Ultimate Direction AK Vest Revisited: Review #2

by nomeatbarefeet

I number of months ago I posted a review of the Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest. This is the most minimal of the three Signature Series Vests that UD recently released (the others being the SJ Ultra Vest and the PB Adventure Vest). I ran with it on some shorter trail runs and on a longer rail trail run. In both cases I really enjoyed the vest, but I still wanted to field test it in a race.

Conditions The Jenkins Mountain Scramble proved to be a perfect laboratory to put the AK Race Vest through the ringer: torrential downpour (plus some snow for good luck); mud; and lots of climbing and descending.

Setup

  • I wore one bottle and used the other pocket to carry 2 GUs and a small bag of dates. I also carried some S!Caps in a vitamin case inside the velcro pocket under the bottle holster.
  • I wore my Brooks Nightlife Jacket under the pack.

Pros

  • The most significant thing about the AK Vest was that the majority of the time I didn’t even know that I had it on. It fits snug, and despite the crazy descents I didn’t feel the vest bounce around at all.
  • It was easy to take the bottle out and put it back in, even while at pace. The first 3/4 of the race  I ran at a faster pace, and I didn’t stop or slow down to get a drink. The bungee cord around the top of the pocket kept the bottle snuggly in place, but it wasn’t so tight as to inhibit putting the bottle back in.
  • It was also easy to access the GUs in the velcro pockets above the bottle pocket, and the S!Caps in the pockets underneath the bottle pocket.

Cons

  • Not sure if you would call this a “con,” but it can take a little while to get the vest’s straps adjusted to your body. I adjusted things before the run, but it wasn’t until I was moving that I noticed if the vest was too tight/loose. This involved some on-the-fly tinkering which might annoy some people. [The easiest way to adjust on the run is to reach around your back with the arm of the opposite side you want to adjust. You can then pull the strap across your back towards the opposite side. As I have said before, I found it easiest to adjust the side straps first and then deal with the chest ones.]
  • I really wish the large back pocket was made of waterproof/water resistant material. Both the SJ Vest and the PB Vest feature something called “Cuben Fiber” which is: “Used for the sails of America’s Cup racing yachts, this non-woven fabric is 15 times stronger than steel and 40% stronger than Aramid fibers, and is extremely resistant to moisture, UV, and chemicals.” Not sure why the AK Vest does not incorporate the same material (price? weight? feel?). I ran in a downpour, and being able to stow a coat or a warm layer for later in the race would have been great. I might have to see if they make extra large ziplock bags to put cloths into.
  • I still have a hard time accessing the two back zipper pockets without taking the pack off. Oh well.

Unknowns 

  • I cannot comment on the breathability of the back pocket as it was, well, raining. I plan on wearing the AK Vest for the Escarpment Trail Run in July, so training for that will give me plenty of time to test it in warmer weather.
  • How does the pack feel against your skin for long periods of time? No idea, but again this is something I will test out soon and post a further review.
  • Is there enough storage space? The AK Vest is a minimalist vest. While it does have a ton of pockets and places to store things it may not be the best option for runners going on longer runs. Anton Krupicka may be able to function on a few gels and a little bit of water over the course of 3, 4, or 5 hours…but the average runner will probably need to carry a bit more. That said, I will have to take this on some longer runs and see if the carrying capacity works.

Final Thoughts

I do love this vest: it is versatile, comfortable, and minimal. While there are still a few things I would like to change about it (e.g., some waterproofing of the back) but on the whole the AK Vest is a great addition to any trail runners arsenal.

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