Gear Review: Ultimate Direction Jenny Collection “Ultra Vesta”

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Here I am, loving the UD Ultra Vesta midway through the Lost Lake 50k!

I was thrilled to be on the receiving end of the Ultimate Direction Jenny Collection Ultra Vesta this Spring (thank you Ben!!!), and I have put it through a fairly robust testing period thus far with a 50k training run, the Lumberjack 50 miler, and the Lost Lake 50k.  Previously, I have used the Nathan race vest and was fairly happy with it, minus the sloshing issue which I always seem to encounter with hydration bladders. (VERY annoying)  Using the UD Ultra Vesta was a first for me in terms of running with 1) no bladder 2) no handheld and 3) bottles upfront.

I am overwhelmingly in love with this vest!!! I really only have 2 minor issues with it, and they are so minor that they hardly warrant comment.  (but since this is a review, I’m going to comment! 🙂 )

PROS:

  • Fit.  I love love love the way this pack fits.  No movement whatsoever.  I can hardly tell I am wearing a pack.  No chafing. No mid-run adjusting of straps.  The placement of pockets is perfect. (I tend to run with my cell phone and the front velcro storage pocket is perfect for easily accessing the phone mid-run). I like to wear my vest snugly and I found the two sternum straps very comfy.  I am (*ahem*) smaller in the chest department and found the XS/S size vest to be a perfect fit.
  • Storage Capacity.  Plenty of storage! I have not used this vest in extreme weather or in any event over 50 miles (or without aid), but for my purposes the storage capacity has been ample.  I easily carried the 2-10 ounce bottles up front, bars & gels in both the front zippered pocket and the back top horizontal pocket, a cell phone, gloves, arm sleeves, hat, and a lightweight shell in the back vertical storage pocket.  The outer bungee system is perfect for easily shedding a layer and sticking it on the back of your pack.  I have not used the inner bungee system yet – but that is GENIUS.  I love the idea of using my 70 oz bladder inside this pack for longer/solo adventures when I need more water.  (no bladder included with this pack but it will accommodate one).  I assume that the inner-bungee would be helpful in cutting down on the annoying slosh-factor of running with a bladder.
  • Bottles.  Running with the bottles upfront did not bother me AT ALL.  I thought they might be a little distracting or uncomfortable, but I didn’t find that.  During a 50k or 50 miler, I refilled these bottles at every aid station.  If I were doing a longer distance in the heat, I most definitely would carry either a 20 oz handheld or use my bladder in the pack, in addition to the 2 10 oz bottles.
  • Breathability. The Ultra Vesta feels light and cool.  I imagine you could wear this simply over a running bra on a very hot run and still feel breezy.  No clammy-sweat-bomb-type feeling with this vest at all.
  • Cuteness! I know this is minor but this vest is cute! I love the color and the fit is flattering.  It isn’t bulky or obnoxious.  I tend to be fairly clueless and well, lazy, when it comes to running “fashion”, but this pack definitely gets style points, IMO!

CONS:

  • Bottle tops.  Those little red plastic bottle tops could use some work.  Two reasons:  1) I feel like I have to either aggressively use my teeth to pop the top up to drink (ouch) or use my hand to pop it up and 2) I feel like I have to slam the top down to close it (otherwise it doesn’t close completely and it will leak).  The design team failed a wee bit here in my opinion.  Minor, yes.  But perhaps at mile 80 in a 100 miler this issue might seem monumentally frustrating.
  • Long hair will get stuck in those “little hooky things”. Okay, this is verrrrrry minor but I have to note it! I have very long hair which I normally wear in a ponytail or braid while running. Every time I have run with this vest, at some point my hair becomes entangled in one of those small grey hooky things on the back.  What are they for?  Cinching the bungee tighter maybe?  I don’t know.  But long-haired folks be warned:  this pack may conjure up fantasies of chopping off your hair mid-race, OR (my experience), cause you to waste precious minutes in the aid station while a friendly RD or volunteer tries to free your braid from your pack. (thanks James Varner!)

Overall, I give the Ultra Vesta a huge thumbs up and can’t wait to give it the true 100-miler test in August!

Check out all the specs, photos, and a video here.

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2 thoughts on “Gear Review: Ultimate Direction Jenny Collection “Ultra Vesta”

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