First up in a series of trail running kit reviews is the fine Ultimate Direction race vest packs – a really useful piece of kit for long runs or races.

A race vest is essentially a runner’s backpack with accessible pockets on the front for storing items like water, food and anything else you might need in a hurry. It’s basically a mix of backpack and fisherman’s vest. For ultra and trail running almost an essential, but overkill for parkrun.

The Ultimate Direction race vest packs were designed alongside experienced US trail runners like Anton Krupicka, Scott Jurek and Peter Bakwin and the 12-litre packs are the long distance choice for both Robbie Britton and Nats White – who give us their take on the kit.

Both ultra and trail runners they have used the packs for big adventures, such as the 338km Tor des Geants and a 580km run across the Kom-Emine trail in Bulgaria.

Robbie used the Mountain Vest and Nats the Adventure Vesta

“The Anton Krupicka Mountain Vest was just the right mix of lightweight storage on the back, with enough pockets on the front for all the things you might need close at hand,” says Britton. “It fits two water bottles alongside a whole host of sweets and has zip pockets for the valuables.

“When Nats and I ran across Bulgaria with our friend Ry we ran each day just with what we could carry on our backs. There was only the odd Bulgarian hut or road side shop. The UD vest had plenty of room and running up to 80km in a day meant a lot of food and drink.”

White used the Adventure Vesta for the Tor des Geants. It was rather a step into the unknown.

“The kit list alone filled a normal race vest so I needed something a bit more spacious but with all the usability of a normal race vest,” she says. “With a day between main life bases and a week of wearing the pack it needed to be comfortable.

“With all the issues of a 338km, 5 day mountain race thankfully the pack wasn’t one of them.”

 How do they fit?

Both these bags are adjustable and fitted Britton and White well, with hundreds of hours of use over the lifetime of the bags so far, they’ve been well and truly tested.

“There aren’t many female-specific packs out there, but UD solved that problem for me,” explains White. “Even when the pack is stuffed full there is a zip running the length of the pack.

“It allows easy access to the thing you never thought you’d need and shoved to them bottom of the bag.”

For those even more adventurously minded the AK vest actually has attachments for your ice axes. But before you start ordering a shiny new chopper you might want to build up the necessary experience first.

So if you are planning a longer day out, are a keen run commuter or have a multi day or mountain  adventure planned, the Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest and Adventure Vesta, are some of the best on the market.

The packs for the reviewers were provided by Centurion Running Store.