It’s officially spring and time to begin dialing in the gear for long training runs, ultramarathons, and general outdoor adventures—then again, when is it NOT time for that? The UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest ($99.95) is a well-designed all-around pack I’ve had the privilege of testing the past several months in conditions ranging from raging blizzards on foot and fat bike to warm, spring desert long runs. At just under $100, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more versatile, top-quality, lower-riding hydration pack that will survive about any adventure you conjure up while comfortably and securely carrying enough gear, food, and fuel to satisfy even the contingency packers among us. I have other UltrAspire packs dating back many years, and the quality of construction on the Legacy Race Vest is on par with the best of them.
UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest Construction and Fit
The UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest is a 10.4-ounce (295 grams) hydration pack that comes in black with grey mesh and red pocket liners. It’s cheaper than other similar packs on the market, but it doesn’t come with fluid containers which, on the positive side, gives you the option of ‘building it out’ as you wish. The materials used in construction maximize comfort whether you choose to wear it against more or less skin as the honeycombed, large-pore mesh material is softer than it looks and wicks sweat and moisture away really well–maybe not quite as well as the Alpha, but it’s still not an overly hot pack for as much surface area as it has for that 10 liters of gear storage.
Overall the Legacy sits a bit lower on the back than newer vest styles but cinches effectively around the body with sweat-proof webbing straps on each side (that are very easy to adjust on the fly) and two front closures utilizing metal hooks on one side and long, looped bungees on the other. A pull tab helps the user grab the front bungee cords to loop over each hook but neither side is adjustable vertically.
The top hook is relatively easy to secure, but the bottom hook on my pack tends to hide in its little location outside the front stuff pocket inside the pack’s edge (rail), so it requires bare fingers and some finagling to attach the bottom bungee. This has not gotten easier with time and use, rather the hook seems to dive inward with its placement on the pack a bit more. I’d love to have more comfortable hook mechanisms to eliminate the metal digging into my torso, particularly on the lower hook. Simply opening the hook up a bit more and placing it on the same level as the rail would likely do the trick.
The fact that they are immovable didn’t affect my comfort or fit, but having them on sliding rails might dial in the fit better for others, especially given the ‘unisex’ style. Speaking of the edges or rails, all of them are encased in a really soft micro-fiber polyester which eliminated any chafing at my neck, shoulders, or chest with the exception of the lower hook location.
The Legacy is built on the universal one-size-fits-most style not uncommon to UltrAspire’s hydration packs. The chest range listed on the website is 26 to 48 inches and in my experience, I wear it almost fully cinched at all adjustment points with my 34A chest when the pack isn’t full over a single shirt layer. This does lead to some flapping bungees while running, so I do my best to tuck or wrap them to eliminate the annoyance. I expand out the bungees in front as the load gets close to the maximum and the side cinches if it’s going on over winter layers. My husband who wears extra-large shirts comfortably used the pack on a variety of hikes and was only able to attach the top front bungee closure comfortably with a near-empty pack and the side cinches let all the way out. There’s definitely a lot of room to play with here in sizing, but those with barrel chests still may find it tough to squeeze into.
UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest Storage and Hydration Options
The UltrAspire Legacy pack has a capacity of 10 liters/610 cubic inches of gear space and the ability to carry a two-liter reservoir in the insulated bladder compartment in the back as well as a wide variety of bottles in four different places on the pack—two pockets on either side of the back of the pack and two positions up front. As mentioned before, none of the fluid-storage options are included with the initial purchase, but because the pack comes in at a lower price point than most, you can then choose the reservoir or bottle styles and sizes you wish and add them to your purchase or just use what you already have around the house. I found the two rear pockets well able to hold standard issue 12- to 20-ounce water bottles, the UltrAspire Human 20 2.0 bottles, and other softflasks from various brands. Shorter, wider, and firmer flasks stayed secure better than tall/thin ones in the rear holders. The location of the two back side pockets is excellent from a load-balance and comfort perspective. For me, the primary challenge was getting things in and out. I’ve read several reviews stating there’s a learning curve to accessing these pockets, but for me, I’d need significantly more mobility in my shoulders. It’s still a great option, I just have to slide the pack off to get to what I’ve placed there.
The front left side of the vest has an obvious stretch mesh bottle sleeve that keeps taller softflasks or structured bottles secure, like so many packs. Tall straw bottles work well here as well because of the two stretchy bands that sit horizontally further up that keep straws and bladder tubes controlled. Above this and between the two bands is a mesh zip pocket great for keeping keys, sunscreen, or other items secure though they are fully exposed to the elements.
The right-side front of the vest has a smooth, nylon ripstop, water-resistant burrito pocket for zipping a smaller bottle into, but I found it much better suited to my iPhone 7 (with its protective case) and some food items. Just above this pocket is the proprietary magnon pocket with a new full-vertical-length opening for super-easy access to a pill pouch or gels even with gloves. This is a great improvement over the small magnon pocket openings in the past. The magnetic pocket flap closes automatically once you remove your fingers which works well in literally any type of weather conditions.
Overlaying both of the pockets on the front are two stretchy pouches that expand well over a pair of gloves, beanie, or almost any type of fuel. The full-length access across the top of each pocket makes it very easy to get items in and out without breaking stride. Another detail I do appreciate on this UltrAspire pack is the firm zipper tabs. They are super easy to grab while running even with gloves, and they’re weighted just enough that they don’t bounce around while running. For those who love front-storage access to all the things, the Legacy does it well.
On the back of the pack, if you choose not to use the two bottle holders for fluids, you can stuff an inordinate amount of clothing items, headlamps, food, medical supplies, and course-marking materials into the pouches and then cinch the tops with the attached bungees. Things just don’t bounce out. Lying flat against the back is a separate full-length insulated two-liter bladder pouch with routing options over both shoulders for the tube. The sleeve feels padded against your back which gives the pack a slight structure. It still folds up really well inside a carry-on pack, but there’s definitely an added level of comfort if you’re maxing out the carrying capacity of the pack for a big adventure.
The main body of the back of the pack is a large stuff pocket with a half-moon-style zipper on the top. The inside is lined with red fabric which is rather helpful when you’re rushed and searching for your black gloves, black rain shell, and black headlamp strap. The fact that I need to branch out on color schemes notwithstanding, everything is easier to find with a red background, so stuff it all here including your thin puffy coat and you’ll still be able to find it easily at an aid station. Overlying this pocket is one more lesser-volumed pocket with a long vertical zipper. It’s also lined in red and has a clip for keys or other important things. It easily holds a shell and several other items you want quick and easy access to. Nothing back here is waterproof, but there’s enough water resistance from the silicone and polyurethane-coated nylon fabrics that misty rain will stay out of the pack for a while.
Lastly, there’s a very effective way for storing folded poles horizontally across the bottom of the pack via two looped bungees with easy-to-manipulate toggles. The loops are tacked down to the bottom of the pack at the bottom of each loop with a strip of webbing further enhancing the security of your poles while stabilizing any tendency for bounce. I was able to get my poles in and out of these bungees while running, but as I tend to catch a toe now and then, I preferred to stop for the few seconds it took to get them in or out.
UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest Overall Impressions
This UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest is a one that can literally go all day with you in the mountains, on trails, as you mountain bike, or even as a small run-commute pack (an iPad would fit well). It bridges the old-school fit—sitting lower on the back—with newer vest-style hydration and fuel-storage options on the front which blends really positive aspects of old and new. For the most part, the Legacy really does accommodate a wide variety of sizes from women’s small to men’s extra large. There are still those, however, at either end of the spectrum who might find the sizing still lacking. The only changes (besides a more options in sizing) that I’d personally want to make to the UltrAspire Legacy involves the hook closures on the front as stated earlier. All in all, the Legacy is a well-constructed, comfortable, durable, bounce-free hydration pack for all-around adventures of varying distances and modes of travel in any season. It’s worth your time to investigate.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Have you run in the UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest? If so, what are your overall impressions of the pack?
- How does the unisex sizing work for you?
- What specific features of the pack do you really like, and what do you think could use a little work?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand that produces packs, please share that relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]