Written by Kate Allen
When I entered my first Ultra race I quickly realised the importance of having some sort of pack to carry all the essential items needed to get me through 100kms on the trail. I started window shopping online but found that many packs were large and bulky. My race is a) in the summer and b) should (!) be finished within a day so I would not be needing space for a sleeping bag, thermals and gas stove. Thankfully, Accelerate then announced they would be taking pre-orders for the Inov8 Ultra Race Vest and after reading up about it, decided it looked just the ticket for me. I bought it, then waited impatiently for it to arrive in the UK.
I was besides myself with excitement when I finally opened the Accelerate package and was not disappointed with first impressions. The vest looks small but it came with a 2 litre bladder, hose, two 500ml bottles and a removable whistle. I had already read other reviews that complimented the vest on its fit and adaptability to all forms through the clever design; what I was most concerned about was its ability to carry everything I needed despite its lightweight construction.
Firstly, the new fasteners gave me pause for thought and I quickly checked there were no instructions with the vest. After several blonde moments I got the fasteners open – it took a couple of gos to get the hang of them and now I am completely familiar with them. I am not really sure what they offer however and why they were chosen over the traditional type of squeeze clips.
Having fiddled with getting the vest comfortable on me, I put some water in the bladder and went off for a run. As expected, the vest really and truly doesn’t move an inch. It hugs your upper body without you noticing and nothing jiggles, wiggles or gets in the way. There are several pockets on each side on the front, smaller ones at the top and at the bottom the pockets are large – large enough for each 500ml bottle with a handy little elastic band that secures the bottles over the lid – but more importantly to me, large enough for lots of food.
This versatility is, for me, the secret (or not so secret) weapon of this vest. I need lots of food when I’m running – little and often so the option of having a large bladder on the back AND large pockets on the front to give easy access for those mid-run snacks is a winner for me. Other runners may prefer to have the option of their water to hand and food or extra water in the back.
The next big test was whether this vest could not only carry all my food, and 2 litres of water but also all the required kit for running an Ultra race. Would I get all this into the vest with a full bladder?
The answer is yes.
Before you say “that’s not much food”, those front pockets are virtually empty with a single packet of crisps and fruit bar in each side. My main snack of choice, peanut butter sandwiches cut up into squares, will easily fit in either pocket, as well as other options that would at least get me from checkpoint to checkpoint. The phone is easily accessible in one of the middle pockets and there are several other pockets which could be used for money, gels and other small sundries. Everything else fitted in the back with no problem thanks to the stretchy material and elastic cross band.
Its final test for me was using it for a 20 mile race. I planned on being totally self sufficient so I put 1 litre of sports drink in the bladder, filled my pockets with titbits and phone, put spare socks and a rain jacket in the back and was off. Although this was a road race, and therefore not testing conditions for the trail, I was very comfortable and the lack of movement really makes it easy to wear. My only mistake was not squeezing out the air from the bladder when I didn’t fill it – the sloshing was rather disconcerting for the first 10 miles. The bite and suck hose worked well – although I am a little puzzled as to why it is so long. I threaded it through the many little elastic loops down the front so it was kept neatly out of the way when I wasn’t using it.
In conclusion, I was able to drink and eat during the race without pausing in my stride, while any essentials not needed regularly were stored in the back. Does anyone need more?