Before we get started, this vest is the 2017 Hard Rocker vest which they no longer make, but it is basically the same as the current models of the Mountain Vest 4.0, as well as having the same fit and concept as some of the other current vests, minus a pocket or feature. I believe that this review will serve well for those looking for reviews of current product models.
Ultimate Direction Hard Rocker Vest
I have logged a lot of miles in this vest, between training and races. In fact, it was the first race vest that I ever used and I wore it in my first three ultra races. There's a lot to love in this vest, while having a lot of room for improvement.
- This vest has a lot of storage. The front of the vest has a lot of room for small gels, snacks, and tech. The side pockets are flexible and can hold accommodate an IPhone 7 Plus. Rear pack can accommodate lots of layers/gear (13L), as well as hold a hydration bladder.
- Adjustability. This pack is easily adjustable and was easily able to accommodate a husky runner, such as myself, with multiple layers. The rear pack can also cinch down to expand or compress the contents. I have used this pack filled with a variety of gear and empty. When cinched properly, there is not bounce or excess movement.
- The water bottle location on the front is great for drinking on the run, with the long straw or without.
- The adjustable chest straps can move up or down to accommodate different sizes or fit preference.
- Additional storage on outside of the rear pack makes accessing an extra layer fairly quick and easy without needing to take the pack off.
- The nylon material around the water bottles is not flexible, so getting water bottles in and out is not easy, especially when it's cold.
- The storage under the water bottles on both sides is hard to access when the bottles are full and not very user friendly when running.
- With all of the storage, there is no waterproof storage, which would be nice for phones, car keys/key fobs, or other electronics.
There is a lot to love with this vest and Ultimate Direction vests in general. This vest has a ton of load carriage capacity and it gives the user a lot of options in terms of adjusting the fit and ride. The flaws that I found with this vest were, most notably, the ability to access pockets while on the run and while in the cold. This could easily be fixed if the material was changed to something with more give or if it was the same as the material used on the side pockets.
If you are an urban runner, not running a lot of miles where extra gear is needed, or an obstacle course racer, I would pass on this vest.
If you are running races where you are required to carry mandatory equipment/clothing, adventure races,or running longer distances outside of the reach of civilization, I would put this vest on my short list. I also have found this to be really useful hiking because of it's light weight and carrying volume.
When I began ultra-running, this vest was great because the carrying capacity gave me the confidence that I could make it to the next aid station without running out of water or fuel, or in case I got lost (which has happened a few times). As I have run more races, I realize that I don't need as much "stuff" as I thought I did when I first began. With that being said, this is a really nice vest, which could be made better by changing a few small things.
You can find this vest (on clearance) for around $130, which is a really good deal for it. The current models which are closest to this are the Adventure 4.0, Mountain 4.0 and Ultra 4.0, which range in price from $130-$170.
I do not have an affiliation with Ultimate Direction and the above link is only a link to their website.