The Inov8 Race Ultra Vest ™ made by Inov8 a progressive and innovative company producing lightweight, minimal and functional gear for mountain running, trail and road running as well as cross fit athletes. The Inov8 Race Ultra Vest ™ is one of their latest offerings to the mountain and trail running community. A serious contender to Salomon and The North Face with their well known products.
Out of the box – Key statistics
- Weight 273gms
- Large stretch mesh pocket to rear
- Insulated reservoir sleeve
- 2L shape shift reservoir
- Two large mesh pockets to front double as bottle holders (with 2 x 500ml flat shaped bottles)
- Two large mesh pockets to front top
- Two smaller stretch mesh pockets to front top
- Colour black with red cinch straps
Currently £79.99 at Ultramarathonrunningstore (excellent online service and next day delivery).
Fit – Now, I have got to admit that I was sceptical about this vest as I am not keen on bottles on the side and the consequent arm movement brushing on them. So, I have always gone for bladders. But bladders take up pack space so, I have chosen the Inov8 Race Ultra Vest with bottles as a departure from the security of bladders and it pays to be optimistic if you have just shelled out £80! As the vest is a close fitting waistcoat I found that with several little adjustments of the side compression straps you could get the bottle holders to be located right on the flank. That way the arm movement goes around and crucially misses the water bottles. Job done! Note: the vest actually comes with a 2L bladder and insulated reservoir sleeve so you get both options i.e. bladder and water bottles (2x500ml) giving you a total of 3L if you opted for both.
The race vest is really like a well fitting made to measure waistcoat, think bespoke tailoring. You have the ability to adjust the side compression as well as across the chest and it pays to play around with these several times with and with out pack weight to get the optimum fit.
On the trail this vest is superb. First of all great fit, but secondly you don’t actually realise its on you even with a full pack.
Pockets – There are a full range of pockets on this vest. The largest being the water bottle holders. So if you are using the bladder option you have two fairly large pockets for gels, bars, on even a small rain jacket etc. Then there are two smaller stretch mesh pockets on either side of the vest front. Large enough to store gels, keys, mobile phone. Accessibility on the run seems reasonable although the two smaller pockets are easier to access when stopped say at an aid station.
Kit Packing – This is where I wanted to fully test out the capacity of this vest. Immediately I was astonished at the voluminous stretch mesh back. Lets look at a UTMB mandatory kit list, mobile phone, cup holder, survival blanket, two torches + spare batteries, first aid kit, jacket, over trousers, hat, gloves, buff and gels. Whistle on the pack. Midlayer, adhesive elastic band not included in this test.
Not only did all this fit in to the stretch mesh compartment there was still room for more. I was truly amazed at the volume and stretch of the compartment. Packing order would have to be very precise as you need to know exactly what you would need and when to avoid having to take everything out on the trail. Other wise it could turn into a nightmare if you were on the top of Col de Foret in the middle of the night digging out kit! The other observation is that the stretch mesh would not appear to be waterproof (not tested yet) so any kit that needs to be kept dry (spare mid layer, gloves etc) would be better off kept in a lightweight dry bag such as a Sea to Summit shell.
Verdict – A great piece of kit at a reasonable price.
You are getting a lot of athlete development and testing packaged up into a very practical race vest. Not only do you get a bladder and water bottle combination you have a vest that you can custom build to your fit requirements. There are several gear loops on the vest that will enable you to tag trekking poles or other items for easy access. There is also cinch straps over the main back compartment where you could strap down a wet rain jacket etc.
This pack is going to get some serious testing this year. I will be posting testing updates and welcome feedback from other on this fantastic piece of kit.
This vest got its first proper race outing at the Peak Skyrace in August 2014. I was dead impressed with the amount of space that the main compartment offers. The water bottle placement was always going to be a concern for me but I was extremely pleased to find out that it was not even an issue. One point to remember is that when filling the bottles to make sure that you have the lid screwed on tightly with no thread left, otherwise it leaks.
The other very useful asset to this vest are the sleeve pockets just above the water bottles where you can store gels, food etc. I was able to stuff around 10 gels (5 each side) quite comfortably without it rucking up and feeling uncomfortable.
In conclusion, what I like about this vest versus the Salomon/North Face types is that there are no zips to fumble about with and that the mesh expands and that the bungee cord provides extra storage safely. Am I being converted?
Field test update – January 2015
A recent 4 hour trip over the North Downs Way finally tested this pack in very bad weather conditions. It pays to make sure that your gear in the mesh back is stowed away in a dry bag! the other notable thing was that the chest clips were a bit fiddly with really cold fingers. I have not had a problem with this before (and the clips are something worth practising as there is a knack to unclipping them) but like anything its easy once you know how.
All photos copyright – Ian Campbell – Photography
Is other flask of type “soda/Coke” etc fitting in the large meshpockets?
Hi there and sorry for the delay but I have had a family crisis to sort out.
The large mesh pockets would definitely allow a coke bottle from a depth point of view but due to the width of the inov8 flasks – a coke bottle would not be held secure – i have tried the salomon soft flasks and that seemed to work.
Have you tried any other soft flasks for the bottle holders? Did you like the Salomon soft flasks better than the Inov 8 bottles? Do you think the Hydrapak soft flasks would work? Thank you for the review!
I love the Salomon soft flasks – great innovation and really good on the run. Unfortunately they do not work really well with this Inov8 vest. They need to be in a tighter pocket and the Inov8 pocket is too wide so they just slide around so its not really an ideal fit. Not tried the Hydrapak soft flasks but suspect the same problem. What I have tried fairly successfully is to have a 250ml soft flask with some gels or other bits to fill the pocket, a makeshift option that worked.
Thank you Ian for your response. I was thinking a trying the 500ml Hydrapak since that is a little wider than the others, we’ll see. Thanks again and happy trails!