UltrAspire Molecular Belt System (MBS) Review

An in-depth video review (with transcript) of the Molecular Belt System (MBS) hydration system.

By on January 17, 2013 | Comments

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UltrAspire Molecular Belt System (MBS) Review

UltrAspire has led a resurgence in innovative hydration systems for runners. One of its biggest innovations is the UltrAspire Molecular Belt System (MBS), a collection of interchangeable components for running belt hydration and storage needs. Learn about the MBS system and some of its components and configurations in the following video.

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UltrAspire Molecular Belt System (MBS) Review Transcript

Welcome to Trail Trials, the video review section of iRunFar. My name is Travis Liles and in this video we are going to be taking a look at the UltrAspire MBS collection.

UltrAspire came on the scene a few years ago introducing some new takes and some new spins on how we carry our hydration, how we carry our gear, how we carry our calories with us. I think that the Molecular Belt System (MBS) is a perfect example of recognizing that each of us are individuals, and we’re unique in what we want to have and what works best for us on race day or training or varying by distance. So what we’re going to do in this review is look less at one individual component and really think about all of these components and how they’re going to work together and how they’re going to hopefully come up with a way that gives you the best options to carry your stuff.

The MBS system is defined by two parts—one is the core, and two is the connector. You can think of the core as the piece that is going to ride on your back. The connector is the piece that rides on your front. I’ll caveat that by saying you can wear it however you want. That’s really just how these things are designed and labeled on the website. We have three core components and two connector components with us today. UltrAspire has 5 connectors and 10 cores, so there are up to 50 different options that you can have. What we’ll do is take a look at each of these different components individually and then show a couple ways in which they’re going to work together.

Let’s start off by talking about our core component. This is easily defined by a metal hook or metal loop on one end and another nylon loop on the other side. These are going to interact with our connector pieces to create an entire belt system. This is the Zeta. The Zeta is a large mesh pocket. We have a drain hole on the bottom and stretchy mesh on the front. So we can fit a lot of stuff in this pocket. I have two hands in there right now and we can see there’s a lot of room left in there. Jackets, gels, running hats, running sunglasses, GPS, smartphones—you can put all that stuff in here with room to spare. There are two divider pockets in the back, so if you want to keep some of that stuff from mixing together or you want to reach in and grab it really quickly, you can. Then it’s closed up by using a magnet—the magnet is something you will see as a recurring product throughout the UltrAspire lines whether you’re talking about hydration or their belts. Magnets seem to be there a lot which I like because they close on their own. If you forget to close them, it will snap together. This thing does a better job of holding large items instead of small items because it makes a bit of a gap here. If I was going to wear this on race day instead of training, I’d definitely put some Velcro-type hits right here that I could make sure that that would stay closed. A lot of stuff can fit inside of the Zeta.

Next up is the Nerve. The Nerve is a single bottle holder. There are multiple bottle holders in 20-ounce sizes and 10-ounce sizes and lots of different ways you can have this type. But this type is one of the examples of one of their bottle packs. This has an UltrAspire bottle in it; it will also accommodate your standard 20 oz bottles. The UltrAspire bottles have a neck on them that is curved so that when you’re drinking out of them, you can really get to every last drop. This is standard in the way that we’re carrying a bottle in the back. This is going to sit in the middle of your back at an angle which will hopefully keep it from jiggling around. We have a shock cord on the side. The shock cord is going to be there for us to put a jacket, hat, or gloves and be able to strap that down. Once we do that, instead of having that annoying piece flopping around and hitting our side, we have a really great feature of having a pocket here to stuff that inside of. You could also fit a gel in there or even some electrolytes in a baggie (I’ve learned.). So that’s another option for carrying. Over on the opposite side we have a flat pocket that’s good for small items like gels, electrolyte pills, even a bar or a waffle could fit inside of that pocket. Again, we see our core hooks or connection points on here.

Our last piece on the core is the Reflex. The Reflex is super simple. It’s a piece of fabric with some reflective hits on it. This you will see comes in handy when connecting it to one of our connector components when we don’t want to have anything extra; we don’t want to have a pocket; we don’t want to have a bottle; we just want to have that pouch or accessibility in the front capped off with a nice reflective hit across the back. I will note that there is a sister-component to this that is just a belt that would allow you to have just a belt portion and combine that with a pocket or one of the bottle functions. So there are a lot of different ways to mix and match.

Next up, we will look at the Cell (connector). The Cell is probably one of my favorite pieces for training and that’s because you can carry a lot of stuff but it’s not cumbersome. Another reoccurring thing you see on these UltrAspires is the quiet pull zippers with the big tabs. These are perfect for winter when your hands are cold and you have big gloves and you still want to be able to pull on that zipper. You’re not sitting there fiddling around with it. These are going to be easy to grab and close and open. Inside of this we have enough room for again a couple of hands. So we can see when you look at it from the side, you can fit quite a bit of stuff in here—a phone, some power bars if you want. Then there are separator pockets in the back to keep those things separate. This is just less than the Zeta gives us but still plenty of calories or items that you can carry inside of this. Next up, we have two more shock cords. On either side of this we can put some gloves or smaller items that we want to push down, or we can loop these two across the front and have a way of putting a jacket or an extra shirt in here keeping it tight and keeping it secure. There are some nice hits and features that are available on this.

Lastly, we’ll look at the Electron. The Electron is a really simple, minimalist belt. You can carry about 5 ounces of calories in here. You can do that in a flask which I’ve pre-loaded in here to show you, or you can stuff about 5 gels in there. I’d say the tipping point is about 5 oz. So whether that’s in a flask or stuffing 5 gels that make up 5 oz, that’s really about your cap on this type of thing. Then you have something that we saw on our review of the Surge hydration pack from UltrAspire: this electrolyte pocket. Again, it uses that magnet to snap down and you can put electrolyte pills in here or an MP3 player or some other small things will fit in that, too.

So now that we’ve seen some of the core components in the back and some of the connector components in the front, we’ll go ahead and put those together to maybe give you some ideas on how you can use these on race day or in training. One of my favorite combinations of these is to use the Reflex and the Electron. What we have on the connector component are this red anodized aluminum and then we have the belt side of things. You won’t be able to see this, but these are sized. You can have everything from an XS which is waist size 24-28 inches all the way up to an XL which is 36-42 inch waist. You’re not going to find a big piece of fabric flapping around one side or a belt being too small for you. Again, they’re increasing the number of options and the best way available for you to carry. We can simply take the pocket and snap that in on one side, then move to our other side. We’re going to thread that through our metal loop. Then we have a really great way of being able to carry some of our items with us. One of the things I want to point out while we’re looking at it is that these belts have a contour to them. So instead of being a perfectly flat circle, they tend to have a bit of a dip or a “U-shape” which helps them ride on your hips a little bit lower and keeps them from bouncing. This is a great use of this belt for a 20-mile run. You want to carry some calories with you, but you don’t need a bunch of extraneous stuff—this is perfect for that.

Let’s say maybe you’ve got a little more ground to cover or you need to carry more stuff with you. That’s when you could take something like these two components (Zeta + Cell) and place those together. Now you’ve got the medium-size pocket in the front with the shock cord and you’re carrying some stuff there. You’ve got another water bottle in the back with another shock cord and more pockets. So this is more of a longer-distance type thing especially if you’re carrying handhelds also. Now you can carry 60 ounces of water with you and really be able to cover a lot of things.

Again, we only have several components here. There are dual water bottle holders; there’s single; there’s small. There are other pocket sizes available. There are a lot of different options to hopefully help you on race day come up with the right combination. If you’re interested in any of these, please go out to www.UltrAspire.net to take a look at the other options available and to find the right recipe for you. If you’ve got any experience with UltrAspire packs and combinations that you feel work well or just comments in general, please leave a comment. Thanks for watching. We’ll catch you next time.

Travis Liles

Travis Liles is a gear reviewer at iRunFar. He’s been reviewing trail running and ultrarunning gear (and occasionally penning an article) for over 15 years. He is married to his Junior High sweetheart, has two amazing daughters, and works as a solution architect for a large software company. Originally from the Midwest but now based in Portland, Oregon, Travis is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner. Over the past 18 years, he has competed in many ultra-distance races and has completed 15 100-mile races, including Ozark Trail, Leadville, Big Horn, and HURT 100. He is a recovering RD and enjoys pacing friends, trail work, and volunteering at local events.