


On the front are two adjustable straps that have quick release buckles. The straps may be moved up and down independently to get the correct fit based on your morphology.


A key point, particularly for ladies, above the pockets on the front are soft panels that stretch and adjust dependent on the size of your boobs/chest. When testing the pack, we ensured that we cross referenced everything with a female perspective. The feedback? ‘The best and most comfortable pack I have used for the female form’.


One of the key elements of the pack is the inside of the main compartment. Instead of one large space, it has been compartmentalized to provide storage space for specific items. Of course, this is open to personal taste but as you will see fromm the photographs, this is a great help for a long race when one needs to carry a jacket, over trousers, space blanket, elastic bandages, cup and so on.

The zipper for the main compartment is full size, allowing the pack to be opened completely. This makes access very easy. On the back panel is a large mesh pocket that would hold the ‘bladder’ if this was your chosen method of hydration. I personally use this for space blanket, elastic bandages, cup, first aid and other mandatory items.


The other side has a larger mesh pocket that is open ended, I add my hat and over trousers here and above is an internal zipper pocket.


The open space between the front panel and back panel is roomy and ideal for a bulkier item such as a fully waterproof jacket.

This FL has been thought out to minute detail. It has perfect storage space built around the needs and desires of a long race when mandatory kit is required. It has also been designed to make access easy and stress free. The added combination of ‘on the go’ access to key areas of the pack while running makes this a serious and top contender for those looking for a fast, light and responsive pack that will allow the user to run stress free.


The FL has been on many runs and tested over the last 4-5months. On faster sessions of up to 90-mins and long days in the mountains, this pack holds firm against the body and is a pleasure to wear.


I had no issues on it’s storage capacity. I could fit all my required kit in the pack and it still retained its form and comfort, even when fully loaded.

If I added the bladder to the rear compartment, this certainly did eat into storage space and one had to be a little more creative with packing.

As mentioned previously, I would always prefer to use bottles to a bladder and this may very well be the stumbling block with the FL. Two 250ml soft flasks are not adequate liquid capacity for any long run in the mountains, even when feed stations are on the route. Adding additional soft flasks in the lower stretch pockets on the front of the pack is possible but it feels like a compromise. I did add 500ml flat bottles to these pockets for one run and I thought I had found a solution. However, after an hour my ribs started to hurt with the pressure placed on them. I never did find a full solution for the problem other than, if I was out for a longer time, I used the bladder! Of course this worked and it worked admirably. So, this is very much a personal comment. If you like bladders, this will not be an issue for you.


Running with the pack is a dream. It fits close to the body and does not move or bounce. Access while ‘on the go’ is excellent and you can certainly get food, gels, gloves, hat and even a jacket without stopping if you pack with those objectives in mind.


The side adjustable straps offer on the go adjustment and unlike some other vests that are one size, with the FL if you add or remove layers, you can adjust pack tension while on the go to ensure you maintain a comfortable fit.

The front of the pack with two adjustable straps allows for customised tensioning and as mentioned, the upper stretchy mesh panels will be popular with lady users!


The FL is a great pack. It addresses many of the problems we all have when mandatory kit is required. The pockets, internal and external allow you to customise the pack for your own personal needs ensuring that you have stress free training and race days. At 8ltrs, the FL is not ‘too’ big that you can’t use it in training but more importantly, it is not too small that you can’t use it for racing. Certainly, if you only wanted to purchase one pack, this may very well be the ideal purchase.

In use it is extremely comfortable and the ‘open sides’ allow increased airflow providing a more breathable and cooler running experience, certainly in comparison to the Salomon S-Lab.

Verdict? – Very highly recommended.

  • Cost – £85 tbc
  • Availability – Feb 2014
  • The North Face HERE

The female perspective… by Niandi Carmont

Niandi is South African born, a former resident of Paris, she now lives in the UK. A runner for over 20-years; Niandi has completed Comrades Marathon 13-times, Washie 100 2-times and has finished well over 100 marathons and ultras  all over the world. Currently residing in the UK, Niandi splits her work life between the UK and France.



The North Face FL Race Vest

This was my first test run with a race vest. Although no stranger to trials of varying distances ranging from 22km to 160km, I had never found a race vest to my satisfaction and had always resorted to the “safer” choice of race pack. The reasons for this choice are multiple, but basically:

  • Uncomfortable fit and inadaptability to the female morphology
  • Lack of breathability
  • Chafing which can also be linked to female specificity
  • Hydration strategy limited to bladder

In contrast the The North Face FL Race Vest addressed all the above issues:

  • Comfortable fit and perfect adaptability to the female morphology.
  • Very lightweight, breathable mesh back panel and front vest, covering very little surface area but offering maximum storage capacity.
  • No bounce, no uncomfortable rubbing or pull from the straps.
  • The upper front pockets can be used to carry 2 small 250ml bottles with either water or energy drink in addition to a TNF 2L bladder in the back for longer self-sufficiency races. Personally, I find this ideal as I can fill up the bottles on the go at the feed-stations and know exactly how much I am consuming. The bladder can be used in addition to the bottles as a safety measure for races which require more autonomy.

So when I tried the FL Race Vest in my training run I was pleasantly surprised to find I actually forgot I had it on. It wasn’t even a question of getting used to the vest. I instantly felt at ease in it. The front vest fitted perfectly over my chest – a sort of stretchy material which meant it never felt too loose and never to tight allowing the diaphragm to expand naturally and not causing any chafing issues.

The 8L back pack has a storage capacity suitable for any trail distance between 30km and 160km. There is absolutely no bounce – it sits comfortably in the middle of your back – no sagging to the waistline or bouncing from side-to-side. Two sets of independent straps underneath the arms and 2 sets of buckles/ straps on the front allow you to adjust the vest to fit perfectly. No unnecessary and complicated irritating, dangling straps you find on so many back-packs.

Another bonus is that the vest and pack covers very little surface area thus ensuring better breathability and less over-heating and chafing should you be a heavy sweater.

Hydration-wise as mentioned above the race vest is multi-purpose and depending on the length of the event and frequency of the feed-stations, you can carry bottles in the upper front pockets and/or bladder.

Speed is less of an issue for me but for runners wishing to waste as little time as possible, reaching around for a rain jacket, gloves, hat, head-lamp, Kleenex, energy bars; there are two lower zipped pockets on the vest and behind each of these two mesh pockets. I like this not only because it’s a time saver on technical terrain. In the dark it is also a stress-free option – nothing worse than groping behind you to get hold of a bar when your body is tired and aching all over or you are slipping around on a rocky, muddy descent in the dark. And it saves begging the runner behind to pull out a bar (or tampon) for you!

The back pack is equipped with a small zipped upper pocket – great for mobile phone and a lower mesh pocket for a jacket or over-trousers.

Inside is the bladder compartment, which can also be used for carrying race kit should you prefer, a central compartment and another pocket – so great for compartmentalizing!

Finally, my last pre-requisite – upper and lower draw strings to attach poles diagonally when not in use and the compulsory whistle on the front, should your navigation skills be as poor as mine!


I want it for my next 55km self-sufficiency event at night AND AT £85 it’s a bargain!

Ultimate Direction – Signature Series


A new year and new products…

The Ultimate DirectionSignature Series‘ have been talked about, watched on You Tube and discussed at many a race and on social media for some time.

Released in November 2012 the packs are about to arrive in the UK anytime soon. You will have to do some ‘Google’ work to find a stockist and then cross your fingers and hope that they have any products left.

The Signature Series was designed by three of the most successful, most well-known ultra runners in the world. Using power mesh for zero bounce and state-of-the art cuben fiber for its unsurpassed strength to weight ratio, our Signature Series vests integrate load carrying, performance, and comfort into one unified system. With water bottle pockets in the front of the vest for quick and easy access, the Signature Series represents the next generation of ultra running hydration packs for runners.



Designed by Anton Krupicka, the AK Race Vest brings minimalism to the world of hydration. Even though it weighs in at only 6 ounces (10 with bottles), the AK Race Vest still has plenty of capacity for food, clothing, and a phone, so you can use this vest for anything from 10 to 100 miles.



The SJ Ultra Vest is the result of collaboration with Scott Jurek, the world’s most dominant ultra runner. Weighing in at 7.5 ounces (11.5 with bottles) and offering 9.2 L of storage space, the SJ has the best weight-to-capacity ratio of any hydration pack on the market.



Peter Bakwin wanted a pack that could do anything from running to hiking, climbing to skiing. Featuring 12 L of volume and a variety of features, The Adventure Vest allows you to stay hydrated and comfortable on any size adventure from quick outings to all-day expeditions.

Highly anticipated, I hope to get a sample in the not too distant future and provide a review. Watch this space… !