Ultimate Direction – PB Adventure Vest 2.0 Review

Peter Bakwin wanted a pack that could do anything from running to hiking, climbing to skiing. Featuring 11 L of volume and a variety of features, The Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest 2.0 allows you to stay hydrated and comfortable on any size adventure from quick outings to all-day expeditions.

UD Adventure Vest

After running our first few races in an old Camelbak that I retained from my Air Force days, and tired of the way it flopped around on my back while running, I wanted to find a better fitting hydration pack.  I knew I wanted the pack to be small and light weight for sprint-style races (5-12 hours), but I also wanted it to be large enough to hold a few items such as a rain jacket, Clif Bars, Energy Gels, etc.  We recently bought my wife a Nathan Intensity Vest that she loves and I was intrigued by the running vest concept.  After looking on the internet for a while and reading plenty of reviews, I settled on the Ultimate Direction PB 2.0 Adventure Vest.  The reviews for the original Peter Bakwin Adventure Vest were very good and I knew that Ultimate Direction was coming out with the 2.0 version so I waited and waited until it became available.  And let me tell you, it was worth the wait.

UD Adventure Vest back

For one, the vest just looks awesome.  I know you hardcore adventure racers don’t care about looking awesome, we run around in tights for goodness sake, but who wants an ugly pack?  Not me.  The most important thing to me was fit.  I wanted something that didn’t slosh around on my back and yet didn’t chafe.  Out of the box, this vest fit perfectly.  I’m 5’10” 160lbs with a 38″ chest and putting the pack on was like slipping into my favorite pair of socks.  It just hugs the body comfortably.  You can see how it sits on the body from the image below:

UD Pissed Off Dude

Now, I don’t know why this guy looks so pissed off, when I put on the vest I was all smiles, I just knew it was going to work great.  Who’s the happy adventure racer in the picture below…that’s right, this guy!

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The way that the vest sits higher on the torso means that it doesn’t get in the way when you run, cycle, or paddle.  In fact, during our training days that can last up to 6 hours and during the races that we’ve done, the vest is barely noticeable.  There are compression straps and adjustment straps all over the vest that allow the wearer to customize the fit to their body and depending on the pack contents.  I thought that having the bottles in front might be strange, but it wasn’t.  For my pack, I opted for the optional hydration pack so I have 70 ounces of water in the back and 2, 20 ounce bottles in the front that I usually fill with Gatorade.  I really like the hydration options this vest allows.  We’ve run races where we had just the bladder in the back with water and after about 3-4 hours, I needed something with flavor.  Plus, with extra bottles on my bike or in my gear bin, I can quickly replenish during transitions.

Closeup

The vest is loaded with pockets and I really like how they snuck in a few pockets for Gel packs right by the water bottles.  You can access the side pockets with a little contortion of the body but to access the rear pouch, you’ll have to take the vest off.

The build quality of the vest is top-notch and it is very similar in quality as the Nathan vest my wife has.  From the Ultimate Direction website:

  • Silnylon 66: Impregnating nylon with Silicon and Polyurethane creates this permanently waterproof fabric, and also substantially increases its seam and tear strength.
  • Hex Mesh: The Hex Mesh vest structure is completely breathable, extremely strong, and lightweight. Its inability to absorb moisture results in a drier, more comfortable wear.
  • Power Mesh: All pockets are strong and stretchy, made with heavy duty 340gm Power Mesh stretch fabric so the vest expands as you need it.

I can confirm that the vest is extremely breathable.  Since we train and race in Florida, this is very important.  The grey material is extremely stretchy but tough, so a lot can be packed into the pockets and pouch.  I haven’t been caught in the rain yet, so I can’t speak on how waterproof the fabric is.  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I can report on that.

bottle

The vest comes with 2, 20-ounce water bottles with a “Kicker Valve.”  Funny thing about the kicker valve is that I didn’t know how they worked when I first got the vest.  Seems you have to pull really hard on the red squishy part until it pops out, then suck and squeeze the bottle.  Kick the red part to one side and it pops back down, creating a leak-proof seal.

bladder

The optional 70 ounce bladder is very nice with a bite valve and fold-over top closure.  I’m a big fan of the fold-over top closure as I find it is easier to fill than the screw on tops and also easier to clean.  You can also unplug the hose, leaving it threaded through the vest for bladder refills.

Negatives:

  1. The hydration bladder is a pain to put in the pack when full although the side zipper really helps.  This really isn’t a big issue for me as I only fill it once before the race and with the additional bottles I have plenty of fluids.  I wouldn’t use the vest for long races +12 hours where I would need to refill the bladder since I don’t think the pack would be large enough to carry the extra gear I would carry.  But, I do like how there is a slot for the bladder and it can be held in place with internal compression cords.
  2. Price.  I think the vest alone is pricey and when you add in the optional hydration bladder (yes, you have to pay for this) then the pack gets down right expensive.  Given the high-end materials, the build quality and the overall form, fit and function of this vest, I think it’s worth it.

I plan on updating this review as I use the vest more.  If anyone has any questions, just post them in the comments section and I’ll update the post.

For now, I am extremely happy with the vest and very glad I waited to get it.

4/24/2014 Update – I have now used the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 2.0 while training for the past 1.5 months and I have used it during 2 adventure races, one was 6 hours long and the other was 10 hours long.  The vest has worked flawlessly and the more I wear it, the more I love it.  So far I haven’t found anything wrong with it at all and it continues to exceed my expectations with regard to comfort and utility.  For the 10 hour race, I strapped my rain jacket to the outside and carried a number of gel packs, cliff bars, and other snacks in the pockets.  I also carried my mobile phone in a waterproof container (safety requirement).  At times I wish the vest was slightly bigger, but then I would just fill it up with stuff I didn’t really need.  The small size makes me keep the contents down to the bare necessities and that makes me lighter and faster.I have yet to refill the internal bladder while racing because between the bladder and the external bottles I have had plenty of fluids.  I imagine that summer races in Florida may drive me to refill the bladder mid race, we’ll see.  So far, I have to conclude that you can not go wrong with this pack.  During the races, I hardly notice that I am wearing the pack.  The fit is perfect and it doesn’t flop around like my CamelBak used to.  I am 5′ 10″, 160lbs, medium build and wear a 38-40 jacket for size reference. I bought a M/L vest.