“Pack light” is a philosophy I’ve preferred when running pretty much always. I’ve never liked running with music on an armband, a water bottle strapped to my hand, or a phone or electrolytes in a waist pack. Less is more and I don’t like having to fiddle with anything while I run. However, as I step into Ultra running territory for the first time, it’s become evident that I need to get used to packing some gear on me if I’m going to survive the long days out on the trails. But as soon as I started researching my choices, I noticed right away that there are SO MANY hydration packs out there with so many different options, and it’s enough to make a runner go a little crazy. The best place to start is the place where hydration packs were invented, and that’s where Ultimate Direction comes in.
Finding a pack that had room to carry my essentials comfortably and conveniently was vital for my journey, and I also knew that it had to be really lightweight and as compact as possible. Ultimate Direction has a lot of choices for all sorts of adventures, and I knew that the Ultra Vesta 4.0 was the right option for me.
The Comfort Cinch technology was the first thing that drew me in, as I wanted something that wouldn’t jostle around on my body or flare too much at the waist. Being able to custom fit the vest to my middle meant making it more like a second skin. You can also further compress the pack to make it flatter by moving the bungee cords further across the pack to some end hooks. Additionally, there’s a sliding rail system in the front so you can move the sternum straps to wherever they feel most comfortable.
There is also ample space in the Ultra Vesta. There are drawstring pockets on either shoulder in the front with water bottles in each. If you don’t want to carry your water here, there’s a space for a water reservoir in the back of the pack. If you go this route, there’s no bladder included with the vest, but they are easy enough to find at any running or sporting goods store. You could then use those two water bottle pockets for other items, in addition to the two small pockets below them which are perfect size for your Shot Bloks, a Gu Stroop Waffle, your phone, or whatever else you might want there.
Despite the fact that it looked a little like a fishing vest to this newbie, it felt great when I slid into it easily. It was so lightweight! I tested it for the first time on a 21 mile run out in Vernonia and wasn’t sure what to expect. I bought a bladder because I didn’t care for the idea of wearing water bottles in the front, but again this is personal preference. I was distracted for a few minutes by the sound of the water sloshing behind me but as soon as I got used to it, I didn’t notice it at all. The mouthpiece tube for the bladder fit neatly in some loops on the shoulders and I noticed that there’s even an emergency whistle at chest level. The vest is not at all heavy, which was my concern when loading it with water. I had some electrolyte tablets, some Gu Bloks, and a Gu Stroop Waffle in my pockets and I didn’t feel the bulk of them at all. I, in fact, completely forgot I was carrying them. I wasn’t sure if chafing should be a concern on a 20+ mile run, but it turned out that I didn’t need to worry because the vest didn’t rub me wrong anywhere on my body. The vest also never itched, never made me feel hot or loaded down, and never bounced around. It was the most inobtrusive piece of running gear I’ve added to my collection that I can remember. After running for over 3 hours, it felt as light at mile 21 as it did at mile 1. I am excited to use this vest as my mileage increases and I also think it will be great to take along on camping and hiking trips. I feel like I have enough to worry about for the long, challenging journeys ahead, so I’m happy that having the right hydration vest won’t be one of them.
If you’d like a bit more of a visual or a lesson in on this quality hydration pack, check out the youtube video on the Ultra Vesta 4.0 here.
Products & Price: Ultra Vesta 4.0 Ultimate Direction Hydration Pack: Ultra Vesta 4.0 ($134.95) – Find it on Amazon
Specs (from website):
- Sliding rail sternum straps
- Front storage hold phone, fuel and valuables
- Stretch mesh pockets are phone compatible
- Redesigned trekking pole holder minimizes bounce and snaps out of the way when not in use
- New Comfort Cinch™ technology provides a custom fit with easy on-the-go adjustment
- 4-way stretch material with dissolved thread stretches to fit more and is lighter than ever
More about Ultimate Direction:
In 1985 Ultimate Direction invented the entire category of hydration packs. We created the first waist pack for carrying bottles, a few years later made the first pack/strap to carry a water bottle in your hand, and have made many other innovations that define what a hydration pack is today.
30 years later we remain a market leader, having created and popularized the “vest” concept for carrying water. We introduced the very first women’s-specific line of hydration packs and have brought the classics of the past into the technical future with award-winning gear such as our Fastpack and Ultra Jacket.
Our products are designed by athletes for athletes, and the Jenny Collection was designed by women for women. Some of the best runners in the world thought long and hard about what works the best, and the result is absolutely great gear.
Thank you to Ultimate Direction for providing us with a sample pack. Please read our transparency page for info on how we do our reviews.