Shoes & Gear

Ultraspire Spry

Ultraspire Spry

This past winter, I was in the middle of a five 50-mile race series. I had run the first two races, and I was looking for ways to become more efficient at aid stations. All these races had aid stations that were less than 5 miles apart, so I felt comfortable carrying my hydration in handheld bottles. However, I wanted something that would help me carry gels, electrolyte tablets and other small gear. This would enable me to eat while running and I would only need to stop at the aid stations to refill my bottles. Prior to this time, I had been using a belt that had two small pockets. This belt was useful in shorter races, but I needed more carrying capacity for the longer races.

At the same time, Ultraspire was raising eyebrows with their new products and one of their first available products was the Spry. It is a race vest that is used to carry small gear but does not come with a hydration system. I purchased the Spry and have now used it during three 50-mile races and several long training runs. It definitely fulfills the need I was looking for and has quickly become one of my favorite pieces of gear. Here is my review of the Spry.

Fit and Feel

As with all pieces of ultrarunning gear that is worn, the “fit and feel” of the product is extremely critical. Yes, the functionality of the product is important; however, if it does not fit well or feel good while wearing it, it really doesn’t matter how well the product works.

My first impression of the Spry was its small size; however, this is a positive since it rides high on my torso and does not constrict my abdomen or waist, one of the main reasons I do not like belts. At approximately 6 ounces, the vest is pretty much unnoticeable when running. It is adjustable with one torso strap and two side straps. I wear it fairly snug which keeps it from moving but does not feel like it is constricting my chest. I did have one race where it seemed to move, but I believe I did not have it adjusted correctly. This has not been an issue on the other occasions when I have worn it. Overall, the fit and feel are great and a big plus for this vest!

Features

The main features are obviously all the pockets. They are all different types of pockets that can be used for different reasons.

Hilario Alvarado wearing the Ultraspire Spry

The pocket that I love the most is the waterproof pocket with a magnetic closure on the right upper chest strap. This is probably my favorite feature of all my ultrarunning equipment! This pocket is used to carry electrolyte capsules. With this pocket, you no longer have to carry your capsules in a small ziplock bag and fumble with it while trying to run. The pocket is waterproof which keeps the capsules from dissolving. More impressive is the magnetic closure which allows you to reach over with your left hand and pull out a capsule without having to use your right hand. It closes on its own and I’ve never had to slow down while grabbing a capsule. I absolutely love this pocket and would consider wearing the vest if for no other reason but to carry my electrolyte capsules.

The lower right pocket is a mesh pocket that is closed with a pull-cord. I typically use it to store gels or small articles of clothing such as gloves. I have also used it to store an empty handheld 20-oz bottle. I full bottle would probably cause a weight imbalance and pull the vest to the right.

On the lower left side there is a dual pocket. It consists of a zippered pocket with an overlying mesh pocket without a closure. Because it is zippered, this is where I carry my car key. I have also used it to store my iPod during races. I have read that this pocket is waterproof; however, the Ultraspire website does not note this feature. Still, I have not noticed any sweat on my key or iPod after running for several hours. The overlying mesh pocket is where I will carry additional gels. It is easy to get to given that there is no closure. Despite not having a closure, I have never had any gels fall out as the pocket does not have much give to it. Recently while pacing a friend during a 100-mile race, I used this pocket to carry a laminated card which noted the aid stations of a race. It was convenient to slip this card in and out of this pocket.

On the upper left side, there is a small mesh pocket. To be honest, I had not noticed this pocket prior to writing this review. I was amazed when I found this pocket while closely inspecting the vest prior to writing this review. It is a small and narrow pocket.

Another feature on the front part of the vest is two small straps that are directly above the upper pockets on both sides. I point out these straps because I used the one on the left to run my headphone cord underneath. This kept the cord from flying around while I was running.

The last pocket is the largest of them all, the pouch on the back with a magnetic closure. This pocket is difficult to get to without taking off the vest, so I use this pouch to store objects that I do not need to get to very often, such as a ziplock bag with baby wipes and a small windbreaker jacket.

Cons

The only problem that I have experienced with the vest is the movement I experienced during one of my races which I noted earlier. Again, I believe I had not adjusted it correctly as I have not experienced this issue at other times. Still, I remember having to frequently pull the vest over as it was shifting to the side which became slightly annoying after several hours. This episode also led to areas of chafing on the side of my neck. I have not had chafing after wearing the vest any other time. Thus, I advise to always check on the fit of the vest and wear it snugly.

Summary

The Spry is a great race vest that has ample carrying capacity for ultramarathons. Again, to be clear, it does not have a hydration system, so it is usually used in addition to handheld bottles. It fits great and is an efficient way to carry nutrition, electrolyte capsules, iPods, small pieces of apparel and any other small accessories. I am so impressed with the vest, that I am considering purchasing another Ultraspire pack with a hydration system to use when I need to carry a large amount of fluid.

About the Author: Hilario Alvarado is an accomplished ultra trail runner with 8 Top Ten Overall place finishes since 2011. On April 7, 2012 Hilario finished 3rd Place Overall at Hells Hills 50 Mile Trail Run with an impressive time of 8:18:36.



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