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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!]