Ultimate Direction Marathon V2 High Beam Review
Cons: Uncomfortable, poor suspension
Manufacturer: Ultimate Direction
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Ultimate Direction Marathon V2 High Beam
$88.79 at Amazon
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|Pros||Highly visible, simple, affordable||Comfortable, kangaroo pocket, pole carry||Lightweight, easily accessible pockets, great fit||Ample storage, simple and successful design, approachable price||Lightweight, comfortable, breathable, affordable|
|Cons||Uncomfortable, poor suspension||Hydration system isn't ideal, soft flask positioning is challenging||Soft flasks bounce around, no pole carry||Lower quality bladder, minor pain points over longer distances||Lack of features, lack of storage|
|Bottom Line||For runners who value visibility, this hydration vest is a great value||Close to perfect pockets, fit, and adjustability, but this pack still misses the mark in regards to the hydration system||There's room for layers, ample food, water, your phone, and then some in this featherweight vest||An entry-level hydration pack for trail running with ample storage at a great price||A comfortable and effective entry-level running pack at a reasonable price but that lacks in some key areas|
|Rating Categories||Ultimate Direction...||CamelBak Ultra Pro||Raidlight Revolutiv...||REI Co-op Swiftland 5||CamelBak Circuit|
|Hydration System (15%)|
|Volume to Weight Ratio (15%)|
|Specs||Ultimate Direction...||CamelBak Ultra Pro||Raidlight Revolutiv...||REI Co-op Swiftland 5||CamelBak Circuit|
|Weight (with included hydration vessels)||8.5 oz||8.7 oz||6.6 oz||13.9 oz||11.8 oz|
|Included Liquid Capacity||2.6L||1L||2L||1.5L||1.5L|
|OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!)||0.64||0.69||0.45||0.36||0.30|
|External Storage?||Yes, back pouch pocket||Yes, large rear pocket||Not included||Yes, bungees||Not included|
|Type of Water Storage||Two 300mL hard bottles||Two 500mL bottles||Two 600mL soft flasks||1.5L resevoir||1.5L reservoir|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Every runner should have at least one hi-vis item for those pre-dawn and dusk runs. Do you? Trouble-free adjustability shines with a design that likely fits more body types than any other pack we reviewed. We aren't in love with this pack on the trail or for longer distances, but its utility is undeniable.
Comfort and fit go hand in hand. Designing a pack that fits dozens of body types prioritizes universality over ideal fit for any particular runner, and we felt this in the lack of ergonomic shape and comfort.
Two static webbing chest straps attach with small plastic hooks to loops of cord. Both straps can be positioned higher or lower for best fit, and both feature 14" of adjustment across the sternum. Similarly, across both flanks, there are "V" shaped adjustment straps that have an extraordinary amount of play. While this can make the vest versatile by fitting two very different sized runners, it also means excess webbing bouncing around if you are small.
Standing out is important both in high-traffic urban areas and in the woods during hunting season. No vest addresses visibility as well as the Marathon V2 High Beam with both reflective accents and high beam neon yellow.
Clearly positioned as an introductory hydration vest, we weren't surprised that more advanced features like trekking pole storage were omitted in the design. While this pack doesn't have all the bells (figurative) and whistles (literal), it remains highly functional in its versatility over different layering systems and pronounced visibility.
This is the only pack we tested that incorporates hard bottles in lieu of a bladder or soft flasks. While both of those other hydration systems are compatible with the Marathon V2 High Beam, we primarily tested it with included the 300mL hard bottles.
There are valid arguments for hard bottles: they are easier to refill, easier to get into/out of the hydration pockets, and they don't change the fit of the vest when they are empty. The hard bottles included with this vest are fairly comfortable, positioning a flat surface against the chest.
Volume to Weight Ratio
Design often benefits from simplicity, which holds true in this case. As one of the middle-tier packs for carrying capacity, the V2 High Beam weighs in as the second lightest pack we tested. The weight is kept low with perforated polyester construction and spandex mesh for the pockets, doubling the benefits with high breathability.
We look for ease of access, functionality, and versatility in pockets, and the Marathon V2 High Beam achieves all of these traits. A small zippered pocket on the right shoulder is great for carrying a credit card or keys. Two hydration pouches hold the included hard bottles with two deeper pockets positioned just above, big enough for a phone and plenty of snacks. A third pocket positioned at the bottom of each shoulder strap by the flank conveniently carries more snacks or small running gloves.
One small pocket on the lower back carries an easily accessible rain layer and can be closed with hook and loop tape. A larger compartment on the bag is designed to carry a bladder, if desired, but can certainly fit an additional long sleeve, hat, and buff.
We had a hard time assessing the value of this pack, as the visibility quality alone adds a great deal of appeal when you want it. And when you find yourself on a run in the Elk Mountains during hunting season or on Colfax Ave in Denver, CO at dusk, you want it. An argument can be made on either side regarding the versatility of the fit and the resulting lack of comfort. In all, we see a lot of value in this pack; we just weren't willing to recognize it with an award as it isn't as appealing to use as an introductory, everyday pack.
We hear mom's words ringing in our ears, "better safe than sorry." This vest performs well for an introductory hydration pack, and it could help power you through your first trail race or marathon. Additionally, it will keep you seen by weary drivers on your pre-dawn training run. If you enjoy running in the cold and dark of winter, the Marathon V2 High Beam has a huge range of fit and can slip over winter layers.
— Jeff Colt
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