The three option Signature Series line of running vests
being launched by Ultimate Direction this winter (2012-13) is definitely taking
the pack choices for runners and other light and fast-moving adventurers to the
next level and I have a feeling these are going to become the latest gold
standard. The Series is comprised of 3 packs of varying storage capacity, but
all with very similar design features, created with the input of 3 highly
accomplished household names in the ultra and adventure-running worlds: Anton
Krupicka (the AK Race Vest, the smallest of the options at 4.5L), Scott Jurek
(the SJ Ultra Vest, mid-sized at 9.2L) and Peter Bakwin (the PB Adventure Vest
at 12L). I had the good fortune of being able to test out the Race
Vest and Ultra Vest earlier this fall and immediately wished I could keep the
test samples for myself and add them to my gear arsenal.
Not long after I received the samples I had a 50 mile Sierra
backcountry adventure run planned and decided to take the Ultra Vest for a
spin. After laying out all of the clothing, gear and food that I felt necessary
to take along I took one look at the Ultra Vest and thought, “There is
absolutely no way all of this stuff is going to fit in this pack.” But as I
began to carefully load the pack up the main storage compartment seemed to
simply keep expanding and everywhere I looked I was discovering yet another
pocket or stretch mesh pouch and the next thing I new everything I wanted to
take was in the pack. I truly couldn’t believe it. My excitement was tempered
though by another thought, “Okay, it all fits but now that this thing is fully
loaded down how is it going to ride?” I put it on and it felt very comfortable
but the only way to truly find out was a real world mountain run test.
The Ultra Vest passed that exam with flying colors. The pack
felt and functioned incredibly during the all day outing. The features that I
am about to discuss are more or less the same with each pack, the main
difference being overall storage capacity.
The water bottle holsters are mounted on the front of the
shoulder straps for easy access and monitoring of fluid level in bottles.
Draw-cords allow for further tightening down to prevent bottles from popping out.
I was concerned about enhanced bounce with this bottle placement but that
turned out to be unwarranted as I hardly noticed they were there. If you are a
diehard handheld bottle runner like me then those 2 bottle pockets can be freed
up for additional storage space for frequently needed items such as gels.
Speaking of gels it seems that the design team left no space unused where even
the smallest of pockets could be placed for storage of small items such as
gels, keys, credit card, etc. Some of these pockets are constructed with cuben
fiber, making them nearly waterproof and thus ideal for items such as
The use of stretch mesh and cuben fiber throughout the packs
allows for a sweet combination of compartments that are either highly water
resistant (think protection of gear from sweat or the condensation off a water
bladder) or have the ability to expand and contract with changing load size (for
instance, when a sudden storm has you wearing all of your gear instead of
carrying it on your back), or in some cases both, as with the outer zippered
compartment on the Ultra Vest. The outside of each pack is equipped with a
stretchy bungee-like cord where clothing such as a windbreaker that may be
taken on and off frequently can quickly be secured and re-accessed.
The vest design makes for an exceptionally comfortable ride and the mesh used allows for greater breathability against the skin helping to minimize sweat-soaked back syndrome. The vests are secured across the front with two thin, almost unnoticeable straps, one across the sternum with a stretchy webbing piece that allows some give as your chest expands and contracts during the breathing cycle, and one several inches lower.
In summary, for how lightweight and compact these packs are, they are loaded with innovative features sure to take you the distance of your next race or mountain adventure in comfort and carrying everything you could possibly need. They are due to arrive at Sage To Summit, check them out. Adventure Vest, Ultra Vest, and Race Vest.
Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest: The smallest vest in the Signature Series it is perfect for a 50 mile mountain day!
Profile View - Jacket and Shorts are stuffed in the back sleeve
Front View: The two water bottles are easy to access and perfect for those who prefer bottles over handhelds
The pack can easily fit a jacket, pants and shorts.