This the 4th version of the Signature series of vests and the 3rd Ultimate Direction Vest I have owned.
Despite being out of the racing game from over a year now I am still luckily enough to be supplied with this kit by Beta Climbing Designs who distribute the Ultimate Direction brand in the UK. Thanks for the faith guys…
Capacity – 13.3L (Secured 9.4L)
Weight - 255g without bottles
RRP - £150 but can be found online for between £105 - £140
I have had this vest since the start of the year but due to my injury saga (Knee chondroplasty operation in November 2017 to repair worn cartilage on the underside of left patella) I have only recently been able to test it properly on some Ultra distance runs in preparation for the Lakeland 100 race on the 27th July.
There are more pockets on front on both sides for storing …er..more stuff. Ideal gel/energy bar size type pockets on the front of the bottle holders, 2 on each side.
2 small zip pockets on the sides, another on the lower right side and an elastic stretch one on the left side, this is the only one I could get my phone into.
I normally prefer to have it zipped away secure that it wont fall out because of the zip.
The elastic material is certainly tight enough to secure a phone though and it didn’t budge in the hilly long runs I have completed recently.
On the front left side just above the bottle holder is a small waterproof type pocket with a whistle attached just above. I presume this is to keep dry any salt tabs/horse tranquilizers/jelly babies etc.
Another small Velcro secured pocket is on the right side above the bottle
There are 2 chest straps on the front, the lower one of which is stretchy on the left side only.
Both of these straps can slide on the vertical rails like previous versions of the vest.
Just above the bottles, there are 2 stretchy trekking pole holding straps which are buttoned down when not in use.
These can be unclipped and stretched around the top of your poles to secure them in pretty tightly.
The bottom of the poles slot into a wee diagonal strap at the bottom of each side.
Having just started trying out poles recently this worked pretty well for me and they kept them out of the way allowing the arms to swing freely.
On the back you have an external stretch pocket with the bungee cord covering all of it. for quickly securing yet more stuff.
This can be compressed down further by snapping the cord into available hooks up and down the sides of the rear section.
Inside the main compartment is a decent zip pocket and a bladder compartment.
I didn’t have any trouble filling this space with full waterproof cover, survival bag, first aid kit, head torch, hat/gloves, spare base layers & emergency rations.
The material feels lighter than the previous version but still feels quite robust to take all the usual knocks/pulls/stretches when getting kit in and out or chucking it on the ground after a race.
The material against the skin is mesh like and pretty breathable/comfy against the body.
The previous version had adjustable straps within the side pockets, that has now been replaced with their “comfort cinch” system.
This consists of 2 rigid plastic parts in the lower back (not as bad as it sounds) which contain the cord that can be pulled to tighten the sides of the pack in towards the rear section, bringing them all tight into your lower back.
I immediately thought that there would be a high risk of those parts rubbing your back but after many miles I am pleased to report I did not experience any rubbing/chafing with a fully loaded vest.
Tightening up/compressing by pulling the cords is easy enough, not quite so easy to loosen off on the run though.
Not sure how many adjust a vest regularly during runs anyway, I certainly don’t adjust my pack much after getting it dialled in initially.
Included with the vest are 2 x 500ml “body bottle” soft flasks. There is a decent flow from the bottles without too much sucking effort required. Nobody likes to suck too hard eh? 😉
Overall I am pretty impressed with the vest, its lightweight, robust, comfortable and well designed. It can easily handle all the stuff I need in it for long races with significant mandatory kit lists.
The previous version worked brilliantly for me during training and racing 2016 and I look forward to using this vest for the Lakeland 100 again this week.
This will be my first Ultra race since the Sandstone 120 back in October 2016!. Its been a long time and I cant wait to get back to it!