Sunday, 10 November 2013

KS Ultralight Gear waistpocket

KS ultralight gear waistpack full of big Chestnuts
My two decades as a dedicated runner went by nearly as fast as you can blink your eye with. From early days as an evening road runner, to shave some kilograms from my overly obese body, I developed into running "junkie" and moved my ways from road to trails. As mileage and altitude increased so did my needs to carry extra food, water and clothing. I went through many diferent pack arrangements in which I carried all the extra goodies, from simple waistpack as PeteBlands bumbag to more volumenous backpack such as made by Golite and all in between. They all had their pros and cons but the biggest issue for me was that bumbags had to be chinced down too much and started jumping about when half full, also they rub and fell apart very easy. The biggest plus while running with a daypack was volume that alow to take lots of extra clothing, food and water and proved to be stable on my back no matter if full or half way loaded. But I had issues with it being too sweaty at my back or too big if taking only minimum of extra clothing, food and water. I sweat like a pig while working hard so sweaty back wasn't that great in cold day runs or winter. I truly missed versatility to add or remove the volume according to my needs.  

With a bit of research I found one man cottage factory in Japan KS Ultralight gear owned  and run by Mr. Laurent Barikosky. His waist pocket looked exactly what I was looking for and after few emails he sent* me one to test it out.

KS Ultralight gear waist pocket in full configuration at water source
Before I go to more specific techical details about the waistpack I would like to share that workmaship is immaculate as you would expect from cottage makers in Japan. My friend Mr. Jotaro at Locusgear has shown me his superb work last year and I got firsthand impression that "guys" in Japan know what the gear making business is all about. The work from Mr. Laurent is no different. Superb with all honesty. There's no single missing stitch, any loose thread or anything that could make you say: "that guy was in a hurry putting this up". complaints at all. The design is also very meticulous, not just some usual waistpack and you can tell that there was tinkering behind. Not just copy this copy that.  Also communication with Mr. Laurent went smooth. He was very responsive on my questions and e-mailed all the information I asked from him. 

Wearing the waistpack. Side view, and fatty belly:)

Here are my observations:

main material is Dyneema nylon fabric which ensures extra strenght of the waistpack and longetivity of the product. Overall weight of waistpack with two extra side pockets is 190g. All zippers are YKK brand and made in water resistant version. Money well invested I will say,
- waistpack consist of 25mm waistbelt to which one 5L main compartment and two mesh side pockets are permanently attached,
- there is a simple pull drawcord at the top of the main compartment to adjust its volume or to hold lightweight items like windshirt (on the picture above you can see it holding my windshirt). Nice long zipper on the main compartment opens up both ways (two pull tabs) and give you option to take out what you need on the go. The zipper operates smoothly and two pull tabs open it up both ways independently,  
- mesh side pocket perfectly holds one 0,5L water bottle. There are two so you can take lots of water on the long stretch. Bottles are secured with a lenght of elastic drawcord which works great and adds extra security on the bumpy ride. I've also put beanie and gloves into one of them if taking only basic waistpack configuration. Extra elastic draw cord helps you to close off the mesh pocket so you don't loose your items. There's minimal stertch in mesh. Once loaded with heavy water bottle it holds its shape very well.

Basic configuration. Main compartment with mesh bottle holder, drawcord.
- 3D mesh at the main compartment back side and most of the waistbelt (note the fin shaped design below) offers super comfy padding so that the waistpack sits comfortably on small of your back and it doesn't bounce or rubb your waist. Think nice padded backpack waist harness and smooth comfy ride.

Back side. Note comfy mesh padding and long fin shaped waistbelt.

- to all this you have the option to add or remove single 1L side pocket if more or less volume is needed. Two side pockets are available and are huge bonus when you plan to take more. They are box shaped and thus hold a lot. Nice smooth running zipper opens up easily to give you access to the pockets volume (the zipper pull tab below was replaced with glow in the dark version so I can see it in dark) and internal glove hook is handy to secure your car keys.  

Extra waist pocket. 
Note boxy shape, two vertical attachment straps and two hooks
There are two ways you can rig the pockets up. One is to use two vertical straps and slide the pocket on to the waist belt and the other is to slide the waistbelt through the vertical straps and use two pack hooks to attach pocket to its dedicated loop. Loop is made of cord and permanently attached to the waistbelt. This way is super safe and pockets don't bounce.   

Two cord loops. Anchoring points for extra side pocket.
Showing attachment loops and vertical straps that hold side pocket.

What I find unique and very meticulous in extra pocket desing beside its boxy shape is that the attachment pack hooks are not placed at the same level like on most extra belt pockets but are placed in such a way that once pocket is attached to the waistbelt it doesn't curve with your waist curve but holds its boxy shape very well thus not reducing its volume or giving hard time to unzip and access. Once you wear the waistpack you can see how well this works.  

Wearing waistpack. Note how well the extra pocket holds it boxy shape!
Since I got the waistpack I've done several runs and day hikes and I can say it works wonderful. The volume adjustment you get with extra side pockets means you can configure it to suit your needs and that's a big bonus to me. It wears nice be it loaded with heavy stuff like full of Chestnuts I picked up while doing a run or loaded very lightly. It just sits there. Quiet on your waist so you don't realy note wearing it until you need to reach for something extra be it main compartment or extra side pockets. Water bottle is easy to reach while working hard for ever needed sip and is also easy to be put back without stopping. Main compartment drawcord works wonders when your main compartment volume needs to be downsized. Simply pull the elastic cord and it pulls compartments insides closer to your body which means closer to the center of gravity so it stabilize the waistpack even more. As mentioned above, drawcord helps to attach things on the outside of main pack which is handy and works great.

Waistbelt buckle is easy to adjust and it holds very well. If you have small day pack and need to add a bit more volume to it you can easily use extra side pockets on your pack waist belt as well. I'll add anchoring points on my Golite Ion to attach waist pockets secure and easy.
Extra side pocket on day pack to add more volume!
I am very satisfied whit what this little waistpack offers. Very versatile, volume adjustable and sturdy. Just what I was looking for. As with most things there are some points of possible improvement: main comparment zipper pulls can get noisy banging agaist each other so exchanging them with something more silent like piece of dyneema cord would be welcome. Also I have rather large hands and find tiny zipper pull tabs that the waistpack came with simply to tiny and thus hard to handle especially while wearing thicker gloves. I'll probably exchange that with a bit bigger zipper pull tab as seen above. What I would also like to see on the main compartment is outside mesh pocket big enough to hold pair of gloves etc. if you aint rocking two extra side pockets and your main compartment is bursting full. Or add glove hook to my gloves and hang them to the extra side pockets ancoring points. Maybe Mr. Laurent can shave more weight without compromising waistpacks sturdiness by choosing lighter nylon dyneema fabric. 

With winter pushing in I am happy to own this little gem as my needs for more volume will be getting bigger. Also I started XC skiing last year so additional volume in the waistpack will be handy while plodding about in full out winter. 

If you are looking for your next waistpack or would like to add extra volume to your current pack I would suggest you look at Mr. Laurents work. He offers lot of customization on the gear he makes and beside waistpack he designs, tests and makes lots of high quality backpacking gear. Check him out. A true cottage manufacturer. All thumbs up!  

*I pay for the shipping cost of the waistpack. Thank you Mr. Laurent for your generosity and helping me out with your waistpack. 

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