With some longer running adventures coming up next year I decided I needed to invest in a larger running vest. My current vest is the Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin Hydro 5 set (full review coming soon) which I love and while the obvious option was to go with the 12 litre version of the S-Lab Hydro, minor frustrations with the soft bottle pockets on the front led me to consider other options in the market.
I seen loads of the new Ultimate Direction Signature vests at races this year and hearing really positive feedback on the web about them, so I decided to give the PB Adventure Vest 2.0 a go. This is the largest model in their Signature Range, at around 11 litres capacity and is designed in collaboration with Peter Bakwin, so includes a few bells and whistles not found on other vests, such as the ability to attach an ice axe should the need arise.
Its early days yet but I thought I would quickly publish my initial thoughts following a few training runs with it over the last few weeks. I will then follow this up with a more in-depth review in the next few months, after further training runs and a race or two.
First impression is the vest really looks the business, a lovely silver/grey with blue details – very nice! There are pockets and straps gallore to get the fit just so and I couldn’t wait to get out on a run to test it out.
The vest comes with two 600ml Ultimate Direction (UD) bottles, with their unique kicker valve. Personally I prefer soft bottles, so replaced one of these with a Hydrapak SF500 Softflask on the first run. I took one of the UD bottles as well, to see how they were and whether they are worth consideration.
The additional 200ml of volume they offer over the soft flasks is attractive but I am put off by the sloshing associated with traditional bottles if I am honest. The kicker valve takes a bit of getting used to and if I’m honest I still prefer soft bottles. As with the vest itself, I will continue to play around with them and feedback more in my full review in a few months.
How does it fit?
My current Salomon vest fits like a glove and you just forget its there, this is largely due to the elastic chest straps which flex as you move and breath. While the majority of the PB Adventure Vest is stretchy, for some reason Ultimate Direction decided to opt for a standard webbing for the two chest straps. While you can move them up and down on the shoulder straps, I have found that I am constantly tightening or loosening them to get the fit just right while I run. The pack doesn’t move around when on and seems fairly secure but it doesn’t have quite the same “throw it on and forget” style that the Salomon does.
I went with the medium/large as I’m a 40” chest, which is right at the top end of the size range for this pack according to the UD website. That said, there have been times when I’ve had the chest straps tightened right up, almost to the maximum, so I am confident there is plenty of room for me to put on weight or accomadate additional layers as required.
The PB Adventure Vest 2.0 includes adjustments on the shoulders, under each arm and on the chest to allow you to fine tune the position. This will obviously change depending on your load or layers you are wearing, so its good to be able to access the majority of these while you run.
Overall I would say the fit is not bad but needs a bit of tweaking here and there. I suspect its just a case of fine tuning the fit until I get it just right for me, something I will hopefully crack in the coming weeks and months.
Pockets, pockets and more pockets!
Pocket wise then it has two bottle pouches on the front, which easily take the supplied plastic bottles or soft bottles of various makes. There are two gel or food pockets on the outsides of each of these, which are stretchy and will accomadate larger Clif bars just fine and easily hold a couple of Nakd bars, my trail food of choice.
On the shoulders there are two further zipped pockets, which will happily accomadate an iPhone 5 in a waterproof case. I am yet to try this with anything bigger but am hoping to try the larger iPhone 6 soon. There are also two smaller pockets under the water bottle pouches, perfect for keys or other items such as salt pills which you want handy. These open from the outside rather the inside of the straps, which feels a little strange and in my experience does require two hands to do effectively and securely. It would make much more sense to put the opening on the inside if you ask me but I am sure Ultimate Direction have their reasons for positioning them like this.
The remainder of the pockets are not quite so easy to access while you run, although again this may improve for me with practice. On each side, just behind each arm, there is a zipped pocket with another velcroed pocket behind it which can also hold an additional bottle if required.
On the back there is one large compartment for clothing and such like. This can also accommodate a bladder as well if required, with a separate opening to allow easy access at feed stations in a race. A final zipped pocket is on the very back for smaller items, with bungey cord on the outside should you wish to lash a jacket or similar to the outside of the vest.
Construction wise it feels pretty bomb proof and I have heard talk of people saying it looks as good as new after 12 months use. One of the big improvements Ultimate Direction states version 2.0 of this pack has over version one is that it “…is stronger and more durable, enabling you to go anywhere with confidence.” and I can well believe it.
Where as the Salomon Hydro packs are made entirely of mesh, the back section of the PB Adventure Vest 2.0 uses a solid lightweight fabric which does provide some protection to its contents but I am sure is not 100% waterpoof. This is both a positive and a negative as I’ve found on training runs that condensation will build up on the inside the back compartment from your own body heat, again a small point but a little niggle.
Its early days but overall I am still impressed by this vest and look forward to getting some miles in using it. I had hoped to be totally blown away by it when I first used it and if I am honest this was not the case. Admitidly I am comparing it against another great vest in the Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin Hydro 5 set, although this also has its niggles (full review coming soon). Like most things in life you need to live with something new for a while to get used to the differences and only after that can you draw an accurate conclusion.
For now, if you are in the market for a larger capacity vest then I would strongly recommend you consider the PB Adventure Vest 2.0. If you can, its definitely worth going to a shop to physically try it on first before you buy, expecially if you are 40″ chest or above. There is ample and flexible storage in this vest, with loads of handy pockets while running. If you can get the fit right for you, you wont go wrong with the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 2.0.
Photo credit: All photos courtesy of Ultimate Direction