The Ultimate Direction FKT Vest is new for 2019 tested and developed with inspiration from Pete Bakwin of fastestknowntime.com. The UD FKT vest is a half way house between an ultralight pack and a running vest. With a stated capacity of 18 litres you can carry sufficient equipment or supplies for long days in the mountains and even overnight trips if you stay in huts or are prepared to par kit down to a miserable minimum!
The UD FKT vest consists of a roll top rear pack secured with mini clip buckles attached to a cord compression system that compresses the sides and effectively snugs the pack against your torso. An additional independent compression system allows you to affix jackets etc. easily to the outside. I experienced no issues with bounce once I had dialled in the fit using the adjustable ‘T’ hooks on the vest harness. Sandwiched on the outside of the pack is a large stretch pocket that can accommodate waterproofs and other clothing that requires quick access or even a small tarp/bivi bag. It also makes a great place to stash poles and kit if you are pacing or supporting a runner during an event or challenge. Additionally there is a small zippered pocket with key clip that works well for a wallet, keys or other valuables – even a phone if you don’t need quick access to it. Two ice axe loops round out the features on the rear opening up the possibility of using the UD FKT for jaunts above the snow-line though I think it unlikely that you would normally use this pack anywhere where double axes were required so two loops seems a bit of overkill. At the front there are two small stretch pockets low down suitable for gels, a small gel flask an energy bar but not much more. On the right upper chest there is a stretch bottle pocket complete with UD’s own Flexform 600 bottle. On the left there is a clever gusseted zip pocket that can accommodate a soft flask, more food or a phone etc. securely. Behind this there is a thin ‘slip’ pocket that can hold an energy bar, a cut down map or route card. Finally there are removable pouches on each shoulder designed to hold a personal locater beacon or tracker (to verify that FKT you’ve just beasted yourself on!) one of which has a small hole to allow the aerial of something like a Garmin InReach to exit. There are also UD’s brilliant pole holders on either side of the front pocket set up. Fastening with a press stud these straps are a joy to use and simplify stashing poles no end. Fit wise there are side pull straps that attach with a T hook arrangement so you can adjust the height at which they fix to the shoulder strap. It is worth experimenting a bit with these as it took me a couple of outings to get the fit dialled for no bounce ride but once done it’s you’re sorted. The strap tension can be adjusted on the fly and you may well want to cut the straps down a bit once you’ve dialled your fit especially if you are at the smaller end of the size scale (I’m 5’8″ and 36″ chest) as they are pretty long!
The UD FKT vest was not designed as a race vest and is more a mini pack/vest hybrid. I’ll start with the ‘not so good’ surprises. The lower front stretch stash pockets are very limited – far more so than any other running vest I’ve used and access is made tricky when the bottle (less so if you swap out for a soft flask) and utility pockets are full. I found the Flexform 600 bottle more awkward to drink from than the standard Hydrapak soft bottles, you can just about drink from it without removing (there’s no extension straw option) but it also tends to ‘vacuum’ seal and is not so easy to handle especially in small hands. I managed to ‘cross thread’ the lid three times, allowing leakage, when refilling – now this is obviously user error but I’ve never done that with any other bottle I’ve used so I’m not convinced the design is idiot proof enough for stress-full situations. All this was solved by just swapping in a Hydrapak 600ml softflask. Thankfully the positives far outweigh the problems. The utility pocket is brilliant though it does mean you have to choose between food etc. storage or an extra softflask. Used for storage you can cram loads in there; smartphone, 4 energy bars, gels etc. zip them securely away yet easily access them without fear of dropping anything on the go. UD’s pole holders are the best I’ve used, simple, quick and secure. The tracker/locater beacon pouches are threaded onto webbing straps that fasten via a press stud high on the shoulder straps. I used these mainly for additional food storage – it strikes me that being detachable it would be better to have just the one and ramp up accessible storage at the front by perhaps having another set of stretch pockets. The back of the pack is excellent storage, compression and accessibility work brilliantly. You can carry a bladder in the internal slip pocket to give more liquid capacity (given the front carrying limitations). The main pocket can contain enough for an overnight stay and the outside stretch pocket works fantastically for rapid access to waterproofs – especially if you are acting as a pacer/pack mule for a friend! As I have already mentioned the two part compression retention system snugs everything down superbly.
Overall the UD FKT vest makes a great companion for those longer challenges or even fast-packing type excursions. I would prefer a bit more ‘on the go’ access for food/buff/gloves/map/compass as per some of the other running vests aimed more toward race wear but some of that will come down to personal preference.
- Versatile and ample storage
- Great build quality
- Good ‘carry’ (once you dial in the fit)
- Slightly limited ‘on the go’ capacity (especially if you go double bottle)
- Fiddly bottle
Disclaimer – CGR reviewers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene reasons and more often they’re in no fit state to return!