Bryce Thatcher: A Big Leap For Hydration Vests

If one were to ask what the greatest innovations are after the ubiquitous but well-loved slice bread, for me they would be the TV remote control, the Personal Computer (PC), our smart phones and the Hydration Backpack vests!

Okay, the last one would be a stretch since many would not even know what a hydration backpack vest is and how it looks like. But not so with the avid trail runner or those who run ultra races on trails and mountains where many carry one on their backs for stashing essentials in the most easeful way to survive ultra marathons or training runs that would last for several hours to days on end.

UltrAspire Surge Hydration Vest

As we continuously struggle to run and climb those treacherous mountain passes in scorching weather or heavy rains for endless hours hungry and thirsty, just keep in mind that we got a lot to be thankful for. Because this little innovation called the “hydration race vest”, that can carry stacks of energy food, water, medicines, headlights, cellphones, light jackets, etc. without hindering our runs is a life-saver, easy on the body and very mobile.

That’s right, thanks to Bryce Thatcher, considered as the Father of the modern hydration back packs and vests, founder of the Ultimate Direction Outdoor Gears and presently the head of his new and famous company, UltrAspire Hydration Products, ultra trail running has been more pleasant and easier on our bodies.

Last week Thatcher found time to lecture on his various hydration systems, his experiences as an elite mountain/trail runner and his very valuable insights on nutrition, hydration and training at the 100 Miles Cafe, in front of a sizable crowd of local trail and ultra runners.

Bryce Thatcher

As the man who also designed the latest hydration vests of the more famous Nathan Hydration Sports, Thatcher has  set many speed or Fastest Known Time (FKT) records, most famous is the Grand Teton ascent-descent mountain climb which stood for 29 years. He is also an accomplished mountain biker.

He talked about the physical aspects of racing and training but it was the mental conditioning that implanted to us a better appreciation of what running and racing is all about.

In competition, he imparted to us to expect the unexpected, how to turn-around setbacks into positive energies in order to overcome these stumbling blocks. Among his tips have gave to this scenario are:

  • Focus on all things positive
  • Create alternative plans as necessary
  • Refocus on what is positive and working
  • Remain flexible and responsive to conditions
  • Maintain your focus.
  • Maintain and rely on preparation that is working

Bryce with the Jazzrunner

His hydration system innovations, the hit and miss experiments that got him started, his designs to almost all the top sports hydration gears in the market, made me thought of having a career in designing running gears rather than my present work as a manpower agent.

Thatcher is a thoroughly creative, imaginative mind that runners can truly appreciate and despite all what he has accomplished so far, it feels that he is just getting started!

Hoping there’s a Part 2 of these lectures and share to us more his knowledge and experiences as a trail runner and gets to raffle off MORE of his UltrAspire products to us! 🙂

Kudos to Entrepreneur, ultra runner and writer Bobby Go for bringing Bryce Thatcher to us Pinoy trail runners!

At the lectures with Mirjam, Tin and Jaya


Gear Review: Ultraspire Surge Hydration Vest


Hydration Vest/Backpack:

  • Lightweight vest-style backpack
  • With two (2) Liter Hydrapak® hydration bladder
  • Contoured shape profile for comfortable stable ride
  • Two large pockets at the left and right front strap
  • 2012 Gear Of The Year in Runner’s World Magazine
  • Weight: 304 Grams

Ultraspire Surge (backside)

So what does Camelbak, Nathan, Ultimate Direction and Ultraspire have in common? Aside from being great hydration gears for runners, they’re all being manufactured in the Philippines, particularly at the Freeport Area in Mariveles, Bataan. There may be other gear brands being made there but these four ranks on top of the tier where hydration systems are concerned.

During my early days of running and racing on trails, i was just content in using          the Nathan Speed waist pack which were ideal except that the bottles would sometimes slide-off after continuously running. Also tried the  Nathan Hand-held Quickdraw which i found very cumbersome after holding it  for more than two hours.

I then switched to a bigger single bottle waist belt which could accommodate an 18 to 20 oz bottle. This was more secure and had a little extra storage for gels or keys. It’s very convenient for me, (still is) a great way to run hands-free, unencumbered specially if i position the bottle on the side of my waist which totally eliminates the bouncing than when they were positioned on my back.

The need to finally have a hydration vest-style back pack was when during a run a mountainous trail run on our way back from Miyamit Falls in Porac, Pampanga, i had ran out of water, having consumed all the water from my two 20-oz  bottles. With no stores to buy any water or drink, i was left with no alternative but to ask from a native resident who was kind enough to give me water taken from a mineral spring.

Spring water

Lessons learned. With no available stores to buy water from, carrying lots of water on your back on long distances is the only way to go.

I’ve since gotten a hydration vest backpacks (the Camelbak Rogue) and lately was fortunate enough to receive one from my brother who gave me the Ultraspire SURGE.



  • On the front right of the strap is a stretch pocket where it can hold a  water bottle of up to 20 oz. It has an elastic cord which you can tie-up on the noose of a bottle or just tighten the pocket.
  • Above it is a small magnetized pocket which you could put a sachet of salt, keys or an electrolyte sachet. You place these things inside and it just flips closed automatically.
  • Just above the magnetized pocket is a loop which to loop and secure your water hose inside or use it to tie-up a bandana.


  • Large zippered inner pocket where you can place a camera, phone, small flashlight or other items that you may want secured.
  • An outer mesh pocket that is open where you can put a chocolate bar, gels or your small trash to stock in and throw later.
  • Above them, there’s a small mesh pocket where you can put paper bills or another energy gel. Attached to it is the water hose clip and another loop to tie whatever you want.


There are two thin straps, that run from the left main strap to the right main strap. The upper one is located near the chest and the lower one hugs the upper part of the stomach. These 2 straps have attached aluminum clips to it (the red ones on the picture above) that attaches to their corresponding hooks on the left side of the stretchable pocket.


  • There’s a top zippered pocket where you can place your head-lamp, cap or additional candy bars inside
  • At the bottom portion, there’s a very large mesh pocket with an elastic strap inside that goes through the left and right hand side so you have holes running through this pocket. Small things like gels, keys or small phones are not advisable to keep on this pocket as they might slide out of the holes.
  • The main compartment is zippered down up to its neck part only and its where you put your 2-litert Hydrapak® hydration bladder. This bladder is the soft plastic fold-up style which you have to roll-up and slide a clip to close-open it.

The Hydrapack bladder

It can carry up to 2 Liters of water


I was able to test run this gear last Sunday during a 3-hour familiarization run on the trails of Tanay, Rizal. My story here (tanay-trail-run-part-2/). The trails form part of the upcoming 50k Love A Tree Trail Ultra-Marathon to be held on February 10, 2013 details here

Before using it, as recommended by many who had experiences with this particular vest, you have to loosen on the side straps first, clip on the thin straps in front then adjust anew the side straps and pull down to tighten. This way, you will able to gauge its feel and adjust accordingly for the right fit.

Starting my run, i immediately felt the snugness of its fit, very stable on my back, no wiggles whatsoever. Of course, i could feel the 1.5 liter water contained in the bladder but still, it was quite light, not hindering my movements. I had just a little problem sipping out water from its hose the first time as i was only getting small bursts of water from its tube.

However, putting more pressure to the valve when biting did the trick although still not much as my Camelbak hydration pack would do. The front pockets were incredible! I had stashed a 16 oz. Salomon water bottle on the right pocket and was able to put my celphone inside the zippered pocket on the left side which was really secured. Hey, no bouncing!

I didn’t have to reach for anything at the back because everything i needed was conveniently secured on the front pockets and they were easily accessible even while running. And because of its airmesh it allowed plenty of air to move around your body, no feeling of stickiness on your back.

Here are pictures of me wearing the Surge:

First used during a trail run in Tanay


The Ultraspire Surge has a lot going for it: light, versatile, snug and it has everything you need, from adequate hydration, lots of storage and a very nifty look.

Probably, the only complaint i have about this vest is the “time” it would take you to replace the water in the bladder. Taking it out, unfolding it, sliding out the cover clip, re-filling it with liquids then putting it back again to its pocket, making adjustments inside to make it secure takes a lot of time.

I had been so accustomed with my Camelbak which has the quick snap cap on its built-in reservoir where you just pour the water in and replace the cap.

Still, the Surge is one excellent companion for your ultras, trail runs and mountain hikes. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed!

The Surge vs the Rogue