inov-8 Race Pro 30 2011

inov-8’s Race Pro is indeed an innovative pack, which is perhaps to be expected from a running brand that made its name by thinking outside the box. This pack ingeniously builds the hydration system into the hipbelt to give a very stable and comfortable carry.

Design
It’s impossible not to start with the ingenious ‘H20rizontal Hydration System’. This is a separately available (£18) horizontal bladder that sits in a zipped pocket in the base and thereby becomes part of the back system. The water functions as a comfortable waistbelt and lumbar support, replacing the need for the padding and support of a conventional back system and ensuring the weight of the water is low down and close to the body for increased stability. It’s radical and, in practice, brilliant. More conventionally, the inov-8 Race Pro 30 also offers two large mesh pockets on the side, which are sometimes accessible while wearing it, two hip pockets, a simple but effective bungee attachment system (which can also help with compression), a large lid-top pocket of expandable mesh, a key pocket beneath, plus an ingenious system of compression straps that function automatically when you clip the lid shut.

On the hill
I immediately loved the way the inov-8 Race Pro 30’s ingenious design provided an unprecedented level of comfort with zero weight penalty. Having the water against my lumbar region created a low centre of gravity and made this the most stable and balanced pack on test. However, some might not like the fact that while the hydration system is designed to be an integral part of the Race Pro, it costs an additional £18 and doesn’t fit normal hydration pockets so readily. That said, even without the hydration system – or with the bladder empty – the carrying system remained one of the best here. Not the lightest, but very stable and comfy. The Race Pro’s design is also clean and simple, yet just big enough for a lightweight overnight trip. When not full, the ingenious lid strap configuration meant the main body compressed as the straps tightened, making a tidy pack by default. The bungee system was simple and pragmatic, and the hip pockets happily consumed a couple of energy bars each. And although those side mesh pockets took maps well, I could only access them when my arms were feeling particularly bendy. The only small gripe with the inov-8 Race Pro 30 was that it didn’t quite have the quality finish some of the others do, and I’d have preferred slightly more user-friendly buckles and drawcord closures. Small things, though, particularly when you consider its stunning value.

Capacity 30 litres (23.2g per litre)
Fabrics PU-coated NRS70 nylon ripstop and 3D air mesh and stretch mesh
Features lid buckle compression system; removable foam back system; side mesh pockets; hipbelt pockets; accessory/ compression bungee; internal and external lid pockets; hydration system-compatible; emergency whistle; reflective tabs
Sizes 12, 18, 22, 30 litres
Measured weight 695g (without hydration system)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 150
Stockists (01388) 744900; www.inov-8.com

The inov-8 Race Pro 30 offers a great balance between weight and function; brilliant, comfortable back system; great stability; innovative hydration system works well; decent pockets, great automatic compression from the lid closure system; excellent value. But you need to buy the hydration system separately for another £18; mesh pockets offer no weather resistance. It’s a great and ingenious multi-activity pack that takes comfort and stability to new levels, and for those reasons it won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ and ‘Best Value’ accolades.

Review by Ben Winston
First published in Trail magazine April 2011