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Equipment review: Ultimate Direction Hardrocker Vest

Brand new and available in limited edition, the Hardrocker from Ultimate Direction is a great running vest with some interesting new features.

  • Lightweight
  • Strong
  • Fully adjustable fit
  • Versatile storage, front and rear
  • Built-in quick release pole holders
  • Twin ice axe loops
  • GPS tracker compatible shoulder pockets
  • Limited Edition for 2017
  • 2 x 500ml soft flasks included
  • 2L reservoir compatible

Along with all of the benefits we've come to appreciate about vests over yester-year's backpacks, there are some nifty little things being offered here.

The main point of interest is the Comfort Cinch™ system, allowing the fit to be altered on the fly.

If you've gained/lost weight throughout the year, the vest can still be made to fit.  If you're delving into it for consumables such as food and drink, then it can be adjusted to maintain the tension required.  If you grab your full waterproof cover from within the vest, the difference once half empty can be compensated for, all without need to remove the vest.  Perfect when seconds count.  Convenient anytime.  And completely reversible when comes time to re-pack.

So quite a handy feature.  There's a knock on effect when it comes to the side pockets, since they used to accommodate the previous adjustment straps, pretty much removing all temptation to make use of those pockets for storage.

Now that those easy to reach, secure zippered pockets can be used without the faff of avoiding the straps and buckles, there's freedom to store items such as keys, food, hat/gloves or whatever you prefer.

Away from the adjustable fit, we see plenty about the Hardrocker to get excited about.

On the shoulders are pockets designed to accommodate specific race GPS Tracking devices, but when not being used in anger, can easily be used for such things as battery/spare headtorch power pack, or first aid bandage/sling, etc.

Out of your way, but easy to get to.

Pole holders also get an update, featuring a press stud fastener, so poles can easily be placed behind the elasticated strap, fastened with a press stud and removed again with ease.

You still get two 500ml soft flasks included as a default, common practice these days, as the 'slosh free' option also feels a lot comfier against the rib cage than hard bottles can.  Simple enough to swap if you still like the more structured bottles, but each to their own.

Upon the front of the Hardrocker, there are more hidden gems, such as the purpose made compartment behind the left hand bottle pocket.  It's designed to accommodate one of the UD Body Bottle 150 Gel Flasks, but could just as easily provide somewhere to stow a credit card, route card or other small item.  It has a velcro flap that seals it shut, preventing things from leaping out when moving at a pace.

Across the entirety of the chest, there are pockets and pouches galore.  A place for everything (and everything in its place).  The pockets directly over the bottles have been stitched into slots, to provide a better purchase on smaller bits and pieces and allow compartmentalisation (not to be confused with methods for handling extreme mental trauma), where foods can be separated into types, or divided into portions for more effective usage over long distances/changeable conditions.

Stash pockets underneath those bottles, for more storage again. 

And the aforementioned side pockets under the arms, for bits you might wish to keep locked tight for occasional use in emergencies or at specific points along the way.

There are still a couple of great sternum straps for lightning quick adjustment and versatility in changing the fit any number of times throughout your day.  Slide rails give you the ability to position the straps anywhere you like from top to bottom, spreading the load as comfortably as possible while remaining stable.

Pull cords around the opening of each bottle pocket, a safety whistle and reflective detailing round out the more everyday features to complete a very sophisticated set-up.

Turning our attention to the rear of the vest, there are reflective logos, main zippered compartment and one giant stretch mesh pocket for any number of items (jacket, map/compass, or headtorch) and instant access.

Bungee cord is mounted across the entirety of the back pocket and can be used as it is, or as a means of compressing the pack when looped under the hooks, mounted around the rim of the vest.

Strangely, while scrutinising the official imagery for Hardrocker, I noticed that they were supposed to have plastic hooks for securing the spare ends which would otherwise dangle freely.  While nothing to worry about, it seems that somebody forgot to include them in the final product, or realised late in the game that they didn't work very well.  Either way I can't see them causing any harm whatsoever and for those with the slightest spark, you could always fashion your own patch of velcro or press stud if need be.

So in general, the vest has some cool points of interest and some features not seen in previous versions. 

So for your £150 you get a combination of uber strong, super lightweight, non-absorbant, breathable textiles to wear about your person.  Stronger than ever, despite the weight has continued to drop with every new model.

You can expect to wear this ves rather than carry it.  comfort and freedom of movement meaning that you'll almost forget that you have it on.  as easy to use with just a phone and set of keys as it is fully loaded for a day out in open country.  Even those who are packing state of the art overnight kit can enjoy the 13.1 Litres capacity in a mountain marathon type event, or multi stage expedition.  There really is no hard and fast rule as to where this vest should or shouldn't be used.  It's generally fit for purpose, wherever you choose to go.  I dare say it'd serve as a hiking day bag (does for me) or as cylcing pack. 

Once you own one, I imagine it's impossible not to try using it for anything that will allow.  I've even been known to perform a small amount of supermarket shopping with mine as the easiest way to transport the groceries home.*

One tip regardless:  Acquire a drybag for use within the main compartment, since it isn't waterproof and you'll ruin contents when sweating through it, or running in wet weather.

Key features at a glance - Front:

1) Specially design shoulder pockets to accommodate Spot Trace GPS tracker, or equivalent sized items.

2) Redesigned trekking pole holder minimizes bounce and snaps out of the way when not in use.

3) Comes with 2 X 500ml Soft Flasks, each with easy clean bite values.

4) Gel flask pocket within bottle pocket pairs perfectly with the Body Bottle 150G

5) Generous collection of front mounted strech pockets for equipment/food storage.

6) Accessible side mounted pockets for storage on the move.

7) Zippered pockets for security.

8) Fully adjustable sternum straps for an ideal, stable fit.

 Key features - Rear:

 

 9) In-built bungee compression system, allows for contents to be secured with minimum bounce, while the fasteners around the pack perimeter give you the option of reducing the pack to a flatter profile when not full.

10) Large zipper for easy access and convenience when loading/refilling a hydration reservoir (compatible, but available separately).

11) Full length stretch mesh pocket on rear for fast access as and when required, without having to open up the main compartment.

12) New Comfort Cinch™ technology provides a custom fit with easy on-the-go adjustment.

13) Twin Ice Axe Loops for use when exploring higher altitude route/Alpine hiking/running.

Conclusion:


As a first time buyer, I wouldn't hesitate to buy the Hardrocker, as it takes what was already effective and throws some dynamite features into the pot for good measure.  Capacity is ample, with versatility enough for most runners to be able to enjoy short runs or long days out, self sufficient and benefitting entirely from this well thought out design.

Comfort in spades.  Storage for all sorts of running related equipment.  Convenience, stylish good looks, subtle colour scheme and association with the epic Hardrock 100 in the high San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

If you've journeyed through various vest packs, treating yourself to each and every new edition and are wondering whether or not the Hardrock deserves a place in your life - I'd say that while other vests might offer the same solutions to the same requiremens, not one of them is this sophisticated in offering a versatile solution that is simple to use and comes with even less weight, greater functionality and the prestige of owning a limited edition vest with such positive association.

For Parkrun it's overkill for sure, but if you're serious ebough about your intentions, this is an investment in happy running for the foreseeable future.

And for what it's worth - this reviewer wants one!

 

Chris Hough - Team Accelerate.

Purchase the Hardrocker here.

*there are of course, very obvious limits to the kind of item one can effective carry from a supermarket in a run specific pack and a high risk of a crippling injury for having tried.

 

Ultimate Direction say:

The Hardrocker Vest commemorates the epic Hardrock 100 in the high San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Just like this race and the special runners who do it, the Hardrocker Vest is super tough and versatile and is a Limited Edition – only a few were made, and when they’re gone they’re gone!

Specs & Details

Features:
  • New Comfort Cinch™ technology provides a custom fit with easy on-the-go adjustment
  • Redesigned trekking pole holder minimizes bounce and snaps out of the way when not in use
  • Specially design shoulder pockets to accommodate Spot Trace GPS tracker
  • Gel flask pocket within bottle pocket pairs perfectly with the Body Bottle 150G
  • Custom Hardrock 100 graphics complete the look of this limited edition vest
  • Includes 2x Body Bottle 500
 
 
Sizing at chest (Unisex):
  • SM: 23 - 32 in. / 58 - 81 cm
  • MD: 30 - 39 in. / 76 - 99 cm
  • LG: 37 - 46 in. / 94 - 117 cm
 
Specs:
  • Volume Capacity: 799.41 in/ 13.1L
  • Weight: 13.4 oz. / 380 g 
  • Height: 16 in. / 40 cm
  • Width: 8.7 in. / 22 cm
  • Depth: 7.1 in. / 18 cm

 

Materials:

  • 150g Flex Mono Mesh: Breathable, non-stretch, and hydrophobic - this lightweight monofilament mesh is ideal for bounce-free load carrying
  • MicroMono Mesh: Conforms to the shape of the wearer. Fits better than ever
  • 60D Silnylon: Greater strength and abrasion resistance with low weight
  • 320g Darlington Power Mesh: Increased support and durability in the harness and key wear locations

 

 

Thursday 24th of August 2017

Accelerate Lifestyle Limited

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