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Ultimate Direction Jurek FKT Review

This is one of the most comfortable and versatile vests we tested. The gear capacity is off the charts.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $140 List | $89.94 at Amazon
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Pros:  Storage, stable, pockets within reach, versatile, comfortable, breathable
Cons:  Bulky, heavy
Manufacturer:   Ultimate Direction
By Brian Martin ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 20, 2018
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92
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 11
  • Comfort - 30% 9
  • Features - 15% 10
  • Hydration System - 15% 9
  • Storage Capacity - 15% 10
  • Pockets - 15% 10
  • Weight - 10% 6

Our Verdict

In every category we tested, the Ultimate Direction Jurek FKT performed at or near the top. It has an insane amount of storage; everything is a pocket, a two-liter water bladder fits easily, and you could potentially sneak in a 2.5 or 3 if you're crazy. While wearing this model, there are no less than twelve pockets within reach, allowing you to go longer without having to take the vest off and reload from the less accessible pockets on the back. While it was just barely beaten by the Salomon ADV Skin 12, it's still an excellent buy. While the Salomon likely has larger appeal, the Jurek is our Top Pick for running day-long, unsupported missions.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

This workhorse of a vest is modeled after the SJ Signature Series 2.0 through years of testing, design, and more testing with the man, Scott Jurek, himself. The pro input and thoroughbred pedigree have certainly paid off. The result of this collaboration is a comfortable, versatile, and highly featured running vest giving you a functional and convenient option for multi-day FKTs.

Some of the highlights of this vest include its massive storage capacity including space for an added 2-liter water bladder, a broad range of fit adjustment within each of the three available sizes, and a highly organized pocket layout.

Performance Comparison


Any time we needed an excessive amount of food  water  and equipment  the FKT was our top choice.
Any time we needed an excessive amount of food, water, and equipment, the FKT was our top choice.

Comfort


Comfort is essential when choosing a running vest. While this model has considerable water, equipment, and food capacity, Ultimate Direction made the necessary adjustments to haul that weight comfortably. The shoulders are wider, spreading weight over a large area as well as the underarm side panels. We also found plenty of clearance for our arms as we ran, and didn't find any uncomfortable rubbing/chaffing.


The chest strap system allows you to move each of the two straps up and down independently but also don't allow for any movement on their own. The underarm panels disguise side adjustments that further enable you to fine-tune the fit. All this combines to make a run as comfortable as possible with very little bounce in the vest even when loaded.

The easily adjustable chest clip rails made for a pleasant fit alteration. We could move all four clips in just a few minutes.
Hidden adjustable side straps allow you to dial in the fit. Wide shoulder straps and easily adjustable chest straps make for a totally custom fit.

Features and Design


It's no wonder this jacket was born from prolonged days of effort. The FKT or (Fastest Known Time) of the Appalachian trail was once held by the designer Scott Jurek. The value of having an extreme level of organization when the going gets tough is higher than you might imagine.


When you're tired from days of effort, you want to know right where each piece of equipment, food, and kit are, as the frustration of pulling everything out onto the ground to find your last Honey Stinger could be the last straw.

Once you really get to know this vest  you will be amazed at how detailed the design is. Everything has a purpose.
Once you really get to know this vest, you will be amazed at how detailed the design is. Everything has a purpose.

Everything on this vest has a purpose. The large compartment on the back, for example, has a zipper the full length. Yes, you could have a short zipper and store all of the same things, but the amount of rummaging you have to do is significantly reduced when you can unzip and reveal the entire internals of the vest.

The main compartment is equipped with a zipper running the full length of the right side. This means you can lay the vest open and find what you're looking for without having to rummage blindly.
The main compartment is equipped with a zipper running the full length of the right side. This means you can lay the vest open and find what you're looking for without having to rummage blindly.

Bungee straps allow you to haul running poles as well as strap on even more equipment. The design and extra features of this vest are numerous, and none of them feel superfluous or unwanted.

Hydration System


This is our only frustration with this vest, though the frustration is mitigated as the vest can adapt however you want. Hard water bottles are a blast from the past. Yes, they fill up easier, but they're heavier and take up the same amount of space when full as empty.

Of the front pocket bottles tested  the Salomon was by far the lightest and easiest to load into the vest  both of the Ultimate Direction bottles proved to be a bit clunky. Left to right  UD Soft flask - 51g  Salomon Flask - 32g  UD Hard Bottle - 81g.
Of the front pocket bottles tested, the Salomon was by far the lightest and easiest to load into the vest, both of the Ultimate Direction bottles proved to be a bit clunky. Left to right, UD Soft flask - 51g, Salomon Flask - 32g, UD Hard Bottle - 81g.


The saving grace of the hydration system is the ability to add a 2-liter hydration bladder without compromising much of the storage capacity of the vest. Other vests that boast a 12-liter storage capacity would lose a lot of that capacity along with increasing bounce and discomfort by adding a water bladder. Adding the extra weight of a water bladder didn't alter the high level of comfort on the Jurek FKT, and we still had a crazy amount of storage.

If you didn't get the fit adjustments just right  the full hard bottles could clang around a bit.
If you didn't get the fit adjustments just right, the full hard bottles could clang around a bit.

Storage Capacity


Of all vests tested, the FKT is the best equipped with storage space and a high level of comfort when that space gets loaded down. A few other vests could hold a fair amount of equipment, food, and water, but when completely stuffed to the gills, they just weren't comfortable. Our gear tester liked the massive amount of storage so much he used this vest on a recent bikepacking trip along the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango.


While this vest looks quite bulky, it doesn't feel bulky. The extremely wide shoulder straps and underarm panels haul cargo with comfort. It's important to note; this is the updated version of the Scott Jurek Ultra Vest he wore during his 46-day Appalachian Trail FKT. This vest has been developed through those extreme trails as it has the storage necessary to cover massive distances without resupply.

The FKT was an organization/storage master on the Colorado Trail. Being able to have food  water  and equipment organized was essential.
The FKT was an organization/storage master on the Colorado Trail. Being able to have food, water, and equipment organized was essential.

Pockets


Everything has a home in the FKT. There are pockets on almost every surface of the vest and importantly they are varied in size and ability to stretch. The biggest of the pockets on the back of the vest has a zipper that runs across the top and all the way down the side allowing you to get into the vest like a filleted fish!


This feature is unique and impressive as you can dig through the contents of the pack without having to blindly dig your hand down into it. It's one of those features that makes you wish every model had a zipper down the side because it makes your life so much easier, and more importantly, it makes getting food and equipment sorted much faster.

There are tons of pockets within reach. You can move for hours before you deplete the reachable pockets and have to take the vest off to access the rear storage compartments.
Basically everything on this vest is a pocket. There is an extremely varied size and location profile of pockets giving everything a home.

Weight


At 550 grams, it's pretty heavy. This is with the two included hard bottles which are significantly heavier than soft flasks. Our tester feels that while the weight is significantly greater than most of the vests tested, this vest was built to handle its greater storage capacity. Through that lens, the extra weight is a necessary evil and indeed delivers a comfortable ride even when loaded down.

398 grams without bottles or hydration bladder isn't too bad for a vest that packs such a big punch. The weight to comfort ratio is also quite good.
398 grams without bottles or hydration bladder isn't too bad for a vest that packs such a big punch. The weight to comfort ratio is also quite good.


Best Applications


The FKT is at home on huge outings in the mountains where weather can be uncertain. We were able to pack a small puffy jacket on top of three liters of water and food for an entire day in this vest. With the high level of comfort and storage, the possibilities are endless. If you're heading out on an adventure such as the Zion Traverse, Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim, or the Wasatch WURL, this vest is going to elevate your experience.

Value


At $139, it sits right in the middle of the pack. You can certainly pay a lot more money for a jacket that has half the functionality of the FKT. The attention to detail, comfort, and storage capacity of this vest make it a pretty good deal.

Even loaded to the max  this vest is comfortable and moves with you. The large range of fit adjustments compliment the huge storage capacity and give you the ability to dial in the comfort even when you have several pounds of food and water packed in.
Even loaded to the max, this vest is comfortable and moves with you. The large range of fit adjustments compliment the huge storage capacity and give you the ability to dial in the comfort even when you have several pounds of food and water packed in.

Conclusion


We would recommend this vest to our friends in a heartbeat. We have, multiple times. This vest satisfies a niche in the mountain running community as it gives you the ability to go far without the need for resupply. It's not for everyone, but if you push your running limits for days on end, this model is the one for you.


Brian Martin