Over the course of the past few years, I have experimented with different ways to manage hydration on long runs. As many of you know, there are several ways to carry or manage your hydration from hand-helds to belts to vests with pockets and vests with built-in bladders in the back. Each of these ways have their own merits and surely you have your favorite. I found myself bouncing back and forth between a belt and a bladder style vest. Neither option was perfect but I needed something for those long runs where I could manage both hydration and fuel. Enter Ultimate Direction.
For those in the know, Ultimate Direction is certainly not new. They have been around since 1985, making hydration products for mountain climbers and hikers. As trail running began to emerge as more than just a fad, Ultimate Direction rose to the top as a leader in everything hydration. Their history alone tells me they are serious about what they do and as I began to break this vest in, I saw immediately just how much thought goes into their products.
The vest I am wearing comes from their Signature Series and is known as the AK (Anton Krupicka) Mountain Vest. It is dubbed as a race vest for its lightweight feel and fit. The vest comes with 2 water bottles that are designed to fit in the front or rear pockets. There are probably more pockets than I will ever use but they come in very handy (more on that in a minute). The vest is designed to accept a bladder in the back and is available separately.
- 11.5 oz without the water bottles. 14oz with the bottles.
- “150g Knit Mono Mesh: New 150gsm harness conforms to your body for absolute comfort and superior load carrying.”
- Permanently waterproof.
- 8 pockets/pouches for water bottles, stashable jackets, fuel, gloves, beanie, socks, phone, cash, etc.
Because I typically wear gear like this on long runs and not on short, quick outings, I know to load up a vest so it doesn’t “slosh” around. On my first go, I only loaded up with a single water bottle, some fuel and my phone. As I began to warm up, my gloves came off first and I was pleased to figure out that the top left and right pouches are absolutely perfect to stash them into. A few miles later, off came the beanie. In similar fashion, there was a pouch for that. The water bottle has a deep pouch to fit into and is a “soft” water bottle, meaning it does not have a hard shape to it, but instead collapses into the pouch. What was amazing was how the water bottle never really bounced like I thought it would.
The good, the bad:
If I had to pick one thing that I didn’t like, it would be how the second water bottle integrates into the vest. There is a deep pouch on the left that works perfect for one, but not another deep pouch for the other bottle. In 4 long runs I have not taken both bottles because of this. I am planning to buy the integrated bladder for the back. After that one thing, this is a very well made vest that is ultra light weight, has pockets in all the right spots and fits very well so as not to move around while running. I have tested it on both road and trail and in both cases it has performed very well.