Named for ultrarunner and mountain multi-sport adventurer Peter Bakwin, the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 2.0 earns our 2015 Best in Class Award for its comfortable fit, lightweight materials, unbelievable storage capacity and overall versatility in hydration-system options, as well as overall end use.
Fit/Comfort To begin with, the PB Adventure Vest 2.0 is offered in three sizes—S/M, M/L, and XL—thus accommodating a broad variety of body types for both men and women. The fit can further be dialed in with fully adjustable sternum straps and micro-adjustable straps on the sides. Bosomy runners who rarely find packs with dual front bottles to be comfortable loved this pack.
Carrying Capacity It’s hard to convey just how much gear fits inside this otherwise compact, extraordinarily lightweight pack. The zippered pockets alone managed to fit a lightweight jacket, waterproof pants, long-sleeve base layer, running tights, emergency bivy sack, headlamp, extra batteries, first-aid kit, cap, camera, water filter, and ample snacks. External bungee cords allow additional, relatively secure gear-stashing, including an extra jacket and trekking poles.
Function After several months testers are still discovering new features on the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 2.0 every time they go out. Features range from the zippered compartments along the front straps to capacious side pockets to an included whistle. On the rear of the pack, two zippers allow access to the main compartment, with one additional zippered pocket on the outside. Though the side zippers allow easy access to gear, it is a bit easier for items to accidentally spill out of the pack when accessing gear, than would be the case with top zippers. The silicon- and polyurethane-impregnated silnylon fabric does an excellent job repelling water. Even after a couple hours in a light rain, the gear inside the pack remained dry.
Hydration System Ultimate Direction’s signature hydration system is that of individual bottles that sit along front shoulder straps, rather than the more traditional reservoir and hydration-tube system. The benefit of two front bottles is most apparent in ultra-race scenarios, as they make it especially easy for race volunteers to quickly refill bottles at aid stations—even allowing for one bottle for water, and one for electrolyte drink. The 40 oz. of total fluid capacity (without purchasing an additional reservoir) is on the low end of what most packs of this size offer, and less than ideal for long pushes in the desert or high alpine where water sources may be limited. For the comparatively high price of this pack, Ultimate Direction could provide a hydration reservoir, in addition to the bottles, for maximum versatility.
Versatility This is a perfect pack for long, remote adventures in the backcountry when you need to haul along ample food and supplies. Load-compression straps help prevent smaller gear loads from excessive bouncing, allowing it to double as a fine pack for shorter jaunts or races. Although a hydration reservoir is not included, the pack can accommodate up to a 70-oz reservoir for those who prefer that to the included dual 20-ounce bottles. Those who are interested in exploring the increasingly popular crossover between mountaineering and trail running will, no doubt, appreciate the well-placed trekking-pole and ice-axe loops.