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Ultimate Direction SJ Vest Review
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Aaron Lehoux
(aaronjayl)

Locale: Southern Maine
Ultimate Direction SJ Vest Review on 12/04/2012 12:59:42 MST Print View

Well, more like initial thoughts for now. I'm sure given the nature of this vest that some members here would be interested in it, but there isn't much info available at all since it just hit stores. For those unfamiliar with the SJ vest, here's a link for more info:

http://ultimatedirection.com/p-601-sj-ultra-vest.aspx?category=signature-series

My first impressions...

Fit and finish:
This vest is very well made. While only time will tell, the materials and stitching feel like they will hold up over time. The mesh breathes really well and the soft trim seems to be about as chafe free as is possible. Much better than the Osprey and Camelbak packs I have tried in the past.

Weight:
On the scales, the vest itself weights 8oz (LG) and each bottle is 2.75oz for a combined weight of 13.5oz with both bottles.

Sizing:
I have a 40" chest and UD says a size large is for 36" - 44" chest. That said, while I haven't tried on a medium, I couldn't imagine the large being too good for any smaller of a chest. Loaded to max and tightened all the way it is just right on me. With a t-shirt on, there is just enough space to fit one hand underneath with my chest fully expanded. Of course, fit is purely subjective though, but if you're in the 36" - 39" range I would recommend trying both the medium and the large to see which works best for you.

Storage:
This thing can fit a TON! I couldn't believe how much I could fit in this and how versatile the storage options are. All compartments, with the exception of the very back main compartments, are very easily accessible with the vest on, from the side pouches to a jacket in the rear bungees. The hydration bladder area in the main compartment would not accommodate either a Camelbak or Osprey 3L bladder as it is too short. A 2L should fit fine, but I don't own one to confirm this. I stuck a .9L Evernew un-bottle in instead and it was a great match. Due to the profile of these, I'm sure I could fit two of these full in the back should I be going to an area with limited water resources, which would give about 3L total with the 2 UD bottles. There are small pockets everywhere to stash gels, bars, or whatever snacks/supplement you may want to take with you.

First Run:
This is my "off" day, but I had to try it out. Loaded it up with 3 full bottles, jacket, gels, phone, wind pants, spare layer, etc. The vest felt very well balanced. There was very little bounce. As I mentioned with the sizing though, if I were any smaller, it feels like it would shift a little.

So these are just my quick initial impressions. For now, the only nitpick I have is with the cell phone pockets. It is a little on the small side. I have an iPhone 4s that I have in an Otterbox Defender case. It will not fit in the pocket with the case. The opening is a little bigger than the phone itself without a case. The primary issue though is with the depth. To secure the pocket with the velcro closure, my phone really needs to be stuffed down in. Since the pocket mesh is elastic, should that velcro come undone, there is definite concern about the phone getting ejected while running or when taking off the vest. I will just have to keep a close eye on this in the future. Anyway, these are just my initial thoughts for now and I will update this after I get to take it out for a "real" run in the mountains next Monday.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Ultimate Direction SJ Vest Review on 12/04/2012 14:03:06 MST Print View

thanks for your initial review.
I have been waiting for this pack to become available for over 2 months and am just about to order one.

my main interest is how the shoulder water bottle holders work and feel.
I currently run with 2 handhelds but want to try changing my running system a bit.
I do not use bladders so would just use that space as extra pack space, or possibly a third bottle if need be.

Aaron Lehoux
(aaronjayl)

Locale: Southern Maine
Same here on 12/04/2012 17:35:51 MST Print View

I had been itching for one for a couple months as well. I put in a pre-order with Running Warehouse as soon as they announced they would be carrying it.

The shoulder holder pockets work much better than I thought they would. The front and bottom of the pockets are pretty stiff and hold the bottles very securely. The whole system is very well balanced between front and back. I had been a bladder user for a long time until I started mountain running more this year. I had a few times where having the weight all on my back threw my balance off on more technical downhills. While I haven't had a chance to try out the SJ in those same circumstances, I did some quick drills and found the weight distribution of water in the front and gear in the back allowed for a better center of gravity. One thing I will make note of is this probably isn't the best option for those that are annoyed by the sound of sloshing water.

Buzz Burrell
(BBolder) - F
re: Ultimate Direction SJ Vest Review on 12/13/2012 08:27:17 MST Print View

Glad you got a vest to try - they sold out the first day.

A few notes:

1. The SJ Ultra Vest was designed by Scott Jurek. The 7-time winner of the Western States 100 is extremely particular about everything he does - especially gear that will have his signature on it.

2. It is extremely lightweight but with a pile of features - such a careful design and takes time to figure out. Scott explains some of how his vest works in a video: http://www.ultimatedirection.com/c-signature-series.aspx

3. For example, an ice axe and trekking poles can be carried, but it's not immediately apparent how.

4. For BPL, note Peter Bakwin's Adventure Vest - it is larger and more robust (I've carried a rappel cord in it) - while built on the same principals of no-bounce design and easy access to fluids.

Ed Tyanich
(runsmtns) - F - M
Ultimate PB Vest on 12/13/2012 08:33:12 MST Print View

Buzz,

I got one of the PB Vests and really like it. Very good design and I have only made one mod so far :)

What I'd really like to UD do is come out with a big version of the PB, say 3000 - 3500 ci for multi day adventures.

Mike Schasch
(MSchasch) - F
AK vest on 12/13/2012 13:07:07 MST Print View

I love this vest. Probably one of the most genius/high tech things I own, and thats saying something. I've been using mine to do my runs up my favorite Zion peak: North Guardian Angel as well as other trail runs. Really can't wait to do trans Zion in it, just got to convince my IT band its a good idea.

Stoked on:

-design - the closures, cuben fiber, line locks, just enough space for everything I could need
-movement - there isn't much, I REALLY love using some small 10oz bottles instead of the 20oz, can't feel the vest at all by that point

Not as stoked on:

-as others have mentioned I had a water bottle drawstring come out, luckily my girlfriend was able to retie it. Should be an easy fix on UD's end.
-cell phone pocket really isn't big enough for most phones. Mine might be one of the smallest smart phones out there and it requires some work to fit it in, especially while running. Probably best to use those pockets for something else.
-its really difficult to get into those side zipper pockets while wearing the vest

All in all I'd give it a 9/10, the cons are pretty much just minor annoyances.

C Nugget
(nuggetwn)

Locale: Pacific Northwest
PB & SK vests on 12/13/2012 13:45:57 MST Print View

Hey thanks for posting the info.. I've been keeping my eye on these and would love to hear how they hold up with some wear and tear. Those of you with the vests, if you can keep the info coming that would be awesome thanks. :)

On the PB, I was wondering how you like the single pull bungee compressors?

Thanks!!

Buzz Burrell
(BBolder) - F
re: AK Race Vest on 12/13/2012 14:56:21 MST Print View

Mike: Thank you for mentioning North Guardian Angel - fond memories help fight mid-winter blahs - I hope you also enjoy the NGA-SGA linkup (or the Quinfecta: NGA, SGA, the two Northgates, and Pine Valley Peak :-)

You are correct - the bungee cord is prone to pulling out of the bottle holster - sorry about that. The factory has acknowledged the error (they tied a knot instead of stitching as instructed) - it's been corrected for the 2nd production run. At the risk of divulging more problems, I should say it's also possible the tab will come off the zipper pulls - they made a mistake there also - got caught and corrected halfway thru the 2nd production run.

IMO, one of the biggest advantages of these vests is also their biggest potential drawback: they are vests. Which means they are intrinsically far more comfortable with less bounce than anything else. But it also means they have to fit. The old "sack-on-your-back-with-a-bunch-of-straps" concept stayed dominant in the marketplace for decades not because it worked well - it never did for high movement activities - but because it's much easier for the manufacturer to design, to bring to market, and to make money on. Vests have instant appeal to the discriminating user, while the occasional user (most of the market) might not get it.

Mike Schasch
(MSchasch) - F
quinfecta on 12/13/2012 15:23:27 MST Print View

Nice Buzz, its about to snow here in Toquerville, so the Kolob Terrace area might get shut down for the season real soon. I like the five peaks idea a whole lot better than the zironman traverse haha. Curious if you used ropes for pine valley peak or not, would love to find a scramble-able route up that beauty.

C Nugget
(nuggetwn)

Locale: Pacific Northwest
vest fit on 12/13/2012 17:07:17 MST Print View

Thanks Buzz for the on going info on these packs. It's good to know that Ultimate Direction is continuing to tweak things for the better. I think it's good to know what to expect(flaws and all) before buying, instead of being surprised post purchase by a well known but unacknowledged issue.

I am curious how the fit is on various women's body types. I have watched the sizing video but still feel undecided on fit. I have an hour glass shape & short torso. I really think the side v straps on the AK vest have real potential for great adjustment. How are the front vest straps placement width wise?(men generally have wider shoulders) Would narrow shoulders be a factor in a good fit? The other thought was the placement of the water bottles in the chest area and how that works out for various females on all of the vests?

:)

Edited by nuggetwn on 12/13/2012 17:10:31 MST.

Russell S
(HikingMano)

Locale: Bay Area
Thanks on 12/13/2012 20:37:12 MST Print View

Thanks to all who have vests already and are posting their insight. I've had an eye on these as well, and I'm planning to pick up the AK for trail runs and the PB or SJ for day-hikes with run potential. Looks like a great product.

Edited by HikingMano on 12/13/2012 20:38:40 MST.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
UD signature on 12/13/2012 21:51:41 MST Print View

I had signed up for the email notification for their new signature series, was out of town and the email came a day earlier- went to the site to order one (AK) and they were out already :(

Hopefully a few more will be built than round 1

Patrick Matte
(JPMatte)

Locale: N. Georgia
PB adventure Vest on 12/14/2012 07:31:26 MST Print View

Yup... their email alert thing was a bit disappointing. I just happened to cruse their site. Shipping was another big ol' pain but it was delivered. Unfortunately I was only able to run a short 5.5 trail run with a little gear thrown into it,( became sick shortly thereafter and waiting this infection out.)
I did not know what to expect but overall it was NOT cumbersome,bothersome,irritating,ect.. Just different to have the bottles where they are at.One lid did leak but maybe I can't screw a lid on correctly. My goal is to use this for a hike around Mt. Rainer. and overnights and so forth.Now I just have to choose the correct gear.

Aaron Lehoux
(aaronjayl)

Locale: Southern Maine
Thanks Buzz on 12/15/2012 14:15:06 MST Print View

Hi Buzz,

Thanks for chiming in :) Sorry I have not updated my review as of yet. Life's been a little crazy with everything lately. So far the vest is awesome! The cell phone pocket still worries me, but I have had no issues otherwise. I'll post a more thorough review when I get time to sit down and catch my breath.

Aaron

Russell S
(HikingMano)

Locale: Bay Area
All 3 back in stock on 01/10/2013 11:30:50 MST Print View

Just a heads up in case folks aren't email subscribers, Ulitmate Direction has all 3 vests back in stock.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
AK on 01/10/2013 13:10:36 MST Print View

looks like only S/M in the AK :(

they must be making a dozen at a time, not sure that's the best model when selling things :)

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: AK on 01/10/2013 13:19:11 MST Print View

Mike - scarcity breeds demand. same reason people (most people) love to stand in lines.

the AK is too small for my purposes, I'm trying to decide between SJ and PB.

Russell S
(HikingMano)

Locale: Bay Area
Re: AK on 01/10/2013 13:55:40 MST Print View

Wow, they went fast. They were there this morning when I looked through. I'm hoping a M/L PB will be around when I have funds to order one in Feb. I have a local store that sells these too, so perhaps I'll could have some luck there as well.

The cuben-backed main compartment of the PB is one selling point for me vs. the completely mesh-backed main compartment of the SJ. I could use a liner to protect against rain, rain-run-off, and sweat... but not having to use one for anything but being out in a sustained downpour is a plus. I'm hoping I can pull off some minimal overnighters in the PB.

Edited by HikingMano on 01/10/2013 13:59:55 MST.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Re: Re: AK on 01/10/2013 16:17:40 MST Print View

I don't quite understand how this happened (maybe because I called and was pissed :)), but just went back to the same page and now shows they have both (S/M & M/L) so just ordered a M/L- hopefully I don't get an email saying that they messed up and don't have them

if I actually get one, I'll post up a review

Russell S
(HikingMano)

Locale: Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: AK on 01/10/2013 17:49:19 MST Print View

Good luck!