Ultimate Direction AK 3.0 Vest
Disclosure – As a running ambassador for Beta Climbing Designs I am lucky enough to be provided with Ultimate Direction and Injinji products to make my running more comfortable. Beta distribute these and other running and climbing brands to retailers.
I was really pleased to get hold of this vest as I felt I needed the extra capacity for some of my races this year and also for long training runs where more kit would be carried.
I had a minor hiccup when I found my manboobs were not of a sufficient size to fill the medium size vest and there was too much flapping about going on (the vest, not my manboobs!).
The medium in the Scott Jurek 2.0 seemed to fit ok for me but perhaps not as snug as I now seem to prefer things.
I swapped the AK medium for the small size and its snug but much better than the loose medium for me. I am 182cm and about 68kg
Sizing advice from UD is here:
Sizing at bottom ribs (Unisex):
SM: 24 - 33 in. / 61 - 84 cm
MD: 31 - 40 in. / 79 - 102 cm
LG: 36 - 46 in. / 91 - 117 cm
Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear
Unisex Sizing - Please confirm your bottom ribs measurement before ordering
The card attached to product detailing all the features:
It weighs 400 grams has 11.5 litres of storage which is apparently 33% more than the previous 2.0 version but lighter than previous version.
This is still slightly heavier than their competitors but I think only a minority of weight obsessives will worry about that 100 odd grams.
For comparison with similar packs:
The Salomon S-LAB Advanced Skin is 270 grams with 12 litres capacity.
Inov-8 Race Ultra 10 is 265 grams with 10litres capacity.
I really like this vest as it has multiple easily accessible pockets on the front and there is no need to be twisting your arm up and back under your lats to try and get something out of those hard to reach pockets.
The awkward hard to reach underarm lateral pockets are there but because you have plenty capacity on the front you can place your “stuff of less importance” in those pockets. Things that you may only need to access at a check point or break where you remove the vest.
There are internal adjustment straps inside these lateral pockets as well.
There is a small pocket high on each shoulder strap. One of mesh material and the other with a more showerproof feel to it.
The sternum straps are adjustable on their rails, stretchy and pretty comfortable.
The vest comes with 2 x 500ml soft bottles as standard and retails at around £120. The bottle holsters have less structure than the old SJ vest I had which saves weight but doesn’t impact on bottle security or movement when running.
This vest is designed for the longer Ultras where more kit may be required to be carried. It served me well in the Lakeland 100 at the end of July where the mandatory kit is quite extensive:
Full waterproof cover, Emergency foil blanket, hat & gloves, headtorch, first aid kit, spare long sleeved base layer and spare full length base layer bottoms. Emergency rations, Road book and map, mobile phone & Plastic cup.
Quite a pile of kit that I found can be fitted into this vest neatly when I was out on my recce runs on the course and during the race.
AK Vest front view.
Bottle holster with trekking pole holder next to it. Stretch pocket immediately in front. Zip pocket underneath (Right side only)
The holsters can be tightened up/loosened as required and are off a more lightweight structure than the previous SJ vest I had.
They seem to do the job nicely though. The stretchy pocket in front is ideal for your gels or small bars/flapjacks etc
The zip pocket seems ideal for my phone to sit in there secure with a bit of room for other small items also
Left side Bottle holster
Decent sized stretch pocket beneath bottle holster (left side only) This is great for quick access to items such as gloves/buff or hat, more energy gels or bars
AK Vest Rear view
The main rear pocket has ample room for your full waterproof cover, hat, gloves etc. The 2 smaller pockets are quite useful to separate out smaller items for quick access saving you delving into main pocket and rummaging around.
Rear Pocket, right side access. Double zip, open from top or bottom.
I like the external stretch pocket and have been stowing my jacket there as its pretty easy to grab for those “jacket on, jacket off” days when brief but heavy showers sweep through and then clear again.
Running with everything loaded I found there was minimal bounce, everything felt pretty locked down and secure allowing you to focus on your running, scenery, work or whether you left the iron on etc….
I have experienced no chafing whilst running with it and feel that it has a good “body fit” feel to it meaning it feels kinda like a part of you rather than on you.
Rear left side ½ Pockets with lateral zip pocket, rear elastic mesh and ice axe loops shown also.
Rear upper half pocket with Karabina.
All in all I am pretty impressed with it and can see it has been designed and no doubt tested with thought for the user.
It feels comfortable when fully loaded and yes some of the underarm pockets are tricky to get to but then you don’t need access to everything on the move only the important stuff.
There is ample room on the front for the important stuff leaving the less important stuff securely stowed and not impeding your arm swing
The AK Vest is lightweight with a comfortable adjustable fit and ideal for longer Ultra marathons or long training runs where full kit is required to be carried.
It can of course be used for the shorter ultras also where you may only need to carry a couple of bottles between checkpoints and perhaps a jacket stowed.
As the Ultra running hobby tends to be a slippy slope towards longer and longer races/events its probably a good option to get a larger capacity vest initially that can then serve you for all your events rather than having to get a second larger capacity one when a new longer race may require it.
The vest looks good and has all the features you would expect at this price range. Ultra vests can be expensive but if Ultra marathons are your thing then it can be an investment that’s worth making for the comfort and features you can get for those long days in the hills.