Ultimate Direction are really well known for making high quality, hugely practical running packs and the updated Signature series of vests is no exception. Let's have a closer look at what they offer.
Now into its third generation the Ultimate Direction Signature Series of running packs has been continually refined in collaboration with some of the worlds finest trail and ultra runners. The four packs that make up this years offering range in size from the ultra minimal 5L TO Race Vest 3.0 to the cavernous 16L PB Adventure Vest 3.0.
Each of the vests offers differing carrying capacities and a range of pocket positions specifically designed to meet the needs of various event lengths and conditions. Each has the ability to carry two 500ml soft flasks on the front shoulder straps as well as the 3 larger packs being compatible with a 2L bladder.
The most basic of the Ultimate Direction Signature Series the TO Race Vest 3.0 is aimed as an alternative to a bumbag for carrying a few essentials and up to 1L of fluid in the two front positioned 500ml soft flasks (included).
The load is positioned on the lower back for comfortable carrying and the upper back is made from a very light, highly breathable mesh fabric to prevent heat build-up. The carrying section is neatly split into two overlaying zipped pockets so you can separate your items.
On the front as well as the two bottle holders which can double as extra pockets there are multiple mesh and velcro closed pockets for fast access to gels and other valuables. In addition there are pole holders designed to be easy to utilise on the move.
The vest style of the pack ensures maximum comfort and minimal movement when running and a close, individual fit can be achieved via the side adjuster straps and the double sternum straps. The soft edges to the pack ensure that areas that come into contact with the skin don't rub and cause irritation and the outer fabrics are tough and robust for longevity.
With a 6.25L total volume the SJ Ultra Vest 3.0 is the next step up in terms of carrying capacity with the majority of the volume being located in the stretchy mesh back section. This design enables you to stuff clothing and equipment easily and quickly into the pack and carry variable amounts without it bouncing around. This section can also take a hydration bladder with a hanging loop located in the top.
An external zipped pocket on the lower outside of the back can be used to store items needed quickly and the elasticated bungee is great for attaching a jacket without needing to stop or for further compressing the load in the pack. The front section of the SJ Ultra Vest houses two 500ml flasks (included) as well as overlaying mesh and zipped pockets for gels and valuables.
Above the flasks are two further velcro closed pockets and Ultimate Directions quick on-the-go trekking pole attachments. The Chest straps on the SJ Vest can be re-positioned up and down the shoulder straps to allow you to find your perfect fit and the wide side straps also allow the packs to be fitted perfectly to your shape.
Moving up in size again the AK Mountain Vest has a capacity of 11.5L yet still only weighs 400g which is lighter than its previous versions. Designed in conjunction with trail running legend Anton Krupicka the vest is aimed at those looking for a pack capable of long ultras and supported multi-day races and events.
The AK Mountain Vest is the first in the range to feature a zip closed main section which unzips fully to allow access to kit at all levels inside. The main section is separated with a mesh panel to keep a hydration bladder separate. In addition there is a large mesh pocket overlaying the entire length of the outside back that can easily be stuffed with additional or quickly accessible kit as well as a stretch bungee for further stowage and load compression.
Each side panel features zipped pockets which are ideal for securely carrying valuable items or those you may need to access quickly and without removing the pack.
The front of the AK Mountain Vest comes with 2 500ml soft flasks that can be carried in the shoulder strap holsters which can also double as additional pockets when not used for the bottles. Mesh pockets overlay the bottle holsters and a zipped pocket is positioned below. The UD logos are reflective adding visability in low light. Velcro closed top pockets and an attached whistle complete the front stowage.
The vest features a form fitting design meaning it fits like an item of clothing rather than an accessory and as such the pack is very stable when moving with minimal bounce or risk of chaffing. To ensure an optimal fit the pack is available in 3 sizes based on chest size and the sternum straps can be moved up and down the chest rails to help find the best position for you.
Top the new Signature Series in terms of size is the PB Adventure Vest with a total volume of 16L which is sufficient to see you through most running adventures! The main compartment features a zip closure and there is also a separate zip closed section behind for a hydration bladder with a hanging loop. Overlaying the main section are two further mesh pockets that can stuffed with additional kit and finally bungee cord for load compression or fast stowing of items prior to having time to put them into the main pack.
Each side panel has easy to access zip closed pockets and behind them are velcro closed mesh pockets that allow you keep items close to hand that you may need quickly and without taking the pack off. Within the sides, as with the AK Mountain Vest above there are straps to enable the pack to fitted more closely to the body or released should it feel constrictive.Indicating the type of events the pack is aimed at it features on-the-go pole holders and 2 ice axe holders.
The front of the pack comes supplied with a single 500ml soft flask which is located in a holster on the right shoulder strap with an overlaying mesh pocket and zipped closed pockets above and below. The left shoulder strap features a large zip closed pocket which can accommodate a further soft flask or run essentials such as GPS or tracker and a velcro closed pocket below and zipped pocket above all of which are ideal for food or gels etc. An attached whistle completes the pack.
To conclude, the four packs that make up the 2016 Ultimate Direction Signature Series offer something for everyone. The TO Race Vest that is great for anyone who doesn't want to run with a bumbag but needs to carry a small number of essential items as well as up to 1L of fluid. The SJ Ultra Vest is perfect for longer races when you need to carry compulsory and essential kit comfortably and simply, and the AK Mountain Vest takes this up a level increasing carry capacity further and also offering an increased range of stowage options and side pockets. Finally the PB Adventure Vest is for those undertaking epic events and need to carry substantial amounts of kit and equipment without feeling restricted by a full rucksack design.
All the packs are exceptionally comfortable to wear and the materials certainly help with this as does the adjustable fit and on offer via the side straps and generally movable sternum straps. We have always been fans of the Ultimate Direction Vests since their launch and the New updates make great packs even better. Take a look at the full range here.