I’m proud to be an ambassador for Ultimate Direction, especially since my outdoor adventures tend to defy easy categorization. I initially met Buzz Burrell, then Brand Manager of UD in 2014 on Longs Peak while completing the Longs Peak Radical Slam (which I’ve now done a few more times). Turned out, he was doing the same thing! Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t keep up with his pace on that day.
Luckily, Buzz found my Tour 14er trip I completed a few months later inspiring enough to invite me to become an ambassador for UD. Ultimate Direction is a local company to me, based only a few miles from my house – close enough that I’m always happy to stop by, say hello, give my feedback on products, and pet all the office dogs. Here’s a list of the UD gear that I love the most:
With all the light and fast missions I do, it makes sense that I have accumulated a stable of Fastpacks. I enjoy working with UD’s pack designers in help making these products even better, with my feedback and abuse on (and off) the trail.
All the Fastpacks feature shoulder straps that share many of the design elements of UD’s running vest collection: lightweight yet strong straps with a wide and shallow profile made of a breathable material, copious amounts of storage space up front for water bottles/flasks and cell phones, and smaller pockets for things like snacks, keys, and other important items you would like immediate access to. All except the 15 have trekking pole loops, which work great to stow your poles.
The packs themselves feature one giant storage area, with a rolltop, a smaller zipper accessory pocket, and a few mesh pockets on the outside.
The big difference between the 45, 35, and 25 models is storage space. 45 is probably larger than you would want for fastpacking; 25 is best for 1-3 days, 35 for 3+ days. 15 works well for a variety of duties: when your running vest is too small for the day at hand, run commuting, and laptop shuttling to and from coffee shops.
The pack I used for my 6+ day Sangres Traverse (see my entire gear list for the trip, here). It’s a big pack for the running vest/no hip belt design, so it would be best to carry bulky items, like warm clothes or sleeping bags. I also use it as a daily driver for going to the gym and picking up groceries!
The pack I used during my two month Tour of the Highest Hundred trip for all the fastpacking legs including the Weminuche, Crestones, Sierra Blanca, Snowmass Group, and San Luis Group. Trips were up to 5 days+.
One of the features that made me pick this pack was it’s stow-ability. The back pad can be removed, and the rest of the pack can be stuffed within itself and smooshed in another bag. This was very important, as I was wholly traveling by back and space was at a premium. The pack was also just large enough to fit my entire sleep system.
This pack is perfect for riding to the coffee shop, with my laptop in tow. Enough pockets and storage space for work accessories and for bringing back discounted day-old goods!
This Fastpack does perform. I’ve selected to take up Longs Peak multiple times.
For my last Nolans attempt, every minute counted, and I thoughtfully considered all the gear I would bring. From all my recon trips, it became apparent that there were many opportunities to legitimately run the route (where I usually am on terrain too technical to move that fast), and I wanted a pack that would allow me to move that swiftly.
You can think of the FKT Vest as having the fit and feel of a running vest, but the capacity of a Fastpack. This is what you want for an all day, unsupported mission over 30+ miles, where you won’t be stopping to bivy. If I was to do the Tour 14er again (and OH: just give me an excuse!), this is the only pack I’d use.
FK Tarp + FK Bivy
The FK Tarp + Bivy combo is a system I’ve selected for many large projects, including the Tour of the Highest Hundred, where I essentially lived underneath this tarp and in this bivvy for two months. I’ve also brought the tarp with me while guiding in the Sierra and in RMNP.
The tarp itself is made of strong, waterproof, and lightweight materials and can be set up using two trekking poles and a few stakes (stakes included). I’ve put it up solo many times. If you’re bikepacking and won’t be bringing trekking poles, there is even a bike conversion kit available.
The bivy is extremely lightweight, with a waterproof bottom and extremely breathable top. Bug net keeps mosquitoes out, while also being out of your face. See my rundown of my sleep system for the Tour of the Highest Hundred for a rundown on how I put everything together.
SCRAM + All Mountain
SCRAM is a large-capacity running vest, made of tough materials, and thoughtful design to allow it to meet many needs. It is like the designers saw how tough I am with gear, and redesigned a bulletproof running vest just for me. See my entire review on the SCRAM.
All Mountain is similar to the SCRAM, but is certainly it’s bigger sister: much more storage space in the main compartment, as well as the top zippered pocket. One big change is that the entire main compartment can be accessed by zippering off the back! This is the pack I used during our Flatiron Top Ten in a Day project.
Utility Belt may win for the best running accessory UD puts out. If you like instant access to your gear like you can have with the shoulder strap pockets, the Utility Belt essentially extends that ability. On short runs, may be all you’ll need to carry. It interfaces well with the Fastpacks, and I find it valuable to bring as it can minimize the time I take off, and put on my heavier pack.
What’s the difference between the FKT vest and the 4.0 mountain and adventure vests? They all seem to be similar in capacity, similar features, similar fit. I can see how the Scram and All-Mountain stand out but not sure how some of those large running vests match up to each other.
For reference I mostly use one of the older Bakwin 2.0 adventure vests now but might be looking for a new one for this coming summer.
Good question. My first UD vest with the BP v2 as well. I feel that the FKT Vest is the spiritual successor to the BP v2, just with a lot more storage capacity. If you look, the FKT Vest has a roll top that can help you stuff a whole bunch more stuff in the main compartment. I find it’s easier to compress stuff by rolling that down, rather than trying to zip up the PB Vest.
The FKT Vest also has two small pockets on the top of the shoulder straps. One is designed specifically for something like a inReach (or inReach mini), which is handy. I use the other one for my asthma inhaler, personally.
What you lose in the FKT Vest are the side pockets. Instead, there’s a much more customizable strap system to cinch down the fit.
Kinda think of the FKT Vest as 1/3 fastpack, 2/3rds PB Adventure Vest.