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UltrAspire Bryce XT Review

This overbuilt ripstop pack is feature-rich but lacks function for a hydration pack intended for running
UltrAspire Bryce XT
Photo: UltrAspire
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Price:  $155 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Durable, multi-sport oriented, feature-rich
Cons:  Complicated pocket design, shape of pack, no included hydration system
Manufacturer:   UltrAspire
By Jeff Colt ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 14, 2021
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63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 12
  • Comfort - 30% 6
  • Features - 25% 7
  • Hydration System - 15% 5
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 6
  • Pockets - 15% 7

Our Verdict

For ultrarunners who want to go further, the next step is fastpacking: bringing a super light camp kit to be able to travel overnight and maybe get some shuteye along the journey. The UltrAspire Bryce XT can carry all of the gear needed for a multi-day run or a multi-sport day. Heavier ripstop material adds durability, but also weight. While we didn't love this pack for running exclusively, its utility shone through on bike-to-run missions. Plenty of storage space is oddly divided up into a complicated pocket layout. But for the right person and applications, this can be a sweet little pack.

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UltrAspire Bryce XT
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$160.00 at REI
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Overall Score Sort Icon
63
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59
Star Rating
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Pros Durable, multi-sport oriented, feature-richAmazing pockets in arm's reach, carries a lot of gearMinimalist, lightweight, accessible pocketsComfortable, great fit, tons of easily reachable pockets, versatileAmple storage, simple and successful design, approachable price
Cons Complicated pocket design, shape of pack, no included hydration systemSome stiff materials on the chest, pole carry is hard to execute while movingDoesn't carry heavy items well, some unwanted stretchExpensive, must buy hydration bladder separatelyLower 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 runningA comfortable and capable choice for big mileage when gear accessibility is mission-criticalThe best race vest on the market with form fitting stretch so it can store more gear comfortablyA top-notch running pack, with excellent pockets and a comfortable fitAn entry-level hydration pack for trail running with a great price and ample storage
Rating Categories UltrAspire Bryce XT Nathan Pinnacle 12L S/Lab Sense Ultra 8... Salomon ADV Skin 12... REI Swiftland Hydro
Comfort (30%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
Features (25%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Hydration System (15%)
5.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)
6.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
4.0
Pockets (15%)
7.0
10.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Specs UltrAspire Bryce XT Nathan Pinnacle 12L S/Lab Sense Ultra 8... Salomon ADV Skin 12... REI Swiftland Hydro
Weight (with included hydration vessels) 19.9 oz (pack only, no bottles/bladder included) 13.6 oz 7.9 oz 13.4 oz 13.7 oz
Carrying Capacity 15L 12L 8L 12L 5L
Included Liquid Capacity 3L 1.6L 1L 1L 1.5L
OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!) 0.75 0.88 1.01 0.90 0.37
External Storage? Yes, large rear pocket Yes, kangaroo pockets Yes, back pouch pocket Yes, kangaroo pockets Yes
Type of Water Storage Not included 1.6L hourglass reservoir Two 500mL bottles Two 500 mL soft flasks (included), plus reservoir sleeve (reservoir not included) 1.5L reservoir
Pole Holders? Yes Yes Add on Yes No

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.

Performance Comparison


This pack animal is ready to carry the load for your next link-up!
This pack animal is ready to carry the load for your next link-up!
Photo: Jeff Colt

Comfort


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.

Adjustment straps on the sides provide a tight fit and help with the...
Adjustment straps on the sides provide a tight fit and help with the pack's suspension.
Photo: Jeff Colt

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.

Elastic sternum straps with buckles offer a range of adjustability.
Elastic sternum straps with buckles offer a range of adjustability.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Features


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.

Take this pack to the mountains for rugged scrambles or to...
Take this pack to the mountains for rugged scrambles or to southwestern Utah to scrape through slot canyons.
Photo: Jeff Colt

A handy trekking pole fastener is tucked inside the external storage harness, which itself doubles as the helmet carry.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Hydration System


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.

Not entirely sure what the best chest pockets for soft flasks were...
Not entirely sure what the best chest pockets for soft flasks were, we tried all of them.
Photo: Jeff Colt

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.

Longer, slower days were the right speed for the Bryce XT as our...
Longer, slower days were the right speed for the Bryce XT as our soft flasks jumped all around when we ran hard.
Photo: Jeff Colt

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.

100-D ripstop fabric is not light, but chances are this pack will...
100-D ripstop fabric is not light, but chances are this pack will outlast all of the light stretchy vests that weight next-to-nothing.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Pockets


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.

The front pockets were more complicated than need be, but you likely...
The front pockets were more complicated than need be, but you likely won't lose your kets from the pockets, you'll only forget what pocket you put them in.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

While this pack is designed for longer missions, we have some...
While this pack is designed for longer missions, we have some reservations about how user-friendly it is.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Jeff Colt