Some people might think I am odd, but when a box filled with ultra running kit arrived from new UK brand Harrier, I felt very happy. The package included a host of great items including:
- Kinder 10l race vest
- Helvellyn carbon poles
- 2 x 500ml soft flasks
- Foldable cup
- 2l dry bag
- Hot cup (collapsible)
- Harrier buff
- Emergency survival bag (with whistle)
- 2l water bladder
- First aid kit (currently out of stock)
- 2 x flask straws.
Price: The Ultra bundle starts at £174.
Basically to save 15% you need to buy all the items listed in the bundle.
For beginners: All The Essentials, from £89
For intermediate runners: Go The Extra Mile, from £97
For ultra runners: The Ultimate Collection, from £174
See Harrier Run Free.
On test: Harrier Kinder 10l Ultra Bundle
First of all, as I said, it’s a real delight to be sent a box of lots of trail running items. I like the idea that you can make a decent saving of 15% by buying all the items in each bundle.
However, it might be that you end up buying some items you already have. The bundles are best for people starting out in their trail running or ultra running careers, or for those who are keen to update and replace their kit.
If you already own a set of poles, the Go The Extra Mile bundle might suit you better.
The main items in the Ultra bundle are the Harrier race vest (you can choose 5l or 10l) and the carbon poles.
The Harrier Race Vest 10l retails at £59 if you buy it separately and for what you get this is a good price, in my opinion. My favourite race vest until now is the Salomon ADV Skin 3 5l race vest. It retails at £130 for the five-litre version.
The Harrier race vest is half the price but still has plenty of the same features. There is a lot to like about the race vest including the fit (small fits me well), although I do feel that the rear of the vest comes rather high up my neck. I have worn it with a t-shirt so far and it has not rubbed my skin but when I put it on with a vest top I could feel the fabric of the race vest against the skin of my neck.
There is a choice of four sizes of vest pack, which means you can ensure a snug fit whatever size you are.
There are plenty of pockets and in a variety of sizes. It is great to have lots of pockets, although I do tend to end up losing bits and pieces because I can’t find where I have stashed a snack or a pair of gloves.
The two zipped pockets at the underarm area are particularly useful because they fit a large iPhone. This is a bonus as many packs do not have a pocket for the iPhone Max size. I like to have my phone handy for taking photos and looking at route details on the OS Map app.
There are lots of other details, too, such as the elastic loops for carrying poles when not in use and the elastic compression system to reduce the size of the pack when not full. I confess I find some of the elastic loops a bit annoying when they are not in use. The dangle off the bag and when I am becoming tired and “hangry” on a run they jiggle and annoy me. Maybe it’s just me that gets irritated by these small things!
I also like the fit and the two chest straps. I can clip and tighten the chest straps to give a great fit, which means the pack doesn’t move about when I am running. However, since I am not very big, the extra length of straps that is not in use then dangles at the front of the pack. I usually push the extra bits of strap under the rucksack and out of sight when I am running but I think I’ll end up cutting these a bit shorter.
The 10l is a good size for day races and also for longer hill and trail runs. There are pockets for carrying the 500ml soft flasks on the front of the pack, as well as an internal sleeve for a larger water bladder should you prefer this. (I prefer the former).
The reflective details are also excellent, especially as we head into winter darkness.
One of the big differences between this pack and the Salomon is “stretch”. The harrier back it less stretchy. This means that when I put it on and take it off, it is a bit of a struggle. (Women, think putting on stretchy sports bra compared to more rigid bra.) Perhaps I am simply used to the stretchy Salomon pack and so the slightly more rigid fabric of the Harrier is particularly noticeable. it is not a major issue but just a comment.
If I could improve the Harrier vest pack it would be to add a small zipped pocket somewhere handy for my car key. There are zipped pockets at the lower back, but a wee zipped pocket on the front of the pack would be really useful for valuables.
It would also be great to have a stretchy outer pocket somewhere at the rear of the pack for quickly stowing layers that you might take off and put on repeatedly. Instead, I put these spare layers in the main part of the pack and that is a bit more of a faff when I need to access them.
Conclusion: Overall, the Harrier race vest pack is excellent for the price. My niggles are small and probably particular to me. There is a lot to recommend the pack and I now choose it when heading off for longer trail runs.
On test: Helvellyn Carbon Z-Poles
- Three-section foldable shaft to stow easily in race vests and packs
- Soft and smooth EVA grip handle for ultimate comfort
- Extended grip for steeper climbs
- Simple strap system, fleece lined on the inside for comfort and durable waterproof on the outside
- Spare set of rubber tips and mud baskets
- Carry case.
- Metal flip lock for durability
- Tension adjuster for extra strength
- Smooth-coated cables to give long lasting protection.
Depending on your race vest you can carry poles a number of ways. For the Harrier race vests the following are available:
- Vertical front
- Back horizontal
- Side horizontal.
Price: £69 on their own, or 15% off as part of the Ultra bundle.
These are lightweight carbon poles and they are sold in two sizes. Each size – regular and long – can be extended to suit your height.
I usually choose Leki Micro Trail Poles and it was interesting to compare these with the Hellvellyn Carbon Z-Poles. The Leki poles weight 191g each and I can’t see any information about the weight of the Carbon Z-Poles but I would estimate they are a little heavier. However, this is not noticeable when out on the trails and I really like the size and style of the handle on the Z-Poles, which I expect is where the extra weight comes from.
The handles are comfortable to hold and the extended grip is useful when you are on steeper inclines and need to hold the poles lower down. The top of the handles is also nicely shaped for descending. I like to hold my hand on the top of the handle for better support and comfort.
The strap is also really lovely. It is fleece lined and easily adjustable.
The Leki poles are a little easier to put together but they are a fixed length, while the Carbon-Z poles are adjustable. I have other pairs of poles with the same adjustable system and I am now used to putting the together and taking them apart. It is worth practising this at home because the last thing you want to do on a hill, trail or in a race is faff around working out how to put the poles together and then take them apart.
I like that you can easily stow the poles on the Harrier race vest pack.
Other nice features are the extra set of rubber tips and mud baskets, as wee as a carry case.
Again, the price of the Helvellyn Carbon Z-poles is very competitive compared to other brands such as Leki.
Conclusion: Carbon trail running poles at a great price with lots of good features.
On test: Other bits and pieces in the Ultra bundle
Most trail races call for a first aid kit, water bladder and flasks filled with at least 2l of water, a bivvy bag or emergency foil blanket and a whistle. So if you buy the full Ultra bundle you will know you have all this essential kit.
I like that the flasks are sold in a range of really bright colours. They are easy to fill with water and they don’t leak. This is a big bonus because many other flasks do.
The foldable water cups and collapsible hot cup are also really useful for racing. Many events are moving towards re-useable drink and water containers.
The foldable cups, also sold in lovely bright colours, are very useful when training in areas where fresh water is available. They save you weighing down your pack with excess water because you can simply stop and drink from a fresh water stream. In Scotland, this is something that is often available.
And the buff! Well, I love a buff and have a large collection. The Harrier buff is recommended because it is very comfortable and made form a lovely smooth fabric. Some buffs can be very tight on the head but the Harrier buff is perfect. Again, there is a choice of two colours.
Overall conclusion: I am really impressed with the attention to detail and thought that has gone into this new British trail and ultra running brand. The prices are very good and the quality appears to be great. I can’t tell you if the items are long lasting and durable as I have not tested them for long enough but they appear to be as good as other reputable brands. The choice of bright colours is brilliant.