My first Ultimate Direction pack on test. It took a while to organise this and it’s taken a while since I received the Halo early last year to give my opinion, but I’m stoked to give you both today. UD (Ultimate Direction) in my opinion, have been at the forefront of the arms race with Salomon for on body storage, predominantly with their Signature Series of packs, which has just had a further evolution launched. The release of the Halo took a different angle, stripping things back to the bare essentials, without sacrificing the ability to carry more gear than simply water, an energy bar and pair of gloves.
Think of an elite road cyclist, riding the Tour de France and over the 3 weeks of commentary and pundit analysis, there is one thing they bang on about, one thing amateur roadies obsess about and most of us haven’t got a clue why its so lust worthy.
Power to weight ratio.
Bring it back to trail and ultra running, the Halo set out to have the best volume to weight ratio on the market for a pack/vest. Barebones and to the point is the angle. Forget your complex adjustment systems, more pockets than you know what to do with and a rear panel that can quite literally take the kitchen sink to the summit of Mont Blanc with you (the Fastpack 35 could, maybe), the Halo is about raw speed.
*If you’d like to skip to the video – scroll to the bottom*
The vest I’ve been using is a size small. I’m 5ft 7″/170cm and 77kg for reference.
Most noticeably, the front straps are white. Where you would expect to see pockets of some kind, you will see bare, see through mesh. The Mono mesh is extremely light, does a pretty epic job at not holding onto water and allows a lot of air flow. Yes it brings the weight of the vest down, but more importantly it gives you comfort. Now, I did find it has a little more stretch when loaded up as a result, so getting the correct fit is vital for a balanced and stable platform to sit on your chest.
Bottles, well it wouldn’t be a UD vest without their own bottles.When I first used the 500ml Body Bottles I wasnt sold. I bought a handheld a 5 years ago and struggled with the bite valve system when using teeth (mine aren’t exactly straight) but with time, I learnt that I personally needed to use my hands and the added security they provide outweighs this extra step. Of course, you don’t have to run with them locked down at all times. Each bottle pocket uses an elastic drawstring to since the top of the bottle in, so you don’t need to hold onto your hydration like an ill fitting sports bra on descents or technical terrain.
The retention system uses a series of daisy chain loops, offering multiple attachment points, with two adjustable straps that simply lock in, rather than having a clasp. They don’t move, but given their minimal approach, do leave a lot of excess flapping about. If you’ve read any of my other recent pack reviews, you’ll know this a bug bear of mine. Not a deal breaker, a minor point, but one that I’m constantly hooking excess material out of the way.
Theres a whistle too.
And that’s it for the front. All business, no party.
The base of the bottles is where you’ll see the start of the side accessory pockets. Both sides have one larger stretch mesh pocket, with a smaller velcro secured pocket closer to the back panel. Gloves, headband, gels all fit in these and remain locked in. Remember though, they aren’t aimed for mass storage, so keep things lightweight and anything larger, you’ve a pretty big rear pouch. Most obvious on the rear, other than the V shaped rear panel is the chord system. UD call it their Comfort Cinch 2.0 and this allows you to quickly pull on two ends – you can see them hanging down either side – to get that locked in, custom fit. With any system it depends what you are carrying. Use this for only bottles or fully laden and the stress on the system changes, therefore the required fit. It is quick and easy to use, but for me it suited lighter loads, rather than maxing the payload.
The back ‘pack’ section is made up of 3 compartments. A large main pocket, accessed from the very top, a mid smaller pocket and a small pocket at the bottom to hand to your teacher. In practice my advice is to load the pockets in that order, large, middle small – top to bottom. Load them the other way round and you compromise what you can put in the main pocket. I’ve used the small packet for a survival bag, mid for a waterproof jacket and main for trousers or things I won’t be accessing in a hurry.
But what about poles?
You may have noticed (if not, check back to earlier images) that there are pop fasteners on the bottle pouches. These have a pretty strong elastic loop to pull in order to get it around your poles. Lower down, there are slip in loops to secure the remainder of the shaft. Your poles stay close to hand, no ninja yoga moves to stow them on your back. They don’t randomly dance around and keeps them out the way of your arms when running. It’s a neat system, simple, effective and my only ‘be wary’ is that the top loops are very tight, so it will take a little practice to do so on the move in a race. But, that said, how often to you move poles on/off your vest during a race or training run?
A better example of me securing the poles can be found in the below video.
All in all, Ultimate Direction’s Halo Vest is a different take on an established principle, removing the faff and clutter of complexity and delivering a vest designed to keep you cool, fast and blazing a trail. It is not, in my opinion, something to load up heavy, nor something you will want to always use for if you want a lot of accessories/extra kit to hand.
Would I alter anything? Greater volume on the front pockets and a slightly less stretchy shoulder strap mesh. Thats some good alliteration.
For me, for those summer runs, fast runs, runs where you need a windbreaker, hydration and fuel, but don’t need to be carrying half your personal collection of gear with you, its a very strong option. As someone who has repeatedly said over the years about running hot, this kept me cool, where others couldn’t achieve the same. For travelling, it’s a great one to stow in your luggage. Less can sometimes be more.
To find out more about the ULTIMATE DIRECTION HALO – CLICK HERE
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