This season began with plans for me to run over 7 ultramarathons in the Southwest desert of the United States. Not being a fast runner, and not trusting aid stations, I knew I would have to carry my own water and nutrition.
I began the year using UltrAspire’s Fastpack, a capable hydration solution designed by an ultrarunner.
However, just before the Zion 100-50k, I received the Salomon Skin Pro 10+3 hydration pack to review as part of my association with The San Francisco Marathon. The day before the race, I took both hydration packs with me to the hotel in order to decide, just prior to the race, which pack I would use.
So the night before the race, I weighed my options, and decided “What the hell” and broke one of the cardinal rules of endurance events: Don’t do anything new on race day.
As it turns out, the Salomon saved the day, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The UltrAspire Fastpack can carry up to 3 26oz bottles easily and has pockets galore. It has a waterproof pocket for pills (salt pills, anyone?), pockets to put a phone or Garmin Virb/GoPro, and a strap around the waist to keep the weight off your shoulders. The extremely light material on the back of the pack expands so that you can fit an amazing amount of stuff into it, and I have no doubt you could fit far more than the Salomon 10+3. The UltrAspire performed admirably for 2 of the Grand Circle Trail series 55km ultramarathons, each which took over 8 hours for me to complete.
- Water Bottles. Carrying up to 3 26oz water bottles is the fastest, easiest, cleanest way to carry water or Nuun. You can look and easily see just how much water you have left, and refilling at Aid stations is quick and easy.
- Pockets. From the pill pocket to the media pockets, the Fastpack outdoes the Salomon for storage options
- Also has a pocket to carry an additional 1.5L bladder, making this thing a water carrying pack for extra-long voyages.
- Excellent for long hikes, but not as comfortable running.
- Don’t have to remove the pack to refill water
- No Chaffing
- Easily carry over 3.5L of water (I live in the desert).
- Pocket Volume. There are a lot of pockets, but I can’t fit all my Honey Stinger products into 1 or 2 pockets easily accessible. Eventually, I have to either place them in the pack, or put them in my shorts.
- My wife says the waist strap makes me look fat
- The water bottles get in the way of my arm swing while running. Also, getting the bottles out of the pockets are a bit awkward.
- I know I run funny, and because of that the pack tends to get “off center” – this is more a user problem than a pack problem, however.
Additional details about the UltrAspire Fastpack can be found here.
Salomon Skin Pro 10+3 Hydration Pack
During the Zion 100-50k, I tried the Salomon pack for the very first time. I’m a slow runner, so my 50K was over 8 hours long. During that time, I never had to refill the 1.5L water pack, never had to remove the vest, found the ability to run “naturally” refreshing, and, to my surprise, never found my shoulders getting sore from carrying the weight. The odd front strap system distributed the weight anywhere but to my shoulders, which was a surprise and a delight. Also, the pack didn’t move, squirm, get out of position… It stayed put, even while scrambling up and over rocks. And, when I did the inevitable trip over rock/fall/roll, the pack survived my weight with no problem whatsoever and didn’t poke or hurt me as I rolled over the top of it.
- Allows for natural run movement
- Feels “weightless”
- Excellent side mesh pockets for all the Honey Stinger/Nuun you might possibly need.
- Easy access to side pockets
- Pack is easy and fairly quick to take off/put on.
- No chaffing
- Quick Trail Pole System store/remove (if you use those things)
- Front pocket for additional water bottle (for Nuun mixing!)
- Large storage
- Under-arm water hose routing (although, really, over/under doesn’t matter much to me).
- Heat-shield between your back and the water bladder (my water never got “hot” during the Zion-100).
- The 1.5L Bladder for water hydration, although it sits comfortably, is a huge con for me. I don’t know exactly how much water I have left during my runs.
- I have to remove the pack to refill the water bladder.
- Not enough pockets
- No waterproof pill pocket
- Funky front straps
- Trail Pole System I don’t use
Additional details about the Salomon Skin Pro 10+3 can be found here.
So, after the Zion 100-50km race, which pack will I be using for the remaining 4 Ultramarathons and during my long training runs?
Well, the answer isn’t as cut and dried as you might think. I enjoy drinking Nuun during my runs, and being able to properly mix is extremely easy with water bottles. Also, I tend to be lazy and not properly drain/rinse water bladders after use. Eventually, they get moldy. Not the fault of the bladder, but the fault of my laziness. So for everyday use, it’s the UltrAspire Kinetic.
For long hikes (say, for summits) where I’ll be doing little to no running, it’s the Fastpack all the way (even if it does make me look fat). I can carry enough water for a couple of days, or at least enough for my wife and I so she can carry all the camera equipment.
But for long training runs, and for my races?
The Salomon Skin Pro 10+3 is the winner for race day. The ability to run without constantly bumping into water bottles, the light weight and ability to expand with my breathing, easy access to the Stingers/Nuun entirely on the pack, and large pack for “stuff” far outweighs the con of using a bladder. The more I use the bladder, the more I’m sure I’ll get the “feel” for how much water is left during a race.