|In her review of the Inov-8 Race Pro 12 pack, Sue Fisher was so impressed that she wished Santa would bring her the larger Race Pro 30 for Christmas. Sorry Sue, Santa left it with me and I’m very glad he did too …
Designed as a 2 day mountain marathon and adventure racing pack, it’s loaded with unique and innovative features and a design that has clearly been deeply thought about. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a newly launched pack that gets so many things right first time.I’ve used this for a good few months now and in various races including Gael Force West and the OMM and I continue to be impressed. Key features would be the low weight at 590 grams, the Horizontal Bladder system, and the pocket/mesh placement in conjunction with a novel compression system.
The horizontal bladder system is unique to Inov 8 and it works very effectively for a number of reasons. The bladder sits in the lumbar spine region and ‘wings’ protrude out into the hip belt, so that when full it wraps the lumbar region providing support and a low centre of gravity. The 2 litre bladder is accessed by lifting up a Velcro attached panel that sits against your lower back, and reveals the bladder with its ‘fold and slide’ closure easily accessible for refilling in-situ. Although the bladder is a separate purchase it is fully compatible across most of the Inov-8 pack range including their bumbags and is a worthy extra purchase. The hose for the bladder can be passed out of the pack on either left or right side and comes up under the arm to be held on the main strap by elastic loops. I’ve been routing my bladder hose this way on every pack I’ve had for years but it has often involved a bit of bodging to get the hose to come the long way round from my back. With the Inov-8 system it comes up straight from the waist and can therefore be shorter, saving a bit of weight.
The bladder mouthpiece works fairly well, it’s not the best I’ve used but not the worst and it hasn’t dripped or leaked so far, though there is also a hard plastic cover attached on a cord that protects it when not drinking.The shape of the bladder can make it awkward for cleaning, but I’ve learnt over the years not to put sugar heavy energy drinks in bladders, especially hard to clean ones, so I stuck to Nuun which rinses out fine. When full the shape definitely helped support my dodgy back though clearly by the time I was knackered and really needed it, I’d drunk most of the contents, removing the support! Anyway, the low centre of gravity stops it swinging around and bouncing against your back, keeping the whole pack stable as a result.
The main pack fabric is a lightweight but durable ripstop nylon that has so far shrugged off a few brushes with barbed wire fences. When I first saw the colours on the packs of some other racers I thought they were hideous but I’ve grown to like them and again prove useful from a visibility point of view and actually make it easier and quicker to find things in the bottom of the pack, compared to other bags with all black fabric. The pack is dotted with reflective and fluorescent detailing to keep you visible, day and night.
The hipbelt pockets are unique in that they are not both the same. The left pocket features water resistant fabric and zip, ideal for mobile phones and GPS units though you’d want to make sure you had really precious items further waterproofed. It did a surprisingly good job of keeping my phone dry on a few long rides in the rain so was pretty impressed. The right pocket features a large mesh pocket body and regular zip which runs the whole length of the pocket making access easy. I like mesh pockets because they are easy to ram full of bars and biscuits and easy to shake the crumbs out of. This pocket could easily take a 500ml water bottle if desired.
There are mesh pockets on either side of the pack back large enough to take entire water bottles, jackets or a wet tent fabric and they can accessed from the top or the side. The closure on the mesh is the pack compression system, where the strap from the pack base comes up through the pocket, and can then be routed back either inside or outside of the mesh to attach to the lid. By choosing to route inside the mesh, you leave the mesh open to get your hand round to grab stuff out of it and by routing over the outside of the mesh, you close off the mesh access from the side making it more secure to store smaller items that would fall out otherwise. This is a really nice touch and by tightening the strap up you achieve compression both horizontally and vertically, really pulling the pack into your back. There are also tabs on the back of the pack to attach a bungee cord (supplied) for further external storage and/or compression.
The lid closure is a two clip affair and the lid features a large external stretch mesh zip pocket and the inside features a more weather resistant zip pocket, with flo yellow lining to make it easier to find the contents. Entry to the pack itself is via a single drawcord opening and the main compartment is one section with a divider at the bottom where the bladder compartment is. The divider can be pulled back using the Velcro attachment to allow longer items like tent poles to be placed against the back. The foam back panel can be removed and used as a sleepmat, which I happily did a number of times.
The overall back length is supposed to be a good average size and it was comfortable on me, only a little on the long side when the pack was fully loaded and it banged the back of my helmet when used it on my cyclocross bike. Shouldn’t really be a problem on mountain bikes and loosening the main shoulder straps off a bit helps drop it down a bit.
The front of the pack features the wide, expanded mesh shoulder straps which are very comfortable, light and hold little water. They are adjusted by good quality straps which stay put over the course of a day’s running. There are reflective strips and a whistle on the chest strap for safety. The chest strap is adjustable up and down, as well as in width, for personal comfort.
Performance-wise it was excellent, being just the right size for comfortable 2 day trips and good for adventure races when I didn’t have time to pack meticulously. Weight was superb and durability seems good so far. Probably my product of the year.
For more details please visit: http://www.inov-8.com