Gear Review: Ultraspire Omega Running Pack

After the plethora of racing that’s been going on recently, we thought we’d get back down to business with a good old-fashioned gear review. First up in this slightly quieter season of ultras is the new kid on the block as far as running packs are concerned, the Ultraspire Omega pack.

When you first grab hold of it, you’d be mistaken for thinking that this was a Nathan Endurance pack, such are the similarities in that there’s a similar shaped pack on the back, along with two side straps and a couple of bottle holders at the front. Indeed I couldn’t see that much difference on first glance (apart from colour), but as you start to explore a little more one difference does become very evident –ย  its ability to hold stuff.

The Good – Acres of storage

So much storage, even Ultra168’s Poppy Darrel can fit his picnic in here!

The challenge that we as runners face is that we want nice light and fancy packs, but we want them to perform miracles too i.e. carry everything and be strong to boot – and this is where the cleverness of the Omega comes to the fore. Rather than putting the bladder in the large compartment at the back, there is a separate area for this that rests in between your back and that larger compartment. What they’ve also done is add a very cleverย  bladder that splits into two tubes so that the bladder is no longer a mass of bulk, but a slender tube-like thing that sits neatly in that rear compartment, leaving that area in the back bit for all your gear.

Another great thing about this pack is its ability to hold copious amounts of fluid too, a big consideration for something like GNW. The standard bladder for this pack is two litres compared to the 1.5 litres you get with the Salomon S-Lab 5 and 12 packs. Although you can fit a 2 litre bladder in the Salomon packs, there’s a lot of fiddling around that you have to do to get it into the narrow compartment of the S-Lab. The ultraspire uses that clever tube-shaped Hyrapak I was talking about above.

Additionally, there’s plenty of room for a 600ml bottle to go into the front of the pack in one of the compartments at the front. However, like the S-Lab, this also has some side holders whereby you can add bottles too – plenty of fluid carrying capacity for even the thirstiest of drinkers.

Using tubes helps to bring down the bulk of the bladder

There are also numerous pockets on the pack, including a magnetic electrolyte holder for your salt tabs or whatever else you use. This is certainly a good feature as I’ve had my bag of salt tabs fall out of other packs quite a few times before. And as if to prove that this is a great pack of choice for UTMB, there are also some pole holders too for those that like to use the lazy sticks.

In terms of carrying capacity, this pack has the edge on the likes of the S-Lab 12, given the huge amount of space in that back compartment.

The OK – Fitting could do with some work

As mentioned above, this pack looks and indeed fits just like a Nathan. The design across the shoulder straps is almost identical and it fits like a vest of sorts too. But here’s where things don’t quite work out so well for me. There are two straps, but both are placed where the two front pockets sit towards the bottom of the pack. This thing really does need a strap across the chest as I found the pack would start to slip down my back a little. Despite tightening the straps regularly, they continued to loosen some what and fall back. It’s not a major issue by any stretch of the imagination, as you do find this with most packs.

Chest straps need to be a little higher

Indeed with most packs, the S-Lab included, the more you drink from your bladder, the more you need to re-adjust and tighten your pack to allow for this. The same goes for the Omega, but it sure as hell could do with a strap near the chest for the guys. Admittedly this pack was the brainchild ofย  Krissy Moehl, so with the chicks in mind, I can see why the straps are a little lower on the chest so to speak. As a guy however, I’d like a strap much higher as I think it will help to keep the pack in a much sturdier position.

That said, the side straps, which are again very similar to the Nathan Endurance pack are elasticated and do move with your body. But for some reason, on my few outings with this I did find I was playing around with it a fair bit. No dramas however, all packs take a while to get used to and you do need to play around with them to get them right. It took me a good 15 hours or so on the trails before I was totally happy with my S-Lab 12 pack. Indeed after my first run with it, I was so frustrated I didn’t wear it for around 2 months after that – but a little application and time and I have come to love the thing.

The Not So Good – Dangly bladder hoses

Dangly bladder hose that even a modicum of intelligence could sort out

For all the genius in having a great bladder and separate compartment for it, the actual attachment of the bladder hose around the front of the pack and onto the clip on the shoulder strap leaves a lot to be desired. Unlike the Nathan, there are no loops on the upper parts of the shoulder straps to loop the bladder through and keep it in one place. Instead you get bladder hosing not tied down and just one plastic clip to attach it too. Again, not a massive concern and certainly not a deal breaker, but to be honest, there could have been a little more thought gone into that one to prevent the hose from just ‘being there’. All it would need is a few stripes of fabric on the upper shoulder straps to pass the hose through and hey presto, the bladder is held down securely.

The Verdict – 3.5 / 5

This is a solid pack with bags of storage and holding capacity, even for the likes of the North Face 100 where you need to bring the kitchen sink with you! As mentioned throughout the review, it’s very similar to the Nathan Endurance pack, and I have three of these such is the quality of the pack I feel, so you know you’re onto a winner with this one too. A few slight changes on the fit and the bladder straps and this pack would be right up there in terms of the role of honour for back packs. If you’re on a long day out and want a durable, light and comfortable pack, you can’t go wrong with this one – just be prepared to play around with the fit a little and make some modifications to get it right.

If you’re keen, the good guys at Footpoint have these bad boys in stock, so give Tom a call. Footpoint also very kindly gave us this pack to review and we’ll be giving this away very soon as a prize on our Facebook page, so watch out! (Yes it has been washed and smells of roses!)

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Dan
I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

14 thoughts on “Gear Review: Ultraspire Omega Running Pack

  1. Hey Dan any chance of a female doing a review? A lot of us are in love with the Nathan and so would be good to get a comparison. No offence but you’re too fit these days and have lost all your curves ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Funny you should say that Kirrily as I was just in discussions as we speak with Sam Gash to get the female side of things too… so watch this space! It’s on the cards as we want to make sure the chicks get their review too ๐Ÿ™‚ I have a feeling that this will be certainly a pack that is more suitable for the ladies….

  3. There is a loop on each of the shoulder straps to loop the tube through, just like a Nathan pack. The photo you’ve used shows the incorrect way of setting up the hose.

    1. Thanks Jeanette. I’ll have a look on my pack tonight as I don’t recall seeing one that was obvious, and that sat up on the shoulders more than down at the front of the pack. The photo is from the Ultraspire website BTW, so we can blame them ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Hi Jeanette, I checked the pack again last night and indeed there is a loop, but it’s right near where the clip is for the bladder (you can see it on the picture above). What it needs (in my opinion) is a loop much further up on the shoulder strap so that the bladder hose runs along the shoulder strap.

  4. I have a Hydrapak Vest (which is awesome), which -no surprise- also uses the hydrapak bladder. Mine -like the one in the photo- has a magnetic clip thingy near the mouth piece, and another one on the vest. You funnel the hose through loops on the vest and clip in the mouthpiece. There’s absolutely no dangling or other nuisance. In case the Ultraspire doesn’t have that second clip, does the hose (given it has that magnet) stick to the magnetic s-cap pocket ? Thanks for the review, love your site. Cheers, Nils

  5. Hi Guys,

    Thanks for a good review. Your review is much more mild than mine (which is in hebrew, but I will be happy to translate it, if you would like to).

    http://zayedet.com/2012/06/03/ultraspire-omega-%D7%94%D7%AA%D7%A8%D7%A9%D7%9E%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%A8%D7%90%D7%A9%D7%95%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%AA-%D7%9E%D7%AA%D7%A7%D7%93%D7%9E%D7%AA/

    My two major complains for the pack was:

    1. `The hosing system. Just like you mentioned, what bothered me is the fact that there is specific favourizm to the clip on the left should strap, which mandates you to use your hands in a certain way to release the hose. I run the hose from the right shoulder strap to the left, cause the other way just doesn’t work.

    Not all people made equal, not all people are right handed, left handed. Some have preferences and this should fit both options.

    The current clip mandates that I use my right hand to release the hose, and if right hand is busy, to uncomfortably use my left arm.

    the clip also sits in a flexible mesh, so it is hard to clip & unclip the hose, and requires too much finger work to my taste.

    it disturb my running experience so badly, that I considered not using it.

    I am not sure why they could not put the clip in a neutral place like the chest strap (in the HPL 020) where you can than run the hose from both sides comfortably.

    2. The other thing that bothered me in such a high-end bag is the extra straps on the adjustment system. This, while being esthetic and solvable, is lack of attention to details. Details that I would expect in such a bag. It was very disturbing while running until I easily solved it.

    I solved it in the following manner, manually (something that you can find in any CamelBak packs, or many others):

    http://zayedet.com/2012/06/03/ultraspire-omega-%D7%94%D7%AA%D7%A8%D7%A9%D7%9E%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%A8%D7%90%D7%A9%D7%95%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%AA-%D7%9E%D7%AA%D7%A7%D7%93%D7%9E%D7%AA/

    hope this input is valuable.

    Regards,
    Ran

  6. “Dangly bladder hose that even a modicum of intelligence could sort out” for example actually looking at the product properly before writing up your “review”. The hose should come down and through the loop on the right shoulder before going across the chest and attaching to the clip on the left strap. I would expect a bit more of a thorough going over of the pack before I felt qualified to offer an expert opinion on it.

    1. Hi Lauren, thanks for your comment. I have done as you’ve pointed out, but do feel as though there could be a strip higher up on the shoulder (which was my original point), as you find with most packs to run it along the shoulder straps – in my view, a pretty simple addition, but as I said above, not a deal breaker. It is afterall a pack and a bladder hose ๐Ÿ™‚ Of course we’re all entitled to our opinions about what works and what doesn’t so appreciate you taking the time out to comment too.

  7. I liked the bag from the Idea of not buying another Salomon bag.
    But I had to send it bag because the sternum straps are really bad. They did not stay in the position they should so after going downhill the fit was always loose and had to be rejusted again. Very annoying. I sent mine back.
    Dont understand why a company that only produces such things and works with professional athletes can get that thing right before launching a product.
    Had to buy a Salomon Vest again. They still have the best fit.

  8. Route the hose over the right shoulder and through the elastic strap. From there, the hose will run across the chest to the left side and secured with the plastic clip. I have used the Surge for the past 2 years and have had absolutely zero issues with hose routing or the pack itself, for that matter.

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