Last updated: 24-Oct-18
Fiona is a keen runner, preferring off-road and hilly to flat and road. She lives in Scotland where the weather is fickle so needs to be prepared for all conditions.
The inov-8 Race Ultra 10 is cross between a running vest and a rucksack and offers the best of both worlds for runners who want a neat fit but with space to carry 10 litres of kit.
Inov-8 Race Ultra 10 – Features
- Total carrying capacity of 10 litres
- Two sizes, S/M and M/L, to fit people of different heights and widths
- There is also a 5l version.
- Double chest straps
- Large main pocket with weather-resistant zip
- Internal “slip-in” compartment for dividing kit
- Two front/side mesh pockets with zips designed to hold two 500ml water bottles
- Two 500ml soft and flexible flask bottles with 30cm tubes (supplied with the pack)
- External zipped top compartment for an extra a water bladder/reservoir (bladder is not included)
- Two large mesh pockets, located either side and lower down the pack
- Four small stretch mesh pockets (two even smaller than the other two) located on top of each other on the front of the shoulder straps
- A whistle, located at the side of the left shoulder strap
- A bungee compression elastic configuration at the rear of the pack
- Loops at the rear of the pack for carrying lightweight, fold-up poles
- Large reflective “Inov-8” logo
- UK RRP: starts at £120 (£110 for the 5l version)
PROS: What’s good about the Inov-8 Race Ultra 10 pack?
If you are like me, when you are racing or doing a long-distance run, I want plenty of places to put my bits and pieces of kit. Depending on the time of year, in the main compartment I will stow a waterproof jacket, a spare baselayer, a map for emergency use, compass, spare socks, buff and gloves and mobile phone.
There are races that also insist on a set kit list and extras might include a lightweight space blanket, head torch, a full set of waterproofs, a whistle, a small first aid kit and even midge repellent (Scotland!).
That means the 10l compartment of this rucksack is going to fill up pretty quickly. However, the brilliant thing about the design is that there are lots of extra mesh pockets for stowing all sorts of items.
In the larger side mesh pockets you could easily fit a lightweight waterproof jacket and trousers, or a spare baselayer and a couple of buffs. I would wrap these in a waterproof bag in case of rain.
The small mesh pockets on the shoulder straps are perfect for thin gloves, a buff, arm warmers, gels, snacks, mobile phone or a compass. The mesh pockets are really handy and everything is accessible even while you’re on the move. You don’t need to take off the pack to get to stuff.
The only problem you might have is remembering where exactly you placed each item, although with the mesh pockets it is fairly easy to spot the colour or shape of your kit.
The Race Ultra 10 is sold in two sizes, S/M and M/L, to fit people of different heights and widths. If you want the same pack with half the space for kit there is also a 5l version.
The shape of the pack is also innovative. It is square-ish shaped rather than tall and narrow like a traditional rucksack. This means that the compact Race Ultra fits high on the back and very neatly round the shoulders, rather like a “hump”, but without constricting the movement of your neck and arms.
I confess that to start with I wasn’t sure that I liked how it “hugged” me because I am more familiar with a rucksack hanging lower down my back but within half an hour of my first run I had fallen in love with it.
The Race Ultra feels like it’s another garment of clothing, or an extra part of your body, rather than a running rucksack and the weight of the pack is evenly distributed across the upper back. If the pack is only half full you can pull together the elastic compression cords to remove the extra unused volume and to ensure the pack is the right shape to carry.
To aid the stability of the Race Ultra there are two chest straps. One strap sits above the chest line and the other is just below it. This is fine for men and small chested women, although the straps might rub annoyingly if you are larger breasted. Make sure that you try on a pack to check the right size before buying it.
The two soft-flask bottles, which sit to the front of the pack and either side of your chest, are a clever way to distribute the weight of the water across your body. The tubes run up the front of shoulder straps, through an elastic loop and then slot into small flaps that keep the top of the tube against your body. This means there is no annoying flapping around of bottle tubes.
The tubes are easy to drink from when on the run and when the water level drops a bit you can simply push your arm against the soft bottles to push water up the tube and into your mouth.
A screw-off top on each flask reveals a wide neck for easy refilling when using a water tap. It’s important to make sure that you screw back the tops very tightly. I didn’t do this the first time and they dripped annoyingly on to the car seat before I set off for my run.
The addition of a built in whistle is great, especially when racing.
CONS: What’s not so good about the Inov-8 Race Ultra 10 pack?
As I mentioned, the chest straps could be better designed to suit the female physique, especially for larger chested ladies.
The bottle tops also dig into the ribs and skin a bit if you are a slight build. I had to move them about until they sat a little more comfortably. After a while I didn’t notice this so much but it meant that I couldn’t tighten the pack too much because that caused the bottles to rub more.
The bottles and tubes are also quite fiddly to fit into the zipped sleeves and they are prone to leaking if you do not properly tighten them.
The pack might be too small for some races or longer-distance training runs, although if you pack much more it would become quite heavy to carry.
The pack is not waterproof so you would need to pack items in dry bags or add a separately bought waterproof cover.
Overall this is a well-designed and lightweight running pack that offers just the right number of features and without being too fussy. It is one of the most comfortable and well-fitting running rucksacks that I have ever tried.
It’s quite pricey but inov-8 kit is usually long lasting if you look after it. I would recommend it to recreational and elite runners, whether off-road or on road.
Other packs you may want to consider:
OMM Ultra 15 Marathon Pack – around £50
The North Face Face vest pack – around £60 to £70
inov-8 Race Elite™ 16 – around £80
Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN 3 – around £95 to (rrp) £125
Marathon Des Sables Pack – €189
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