Inov-8 Product Review
Product: Race Pro 18 Backpack
Inov-8 Team Member: Dwight Shuler
I have recently had the opportunity to test out a few of the new Inov-8 Race Pro Pack systems. In a market fully loaded with packs of all sorts from every traditional pack manufacturer, Inov-8 has developed a truly unique and well thought out product.
I have been adventure racing and trail running for over 10 years and have used many packs. Solomon, Dana Designs, Deuter, Gregory and Camelbak. This pack with its innovative around the waist water bladder system has been a very different experience.
The Race Pro line offers up several different size packs but my favorite was the Race Pro 18. My racing program is pretty much all over the board and in many different formats. My first thought for the pack was for shorter sprint adventure races; 6-12 hours. But, because the water bladder is wrapped around the waist and located outside of the main compartment, the Race Pro 18 had plenty of room left for me to use as a 24 hour race pack as well. The waist location is so obviously perfect, its amazing that no one else has put this out before. It is the most stable and well balanced water system I have ever used. The drawback to this system is that its not as easy to change out a bladder as the traditional vertical systems. This might seem a non issue, but during a sprint adventure race, you can lose or win in transition areas. If you are spent or bonking at the moment, getting a fresh bladder into the rear entry pouch can seem like a sobriety test. Still, the stability is worth the effort.
On the mountain bike, this is a no-brainer. It’s the pack of choice for me every time. Again, whether climbing or descending with steep angles, the water and weight are strapped to your hips. There is no mass-shift that comes with a vertical water system. The waist, shoulder and chest straps are fully adjustable to fit most and make it a secure and comfortable fit around the torso. I could use a better place to attach the end of the water tube and I am not sure what to do with the valve cap. It takes two hands to put it back on the bite valve which makes for dicey situations in a race. If you leave it off then the cap swings around on its tether and is a little annoying.
This winter, I have been doing longer self supported trail runs. Normally, I carry a hand held drink bottle, but when you’re going for more than two hours at a time, I need to carry more than that. There are ways around this problem like doing multiple loops or out and backs with water drops at the car, but if you want to adventure out for a big 3-5 hour loop, then the obvious solution is to carry it with you. The Race Pro 18 once again has been perfect. Super stable and able to carry 2 liters of water with plenty of room for food extra clothes and emergency gear, it makes the perfect winter, long-haul trail pack. I have put it through over 150 trail run miles in the last two months with no blisters or leaking issues.
If I could make a few changes it would be to make the rear entry system the length of the water bladder so that it would fit right in without a wrestling match. I would lose the valve cap and put the money into a better loop for hanging the pack from a carabineer. The loop that is there is a stretchy cord that I don’t trust to hook to during a repel. Also, it would be nice to have a hardy, secure loop on the lower back for towing teammates. Right now the only way to do that is to tether up to the shoulder strap which puts an off center pull on the ‘mule’. The good: Easy, the horizontal water system. The most secure and stable pack out there. Plenty of room for 2-24 hour applications. The external mesh harness is perfect for stowing a bike helmet or a pair of shoes. The waist belt food pockets are a must for any situation where moving and eating are mandatory and these are the right size. This is a very light pack and has just the right amount of pockets for the ‘minimalist’, but extremely functional.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Inov-8 Product Review