AccessoriesGear Reviews

Ultimate Direction Fastpack Performance Review

What You Need To Know

  • Line of four packs made for long outdoor excursions
  • Abundance of pockets on all packs for crazy amounts of storage
  • Built like a backpack, fits like a running vest
  • These ain’t your Jansport textbook (or debauchery) carriers from high school

TAYLOR: Ultimate Direction has become a household name for trail runners worldwide. There’s no doubt in my mind that they churn out some of the highest quality and well-thought-out gear to assist this kooky breed of humans on our self-propelled endeavors. In recent years, Ultimate Direction has encouraged us to push the limits a little further with the introduction of their Fastpack line. They range in size from 20L to 40L, but their purpose and approach are the same. 

Ultimate Direction combined the carrying capacity of a backpacking pack with the comfort of a running vest. What they got was the Fastpack that’s meant for, well, literally anything. I had the 30L and 40L packs sent to my door. These sizes are perfect for anything from long days in the mountains to multi-day pushes in the backcountry.

ALEX: The Ultimate Direction Fastpack fits like a running vest and distributes weight like a pack, allowing you to carry everything you need for a multi-day adventure in the backcountry. I loaded up both of these packs with everything I needed for a 1-3 day fastpacking trip. 


Fit

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Fastpack 20L

TAYLOR: The vest-like fit makes these packs stand out amongst the crowd of light and fast gear. Ultimate Direction knows a few things about making a pack comfortable and practical. Fastpacks sit easily on the shoulders and wrap most of the torso. The broad shoulder straps host a myriad of accessible storage options. Each side has a 3-tiered pocket system that’s perfect for bottles, phones, snacks, etc. Those side pockets even out the load a bit for running too.

There are four points of adjustment from the front to truly dial in the fit. For such large packs, they stay in position well with virtually zero bounce and evenly distribute weight. The upper chest and waist straps (adjustable and removable) help synch the pack into place on a lateral basis. The upper two straps are on a slide rail system to adjust vertically based on your personal anatomy. Also, there are underarm straps to lock in the front-to-back fit. Everyone gets a custom fit with these packs.

One of my only complaints about the packs is about adjustability. With so many straps come the need to maintain the ends of said straps. There’s a lot of flapping in the wind going on. I rolled the straps together, adjusted them differently, and tucked them in odd places. This was more of an annoyance than anything.

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Fastpack 40L (left) and 30L (right)

ALEX: Both the FastpackHer and Fastpack 20L are fully adjustable. I tested an S/M Fastpack and an XS/S FastpackHer. The length of both packs is 7.0”, while the height and width of the FastpackHer is slightly shorter, 16.5” and 8.5” respectively, compared to the Fastpack size of 18.5” and 11.0”. I really appreciated the Infiknit and FastFlow technologies that increased the back panels’ breathability and moisture-wicking ability. The overall construction of these packs is solid.

My natural instinct is to doubt gear that’s specifically designed for women, as far too many brands continue to equate “female-specific” with “pink it and shrink it.” It’s not as though I don’t want products made with me in mind, I really appreciate, but by gendering a product, a series of assumptions are made about color, style, and fit that often come up short in terms of performance. 

While the FastpackHer is adjustable, the overall fit of the FastpackHer never worked for me. Similar to issues I’ve had in the past with female-specific packs and hydration vests, the pack sat too high on my torso. The shoulder straps on the FastpackHer are much shorter than the Fastpack, ending on top of my chest and making the load feel top-heavy, bulky, and unstable. 

Given the shorter length and design of the shoulder straps, the two sternum straps also felt like they were too close together to be useful and both sat too high. I also had a hard time getting the front of the shoulder straps to lay flat as they dug into my chest near my armpits.

I much prefer the fit of the Fastpack 20L. The straps are longer and end near the bottom of my ribcage. This results in a more secure, balanced feel and a better distribution of weight. As opposed to the FastpackHer, everything isn’t piled on top of my chest. 

The front of this pack is designed to allow for the sternum straps to be spread out and feel more secure. These straps laid flat, unlike those on the FastpackHer.

Shop FastpackHer Shop Fastpack 20L Shop Fastpack 30L Shop Fastpack 40L
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FastpackHer

Storage

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TAYLOR: I appreciate the easy access to the main compartment. A roll-top just makes sense in a pack like this. Easy to load, easy to adjust for comfort, and you can fit a ton of crap in there. A vertical zipper that runs the length of the roll-top and half of the main storage compartment is absolutely clutch. Here in the Colorado Rockies, I had to adjust layers and put on/take off traction quite frequently. The zipper made it quick to slip in and out of the pack with the gear I needed. No more dumping out your whole pack. Zip, pull, and zip again. 

In and around the main storage compartment are bucket loads of more pockets for anything you can think of. The exterior mesh pocket is large enough to fit an extra layer, sleeping pad, or sandals if you feel posh in the backcountry.

ALEX: My favorite part about these packs is the external storage that greatly expands the capacity and versatility of both packs. The large front stretch mesh pocket is great for rain gear and other things that you might want quick access to. It also works to keep a damp tent separate from your sleeping bag and clothes. The two large stretch mesh side pockets are great for water, food, headlamps, and/or microspikes. 

The main compartment on both packs has a roll-top closure and a full-side external zipper for easy access to your gear. This feature prevents you from having to unload the contents of your pack on the side of the trail while you look for dry socks that somehow managed to find the bottom of your pack. The roll-top is great, and combined with the overall adjustability of the packs, allows you to securely carry loads of varying sizes. The main compartment also has a small zippered pocket that allows you to further organize your gear internally. Both packs feature daisy chain loops and attachment points, further adding to the pack’s versatility.

My previous grievances about the length of the FastpackHer shoulder straps also resulted in less storage capacity on the front of this pack. In particular, it doesn’t have the two small, flat zippered pockets and two stretch mesh pockets that the Fastpack does (that’s 4 fewer pockets!). On the Fastpack, these are perfect for stowing a credit card, keys, food, gloves, and other small personal items. 

One thing to note is that you will need to purchase the Ultimate Direction bottles to fit (or something similar in size), as water bottles are not included. I use Salomon soft flasks and while they fit into previous iterations of the pack, the bottles stick up too far in this version.

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Fastpack 30L

You can pick up the FastpackHer, Fastpack 20L, Fastpack 30L and Fastpack 40L for $150, $150, $180 and $195, respectively, by using the shop links below.

Shop FastpackHer Shop Fastpack 20L Shop Fastpack 30L Shop Fastpack 40L

Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultrarunner living in Estes Park, CO, with his wife and daughter. He and his wife both love running the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. When not running, Taylor is a Kindergarten/1st grade teacher, running coach, and youth leader for his church.

Alex is an ultra runner who lives for the long, cold Minnesota winters. She works in public health and enjoys applying creative problem solving to emerging health and environmental issues faced by local communities.

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