Inov-8 Race Ultra Vest.
In my dealings with anything Inov-8, it is generally a love-at-first-sight scenario and the Race Ultra vest was no different. In this vest they have created what I believe to be the best race vest. I would have said best minimal race vest, but in a race your vest should be minimal. Race directors and volunteers spend hours planning and standing around in sometimes inclement weather just so you don’t have to lug around the kitchen sink, which I hear might fit in the new Salomon vests, which are great…if you are doing a self-supported 100 miler. (I realize most of those are designed to meet specs of races like UTMB. The Inov-8 Race Ultra vest will meet those as well.)
Overall this vest is about accessibility and customizability. One of the most amazing features (or non-feature) are the zippers. There are no zippers. This not only makes the pack sleek, it gives it an incredible amount of ease in accessing the pockets. And speaking of pockets there are three different sizes per side. There is also a large mesh pocket on the back for extra clothing, etc. Since there are no zippers it is open and super quick and easy to access. I am not at a particularly high volume of training right now however I can already see how I would be able to way more than I would ever need for any race from a 50k to a 100 (or 120) miler. Just don’t do what I did and put a phone in the bottle pockets. You will be hoping for a nice stranger on the trail to pick it up and a lollipop route for the day.
The options for hydration are outstanding. Placed further down and more on the side, the bottles are form fitting and do not bounce around. I was a huge fan of the UD vests that allowed front access bottles, however, I kept having the cinches break on me mid-race leaving bottles to bounce around and go rogue at will. There is also a bladder with an insulated sleeve for those incredibly long sections in a race or long training run. This brings me to a minor negative about this vest. The bottles are quite essential for the overall effect. I cannot imagine I will be using a traditional bottle with it anytime soon.
The mesh material is light and helps with the vest conforming to your body. In my run commutes to work, sans bladder and bottles, I barely notice that I am even wearing the vest. It is simply the best fitting vest I have tried and does not bounce around.
The chest strap fasteners on the front are not initially intuitive, at least not to me. After realizing the method, I feel it is the most innovative (hah!) in vests – easy in any weather condition, with or without gloves. The chest straps have 3 locations for placement to give you the perfect fit.
Hopefully you will find the Inov-8 Race Ultra vest as phenomenal as I have. It will for sure be used for all my races this year.
Now to wait for the UltraRoc’s to find their way onto my feet…