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Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 5 Vest review: a surprising amount of storage for something so stripped back

A lightweight, trail race backpack, the Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 5 Vest sports a minimalist design

Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 5 Vest
(Image: © Inov-8)

Our Verdict

The Race Ultra Pro 5 Vest is ideal for ultra-distance races, but it could be used for training runs, too.

For

  • Body hugging fit
  • Ideal for racing
  • Extremely light

Against

  • Limited storage space
  • No reservoir hook
  • Pricey considering minimalist design

Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 5 Vest: first impressions

The Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 5 Vest is a very good option for trail racers who prefer to carry their liquid in soft flasks instead of a hydration reservoir (if not there are loads of alternatives that might take your fancy in our best hydration packs buying guide). It carts its two 500ml soft flasks in an angled position lower on the chest, but the liquid is easily accessible from the flasks’ long drinking tubes. 

It’s a bit of a bare-bones, minimalistic pack, but there’s also a surprising amount of storage in four elastic mesh pouches and three zippered pockets for all those hiking essentials. But the best part of this pack is that, no matter how full, it rides close to the body and doesn’t bounce. (There are also dedicated cinch cord straps for stowing collapsible trekking poles.) 

All of those smart, intricate storage and design elements allow the wearer to run uninhibitedly without worry about the pack or its contents. There is room for a hydration reservoir and tube management ports, but, unfortunately, no hook or clip to hold the reservoir in place. 

Specifications

• RRP: $150 (US) / £130 (UK)
• Weight (empty): 370g / 13oz
• Hydration capacity: 1L, via 2 x 500ml/17 fl oz soft flasks (included)
Gear Capacity: 5L
• Colors: Black & Green

Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 5 Vest: on the trails

This is another pack we tested in simulated race conditions in the foothills and mountains west of Boulder. We generally liked the 500ml soft flask bottles that sit in pouches along the hips and wondered why other pack companies hadn’t thought of that. 

Even though there is added weight from the longer drinking tubes, it’s a system that helps spread some of the weight of the water away from the shoulders and allowed us to get into and maintain a consistent running rhythm. 

We found the quality, location and performance of the straps and pockets were spot-on for a running pack, eliminating the need to take it off, even at aid stations. 

Initially there seemed to be a lot of elastic pull cords to manage, but once we adjusted the pack for our needs it was never an issue. We appreciated the lightweight, meshy pack and strap design, especially on hot, sweaty running endeavors.