2017- a mixed ‘bag’ where equipment is concerned.
Plenty of product carries over from the 2015/16 range, but one or two updates or tweaks have made a big difference.
So, not so much about the all new, as the evolution of modern classics.
Here then, are the contenders for ‘Best in Test 2017’.
Ultimate Direction Signature Series ‘Anton Krupicka’ Mountain Vest 3.0 (already winner of biggest mouth full).
Introduced back in Spring ’16 – due for update sometime in 2018, but for now – far and away the leading vest in Accelerate’s generous range. The reasons:
– 11Litres storage capacity, enough for most long days out with self sufficiency.
– Fully adjustable, with one of the most versatile systems for the correct fit – year round, fair weather or foul, year on year.
– Free 500ml Body Bottles (soft flasks) with easy to use bite valves which do not leak.
– Ample front storage for drinking and grazing throughout your run, negating the requirement to remove the vest in all but ‘worst case scenarios’.
– In-built pole holders to the front, again within easy reach.
– In-built compression system at rear, with external stretch pockets and bungees for ever adaptable storage & securing partial loads.
A running belt turned up to ‘Eleven’*.
– 2.9 Litres capacity, while not a lot, there’s a place for everything.
– Twin (Stereo) pouches mounted front and rear, included and 2 x 500ml Body Bottles (though there’s an option without these).
– Stability. The biggest difference here is the belt’s ability to wrap around your lower back and remain still. Under load, there’s no jumping or bouncing, even with those 500ml flasks in place.
– Zippered pockets front and rear, with room enough for windproof/waterproof jacket, food and headtorch/batteries, or whichever items you feel are vital for you and your journey. Key fob of course. And a phone for safety/pics along the way.
– Interchangeable with other ‘Groove’ belts. So, if you’ve invested in the Mono, as well as Stereo – you can swap the pouches as you see fit.
2015/16 – Mountain Hardwear already made this pack available in the UK, exclusively via Accelerate, when it went by the name ‘Fluid Race Vest Pack’. For 2017, it received a name change and was joined by a 3 Litre version (this being 6 L). The added colour options and increased profile did nothing to prevent sales, mainly down to one factor – RRP. The Singletrack/Fluid Vest Pack is owned by almost every member of the extended Accelerate family, from store staff, to supported athletes, Wood Run leaders and ATR Group Leaders, we all have one. Why? Features, such as bladder compatibility, front bottle pockets, stretch mesh & zippered chest pockets, lateral zippered compartments, elasticated stretch fit, adjustable sternum straps, hydration hose clip, rear bungee attachment points, separate rear storage compartment, hang loop and lifting loop to boot. And a stretch mesh design that simply wraps on as if it weren’t there. Comes without bottles, and can be a little bouncy when heavier items are placed within. The zips finally began to jam up and corrode (on mine) after a solid 2 years of near constant use, but on the whole an amazing vest.
Oh and the price…… £50! Chances are, if you see one on somebody’s back, they bought it from Accelerate and they’re lovin’ it.
First there was Fastpack 20, or 30. Great packs with more volume than your average run vest. Versatile features allowed for alpinism, climbing, hiking, adventure racing….oh, and running! In early 2017 we saw the original versions removed from circulation, no longer produced. Boo Hoo. But in their place came the all singing, all dancing Fastpack 15, 25, 35 and 45.
I went from wishing I’d secured myself a Fastpack 20 sooner, to practically forgetting that it even existed, overnight. The star player – Fastpack 15. Large enough still, to store any/every running essential for a long day out. Ultra distances would be a breeze, as long as support came within 40 miles. Overnights were realistic as long as you had the state of the art kit to fit inside (or don’t mind roughing it). But these were not primary concerns. The key features, setting this pack above its Fastpack siblings are as follows:
– Generous main chamber for stuffing objects in with ease.
– Two way zip for compartmentalisation and/or access to bottom of pack as quickly as you might enter at the top.
– Improved vest style chasis with increased front storage for easy access throughout your run.
– Twin stretch pockets at rear, designed to accept a change of footwear if required.
– In-built compression system that will close contents together and reduce empty space to maintain low volume and stability.
– Internal wallet – large enough to secure a computer tablet.
– Internal zippered compartment, with key fob.
– Choice of colour – Grey or Orange!
– Released years ago (as Race Ultra Vest) and still a firm favourite with me, the reason this pack still features is a little tenuous, but the fact is – it wins the comfort/fit test hands down. The qualifier for ‘Best in Test 2017’…. is that new this year, inov-8 issued the same vest, with the ‘no bottle’ option. The weak link from the start – the 500ml bottles seemed a little ‘clunky’ and stiff, once opened/closed a few times. The solution – ditch the hard bottles in favour of the Flexform 350, by Ultimate Direction. Sure, smaller in volume, but miles more practical. When 3 litres of kit is all you require and you wish to move at speed, in complete comfort and never have to adjust the pack once while out – Race Elite Vest is unbeatable, especially when you opt for custom bottles! inov-8 even do their own 500ml Soft Flasks, so for purists it’s a no brainer.
And ‘Best in test 2017’ Equipment (Packs) goes to…..
Fastpack 15. Hands down. Improved design, fit for purpose, colourful, multi-functional and amazing value at only £100, which is less than the original Fastpack cost and for the reduced volume, now a lot more practical as a commuter/run to work pack, mountain marathon pack or alpinist day sack. As an out and out run vest, it excels, with Accelerate Trail Runners using it as a run leader pack, stuffed with group shelters, first aid kits, spare layers and multiple headtorches, along with associated batteries and food/drink as well. There’s not much you couldn’t do in this pack and for that modest asking price, you’re be getting several packs in one. A ‘goto’ for the ultra distance runner and one item firmly on my wish list. A well deserved place at the head of the table, despite some incredible competition.
*Spinal Tap reference. Go find…