Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Ultraspire Epic - An Alpine Style Top Loading Running Vest For All Day Adventures

Article by Jeff Valliere

Ultraspire Epic
Weight - 23.4 oz. (664g)
Capacity - 1,526 c.i. (25L)
Colors:  Red/Blue
$189.99
One size fits all

The Ultraspire Epic is a solid, high capacity running vest (pack) capable of comfortably hauling just about everything one might need for a full day adventure in the mountains.  The classic alpine style top loading Epic handles heavy loads well for running, but with a pack this size fully loaded, the line between running and hiking becomes somewhat blurred.  Single day fastpacking might be a more appropriate term.  The Epic is a one size fits all pack, with plenty of compression straps to stabilize the load and adjustment straps to dial in the fit.

Testing the Epic on a bluebird fall day at the summit of 11,000+ ft Twin Sisters Peaks

Starting at the front of the pack, there are 2 semi soft 550ml flasks on the shoulder straps, plus 1 zippered pocket on the left strap and 1 cinch pocket on the right strap.  Additionally, there are two larger pockets on the waist belt that are easily accessible.


The two bungee chest straps originate on the left shoulder strap and are integrated with the left flask pocket, which connect to the right chest strap via a simple hook.  I found the design, combined with the recessed location of the adjustment tabs to be somewhat difficult and non-intuitive to figure out (despite testing and reviewing the Velocity last year with the same adjustments).  I eventually found it easiest to adjust the straps once to a medium tension, then not adjust them again.


The waist strap relies on a quick and easy to operate clip vs. a buckle.  This can easily be operated with gloves, but I found many of the other tabs, cinches and adjusters to be somewhat difficult (or impossible) to operate while even wearing glove liners.

Ample breathable and quick drying mesh wherever the pack interfaces with your body.



The zippered left shoulder strap pocket easily holds 3 gels or other small essentials.

The right cinch pocket is the perfect size for a gel flask.

The elastic mesh outer pocket that covers the main compartment is durable, stretchy and is great for storing items that need to be accessed quickly, such as a jacket.  There are also clip/bungees on either side for lashing a set of folding poles and/or an ice axe.

The large top hood pocket easily holds plenty of food, hats, gloves or other essentials that need to be accessed somewhat quickly.

The hip belt pockets on either side and generous in size and can easily fit an iPhone 6 in protective case, or more food, gloves, hat, etc...  These pockets each have a nice pull tab and are easily accessible while on the move.

Inside the main compartment is another organizing/safe keeping pocket that can fit a phone, wallet or any other small valuables that need to be organized.

The Epic also can accommodate a 3L bladder (not included).  A 3L bladder is a bit of a tight squeeze though and also quite heavy when full, so a 2L seems a bit more practical for most circumstances.

A clever pack cover unfolds out of a dedicated pocket at the bottom of the pack.  The pack cover can also be removed to save weight and/or provide more storage.

With pack cover

Side view with pack cover.


There are an ample amount of adjustment tabs and straps, so achieving a custom fit is easy for just about any size person.






One minor issue I had with this pack was that the hood pocket does not stay in place very well when the pack is not stuffed entirely full.  When the pack is less than full and there are items in the hood pocket, the entire hood bounces from side to side and can be a bit annoying.  The reason for this is that the buckles are angled horizontally in one fixed spot, vs. the usual vertical and telescoping positioning normally found to anchor the lid of most top loading packs.

The buckle for the hood can be seen here anchoring to a horizontal compression strap, where a vertical anchor would be much more effective.

Conclusion
Overall, I really like using the Epic pack for long days in the mountains and moving fast.  It is comfortable, breathes well, is highly adjustable and can comfortably carry a larger load for a full day. Quality is great and I know that Ultraspire has excellent customer service and stand behind their product. In a perfect world, I would love to see vertical buckles to more securely cinch down the hood, as well as more easily adjustable chest straps.  Though the adjustment method of the chest straps is not my preference, they are admittedly effective and comfortable, allowing for simultaneous stability and deep breathing.  Additionally, when combining the front bottles with a bladder, you can comfortable run with a lot of water, a real bonus in the desert/long outings between water stops.

Jeff's Score: 8.8/10
-.5 for bouncing hood pocket
-.5 for difficulty adjusting chest straps
-.2 for difficulty operating while wearing gloves


The Epic was provided at no charge to RoadTrailRun. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

Jeff Valliere's Bio


Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he now works in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 5 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.




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