Had a good commuter run this morning with my Ultimate Direction PB vest. When I was leaving home I didn’t set out to make the load as awkward as possible but I did have my work clothes and waterproof, wallet, phone and dog lead plus a bunch of workbooks / catalogues that I got from Salomon yesterday. Just as I was leaving I spotted a faulty thermarest that one of my friends had asked me to get sorted, instead of leaving that till tomorrow I thought it would make a good test and chucked that in as well.
When I say chucked in, strapped on would be more accurate. The bungees did a good job of keeping the mat on despite it being larger than the pack itself. The weight and poistion of it did make the pack sag down my back but it was still very comfortable.
I originally got he PB 11 Litre vest to try and do the LAMM mountain marathon with but it turned out not to be big enough. The reasons that it couldn’t hold all the contents of my inov8 Elite Extreme 10 pack are;
1. inov Elite Extreme 10 is at least 12 litres
2. The space is broken up into lots of organised bits rather than one big pocket. Good for access but I couldn’t find a decent spot for my tent poles.
So having used my old set up for the LAMM, I was keen to do some miles in the UD pack.
Most vests weight 100 – 250g more than simple lightweight packs but claim to offset that weight penalty by having a lower energy cost to run in (less bounce) and easier access to things whilst still running (less stopping). I agree that there is a whole lot less movement in these packs and it’s actually possible to carry some water on the front straps in silicone bottles. I was always disappointed by the performance of bottles that strapped onto traditional pack straps when running. The longer you run, the more you appreciate the way the pack behaves on your body. I think the energy saving and extra comfort are worth some extra weight.
The pack was really snug, even coping with my odd shaped load and the extra weight hanging off the back. It was very comfortable and I didn’t realise how poorly positioned the load was until I saw the photos. I could adjust the pack to be much better even with this load, but because I don’t know the pack well I couldn’t make those adjustments on the hoof and I still can’t place my hand on all the little pockets when running along either. There are 16 different pockets and sleeves on the PB pack so it takes a while to know them all with a fuddled brain. There are probably a few too many little pockets and loops of elastic on the pack but you cut cut them off once you were sure you didnt need them. However potential weight saving would only be 20g.
Access to food, snacks, water, compass, gloves etc are fine as I use one of the bottle holders as a pocket for larger items whilst keeping the other one for water. The kicker bottles that it came with are good but I really am a fan of the silicone bottles / flasks so use those instead. There is potential to join the 2 sternum straps together and create another net pocket, definitely a refinement that UD could make.
Overall I really like the PB pack and will definitely use it for all long runs. (For mountain marathons I have seen a Salomon vest pack that is 14+3 litres so will get my hands on one of those to test). I think the PB vest is not really 11 litres maybe 9 as it’s probably 3 litres smaller than my inov8 pack. Another bonus of the extra weight of the PB vest over my inov8 pack is that it is feels much more durable. I can see why there are more and more vest packs on the market, they are really good!