In my mind perfection comes downs to two simple factors. Firstly fit. The vest should be close fitting, capable of supporting a range of loads with minimal or no movement while running. Secondly pocket configuration. Everything should be securely stowed with those items you need readily accessible, without the need to remove the vest or become a contortionist.
When I heard about the launch of the third iteration of Ultimate Directions PB Adventure Vest I had high hopes. Having previously reviewed the second iteration of the this vest, I knew it had a lot to live up to but could Ultimate Direction finally deliver me the perfect running vest?
Before we get into the review itself I probably should make it clear that I purchased this vest with my own hard earned cash from The Ultramarathon Running Store and wasn’t sent a free one to review.
I was specifically looking for a larger capacity vest for The Fellsman, which I ran earlier this year. It worked really well and held everything I needed to carry. For those that don’t know, The Fellsman has quite an extensive list of mandatory kit!
Okay enough of the background, let’s get back to the review.
First impressions on pulling the vest on were good. Gone was the drab grey of the old model, replaced with a darker grey with bright blue detailing. It certainly looked the part.The expansive wing pockets on each side of the harness were still there, something I’d loved on the previous iteration. These happily held items such as an iPhone 6s in a waterproof case or even extra water bottles, with the stretchy material happy to accommodate most things within reason. The zipped pockets also remained on the shoulders, great for storing a small MP3 player, hydration tablets, gloves, buffs and other medium sized sundries you may need while running.
The front bottle pockets had been redesigned. The right hand one now held a soft flask (included with the vest), whereas the left hand one was now a large zipped “burrito” pocket. I’d heard complaints this should also be a flask pocket but in reality you can easily carry an extra flask in it should you wish and the inclusion of a full zip just adds to the flexibility of this vest. As before you can carry a hydration bladder if you prefer, with its own dedicated pocket in the back for easy access to refill.On the remainder of the harness there are three stuff pockets, all made of the that super stretchy mesh again. These are perfect for nutrition, compass or pretty much anything you may need to grab as you run. One includes a zip for added security, although in my experience the others held items securely without one.
Moving to the back, in addition to the bladder pocket, you have four other pockets to choose from, two ice axe loops plus a bungee cord system should you need to strap additional kit to the outside.
The bungee cord can also be adjusted and used to compress the vest down, perfect if you’re carrying minimal kit. I found this really useful on long training runs when all I’d be carrying was a jacket and some arm warmers. Taking this approach I was able to get the 16 litre vest to feel considerably smaller, eliminating the flapping I’ve previously experienced with half empty vests, making it a really flexible solution.There is a large main pocket or compartment made of a water resistance material, which is marketed as a positive but I actually think is a negative. In practice you still must use a dry bag to stop kit getting wet, not just from heavy rain but also your own sweat. Yes, that’s right, while the water resistance keeps a lot of moisture out it also really compromises the breathability of the vest on your back. I found I’d be soaked underneath it at the end of a run and anything inside not in a dry bag would also end up damp.
Other pockets on the back include a zipped valuables pocket, perfect for those smaller items you don’t want to bury in the main compartment. The final two use the wonderful stretchy mesh again to create stuff pockets. The higher one is the perfect size for a jacket or top, while the lower one is again large and just swallows kit you throw in it.
Finally Ultimate Direction added some innovative pole attachments loops. These are positioned on the harness and allow you to mount the poles in front of and underneath your arms.This may sound quite cumbersome but in practice I found it worked really well and didn’t get in the way when running at all.
Moving onto fit, this is an area that Salomon vests excel in, in my opinion, with their stretch harness moving with you and feeling like a second skin. Ultimate Direction has opted for more static materials throughout their harness, meaning while there’s plenty of adjustment, you still need to manually set this to both you and the load you’re carrying.
The lack of elastic in the chest straps also meant I was constantly adjusting the tension initially on my run until I got a tightness that was comfortable. That said once you have this dialled in the fit is good and the amount of movement minimal if not totally non-existent. So while not perfect it’s okay.
So with the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0 have I finally found the perfect running vest? Nearly but not quite!For me the pockets and the flexibility this vest offers is pretty much spot on and I’ve happily used it on runs ranging from 100 km across open fells to shorter training runs in the East Anglian Fens.
Where it falls slightly short is the lack of breathability in the back and stretch in the harness. While you can really hone the fit to your body shape it takes some tinkering and could be improved with more stretch throughout.
That said and taking everything into consideration, this is as close to the perfect running vest I’ve found so far. Maybe version 4 of this vest will deliver absolute perfection but until then I’ll happily run with my Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0 as I continue my search.
- Pocket configuration is spot on, with no wasted space.
- Vest seems to absorb kit and will comfortably carry both large and heavy loads.
- Bungie cord system on the rear of the pack allows adjustment to support a wide range of loads.
- Lack of stretch in the chest harness meant I found I was adjusting it a lot to get the fit just right.
- Lack of breathability of the back gave me a sweaty back and wet kit inside the main compartment if not properly protected.
- Lack of stretch in the harness material could lead to some movement although not much.
How do I get one?
My personal recommendation would be from Keith and the team over at The Ultramarathon Running Store. Not only do they provide superb customer service but, at the time of writing, they are also including a FREE Ultimate Direction BODY BOTTLE PLUS Soft Flask (500ml) with every purchase of a Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0. Bargain!