Unfortunately, I didn’t keep the Orange Mud vest. I still believe it’s an amazing design—for men.
Despite my optimism when I wrote my preliminary review, subsequent runs in the vest didn’t get better. They got worse. Eventually I was spending more time trying to keep the vest in place while still being able to breathe than I was running. The 90-day refund mark was coming up, so I decided to return the vest and get my money back. I did have a productive email exchange with an Orange Mud rep named Josh. I described my problem with the vest and he said about 300 women had bought it and raved about it. I told him I’m positive that anyone who can keep it in place will certainly rave about it, because it’s AWESOME. But I remain convinced most women will have difficulty with it. He suggested cinching up the sides, but I had already tried that multiple times and ended up with the pockets in my armpits (not useful) and the straps digging into my sides (not comfortable). I assured Josh that I will recommend this pack to every male runner I know and if/when they make a women’s version I will be first in line for it.
** Let me take a minute to say Orange Mud customer service is also AWESOME. I really do recommend supporting the company and its products, if they work for you. **
Weeellll…a couple of weeks after I bought the Orange Mud vest I found out about a new vest from UltraSpire called the Astral. At first I was like, “No. No boob framing.” But as I started to think about it and read reviews, I thought the Astral would probably work better for me. Still, the Orange Mud vest was paid for and I was committed to really making that work. When I decided to give up, the Astral was at the top of my list. In fact, I ordered one as soon as I confirmed I could still get a refund on the HydraQuiver.
The Astral went with me on a six-mile run today and it. was. PERFECT. I didn’t need much water today, I just wanted to take the pack out for a spin, so I filled the bladder halfway. The shape is so different from the Nathan HPL #020—in the mirror it looked like it was flat against my back, even with a liter of fluid. The vest has a ton of storage in the back and four pockets in the front; two are ingeniously placed on the shoulder straps.
During today’s run, I never readjusted anything. The vest didn’t constrict anything. It didn’t bounce. It never moved. It had more storage than I needed. It was low profile. Yes, it was perfect. (I acknowledge I was wearing it over bulky cold weather clothing and it may feel different over a thinner shirt, but I expect it to work equally well just based on shape and fit.)
One weird thing: the valve is open-close and I’m used to a bite valve. It was kind of hard to open and close, so I solved that problem by just leaving it open. But then I created another problem when I bent over at the end of the run and water ran all over the place out of the open valve. I also found it hard to get fluid out during the run. You have to draw pretty hard on it to get the flow started. It’s not too big a deal, because the vest uses a Hydrapak. (same as Nathan, Salomon, and probably other companies) That means either the valve or the pack can be easily swapped out.
So far I’m thrilled with the Astral and I’m looking forward to many more runs with it. As much as I liked the idea of the HydraQuiver, I think Astral is what I’ve been looking for all along.