Ultimate Direction Jurek FKT Vest Review

Ultimate Direction continues to push innovation with the UD Jurek FKT Vest.  This running pack has a minimalist design with the ability to carry all your gear for an extended run or race.  I’ve been training and racing with the UD Jurek FKT Vest over the past five months to really get an understanding of how the pack holds up to not only a few long runs and races, but hundreds of trail miles.

The Jurek FKT Vest was designed with FKT’s in mind, but we all know that 99% of us aren’t capturing any FKT’s in the near future. The main goal for most of us is to have a running pack that stores everything we need while fitting comfortable.

One thing that we are starting to see in the UD lineup is the popularity of bottles up front.  When this design first came out, I thought to myself that is a ton of water when you include a full 1-3 liter reservoir in the main pack compartment.  What I’ve come to find out is that I’m starting to partially fill the reservoir and use the 16 oz bottles up front to fill up at aid stations.  I’ve also tried a new tactic of only using two 16 oz up front water bottles and not filling the bottles in The North Face Endurance Challenge Wisconsin 50 miler.

Running with Only Bottles Up Front

Through this test with the Jurek FKT Vest, I kept a 1.5L reservoir in my pack in case the idea failed, but I never had to get out the reservoir.  The reason I tested this was through volunteering at aid stations for races.  It’s a lot easier for aid stations to fill up your bottles than taking off your pack and messing around with your reservoir.  When you’re running longer races such as 50m, 100k, 100m with a lots of aid stations, this could equate to a couple extra minutes at each aid station.  Multiply that by 10-30 aid stations and it could add up to 30-60 minutes of time.  While I’m not winning races, 30-60 minutes can really make a difference in a long race for me.  Note, when running the TNF Endurance Challenge in Wisconsin, they had aid stations approximately every 5 miles which made it easier to use the bottles as I didn’t have any long stretches without access to water.

Another benefit I’ve found in using the two upfront bottle system is that you can put SkratchTailwind (often used in endurance races at aid stations), Hammer, etc. in one bottle and water in the other.  This comes in handy when you get a little tired of your drink formula.

UD FlexForm Bottles

UD Water Bottle

The new 16 oz FlexForm bottles that come with the vest work a little better than traditional round water bottles with regards to the overall fit.  With more surface contact with your chest, the bottles stay put.  UD changed out their nipple on their water bottles which is a big win in my book.  You still have to squeeze pretty hard to get the water out, but they don’t leak like the old nipple designs from UD.  I’d still like to see a traditional water bottle nipple with a regular open and close feature.  When running longer distances, you want to conserve your energy and squeezing these bottles so hard to get water out is unnecessary.  The features I like best about the bottles is that they allow for your fingers to wrap around the bottle with a natural grip.  The screw on top also has a notch that allows you to hold on to the bottle with ease when not using the Jurek FKT Vest.

UD Jurek FKT Vest Storage

The storage on the Jurek FKT Vest is just right for most long distance runs. There is a ton of storage along the two front side pockets that fall just below your rib cage.  There is plenty of room to store an iPhone 7 with a case, gels, salt tabs, and more.  The pockets use a stretchy fabric which makes them great for cramming in lots of food.  I tend to pick up a gel packet or two at most aid stations whether I need them at that point or not, which makes the extra storage nice.

UD FKT Storage

There’s an extra mesh pocket that sits just outside the up front water bottle pockets, which is ideal for stashing gels and even a cell phone.  I typically stash my cell phone on one side for easy access and gel blocks on the other side.  There are a couple other pockets on one side that are designed to store smaller items such as salt tabs, but I find them not as easy to access and I would rather use the larger pockets for these items.  For the super organized person, these pockets will keep everything nice and tidy. On the other side of the vest, there are two pockets up front, one larger zippered pocket that can hold a phone snugly, and a stretch pocket that is good for holding sunglasses or a headlamp when you’re transitioning between day and night or vice versa.

The back of Jurek FKT Vest has a main compartment that can hold up to 2 liters of water, but 3 liter reservoirs tend to overstuff this section.  There is a sleeve for your reservoir to keep it separate from other items you put in this area.  There’s also a hook to hang your reservoir from at the top of this compartment, allowing your reservoir to flow freely.  Each shoulder strap allows for you to put your reservoir hose through, so depending on your preference of having it on the left or right, you’re all set.

To keep a jacket and clothing available during your run, there is a bungee system on the outside of the pack that is great to store a small insulated jacket or rain jacket.  There are also straps to store trekking poles for those longer high altitude adventures.

Durability of the Pack

As I mentioned above, I’ve put this pack through some abuse and used it for hundreds of miles between spring, summer and fall. I found the edge of the shoulder strap section to begin to pile up, but it’s more cosmetic that reducing functionality.  I have one snag in a mesh pocket with a small tear, most likely from a tree branch, but it hasn’t spread or ripped open.  Overall, I’ve found the durability of this pack to be great considering the abuse I’ve put it through so far.

Little Things that Count

UD didn’t spare any expense when designing this pack and you can tell they thought of every little detail.  A couple features that stick to out to me are reflective features on both the front and rear of the pack, allowing you to be visible while running in the dark.

One Tiny Downside

The one tiny downside to this pack is that there is a sharp piece of plastic that is used for keep the chest straps in place.  The sharpness makes it easy to loop it through the various sizing options, but it has potential to poke you when you’re not expecting it to.  Not a big deal to me, but I noticed it while running and it caught me off guard.

Sizing of the Jurek FKT Vest

UD FKT Vest Sizing

I typically wear a size large in vest, but had to return the size large and go for a medium in the Jurek FKT Vest.  I am 6’0 tall and 170 pounds.  I have somewhat broad shoulders and I am a little chesty, which is why I go with a large in most cases.  In the Jurek FKT Vest, I couldn’t get the pack to fit tight enough and it was always loose while running.  As soon as I sized down to a medium, I found it to be a perfect fit.  If you find yourself in between, I recommend sizing down.

Final Thoughts

The Ultimate Direction Jurek FKT Vest was extremely well thought out for the trail running running 15-100 miles at a time.  The pack is lightweight, has a slim profile and gives you all the storage options you could wish for in a running pack.  This has quickly become my go to running pack and I highly recommend the Jurek FKT Vest by UD. For more information visit www.ultimatedirection.com

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