UltrAspire Bryce XT Review
Cons: Complicated pocket design, shape of pack, no included hydration system
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UltrAspire Bryce XT
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|Pros||Durable, multi-sport oriented, feature-rich||Amazing pockets in arm's reach, carries a lot of gear||Comfortable, great fit, tons of easily reachable pockets, versatile||Versatile, comfortable, great storage capacity for how light it is||Ample storage, simple and successful design, approachable price|
|Cons||Complicated pocket design, shape of pack, no included hydration system||Some stiff materials on the chest, pole carry is hard to execute while moving||Expensive, must buy hydration bladder separately||Hydration pockets are too small, chest straps finicky||Lower quality bladder, minor pain points over longer distances|
|Bottom Line||This overbuilt ripstop pack is feature-rich but lacks function for a hydration pack intended for running||A comfortable and capable choice for big mileage when gear accessibility is mission-critical||A top-notch running pack, with excellent pockets and a comfortable fit||Great for runners looking to carry extra gear on adventures, but for faster efforts and races, the pack has limitations||An entry-level hydration pack for trail running with a great price and ample storage|
|Rating Categories||UltrAspire Bryce XT||Nathan Pinnacle 12L||Salomon ADV Skin 12...||Ultimate Direction...||REI Swiftland Hydro|
|Hydration System (15%)|
|Volume to Weight Ratio (15%)|
|Specs||UltrAspire Bryce XT||Nathan Pinnacle 12L||Salomon ADV Skin 12...||Ultimate Direction...||REI Swiftland Hydro|
|Weight (with included hydration vessels)||19.9 oz (pack only, no bottles/bladder included)||13.6 oz||13.4 oz||8.4 oz||13.7 oz|
|Included Liquid Capacity||3L||1.6L||1L||1L||1.5L|
|OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!)||0.75||0.88||0.90||1.01||0.37|
|External Storage?||Yes, large rear pocket||Yes, kangaroo pockets||Yes, kangaroo pockets||Yes, mesh storage pockets, bungee||Yes|
|Type of Water Storage||Not included||1.6L hourglass reservoir||Two 500 mL soft flasks (included), plus reservoir sleeve (reservoir not included)||Two 500mL||1.5L reservoir|
Our Analysis and Test Results
For the runner who says yes to any type of endurance outing, fastpacking, run to pack raft, bike to run, or run to climb, this pack is going to be of interest. For the runner looking for a simple hydration vest that will assist in adding some mileage to your long run, this vest might seem a little loco. But we like loco. There are just some quirks we noticed that are worth noting.
The length and shape of the Bryce XT will not be compatible for everyone, as the pack is narrow between the shoulder blades but widens as it extends down the pack. We found that this impacted how it carries gear and weight, putting more stress on the lower back.
Elastic fit straps on the sternum and static webbing straps across the sides keep what can be a heavy load secure. This is one of the few packs we tested that doesn't permit vertical movement of the sternum straps for different preferences. These slight points of friction contributed to the general comfort of the vest.
Not many running packs have helmet carry options in addition to ice axe carry systems. The feature set of this pack was what caught our attention. An insulated hydration sleeve, ice axe carry, and full water resistance scream winter adventures, and the extensive front storage options enhance fast movement over rugged trails. This pack was built for the Maroon Bells traverse in Aspen, light enough for fast travel, durable for the couple 5.9 climbing moves and forced chimney shimmy, ready for that afternoon storm, carries all of the gear, and has a helmet carry for the smooth trail run back to your bike.
A handy trekking pole fastener is tucked inside the external storage harness, which itself doubles as the helmet carry.
UltrAspire doesn't include a hydration system with this pack, but it is equipped with plenty of chest pockets and a bladder sleeve. We preferred to use the Bryce XT with a 2-liter bladder, and it even has a magnetic circle for assisting with hose management.
The pocket layout didn't make much sense for using soft flasks, though we tried our best to get a feel for how it would work. The most sensible solution was to place the soft flasks in the large zippered pockets on the chest.
Volume to Weight Ratio
This vest was far and away the heaviest vest we tested, weighing right below 20 ounces without any hydration system. The Bryce XT 15 goes against the trend and, even as a larger pack, still scored poorly for this criterion.
One large rear pocket accessed with a zipper opens up to roughly 10 liters of storage with a smaller zippered organization pocket inside. On the outside of this pocket is the large rear external storage that works for carrying ice tools, poles, or a helmet.
Of the six front pockets, three are zippered, and two are magnetic, leaving one pull-cord cinch pocket. We can't get to the bottom of this design, and in this case, these features do not add function; they make it challenging to use the pack with soft flasks and certainly are not intuitive in terms of what should go where.
This pack doesn't scream value to us, as it has a higher price point, doesn't come through strongly for comfort, and scores alongside cheaper options. There is a value argument to be made for durability, as this pack could last decades. But for such a feature-rich pack, it's a bummer to miss the mark on comfort and the utility of simple pockets.
For the right person seeking a four-season pack that won't break down under the toughest conditions, the UltrAspire Bryce XT pack will suit your needs. For the average runner and even adventurous runner, we think there are better options available.
— Jeff Colt
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