Trail And Ultra Running MENU
picture of Bjorn Daehlie Ambition Hat worn by TR Maloney

Bjorn Daehlie Ambition Race Hat

UltrAspire Ribos: Gear Review

May 16, 2013 Comments (70) Gear Reviews

UltrAspire Alpha Pack – Gear Review

Along with rest of the crew we visited the UltrAspire booth at the Summer Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City last summer.   Based on the number of new packs there,  it’s clear that Bryce and the gang at UltrAspire spend a lot of time innovating.   The pack that really caught my eye was the Alpha.   So when UltrAspire sent us a number of new products to test – one being the Alpha – It “could” be said that I launched myself at our Gear Review Coordinator, Craig, in order to snatch the Alpha pack from his up lifted arm.   After initially frightening Craig, he relinquished the pack.   So why did I want to try the pack?   Since I already know and like the fit of UltrAspire packs, I saw that it offered more up front storage than my Nathan HPL #20.   The Alpha’s storage includes a dedicated water resistant pill pocket, zippered expandable mess pocket, two very large strap closure pockets and two rib cage expandable mess pockets.   The appeal is quick and easy access to everything I need but also separation of items.

Along with Rebecca, we completed our testing and our our reviews and observations are below (with a 5 point rating system):

Mark Says:

Overall Design: 4.5

Pros:  The front storage with easy access to everything is great.   I completed multiple 5+ hour runs with room to spare.   In addition to food & fuel, I also pack an iPhone, Sony Action Cam, wipes and other emergency items.  Also, really like how the top of the water bladder is exposed in the back.   Refills are faster with the Alpha than with my HPL #20.

Cons:  Valve seemed to require a lot suction but I usually use an Osprey valve anyway.  Speed hooks catch but I fixed this in less than 5 minutes with a nail file to remove some material at the end of the hook.

Weight: 4.5

picture of mark kreuzer with Ultraspire Alpha pack from the frontPros:  Feels light and not over built.

Cons: None

Durability: 4.0

Pros:  I’ve had the pack for 2 months and I’m not nice to my packs.  It has been snagged by branches, dropped on the ground and thrown in the car. So far, not rips, tears, fraying, nor has anything broken. I might give it a higher value once it hits the 6 month point.

Cons:  None

Capacity: 4.5

Pros:  For me, it has enough capacity for runs as long as 6 hours to 8 hours.  This assumes I have access to water additional water.  My Swayer Squeeze filter would fit nicely in the pack.

Cons: None

Fit: 4.0

Pros:  I really like the loose low ride fit, similar to my Nathan.  As the bladder empties you can close the straps tighter to adjust the fit as you would like.

Cons:  I received a large and the pack had a wide cut across my shoulders.  A large safety pin or some needle and thread will draw the shoulders closer in the back correcting this for me.

Functionality: 4.0picture of ultraspire alpha pack speed hook modification

It meets and exceeds what it’s designed to do.

Usability: 4.0

With all the up front storage the Alpha is awesome.   Add a couple of  5 minute modifications and it has replaced my Nathan.

Rebecca Says:

Overall Design: 4

Pros:  Overall,this is one of the best designed hydration packs that I’ve tried. I didn’t feel like they just added pockets and straps for the heck of it, but thought out what a runner truly needs when wearing it.

Cons:  It did not receive a 5 due to the struggles I had with drinking from it.

Weight: 5

Pros: I loved this pack because I hardly knew I had it on my back!  I love hydration packs because my hands are free, but most are heavy.  This one had great, wide straps that allowed for the weight to be dispersed.

Cons:  None

Durability: 5

I don’t really beat up on my packs too much, so it worked very well for me.

Capacity: 5

Pros: With a 70 oz water capacity it’s great for races where aid stations are further apart.

Fit: 4.5

Pros: I loved how this fit me and never felt like it was intrusive.  It fit my body well (which can be hard).

Cons:  Nonepicture of rebecca schaefer with the UltrAspire Alpha pack

Functionality:  4

I loved the pockets and all the features, especially the magnet-closures for some pockets.  My biggest issue was drinking from the valve.   It was hard to drink from.  Everything else is so perfect about this pack.

Usability: 4

It’s great to store a lot of things during a race, but again, drinking is a bit too hard.



Don’t forget to comment below for your chance to win your very own UltrAspire Quantum race belt!

The winner of last week’s Quantum is comment #19 from the review of the Quantum- Eric “Skree” – Congratulations!

70 Responses to UltrAspire Alpha Pack – Gear Review

  1. Zac says:

    Awesome info! I’m in the market for a pack and this was one of my considerations. I think I’m sold! Can’t wait to take it to Leadville this year. Now if I can just get my hands on a Quantum waist pack. Hmmmm… where could I get one of those?

  2. Helen says:

    Want! Water-resistant pill pocket = brilliance.

  3. Eric says:

    Sounds great. I’ve been looking for a good pack. I bought 2 from another company but found out that I was in between sizes and returned them.

  4. Spencer says:

    I really want to know how two bottles would fit in the front pockets. It looks like a good pack though. I have the 2012 surge, and it works great.

  5. Darcy says:

    I need a pack badly and have heard a lot aboit Ultraspire. Thank you for this and I think it is a sign i should buy one!

  6. Gene says:

    Sounds like a great pack! I am in the market for a new one.

  7. Dow Ford says:

    I like the adjustability of straps. Early in the day with a full pack the “bounce” can be controlled. Later, when the pack is nearly empty, it just wears like a garment.

    It appears to be quite versatile.

    Dow Ford

  8. Thad Metzger says:

    Thinking about upping my race distance in the future & interested in a hydration pack. Looks like one worth checking out. Thanks Trail & Ultra Running!

  9. Jason says:

    Guess I need to register for more ultra’s to justify buying another piece of kit 🙂

  10. Mike says:

    Nice pack. Great review!

  11. Von says:

    Awesome! I need one!!

  12. Bill says:

    Really enjoy my surge pack. It’s lasting nicely through many miles.
    What’s so diff about the valve? Or do you have trouble with using the 2012 drinking valve design too?
    Personally, like the idea of a pack that vollies can refill easier without familiarity of the pack and sounds like Alpha does that.
    Thx for the review!

  13. Christoph S. says:


  14. Kevin T says:

    Sounds like a quality product

  15. Nick says:

    I had a different experience with the Alpha.
    I found the pack sat to low on my back touching the top of my shorts, which resulted in strain on the shoulders.
    The back of the back has a rough texture causing my shirt to bunch up in a ball every couple minutes, very annoying.
    The bladder hose is huge and if you forget to close it your bladder can drain In minutes. Not good.
    Small but still there is the chest straps hook into a rubber sleeve not nylon that sticks, so if you come into a aid station in a hurry you have that to deal with.
    All small stuff but I expected more from such a experienced pack maker.

  16. Matt L says:

    I sometimes run with an Osprey pack, which can be a pain to refill – so I’m sure I’d appreciate the top of the bladder being exposed. Thanks for the detailed review!

  17. Heather says:

    My Nathan has been my best friend on many a trail run. I’ve cheated on her with other packs, but I always go back to her…. The UltraAspire sounds like it could give my friend the Nathan a run for her money. I would love to find out!

  18. Rene says:

    Nice review! Great to have that too! 🙂

  19. Chris Lassen says:

    Awesome review!!! I’ve been looking at packs for sometime now. So many options have left me pack-less. This definitely seems like a rock solid pack and I would love to start putting some serious miles on one!!! (hint)

  20. Gordon says:

    Ooh. I have a Nathan right now, but this looks really nice!

  21. Perry Ligon says:

    Looks like a killer pack – everything you is in reach – nice!

  22. Mike Reopelle says:

    Great review. I really enjoy the fact that the bladder has such quick access!

  23. joe tritthardt says:

    looks like the double strap on the front chest will significantly reduce the bounce/slap that can be had if you put heavy items in those lower pouches, that probably the main drawback to my current pack.

  24. Dennis says:

    After running my first ultra last weekend, I am considering a pack/vest now! Thanks for the review

  25. Lynette McDougal says:

    Thanks for the review. Having been a pack user for ten years, I think I am beginning to lean towards carry less handhelds. Is my confidence in my abilities improving? 😉 Regardless, I tend to be a gear whore and love everything UltrAspire. Good to hear they are continuing to make products that work and not just flood the market 🙂

  26. Emir says:

    Nice review. Now let’s win that quantum

  27. Anne Pumfery (@scientistanne) says:

    I have an old Camelback that has limited storage and all in the back. Would love to run longer trails and this sounds like the ideal pack!

  28. Rudy Garcia says:

    Looks like a cool pack.

  29. Love the Ultraspire Spry that I have. It’s good for short stuff and courses where I like to carry hand held water bottles. The quantum would be a nice addition to the gear locker!

  30. Chris J says:

    I want it!

  31. Alberto says:

    Space is always a plus. Great review!

  32. Dylan says:

    Bummer that drinking isn’t easy as pie…

  33. Dwayne VanHoose says:

    Great review! I’ve been in the market for a new one! Looks like the winner! Thanks! …sure would help to win it ! Gear gets expensive!

  34. Elaine says:

    Would love this!

  35. Tom Wilsher says:

    Some sweet bags, gotta get me one!

  36. Lane says:

    Sweet Sweet Pack!

  37. Jess says:

    Thanks for the review and giveaway!

  38. Katy says:

    Sweet Pack!!!

  39. My wife definitely needs a new pack.

  40. Missy says:

    I like the supporting actors on the video ~ Frank, Artie, and Vernon ~ shout out!!! And who was the videographer?!? She did a great job holding the camera steady.

    • mkreuzer says:

      Yes Yes Yes.. I forgot to credit director and executive producer Missy Berkel. Thank you ms. berkel !

  41. Cory says:

    Love my handheld, and would love to try a pack for next ultra!

  42. Brett says:

    Training for my first ultra in October, stump jump 50k, would love to win this pack to train and race with!

  43. Ryan says:

    I love rhe UA oacks but they’re hard to drink from. Great review.

    • mkreuzer says:

      We did have a hard time with the valve as well. I recommend the Osprey valve. It’s been the best valve I’ve tried so far.

  44. Roberto says:

    This would be great for my first running backpack.

  45. Eric says:

    Appreciate the information. Well done.

  46. Paul says:

    Got an Alpha in the mail recently, haven’t had the opportunity to race with it yet, but I love that I can my hands in the back pocket on the go as advertised.

  47. Cait says:

    After reading this review, I went to the nearest running store to try one on. Totally in love with the fit. Now i just have to buy/win one…

  48. Fred says:

    Perfect timing! I just happen to be in the market for a new pack. The UltrAspire looks great!!

  49. Chad says:

    Need more volume and this looks like it will do the trick.

  50. Cory Pittendreigh says:

    Looks awesome!

  51. I’ve been looking to replace my tiny old hydrapack. It’s awesome, except it is lacking front pockets. This pack looks perfect!

  52. Jonathan Dewez says:

    Appreciate the in-depth review. First 100m in T-minus 5 months…….tick….tick……

  53. John says:

    Looks like it would make the miles a lot more comfortable.

  54. Mark Johnston says:

    Sounds good, I want one!

  55. Burim says:

    It’s nice, very cute!

  56. Chris Pierre says:

    I’d like to try out myself.

  57. Adam Haesler says:

    Great review, well broken down into the standard criteria, and awesome that you had one male and one female opinion.
    Also i appreciated the time you put into creating a cut of a summary video.
    My Suggestion would be moving the video to the top, and a summary table of the results below the video. This way you give people not wanting to read all they need upfront, and if they wish to read the full review. If you wanted to get really fancy include links for each value in the table to jump to the corresponding description.
    Looks like a great pack.
    Have an awesome day!

  58. Steve says:

    I’m always on the lookout for a new pack 🙂

  59. Chuck says:

    Big fan of this pack!

  60. Chris says:

    Love my UltrAspire Impulse. This looks great would love to give it a try.

  61. Jeff says:

    I would love to give it a go – I noticed on some of your reviews you post the height and wgt of people reviewing – that would be great if you could add to this – I am tempted to buy…

  62. Ben says:

    I’ll test it out, if(when) I win :). Thanks

  63. Mick says:

    Such a great review, I’m need a of new one and found this info super helpful! Cheers!!

  64. mkreuzer says:

    Gordon wins the Quantum pack form UltrAspire!! Congrats!

  65. Erik Richenberger says:

    I’m currently in search of pack and was debating between this and the Salomon Advanced Skin Set 12. I’m in a position where I can get the Salomon at a vert comparative price with this product, but I am a little hesitant about one thing on each items The Salomon is 1.5L, and what concepts me on the Alpha is the complaint of difficulty drinking.

    Just how hard is it to drink out of the valve? Could you replace it with another brand’s valve

    Thanks so much for the review! It’s honest, and covers all of the categories!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *