Ultimate Direction Wasp Hydration Pack

wasp_front07I use the Nathan HPL 020 hydration pack for local trail runs, but I needed something with extra storage capacity without the bulk for the Transrockies Run.  I also have broad shoulders and a big frame for a distance runner and needed a pack that fits me comfortably.  Nathan packs are not really designed for someone my size.  I had heard recently that the owner of Ultimate Direction used to be partners with the owner of Nathan.  They split and became competitors, and that would help explain all the extra features you find on UD products.

I chose the Wasp from Ultimate Direction.  First launched in 2004, you can tell by looking at it that it was designed for long distance running.  The shoulder harness system allows this pack to sit higher on the back than most packs.  It’s amazing what a difference that makes.  Aside from fitting more like a garment than a pack, my running shirts don’t creep up my back with this pack.  Click here for a detailed list of product features.

It’s all the little extra touches that sets this pack apart, starting with the bite valve.  If I can’t drink easily, the whole thing feels like a nuisance.  On the Wasp, you just bite down on the pliable silicone and the water flows.  It also doesn’t drip when you’re done drinking.  The tube is encased in insulated neoprene to keep the water cold.  And I really like the little gator clip with a wrapping velcro attachment which allows you to secure the valve where you want it instead of having it bounce around.wasp_back07

A distinguishing feature of this pack is the unique roll top reservoir opening and closure system.  At first glance, you might expect this design to leak and it doesn’t really look easy to open and close.  But then I remember how many times I have fumbled with the screw tops on Nathan and Camelback reservoirs and I realize this design makes a lot of sense.  Once again, it’s the little details.  The reservoir has a central baffle that keeps it from bulging when filled to capacity.  It also has a simple grab loop at the top which holds it in place and keeps the reservoir from dropping as it empties.  Sounds like something designed by runners, for runners, doesn’t it?

Wasp at YosemiteI recently wore this pack on a very hard 16-mile training run at Yosemite, almost fully loaded the way I would wear it for Transrockies.  I packed a blanket, raingear, arm warmers, gloves, camera, Gu, energy bars, and trekking poles.  The only items I didn’t pack were a medical kit and a few accessories like a compass and sun block.  All these items were easily stored on the Wasp and it felt very comfortable.  I was a bit worried the poles might bang around but I didn’t even notice they were there when I was running.  We also refilled twice in the streams (we had iodine tablets) and I was impressed with how the insulated tube kept the water flowing cold.

I really can’t think of anything I don’t like about the Wasp.  Even the price is very reasonable.  I found it for $65 online but probably would have paid more for such a great product.  The jury may still be out on the durability of the reservoir.  I’ve had two blowouts on my Nathan pack in two months.  The Wasp has a double RF-welded perimeter specifically to prevent blowouts.  Again, a smart design feature, but now I need to see if it stands the test of time and trails.