Ultraspire Spry 2.0 Hydration Pack Review

In my comparative review of hydration packs earlier this spring there was one very notable exception that I hadn’t yet received to test, the UltrAspire Spry 2.0 ($69.99). After spending more than a month wearing this pack for most of my runs, I can say that this is a pack that rightly earns its own separate review, and it has now become the best lightweight running hydration pack I’ve ever used. What sets the Spry 2.0 apart from its competitors is its very secure fit, storage-to-weight ratio, and incredible price point.

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The UltrAspire Spry 2.0 shown with two UltrAspire UltraFlask 550s. All photos: iRunFar/Tom Caughlan

UltrAspire Spry 2.0 Fit

Oddly enough, the Spry 2.0 comes as a ‘one size fits all’ vest and there is a surprising amount of adjustability to accommodate most body types. This vest fits both my 38.5-inch chest as well as my wife’s 34-inch chest comfortably, and it adjusts with ease. A single strap on each side of the vest can be adjusted in addition to a single elastic loop-hook closure which UltrAspire calls the Max 02 Sternum. I love the ease of adjustability with this single sternum strap in addition to the lack of pressure on my rib cage. Combine this strap system with the UltraFlasks 550 (18.6 ounces) stored in the front pockets and/or the 1 Liter Reservoir (both sold separately) in the back sleeve and you have a very comfortable ride with a ton of easy fluid access.

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The UltrAspire Spry 2.0 being worn by a woman.

Most importantly, as with any hydration pack, there is no bounce or movement while running in this pack. In fact, there are only a few packs I’ve tried over the years that don’t bounce at all, the Nike Trail Kiger Vest ($185) and the Inov-8 Race Ultra 5 Vest ($112). Given that the Spry 2.0 retails for $70, I consider this a considerable bargain.

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UltrAspire Spry 2.0 side view.

UltrAspire Spry 2.0 Storage

The two front bottle pockets come with a secure closure system to tighten down on any bottle or soft-flask system you choose. They also work great for smartphones, extra food, or gloves and a hat. Above the pockets there is a horizontal zippered pocket that can fit a whole lot of gel and even a smartphone (including my iPhone 5) with a little bit of wrangling. The opposite strap features the sweat-proof and rain-proof Electron Magnon Pocket which has a very efficient magnet closure. While I’ve used electrolyte pockets on other vests, I’ve never felt secure enough to just throw a few electrolyte pills into the pocket for fear they’d fall out. With the Spry 2.0 I’ve never had that issue and the closure works great on the run because as soon as you’ve accessed it the magnet re-secures the pocket instantly.

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UltrAspire Spry 2.0 shoulder pocket.

The back of the pack features a large power mesh and ripstop nylon pocket which can hold a one-liter reservoir. It also closes at the top with a magnet which offers peace of mind as I never have to worry if I closed the pocket. Typically, I’ve been carrying a jacket and extra food in this pocket, and an external bungie strap allows more gear to be stowed on the outside of the pack. I find this combination of pockets to be the perfect carrying capacity for runs less than eight hours in length, and really any racing distance where you wouldn’t have to pack for extremely cold temperatures.

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UltrAspire Spry 2.0 back pocket opening.

UltrAspire Spry 2.0 Construction

Even with the affordable price tag ($70) it doesn’t seem that UltrAspire skimped on materials for the Spry 2.0. The mesh is durable with very large holes to decrease weight and increase durability. At 6.5 ounces the Spry 2.0 fits right in with the lightest vests on the market, and every material used feels stretchy but durable. I didn’t experience any rubbing against my neck which is a regular problem for me due to my narrow shoulders and the soft trim around the vest is very comfortable.

Overall Impressions

As a runner who regularly reviews gear I am always looking for that which is lighter, faster, and more minimal. However, over the last several years I find myself also craving simplicity and pieces of gear that just work despite frozen fingers, brain fog, and crap weather. The Spry 2.0 is a very-easy-to-use vest with simple and efficient closures and just the right amount of storage for most conditions. Sure, it is described as fairly minimal, but with most ultras having aid stations every six or eight miles, this is the perfect vest to forget that you’ve got it on.

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UltrAspire Spry 2.0 back view.

As an aside and simply put, the UltraFlask 550 ($14.99) is the best bottle on the market. The shape fits very comfortably against the chest and it’s great to get in and out of an aid station without fumbling around with soft flasks. I can easily pour drink powder into them and they don’t slosh around nearly as much as traditional bottles. I’ve used them in my Ultimate Direction Vests as well as my UltrAspire vests and I won’t be going back to soft flasks any time soon.

I am also very impressed by the fact that UltrAspire isn’t price gouging the consumer and making a high-quality product that out performs packs that cost twice as much. I highly encourage any runner going into the fall ultra season to try out the Spry 2.0 and the UltraFlask 550.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Are you running or racing in the UltrAspire Spry 2.0? What are your overall thoughts on the pack?
  • And how about its details? What details do you like? Do you think anything could be improved?
  • If you have run in both the original Spry and the Spry 2.0, how would you describe the differences and similarities of these two packs?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with brand that produces hydration packs, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar's Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 15 comments

    1. Tom

      So, the UltraFlask is going to sit flat to your body like that, but maybe a bit more contoured. It also has a bit of extra capacity (2 ounces) than the Human ergonomic flask.

      I haven’t had issues with ice as long as its been store bought bag ice which is what races usually have. For powders it can get a bit messy with a scoop, so I use a small funnel.

    1. Tom

      There is a lot of adjustability with this vest. I think a 44 chest would do fine as I have a lot of slack. Also, between the straps and the elastic chest strap you have full control of bottle placement.

  1. Mark S

    I have the original Spry and ordered (but returned) a Spry 2.0. I love the fit, layout capacity of the 2.0. With the Spry, I carry a collapsible water bottle and jacket in back. Sport Beans go in the Magnon pocket, and my car remote in the zipper pocket. Water bottle in the right front pouch and phone/nutrition in the left pouch. I don’t use my 1.0 any more because the front pockets are too small. Two issues with Spry 2.0. The front pockets are large, which is good, but because they are not stretchy, things bounce around if they are not full. My other problem was that I couldn’t get the sternum strap adjuster to lock down. It would always work itself loose. I wish it didn’t have these issues, because I think the Spry is the best small running vest out there.

  2. Fotis

    Hi Tom

    I have this pack for almost 3 months now and i have to admit it, that in this price range you get more than you give!

    But…
    I have a couple of issues here and there and a small adding to the design that i made by myself.
    Firstly, the single strap at the front interferes with my heart rate and rubs my chest.
    Secondly, i don’t know if this is because of the size of my sternum or the single elastic strap at the front (again) isn’t enough, but it bounces like crazy (when the back pocket is empty) and here comes my adding to the Spry. I added a second hoop and a strap to the front and it gives a bit more stability, especially on the downhills.

    Other than this, the pockets are really what you describe, the weight and the breathability are just perfect and the “waterproof” pockets are doing their job!

    Aaaaaaaaand, on Sunday i’m going to use it for my first mountain marathon race.

    That’s my small adding to your review and thank you for the work that you and your team do.

  3. Debbie Livingston

    The Spry has been my pack of choice ever since I got it. I also purchased the 40 ounce hydration bladder that fits perfectly in the back and use the front pockets for food, phone, bandana, etc. I am a petite, 5’1″, 105 lb. female and can get this pack to adjust so well that there is no bouncing and no chaffing. The material is stretchy enough in the back that I have been able to stash a jacket in there along with the bladder.

  4. KristinZ

    I have had the old spry for years and loved it for shorter runs or races with frequent aid up until the last 2 years at which point I think it just lost some of it’s resilience and no matter how I adjusted it, the small bottle would bounce against my rib cage uncomfortably. I like the changes I see with this 2.0 and would be very interested in giving it a go. I always found the Spry to be my favorite hot weather pack but I liked it during the winter for 2-3 hr runs as I could throw a jacket on over top of it if needed because it was so low-pro. Thanks for the review. I look fwd to checking it out for comparison.

  5. Stephane

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for the review. So the price isn’t $70 but about $100 with flasks. Not much difference between Inov8 or Ultimate Direction maybe. I’m curious about it anyway.
    The bottles sound really great: I need to check if they fit in my vests!

    It makes me think about another thing: have you ever heard about triangular-based bottles? I mean, circular based are practical and easy to use, but the tube doesn’t shape well with chest. And mostly ellipsoid-based (ie UltraSpire Ergo) bottles are too large to put them correctly in pockets w/o destroy them. So I guess triangular-based will allow good “tube” shape to enter in the pockets and could be way too close to the chest (with a real surface in contact); your input here will have great value for me, thanks!
    Stephane

    1. Tom

      Stephane,

      I’ve never been able to use circular bottles for very long without rib bruising. I’ve always substituted Amphipod bottles, Inov8 flat bottles, and later soft flasks to get away from bruising and discomfort. However, with the softer polymer of the UltraFlasks I haven’t had this issue and they sit against my chest well. I also find that the bottles ride a bit lower in this vest against my ribs rather than my chest.
      I’m not sure where you’d find triangular bottles these days? I know that Salomon used to make them. My concern would be that they wouldn’t feel secure in the vest pockets and would bounce around. Not sure?

      1. Stephane

        I recently bought soft flasks but if they fit really great in the pockets against chest/ribs, using them in real is…too difficult for me! Not enough place to handle and fill them up correctly: disaster :) So I’ll check these ones or Salomon! Thank you Tom!

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