"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Waist belts

Or should I say "waste" belts.  Most runners that I know have at least attempted to use a waist belt of some sort.  My first experience with a waste belt was using a Nathan hydration belt to carry a 22 ounce water bottle and a few gels.  While this belt seemed to work fine for short runs - 8-12 mile range - I noticed that it was difficult to get it to stay cinched down, and that having a belt/water bottle around my waste bothered by stomach.

That was years ago.  I haven't messed around with belts much since then.  Shorts with pockets are becoming more standard, and I just figured that I would carry handheld water bottles.  But then I ran a 50k where I ran out of gels and since I was in the mix for a top slot, I did not want to take the time to go over to my drop bag to grab more.  The rest of the race I relied on aid station fare, and it all worked out OK, but I thought, hmmm, if I had had a belt, maybe this wouldn't have happened.

So come time for the hallucination 100, I dug out my old Inov-8 Race Elite pack and it worked great for carrying around extra food and I never felt anxious about running out of calories.  But it still bothered my stomach a little bit and I found that it probably had too much storage.  It also seemed to bounce around more than I would have liked.
So the idea of using a waist pack kinda went to the back burner, again.  Then through some fortunate circumstance I got my hands on one of Salomon's new creations, the S-lab Advanced Skin 2 (AS2) belt.  A few trial runs with it, and I was sold, waist belts seem to have come a long ways since I bought my old Inov-8 race elite pack.  They don't even look like awesome (ugly) fanny packs anymore!

After a little fiddling around I think I finally got the AS2 to be tight enough around the waste.  This brings up my one and only complaint, I have my belt tied down as small as the waste belt will allow, and it is just barely tight enough.  What about other runners who have a skinnier waste than I do?  I will never understand why some running gear (specifically waste packs) seem to have enough room in the belt to fit someone with a 45 inch waste, but skinny runners, sorry you're SOL.  Ok end rant.
As tight as it will go

The AS2 comes with a soft flask, and I bought another one to throw in there.  This allows me to carry 16 ounces of fluid, with no bounce at all.  The belt has small elastic loops that fit over the top of the bottles to fully secure them.  I've put 10 ounces hard flasks of other varieties in the belt, and while it will comfortably carry one, it seems to start to get bouncy again if I have two in there.  The AS2 also provides plenty of room for gels and a camera or whatever other small nick-knacks you'd like to carry.  My only other knock against the AS2 belt, is that there is not a great spot to secure a light shell, although if you don't mind the awkwardness, you can stuff one into a large pocket due to the stretch mesh.
18 ounces of H20

The buckle system on the AS2 is different than many other buckles, but it works nicely and I have never had a problem with it coming undone.  What is interesting  is that the AS2 essentially has 4 panels, and you can orient them however you like, depending on what you have in the pockets.  It does seem to ride up more if you put the pockets that are meant to be in the back facing forwards.

Now while I really liked the AS2, sometimes it seemed like a lot of material and a lot of storage, especially if I only needed to carry 1 or 2 gels and a camera or car key.  So I decided to try a more minimal belt.
Ultraspire Quantum

I had heard great things about the Ultraspire line of products, and wanted to see what the hype was about.  I noticed the Quantum was about as minimal a belt as they made and it was relatively cheap.  So I ordered one.  I was a little amused at first, as I hadn't noticed before I ordered it that there was no buckle.  Its meant to be pulled on just like a pair of shorts.  You then tighten the belt with a small cinching strap.  My initial skepticism quickly faded as I noticed that this meant you could put the belt in any orientation you wanted, with pockets facing whatever direction you require with little to no problem.
Pockets and cinching strap

The Quantum has two small mesh pockets that I've put two gels into each, and the back pocket is primo.  I fit a camera, my car key, and a clif bar into it without issue.  Sometimes I'll even crumble an empty soft flask and stuff it in there, if I know there is a water source down the trail.

Now between the AS2 belt and the Quantum, I am constantly forced to choose which one to wear.  I prefer the Quantum's fit and feel over the AS2, but the storage space on the AS2 is clearly superior, and it offers the nice functionality of carrying water.  Both seem to have very nice features, I especially like the zipper on the Quantum, as it is by far, the easiest zipper I have ever used, even when descending technical trail.
Nice mesh on both

Overall, I don't think anyone would be disappointed with either, as long as the specific purpose of each belt. The AS2 belt has the downside that if you are too skinny, you might not be able to get it to fit tight enough. Both have a nice mesh material that does not bother me at all when I am shirtless, which is certainly appreciated.

S-Lab Advanced Skin


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi

    Great review. Like you I've been using the Inov-8 waist packs, but am looking for something new. With my Inov-8 RacePro 4 I have the problem you have with the AS2 - I can't get it tight enough. I was wondering what kind of waist size you are to get an indication of the fitting of the AS2. Currently I'm swaying more to the Ultraspire MBS system for a bit more flexibility.

    Thanks for your help



    Original comment removed for a mistake!