Adventure Racing Hydration For Paddle Sports

Gear Review: Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest

Adventure Racing Hydration For Paddle Sports

It’s a well-known fact that I have a bag problem, and that I am always searching for that perfect messenger bag, carryon, and, it seems, hydration pack. I thought I had found it in the Osprey Rev series, but that line of low profile running packs was discontinued last year. CamelBak is no longer making paddle specific hydration packs although you might still be able to find a Molokai or Baja in a close-out bin somewhere. And the popular minimalist Vest-Pac is just a bit too minimalist for me, especially for a longer race like Chattajack.

What’s a paddler who want to carry multiple bladders, an ample array of snacks and some safety gear to do?

Look to the other brands of adventure racing packs, that’s what.

So I did.

I purchased an Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 2.0 from Amazon and decided to put it through its paces, to see if it would be a worthy replacement for the Rev, which, after several seasons of use, is ready to be retired,  salt-encrusted zippers and all.  It’s been a great pack, but I need a little more functionality now, especially since I am carrying a marine band radio and  Personal Locator Beacon when I do ocean paddles.

So, the criteria for the new pack is the following:

  • Lightweight material
  • Ample capacity for multiple 2L bladders
  • Storage capacity for full range of safety gear/electronics
  • Comfy fit
Swap out the included water bottles and you have room for phone, radio, GPS device, etc.

Light but Strong

First of all, the UD PB pack is extremely light.  Apparently, in its earlier iteration, it was made with cuben fiber, which is an uber lightweight, laminate fabric that is all the rage in the ultralight gear world.  Except, however, UD found some seam issues when they tried it on this pack.  So, they replaced the cuben fiber with Silnylon 66 with offers increased seam strength and is still very light. Completely empty, it weights just 16 ounces.

Hydration Capacity

The rear pocket for the hydration bladder is interesting.  It has a zippered opening on the side, which at first I though would make filling the bladder difficult. I am used to openings at the top. Once I got the bladder inside and situated though, I have found it no more difficult to fill up than with any other pack. The PB does have an odd “divider” in the hydration sleeve, which is meant to help keep the bladder in place and can separate other gear should you chose to use that compartment for multi-tasking.

Divided hydration compartment

Since that compartment was designed for multi-tasking, it is large enough to squeeze in another another bladder for those longer days or races.

The back portion of the pack has a second zippered pocket, which can accommodate extra nutrition or other items. And the back panel also has storage bungees.

One thing to note – this pack does not come with a hydration bladder, which at the plus $100 price tag you would expect. I guess the trade off is the two water bottles, but still.


Storage capacity on the front of the pack is more than ample.  There are two large pockets on the front straps that will hold water bottles (two are included with the vest) but they are great for other items, too, like cell phone, PLB, radio, or even a small, portable speaker like the Outdoor Tech Buckshot.  Of course it can accommodate lots of gels and other snacks too.   Each of these pockets will close tight with a bungee drawcord.  There’s also a bungee just above the pocket which you can further secure anything if necessary.  Perfect for any item that might stick out above the pocket opening.  Or for tethering items, like that speaker. Oh, and as you will notice in the picture below, the pockets have pockets! See the elastic stretch pockets?? Perfect for the gels!

Front pockets can accommodate a wide variety of items, not just water bottles!

Above those pockets are two flat zippered compartments.  Useful for more gels or keys, ID, or other items. One of the zipper pull tabs even has a whistle on it, which is a nice touch.

The pack has a right and left side “lat” pockets, which are also zippered. You are not going to have an issue carrying everything you need with this pack, that’s for sure. In fact, you might just think it has too many bells as whistles. Like the ice axe loop. Or trekking pole holders. You’ll get your money’s worth out of this pack if you do other things outdoors besides paddle.

Comfort Zone

The PB does not have hip belts of any kind, and at first, that made me nervous. Would it be secure enough on my back as I paddled? Is there enough structure to this pack to make it stay in place while I am cranking out the miles?  That’s my biggest beef with the Vest Pack – there’s just not enough there to keep it from bouncing around – especially since it’s straps are elastic. The PB has two adjustable sternum straps in front, like most packs in this genre.  However, what sets it apart from most other packs is the micro adjustment straps on the shoulders.  You can tighten these up and dial in the fit so that it is just right.  At the waist, on the sides of the pack, there are two velcro adjustment straps as well. This combo keeps the pack fitting close, which is what you want when the PB is fully loaded.  Again, another nice touch that will make a difference, especially if you paddle sup and something else, like OC or Surfski where your fit needs change from standing to sitting. With the ability to make those adjustments, I was happy not to have a hip or waist belt. Especially since those can get in the way of my PFD.

If you decide to give this pack a go, I highly recommend one of Osprey’s bladders to go with it.  In my opinion, Osprey still makes the best hydration bladder on the market.

Oh and PB? It stands for Peter Bakwin, an ultra adventure racer who has won many multiple day trail races and is the master mind behind the design of this hydration pack.  Not Peanut Butter. And it’s Ultimate Direction.  Not One Direction. Though I might just call it that anyway.

Here are the complete specs from UD:

Features (Front):

  • GPS Locator / phone pockets (2)
  • Bellows side pockets can carry 26 oz. bottles
  • Gel or bar pouches (4)
  • Electrolyte or valuables pockets (2)
  • Fully adjustable sternum straps (2)
  • Emergency whistle
  • Super soft VelvetexTM no-chafe binding

Features (Back):

  • Micro adjustment straps for better fit (2)
  • Quick reservoir access zipper
  • Internal bungee and gear seperation panel
  • Two zippered compartments
  • Secure lat pockets, with stretch panel behind (2)
  • Trekking pole (2) and Ice Axe (1) loops
  • Accommodates a 70 oz. reservoir (sold separately)

Sizing At Chest (Unisex):

  • S/M: 23 – 36 in / 58 – 91 cm
  • M/L: 31 – 40 in / 79 – 102 cm
  • XL: 38 – 48 in / 97 – 122 cm
  • New adjustment straps fine tune the fit
  • Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear
  • A vest full of gear will fit smaller


  • Volume Capacity: 671 in/ 11L
  • Fluid Capacity: 2 x 20 oz bottles / 2 x 591 mL (plus optional reservoir)
  • Weight: 16 oz. (21.5 oz. with bottles) / 454 g (610 g with bottles)
  • Height: 16 in. / 41 cm
  • Width: 9 in. / 23 cm
  • Depth: 4.5 in. / 11 cm

Paddle Monster Newsletter Signup

Related Articles