Generally speaking, I'm not much of a gear junky and don't really go out of my way to buy all of the newest gear to add to my collection. Quite the opposite in fact and I would usually rather make do with whatever I already have lying around than shell out money on anything if I can help it. However, leading into the Spartathlon I decided to spend a little dough to ensure that I had the perfect kit for the race. I initially expected to be running in 40 degree heat, so figured that I wanted to run with as little kit as I could possibly get away with. As it happened it pissed down with rain all morning, but I still think I made the right call!
For the Grand Union Canal Race I used my UltrAspire Impulse pack which is a very good lightweight pack when you need to take a couple of bottles with you, but for this race I wanted to go the handheld route since the heat would mean that I was likely to need to access my water more regularly. I decided to try something a little more lightweight. I tried the Salomon Skin S-Lab belt last year, but didn't really get in with it. I liked the idea of it, but I just couldn't get it to stay tight enough on me (a few extra pies might well solve that issue of course).
So I decided to have a go with something similar - the UltrAspire Quantum waist belt. Here's what I thought:
The Quantum belt is aptly named, and comes in a solid design that you actually step into and slide up over your waist. There are no connection points or clasps to worry about, so the problem that I saw with the Salomon belt (the fact that I could not get it to stay done up) is avoided. This may make it a little more cumbersome for some if you need to take it on and off in the middle of a race, but it's really no more difficult than attempting to make cold and tired fingers work to undo a buckle. There are even a couple of clips to attach to a race number which can be folded out of the way when not in use. These are really well designed, and makes this essentially a number belt with a bit of storage - perfect if you're likely to be changing layers overnight and can't be arsed repinning your number every time.
The belt comes in three sizes: small, medium and large. I'm a 28" waist and the small works great for me. There is a simple fastener on the back of the pack that can make it tighter or looser as required. I found the fit to be pretty damn perfect, and I don't notice that I am wearing it at all. The soft mesh material is even comfortable enough to wear against your skin, so if you prefer not to look like you're running with a bumbag (a genuine concern for some, but I made my peace with looking like a dick when I run long ago) you can slip it under your shirt and nobody would be the wiser. The belt is tapered slightly to fit comfortably on your bum, with the front pouch sitting nicely under your belly (although I guess that really depends how much belly you have). Even when fully loaded, there was zero bounce, no bulging, everything was easy to access, and I really did completely forget all about it.
Storage wise, this is most definitely a no-frills piece of kit - but that's kind of the point. The front pouch is big enough to hold all of the essentials that you might need with you, and on the Spartathlon I ran with my iPhone, a tube of Lanacane, some Nuun tablets, my epilepsy tablets, some Compeed and my Spartathlon ID card (and even a pair of socks at one point) without any issues at all. For running to work it is perfect to shove my ID card, phone, keys and some money in when I don't want to take a whole bag's worth of kit in. The pouch is quite stretchy, and there is an easy to grasp rubber zip fastener that feels sturdy and easy to find when you're brain isn't really in gear. There are two stretchy pouches on the back, each of which can easily hold 3 or 4 gels, or even one of the smaller soft flask handhelds if you want to carry some water with you (although I have not tried this). The pouches are tight enough that there was no bounce, but I found it quite easy to access the gels whilst moving. The fastener on the back could also probably be used to hold a very lightweight jacket, although I would be nervous of it falling out along the way. If I needed a jacket, I probably wouldn't be using this belt anyway.
There is not much to the belt really, just the main front pocket and two back pockets, with a lightweight breathable mesh connecting them. This makes the belt very light, and at only about 80 g it is very easy to forget that you're wearing it.
At £25, I thought that this was a real bargain. I will probably find myself using this belt in most of my commuting runs and weekend training runs since I usually feel far too over encumbered with my Salomon race vest.
I purchased this belt specifically for the Spartathlon, along with a Salomon hand held flask which I will also review soon, and I have to say that it worked perfectly. I needed a lightweight, comfortable belt to carry a few gels and other essentials, and that is exactly what I got. I did not remove the belt at all for the entire race, and never really noticed it the whole time. It was easy to access the gels in the back, and the items in the front pouch were kept secure and steady the whole time with no bouncing whatsoever. I will probably find myself using this belt for most of my runs in the future, where all I need is a phone, a couple of gels, and my car keys.