It seems fitting that I start at one end of the spectrum (hand bottles) and move to the other in one fell swoop! So here I offer my take on the Ultimate Direction Wasp. I have had my Wasp for nearly three years now, I have raced with it, trained with it, hiked with it, thrown it in the washing machine (cold water, air dry) a couple of times and generally used and abused and still love it!
But I digress, let’s be a little more analytical.
So first up some basic facts and figures: Storage Capacity: 390 cu. in./6.9L. Fluid Capacity: 64oz./1.9L Reservoir Included. Weight: 1lb. 5oz./595g.
The Wasp is unlike your traditional running pack; which is more like a pack with straps, it is essentially constructed onto a vest that you wear rather than a pack that you put on, it’s actually quite difficult to explain but once you do put it on you get it straight away.
The vest is secured with two straps across the chest, the straps are pretty high and this gets things off you waist, there are some really nice touches like elastic wraps the secure all the excess straps once you have pulled them all tight. The front of the vest provides plenty of storage; there are two pockets’ one zippered, one with a drawstring and two pouches which are a perfect fit for a 6oz gel bottle, small camera or the like. All of the front is made from ventilated mesh which minimizes the heat and maximizes the airflow. The front panels are connected by a loop and sliding straps which go towards the rear where they are fixed onto the rear pack, this provides for a flexible fit and minimizes the possibility for chaffing. Also on the front are two elastic loops, these are used for looping the bladder hose around, I also add two home grown things here but more on that later. The great thing about the front is the amount of storage there is and the fact that you do not have to take it off to have access to a lot of your kit.
The back of the pack is all business too. It sits high, above you waistline and below your shoulders. There are several compartments, the first is where the bladder lives, there are two sections, so you can stash clothing etc in here too. There is a small Velcro loop that the bladder hooks onto, this keeps it uprights and stops it from slopping about or collapsing as it empties. From this section there is a hole where the hose feeds through, this allows you to zip up all the pockets. The next pocket opens to the side, inside there is a small pocket, ideal for a small flip phone (does anyone have one of those anymore?) your keys or something similar in size. On the outside there is a smaller zipped pocket ideal for a sun cream stick. There is also a mesh pocket with a cinch strap for a waterproof jacket etc. For the more ambitious there is an ice axe loop and walking pole loops.
Out of the box the pack comes with a 64oz bladder but you can get aftermarket versions of either 96oz or a massive 128oz, the bladder hose is insulated, I have only had to use it in heat but I assume it works as well in the cold. At the end of the hose there is a bite valve which effectively keeps the fluid in when you want it in and lets it out when you’re thirsty. There’s a bit of sucking involved to get it flowing and a gentle squeeze on the pack usually does the job.
Now there are a couple of small additions I have made, one of which is to add a Velcro loop to one of the loops on the front, I used a red cable tie; ‘cos it all matches! The reason for this is that the end of the hose has a Velcro wrap around it and a clip which you are supposed to clip onto the opposite loop, the Velcro just allows you to push it into the Velcro and the whole thing sticks together; easy! The second thing is the addition of a carabineer, this allows me to hook things onto me, most usefully is a handbottle, remember those really big loops on the UD FastDraw Extreme, perfect for when taking photos or scoffing a gel or PB&J sandwich! I have also at time looped a camera case through the front straps and that works well also, see the photo from above from the Calico Ghost Town 50K in 2008, the blue pouch is a camera case with two baggies…pretzels and M&Ms! Checkout the photo album for some close ups.
Overall this is a comfortable, effective vest, it has plenty of options to get it to fit, and fit well. There is plenty, if not too much, storage, it’s very tempting to fill all the pockets up…bad idea! It can get heavy real fast! When moving the custom fit really comes into play and minimizes any bounce. I have worn my pack for long races (50km) and longer unsupported training runs (25m+) without issue. The only real downside is that the bladder realistically has a lifespan of about a year depending on the amount of use and abuse you throw at it, replacements in all three sizes are available from UD’s website.
Recently a friend of mine Josh reviewed his Wasp, he has a newer version which is orange/gray compared to my red/gray one, you can read his review here.
The Wasp is hard to find in a retail store but is available through several online outlets and retails for around $80, WRC has it available and ‘quad10’ at the checkout will get you a 10% discount…hey that covers the shipping if nothing else!
Finally there is a female specific version; the Wink. The Wink offers a shorter torso length and women-specific "S" shaped shoulder straps with a narrower neck line and increased padding for optimal comfort.
As mentioned this is at the other end of the extreme from handbottles but if you’re go longer, it’s getting hotter or you’re heading out into the boonies the Wasp or Wink could be a good friend to have along!