Ultimate Direction - AK Vest Review

12th June 2015

Ultimate Direction - AK Vest Review

Since I've been fell running, on any race requiring FRA specification kit (Waterproof tops & bottoms, compass, food, map, gloves & hat) I, like many used the classic bumbag and also like many I've never really known much different. It was just the done thing. Yes, it bobs about a bit, it sometimes slips from side to side, thankfully I've never suffered from gastrointestinal troubles from the waistband constriction, though I do know people who have and I've sometimes wished there was a little more space but on the whole it's done the job it was designed to do. 

The Daewoo Matiz - a perfectly good car that gets you from A - B... it's not the most comfortable, it's a bit cramped, it isn't all that fast, you have to plan any overtaking manouevre 3 years before performing it and well, the Daewoo Matiz is a bit like a bumbag.

This year I've tackled a few longer races and events (Grindleford Gallop 21miles, Yorkshire 3 Peaks 23 miles, training week in Chamonix & Welsh 1000s 21 miles). After using the Daewoo for races 1 and 2 I decided an upgrade might make the experience a little more comfortable and smooth. I spoke with the kind folk at comparethemarket and was told I could upgrade to the Optimus Prime. It would cost a bit more but would, without doubt be more comfortable, practical, speedy and I would never have to worry about overtaking again as I could just blast through the person doing 50 in the fast lane!


Daewoo Matiz or Optimus Prime... No brainer

Ultimate Direction were one of the market leaders in specialist packs for running. Saying goodbye to the standard bladder system, bringing the hydration systems to the front of the body, creating lighter weight yet more durable products and actually thinking about what runners need and how the product will be used when running. I can in all honesty say that using the AK (Anton Krupicka) Vest from Ultimate Direction was an absolute revelation.


The AK Vest is the lowest volume of the 3 UD mens running vests (PB > SJ > AK). The main compartment has a 4L capacity. A stretch mesh has been used on the rear of the main pocket, meaning if you're carrying 1 or more items the mesh compresses tightly on them and prevents any oscillation and bouncing. Bungee cords overlay the mesh for increased compression or quick stowing. 

One of my favourite features are the front loaded water pouches. These really help to spread the weight, reducing the forward lean you often see when someone is carrying a heavier pack (better for running form). Personally, I only used one of these for water, using the Body Bottle Plus, a soft flask with locking bite valve (another piece of kit from UD which is great!). The other I used for carrying gels, making them easy to access and keeping the load distributed nicely. There are 4 other handy stow pockets on the front of the Vest which are all useful. Resting over the chest just below the collar bone are 2 stretch-mesh pockets with velcro tabs, these are ideal for a phone, compass and for me, stashing my used gel wrappers. Beneath the bottle holders are 2 smaller, horizantal velcro tabbed pouches. Although I found a use for these (holding emergency dextrose tablets) I do feel these could potentially be more efficiently used.

Ultimate Direction AK Vest

Photo. Front loading water pouches, 2 stretch mesh pockets.

The materials used with in the vest are fantastic, with out going into lots of detail. A structurally tough yet exceptionally breathable and vented mesh makes up a large portion of the vest (the shoulder straps & back panel. In my eyes there are 2 huge advantages to this, the first being ventilation, keeping you cool and dry. It was 26' in Chamonix when I was testing the vest and was initially concerned having an extra 'layer' on may be a little toastie however I didn't notice any difference between my longer runs with the pack and shorter ones without. Secondly, in the British Climes it is often a bit damp and wet, the mesh doesn't hold any moisture meaning you don't get a heavy pack and you don't get a pack that chafes.

Ultimate Direction AK Vest 2

Photo. Light mesh fabric & amazingly comfortable hems!

All of the edges of the pack have the most soft and plush hems to them, previously I've suffered with rubbing at the top of my traps when running with a pack (hence using the waist pouch) but with the AK I had no trouble at all. I'd put this down to a combination of the quality of material & the well fitted nature of the pack leading to reduced bouncing and movement when running.

Ultimate Direction AK Vest 5

Photo. 3 point of contact hip girdle - gives a great fit for a variety of body shapes.

All I can say is I am really glad I tested the pack before attempting the Mont Blanc Marathon in 2 weeks time, I will be using the AK Vest for the race and for many more races to come.

Any comments are appreciated.




Tech Specs.

Features (Front):

Smart phone compatible pouches (2)
Bottle holsters tighten to carry camera, etc.
Hose loops for optional reservoir routing (3)
Electrolyte or valuables pockets (2)
Super soft VelvetexTM no-chafe binding 

Features (Back):

Bungee cord for extra capacity and compression
Hex Mesh construction for maximum breathability
Side straps for size adjustment
Extra tall mesh pocket to keep items secure
Accommodates an  70 oz. reservoir (sold separately) 

Sizing At Chest (Unisex):

S/M: 23 - 36 in. / 58 - 91 cm
M/L: 32 - 44 in. / 81 - 112 cm
Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear
A vest full of gear will fit smaller


Volume Capacity: 244 in3 / 4L
Fluid Capacity: 2 x 20 oz. bottles / 2 x 591 mL (plus optional reservoir)
Weight: 7 oz. (12.5 oz. with bottles) / 198 g (354 g with bottles)
Height: 12 in. / 30 cm
Width: 9 in. / 23 cm


Hex Mesh: The Hex Mesh vest structure is completely breathable, extrememly strong, and lightweight. Its inability to absorb moisture results in a drier, more comfortable wear.
Power Mesh: All pockets are strong and stretch, made with 340gm Power Mesh stretch fabric so the vest expands as you need it to.





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