The Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest was designed by Anton Krupicka— hence his initials in the product name. Anton has won numerous 100-mile and 50-mile races, so his pack is likely just what you need for your weekend trail runs or summit pushes after work. The pack sports twin water bottle pockets, a main compartment for gear or a reservoir, four smaller pockets, and a power net mesh that expands out to 4 liters for storing miscellaneous gear, like a windbreaker or a warming layer. Seattle Backpackers Magazine sat down with Chad Lauterbach, ultra and trail runner from Los Angeles, to get his opinion on this award-winning vest.
What were your initial thoughts about the vest?
It was a totally different experience. I had been using hydration packs, so I was used to wearing something, but with those packs the weight was on my back rather than in front. I would not describe it as better or worse… just different. I loved the quick access to everything right away. That’s the best part— you don’t need to stop to get to everything you’ve brought along. I liked the style and weight, too.
In your opinion, where do you see this vest being useful?
This vest is great for both long training runs and races. I have found myself just heading out with one of the bottles (the Ultimate Direction bottles are awesome) for 1.5-2.5 hour efforts and not actually adding the vest until I am out longer than 2.5 hours. The vest does add some bulk and, if you do not need to carry more than a few gels and one bottle, it’s a bit overkill. That being said, this thing rocks for those longer runs. Lots of pockets make it easy to access stuff. The rear zipper pockets are a bit tough to access when running, but it can be done. They end up being an ideal place for keys, cash, ID, etc. that you take for safety but won’t likely need until you’re back at the car or home.
- Easy access to the storage compartments for gels, bars, keys, ID, cash, etc.
- Surprising capacity for how small and light it is.
- Designed for the impressive UD water bottles, but it can support others.
- Weighing in at 6 ounces empty, this vest is crazy light.
- The ability to carry a reservoir makes the AK Race Vest great for a variety of workouts, training runs, and races.
- There is not a lot of room for full day unsupported adventures. My longest efforts were under four hours, so ten or so gels and two 16 oz. water bottles was plenty. For longer runs, you would have to get creative with the storage space to carry enough fuel and water, unless of course you are on a supported course with resupplies every few hours.
- I had a bit of discomfort over my chest. There is some hard material in the straps that got a bit uncomfortable over the course of a long effort, but probably less uncomfortable than my legs.
Who is this vest designed for?
With the AK name on it, there is no doubt it’s marketed to trail runners and ultra-marathoners. However, it would be a great mountain racing or day hiking vest as well. You could shed a lot of weight on day hike efforts and probably summit faster and easier.
Any final thoughts or comments?
I have a 50k coming up that I will be wearing the AK Vest on. I will certainly need the full water-carrying capabilities that the vest offers on this race. The AK Vest is over ½ a pound lighter than my other ultra packs, too. Earlier this season, I didn’t wear it during a race and the extra weight from carrying my other race pack really hurt my performance. I am looking forward to the performance gains that having the AK Vest will afford me while still allowing me to carry enough water and fuel to stay competitive.Manufacturer: Ultimate Direction Date available: Currently Available MSRP: $89.95 Listed Weight: 6 ounces Materials: Power and Hex Mesh