Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest — The Future in Hydration


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
The PB Adventure Vest in action.  The Capitol Ditch Trail is an approximately 12-mile out and back to Capitol Lake from the Capitol Lake Trailhead.  Capitol Ditch’s climb is a bit more forgiving than Capitol Creek Trail, which you can jump on from the same trailhead.  The trail has roughly 2,100 feet elevation gain to Capitol lake, with an ending elevation of 11,600 feet.  Every foot is worth it, as the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness area is beautiful and you can’t beat the view of Capitol Peak once you’ve reached your goal.  One day my goal will be the top of Capitol Peak.

The PB Adventure Vest in action. The Capitol Ditch Trail is a 12-mile out-and-back to Capitol Lake from the Capitol Lake Trailhead. Capitol Ditch’s climb is a bit more forgiving than Capitol Creek Trail, which you can jump on from the same trailhead. The trail climbs 2,100 feet to Capitol lake, with an ending elevation of 11,600 feet. Every foot is worth it, as the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness area is beautiful and you can’t beat the view of Capitol Peak once you’ve reached your goal. One day my goal will be the top of Capitol Peak.

Bottles, bladders, belts, packs — how am I going to carry my water? In a hydration world normally dominated by the likes of Camelbak and Nathan, Colorado-based company Ultimate Direction is pushing the boundaries of how we approach backcountry hydration. Ultimate Direction is cooking up a new series of hydration packs designed by athletes who know what not to do in the backcountry. With their new Signature Series proudly on display at the summer Outdoor Retailer Show 2012, Ultimate Direction let me take a version of the PB Adventure Vest out for a test drive.

The pack’s sizing is important for stability and bottle position, so be sure to try one on.  I ran with the S/M which put the bottles in a somewhat awkward position for my arms when hiking—an issue the M/L pack would remedy.

The pack’s sizing is important for stability and bottle position, so be sure to try one on. I ran with the S/M which put the bottles in a somewhat awkward position for my arms when hiking -- an issue the M/L pack would remedy.

Like a puzzle I put together every time I head out for a trail run I question how to carry everything I need without feeling like I’m carrying everything I need. I’ve done hand bottles, belts, and bladder packs. With hand bottles, I end up feeling like a juggling act — driven by fatigued neurosis to constantly switching hands and hand positions. Anyone who’s ever run with a hydration belt through gastrointestinal distress will tell you there must be better options. Bladder packs are by far the most popular design these days but refilling a bladder in the backcountry is far more difficult than a couple of bottles.

Ultimate Direction’s Signature Series features three packs designed by ultramarathoning moguls Scott Jurek, Anton Krupicka, and Peter Bakwin. The packs are designed for different preferences and goals: the AK Race Vest at the lightest and most minimal, the PB Adventure Vest the burliest all-around backcountry pack, and the SJ Ultra Vest a versatile option in between. I sat down for a WildSnow preview with Buzz Burrell, Ultimate Direction’s brand manager and a man who knows a thing or two about backcountry trails. He explained that while ultrarunning has grown in popularity in recent years and gear like shoes has grown in technological leaps and bounds, hydration packs have been slow to keep up. Anyone who’s run, hiked, or climbed with a pack bobbing and sloshing on her back would agree. Ultimate Direction aims to fix that.

The PB Adventure Vest features a variety of pockets, including a pill pocket for electrolytes, a credit card pocket, and strap pockets intended to fit your SPOT in such a way that you can access the buttons without taking it out.  The pack also features two hip pockets with zippers and once you load up the main compartment, two non-zip pockets open up behind the hip-zips.  For all you bladder lovers, all the packs are equipped to carry bladders and route hoses.  Don’t go running to get rid of your winter backcountry packs though—the PB isn’t set up to carry skis.

The PB Adventure Vest features a variety of pockets, including a pill pocket for electrolytes, a credit card pocket, and strap pockets intended to fit your SPOT in such a way that you can access the buttons without taking it out. The pack also features two hip pockets with zippers. Once you load up the main compartment, two non-zip pockets open up behind the hip-zips. For all you bladder lovers, all the packs are equipped to carry bladders and route hoses. Don’t go running to get rid of your winter backcountry packs though -- the PB isn’t set up to carry skis.

I headed off on Colorado’s Capitol Ditch trail with version 3 of the PB Adventure Vest to see what it was all about. Although many of the pack’s features have evolved with version 4, the most impressive foundational features of the pack won’t change: it doesn’t move, bounce, or chafe. I ran with two 20-ounce bottles, something warm to throw on at the turnaround, various bars and food, and other small essentials (Bodyglide, Dermatone, etc.). The shape of the pack is thoughtfully designed and equipped with bungees, including a bungee that wraps internally around the entire pack for a one-pull secure when the pack is on that keeps all your gear in place. No matter if the pack was full of gear or nearly empty, the contents didn’t shift or bounce.

The PB Adventure Vest weighs in at 12 ounces (340 grams) and 12 liters total volume, which is on the low end of the weight-to-volume ratio when compared to most Nathan hydration packs (Ultimate Direction’s AK Race Vest is 5.5 ounces, 4.5 liters total volume and the SJ Ultra Vest is 7 ounces, 9.2 liters). The PB’s mesh straps and back are durable and somewhat breathable (the AK and the SJ are built on Hex Mesh foundations making them breathable and light but they support less weight than the PB’s burlier mesh). The main compartment is built with stretchy Power Net Mesh and Cuben Fiber structure. Cuben Fiber is a laminate born of the materials used to make yacht sails and is marketed for its flexibility, low strength-to-weight ratio, and tear resistance. The main compartment’s combination of Cuben Fiber and flexible mesh meant I could stuff the compartment full of gear and the mesh would expand but the Cuben Fiber would hold its structure and keep the gear from poking me uncomfortably in the back. Cinched down the bungees on the flexible mesh and I was ready to go.

Ultimate Direction’s Signature Series continues to evolve but they’re starting from a strong foundation. In fact, it’s that evolution that makes the pack great. Every feature is built and tweaked (there were 2 generations of the pack before the one I tested) by people who know what hours of bouncing and chafing feel like. Keep your eye out for Ultimate Direction. I know I will.

The PB Adventure Vest at OR 2012.

The PB Adventure Vest at OR 2012.

(WildSnow.com guest blogger Jess Portmess plans to pursue a legal career in the west. Having grown up in New York and Vermont, she’s chasing snow covered peaks and endless trails in the Rockies before heading back east for her final year of law school.)

Comments

14 Responses to “Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest — The Future in Hydration”

  1. Pierce Oz August 21st, 2012 12:08 pm

    To me this is another example of “military” technology bleeding over into backcountry arenas. Examples of what have been generically called “load bearing vests” have been around in modern incarnation since ‘Nam and are in heavy use all over the world these days. The most modern versions are modular and allow someone to easily and heavily customize the pockets and lay-out of the vest for their needs.

    Frankly, I’m surprised the LBV concept isn’t more heavily used in the backcountry recreation world. Ogio had a pretty sweet LBV-type pack for backcountry skiing, now more for MTX, and North Face has a similar “Guide Vest” version of it’s own which easily holds the requisite gear for slackcountry skiing or maybe day trips. I’ve seen them used to good effect this way.

    Maybe we will see more of this concept instead of, or in addition to backpacks. As Jessica is finding out, LBVs give you easier access to stored gear, especially while on the move, and allow for a much more “natural” weight distribution of loads, eliminating the annoying swing weight of a large pack. It’s cool to see a co. like UD take it even further with well-thought-out details and cutting-edge fabrics.

    Biggest down-sides I’ve seen are that they can be a bit more difficult to take on and off repeatedly, such as you’d do with a pack on the lifts or for changing your layering, and most people don’t want to look like they are out on a tactics exercise while skiing. Anyway, maybe someone like UD will make a modular version so you will only need one vest for all your activities.

  2. Pete August 21st, 2012 1:59 pm

    The Bonus is that you get to look like Walter from The Big Lebowski.

  3. TonyBob August 21st, 2012 9:15 pm

    Oz, all the military LBV’s, LCE’s, TacVests, and super cool velcro rigs, are still generations behind what the companies like Nathan, and UD are doing with their rigs. These companies have the advantage of reduced load requirements. Those TacVests need to carry up to 40lbs of kit. If I had that much crap on my rig for a run/ weekend ski tour, I’d quit long before the trailhead.
    My thoughts, T-Bob

  4. Brian August 22nd, 2012 11:19 pm

    The original brain behind UD and Nathan, Bryce Thatcher, has turned his latest efforts to Ultraspire. Very nice stuff, indeed.

  5. Rod August 23rd, 2012 12:45 pm

    I am looking for a hydration tube (like a camelback), that I can attach to a stainless steel bottle, like the klean kanteen or a sig stainless bottle.
    Primarily for mountain biking, but can be used for bc skiing a well.
    Worried about transfer of nasty stuff from plastic to water, and not just bpa.

  6. Lou Dawson August 23rd, 2012 2:36 pm

    Rod, when I was at OR I picked up a sample of the Jetflow Hydration System Eagle, which is designed to fit all sorts of bottles. BPA free but of course.

    http://www.jetflow.com

    Have not tested it yet.

    Lou

  7. blah August 24th, 2012 11:28 am

    This basically looks like an exact copy of the salomon running packs.

  8. jim knight August 27th, 2012 11:24 am

    Spot on Brian. UltrAspire is leading the way in this category. Bryce has a huge influence. It’s great to support original thinking and innovation. http://www.ultraspire.net/

  9. Jim H September 6th, 2012 11:23 am

    While this does have some features in common with the Solomon vest, it is half a pound lighter for the same 12L capacity and is designed to easily run 2 bottles in the front (on the shoulder straps).

  10. PB September 6th, 2012 2:52 pm

    The vest has many features not found on the Solomon, such as a place for additional bottles above your hips. You can stow your collapsible trekking poles without taking the vest off. There are numerous convenient pockets, a place for strap-on crampons and for an ice ax. And it’s light! I expect the bottles-in-front idea will be copied by other companies.

  11. blah September 19th, 2012 12:24 pm

    bottles fit in front of the salomon pack, as well as you don’t have to remove to pack to store trekking poles. the published weight is deceiving because there are many parts of the pack that are removable to save weight. Regardless, the salomon one has been on the market for years. so, yes, this is a copy.

  12. Paul November 30th, 2012 12:25 am

    I have both the Salomon XT Skin Pro 5 Set Pack and the Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek vest and have put over 100 miles on both. The UD Scott Jurek is much better thought out with more unique storage features and almost twice the available storage space 5L vs 9.2L at less than half the weight 22oz vs 7.5oz! This pack was so much better thought out in terms of comfort and storage. The UD rides higher and is significantly more comfortable than the Salomon. Yes, they are both vests, have storage areas and carry bottles in the front but the similarity ends there. Just like every bladder pack has storage a bladder and pack straps but there are hundreds of different designs of those. What’s your point?

  13. Tetsu noguchi December 30th, 2012 7:13 am

    I don’t know the Salomon XT though I’m sure it’s great in its own right. I always find it funny that just because some people like one thing, they automatically think other competitive things are blah. There are many great minds, innovative thinkers, and anyone who puts the thought and care and passion into products that these comapnies do should be applauded. Maybe I’m just a softy, hehe

    I have run quite a bit with Nathan packs, both waist and vest, and when comparing the ultimate direction PB vest to the Nathan vests I have, frankly, the PB vest holds more and is lighter. I wish the side pockets were easier to get to and there are a few shock cord loops that i can’t figure out the purpose of, that aren’t explained well in the video. There are some smaller non-elastic loops thati also haven’t figured out. Speaking of the side pockets, I had two smaller 10oz juice packs on a run and one fell out and was lost, so i wouldn’t put valuable items in there. And the cell phone pockets is way too small. I’d prefer two top loading elastic cell phone and gps pockets as i use the lifeproof case on my iphone 5 and would never run without the case on. As it is, i have to use a barely there amphipod waist belt to carry my phone.

    With that said, for vests, i now prefer Ultimate Direction, for waist packs, i prefer Nathan as Ultimate Direction waist packs don’t work for me. Rock on runners, and rock on passionate product designers!

  14. PB December 30th, 2012 6:02 pm

    There are so many features it’s hard to highlight them all in a 3 minute video! A couple of things people might be puzzling about:

    -The vest is designed to be used with 2 bottles, and is sold with bottles. But, you can also use your own bladder. There is an opening to feed the bladder hose out of the pack compartment, and some little loops for routing the hose.

    -Because of the bellows design, there is a kind of “pocket” or sleeve between the zippered side pockets and the pack compartment. These “pockets” have velcro closures, but indeed they aren’t super secure. This turned out to be a logical place to carry additional bottles, so we added a loop to go around the neck of a bottle that’s stashed in there.

    -There are 2 small elastic loops hanging off the back of the pack compartment which were designed to secure trekking poles.

    I’m sure people will find ways to use these features that we haven’t thought of!

    Thanks for taking the time to provide feedback.
    Happy trails, PB

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