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UltrAspire Impulse Hydration Belt

Marshal Olson reviews the Ultraspire Impulse Hydration belt for Blister Gear review.

Ultraspire Impulse Hydration Belt

UltrAspire Impulse Hydration Belt

Features:

  • Includes two 20 oz. ergonomic bottles
  • Angled, molded bottle holsters for easy grab and return
  • Adjustable belt with speed hook design
  • Side zipper pocket and open mesh pouch for gels, keys or other essentials
  • Mesh sleeves around bottle holsters can store gels or other small items
  • Rear shock cord stores shell jacket, warmers or gloves
  • Lightweight zippers with pull tabs; grab easily even when wearing gloves or with cold fingers

Weight: 7.23 oz (205 g) without bottles

MSRP: $66

Duration of Testing: 1.5 summers, 2300 miles

So let’s just get this out in the open: I ride my bike with a hydration hip belt that was originally designed for runners.

That means I sit neither in the safe, mainstream confines of the hydration-pack wearing crowd, nor am I a member of the fanny pack / enduro sack-wearing set.

But I’m here to say that hydration belts are much nicer to ride with than either packs or sacks.

Getting rid of a hydration pack from your back does remarkable things. You feel increased airflow, which keeps you cooler when it’s hot, and helps you feel more confident while riding, since you don’t have to deal with the change in how the pack fits as water is consumed.

And fanny packs work less in concert with your body, flap around a lot more, and typically only hold one water bottle.

cutting-edge enduro accessory

state-of-the art enduro accessory

 

So allow me to present to you a third way…

Design

I first got the UltrAspire Impulse two summers ago while doing a bunch of trail running, which is what the Impulse was specifically designed for. The belt has an articulated design between the water bottle sleeves, which allows the bottles to move independently from each other while your hips rock during locomotion.

Marshal Olson Race Report, Fears Tears and Beers Enduro for Blister Gear Review

Marshal using the UltrAspire Impulse at the recent FTB race.

I can’t say whether this particular design is better than other hydration belts out there, but I can say that the belt pretty much disappears while both running and riding. I just don’t feel like it’s on at all.

Features

There are angled bottle holsters on both hips. The angle helps make it easy to grab and return water bottles, and keeps them from poking you in the back or leg because of your gait. And the design has proven to be quite effective at retaining the bottles. I have only lost one water bottle in the 2300 miles of riding and 1000 miles of running I have done with the Impulse, and that was from a pretty hard crash, not just riding around normally.

There are small stretchy mesh pockets on either side of the water bottle carriers. While they hold gu and gels pretty well, I put my keys and phone in them instead. Easy to get to if you need, and I have not lost anything from either pocket so far. Fishing gel packs out of these is a little more involved, however, when you are moving at full speed.

Marshal Olson reviews the Ultraspire Impulse Hydration belt for Blister Gear review.

Front view of the Ultraspire Impulse

When wearing the Impulse, there is a zippered side pocket that sits on your right hip and and open mesh pouch that covers your left hip.

I prefer using the left pocket for gels and gu, since it requires a little less attention to fish around in there while riding/running.

When riding, I use the right zippered side pocket to store a small tool kit consisting of a chain breaker, spare chain link, 2-6mm Allen’s, T25 wrench, CO2 pump, & stick-on patch kit.

After all the use this belt has seen, this pocket is pretty torn up with several small rips, so I am going to put the tool kit into a small cotton bag to prevent losing tools out of the holes. The only downside to storing tools here, was on one very hard slam (hip checking a tree at 25mph), the tool kit left a big bruise on my side. No biggie for me, and this only happened once in 10-15 hard crashes, but just a word to the wise.

The stock water bottles are not great. They work alright, but the plastic is quite rigid and the bite valve is a bit finicky. I also had problems with them leaking under the lid as well. I only used them a few times, then swapped over to Amphipod Hyrdaform 20 oz water bottles (~$5.95 each), which both work better and have not popped out at all.

And I am sure that most standard bike water bottles will fit in the sleeves just fine.

(And for the record, yes, you’d think that a company that did nothing but sell water bottles + various ways to hold them could figure out how to make a non-leaking bottle with a better bite valve.)

Instead of a plastic buckle, the Impulse uses a metal hook and D ring to connect around the waist. The attachment point is off to the side instead of centered. I really like this arrangement and design—it is easy to pop on and off, it does not rub my stomach at all, and the adjustment has not backed open at all during testing. It is as set-and-forget as one could ask for.

The belt construction is said to be a sweat-proof webbing, and I have found that it does a great job preventing moisture absorption. The water bottle sleeves have large mesh holes, which enhance breathability. Overall, and as I said earlier, the pack feels nearly invisible on the body. I never have a wet “sweat ring” around my waist when taking it off after use—unlike a hydration pack which always leaves a “drenched monkey hug” on my shirt.

Marshal Olson reviews the Ultraspire Impulse Hydration belt for Blister Gear review.

Marshal Olson with the UltrAspire Impulse Hydration Belt.

There is a shock cord in the back, nestled between the two water bottle sleeves, that supposedly stores a light jacket, warmers or gloves. I have not had great luck with this. While both riding and running, I have had my spare layer slide out.

This isn’t a deal-breaker for me, since the pack is a fast, quick, and light day tool anyhow. So if I need more than a little food, 40 oz of water, and a small tool kit, I will grab something else (currently an Osprey Talon 11 hydration bag with a 100 oz bladder).

Bottom Line

I strongly recommend trying a hip belt for your rides, and not being a slave to fashion. They are quite liberating compared to big clunky hydration packs, and fanny packs work less in concert with your body, flap around a lot more, and typically only hold one water bottle.

As for the UltrAspire Impulse in particular, it is by no means perfect, but it is a great tool. I use it pretty much every day when the weather is predictable (and in Utah, that is most of the time), and the ride is less than an all-day epic.

Around here, 40 oz of water is enough to get you through 2-3 hours of riding, and one can usually find a spring, a fast-moving stream, or a faucet at some point to refill.

If it’s super hot and there isn’t fresh water available on the ride, I’ll take it out on rides of about two hours (if it’s 95F+) or three hours if it’s cooler than 90F.

It also says something that, despite the water bottles being mediocre at best, the pocket tearing after 2.5 summers of use (1 summer running, 1.5 summes riding), and UltrAspire’s website being truly awful … I still use the Impulse five days a week, three years later, and have no plans to retire it. And I would buy the exact same thing again if it was lost or dies in a few more years.

I have no plans to either embrace the enduro sack or go back to a hydration pack for my daily rides. And I’m considering picking up another larger hip belt with more storage for a shell, more food, and a larger tool kit for when the weather is less predictable and the ride ventures deeper in the wilderness.

 

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