Friday, November 02, 2018

Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 4.0 Review: More Versatility, Comfort, and Capacity. Lighter Too!

by Jeff Valliere

Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 4.0
Capacity: 810ci or 13.27 liters
12.7 oz. with included body bottles
9.24 oz. without bottles
Sizing - Sm/Md/Lg
$154.95
Introduction/What's New

The Ultimate Direction AK Mountain Vest 3.0 (RTR review) has been my go to running vest for long days in the high mountains, or for the local peaks during the colder months when I need to carry more warm clothes, lighting and other gear.  Not only does it carry a lot of gear, it carries it securely and firmly, without excess bounce or worry that items are going to fall out, as almost all of the pockets are zippered or at least have cinch straps.  Front and side pockets are cleverly arranged and it is easy to access essentials needed while running such as water, food, phone, gloves, beanies, tablets, chap stick, headlamp or any other small to mid sized essentials, while there is ample room in the back for larger items.

Improvements to the Mountain Vest 4.0 include:
  •  Added nearly 2 liters of capacity
  •  Dropped nearly 2 ounces in weight
  •  Added comfort cinch technology for easy on the fly adjustments
  •  Improved trekking pole straps
  •  Higher quality soft flasks
  •  A much softer, lighter, more breathable mesh material that feels more like clothing than a   backpack.


Front Pockets/Accessible Storage

The UD Signature series vests excel in this department with a wide array of usable space within easy reach, which is a huge reason that this remains my go to vest when I need to carry more than a few items.

With two large soft flasks in front, hydrating on the go is easy and comfortable, with no sag, bounce or sloshing.  If not carry water, these bottle pockets add a good bit of usable space too.  Often, I'll stash one bottle in the back to increase my usable front pocket space and always have one bottle up front for sipping.

The included soft flasks have been greatly improved, with a more durable, well built and high quality reservoir, with a greatly improved cap/nipple and very sure cap threads (which were somewhat thin, overly flexible and hard to thread in previous versions, but is completely fixed with the 4.0 series.

The redesigned cap and nipple are higher quality feeling and more durable.

The mouth is large enough for slim ice cubes and cleaning.  Improved over the previous version, the mouth/threads are no longer flexible and makes it much easier to thread the cap.

Above the bottles on either side, there are small pockets with velcro closures, perfect for small items such as gels, chap stick, tablets etc.


On the front of each bottle pocket are two long, thin stash pockets.  You can stuff some food/gels here, or leave available for trash.  The 3.0 version did not have the stitching down the middle, which allowed for one larger pocket in this space, which seemed a little more versatile to me, but the material is stretchy enough that you can make them quite usable.

The lowest stash pocket on the left strap is substantial enough for gloves, hat, food, phone or whatever.  

This is the pocket I am most likely to stash my phone, though it is not quite as deep as the previous version.  When I am wearing the vest, it is taut enough and the pocket is stretchy enough that it is not a problem, but just for added security, I use a small key beener and lanyard to make sure I don't lose it and clip it high enough that I don't have to detach for quick photos.

The lowest right pocket is zippered and stretchy enough that you can cram a fair bit of food, or reserve for valuables.

The side "hip belt" pockets are roomy and easy to reach and can easily swallow an iPhone 8, however putting a phone here is not the most comfortable or easily accessible, so up front is best for quick access.


The two chest straps easily slide up/down for custom adjustment and clip easily, even while wearing gloves.  The lower strap has just a slight bit of elastic give to accommodate the bloated belly at the start of a run after breakfast.

Rear Storage:

The capacity of the rear compartments, while not (easily) accessible on the go, is ample and voluminous, perfect for carrying all the other items you need at some point on a long mountain run.  Extra water (bladder compatible), food, jacket, clothing, microspikes, etc...

The main compartment is separated by a thin partition for organization or can double as a bladder sleeve.

Within the main compartment is a secure bladder clip and sleeve, if you choose to carry a bladder (bladder not included).

For added organization, there is an ample zippered pocket within the main compartment for infrequently used items and/or valuables complete with key clip.



The outermost pocket is a stretch mesh kangaroo pocket, that just eats up more gear, ideal for keeping a jacket or layer handy.  A stretch cinch bungee helps holds items in place, or you can even add items on the outside.

Bungee clips line the perimeter of the pack add carry versatility.

The inside of the vest is a transparent breathable mesh that breathes better than the previous 3.0 version, though items of clothing may still get damp from perspiration, so I sometimes use a gallon ziplock to keep essentials dry.  You can see the comfort cinch adjustment straps, which tighten by simply pulling a thin cord on either side.

Close up of the comfort cinch.

Pull the cord to tighten and pinch the release clip to relieve tension.  With a little practice it is easy to adjust and dials in a custom fit depending on clothing layers or seasonal/daily weight fluctuations.

Performance/Recommendations:

The Mountain Vest 4.0 in an incremental improvement over previous versions, perhaps not significant enough for 3.0 owners to run out and upgrade, but is certainly my #1 pick/suggestion for a mid/large capacity running vest for carrying enough food, liquid, clothing and essentials for all day mountain adventures.  The Mountain Vest 4.0 is light and versatile, light enough to wear on shorter runs where you just need a few small essentials, but when fully loaded with gear, is comfortable, has very little bounce and adjusts to accommodate variations in load or layers underneath.  Whether I have full bottles in the front, a bladder in the back, or both and maxed out with gear, I can dial in a perfect fit to ensure that the vest feels balanced and secure.  Unlike some of the other vests on the market, the Mountain Vest 4.0 feels less like a pack and though not quite a clothing like feel, leans more toward that end of the spectrum.

The materials are soft, thin and comfortable, yet durable enough to wear well over time and stretch enough to cram more gear than you initially think.  The front pockets/hip pockets are spacious and very efficiently configured for easy access on the fly.  Every single detail of this pack is well thought out and tested by athletes, from ambassadors, all the way up to Buzz himself who all truly walk the walk and put these products through the ringer before going into final production.

Sizes come in small, medium and large.  I am 5'10"/145 lbs with a 38" chest, which measures right on the edge of medium and large.  I debated the two, but ultimately went with the large, as I am most likely to use this vest during colder months when I need to bring more gear and/or use on longer days in the mountains where I'll likely be wearing layers.  I think I made the right choice, but when I am feeling trim and am not carrying much gear, the front straps are cranked all the way tight and I still wish I could cinch a little more.

Comparisons:

Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 4.0 vs. 3.0 (RTR review) - The overall arrangement is similar, but with a few changes to the pocket layout, mostly in the rear.  4.0 is much softer, lighter, feels less like a pack, is easier to adjust and has more capacity.  The soft flasks are also much better quality.

Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 4.0  vs. Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 8L Run Vest (RTR review) - OK, admittedly not direct competitors because of the difference in carry capacity, the Salomon fits more like clothing and weighs nearly nothing with impressive capacity, all of which is within reach while running.  However, if I really need to bring gear on a long day in the mountains (ie more dense items such as more food, more water, microspikes, crampons or even a helmet, the Mountain Vest 4.0 is far and away superior given that it has more structure, is more adjustable and can support the load with better stability and balance.

Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 4.0  vs. Ultraspire Legacy Race Vest (RTR review upcoming) - The Legacy Race Vest has comparable carry capacity to the Mountain Vest 4.0, materials and construction are top notch, fit is quite versatile (one size fits most), and it carries a heavy load well, but overall efficient use of accessible pocket space and overall attention to detail from a real world use perspective still seems a few years behind Ultimate Direction.

Reviewer Bio
Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 2d Masters in 2015. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the Colorado 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.   
The product reviewed in this article were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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