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Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta review

by Tracey Moggeridge
Friday 5th August 2016
Designed for women, by women... I've been given the beautifully crafted Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta in the Jenny Collection to try out. 
Teaming up with Jenny Jurek and a group of talented runners -  Ultimate Direction worked with them to design a line of products especially for female athletes, the Vesta being one of them - no pressure to get this right then ladies!
Ergonomically us lasses are built with appendages that get in the way, and curves that were meant for more besides running, and yet it's not often a consideration when designing running apparel as most of us ladies know. So it's nice to find a product designed by those that can appreciate this. 
Picking it up it's extremely lightweight but without the compromise on quality, the materials used feel robust and sturdy - this is important, nothing would be worse than your kit giving out on you mid-race. Plus for many, this sort of kit will be put through it's paces - sweat, mud, rain, snow, sun and a good dose of soap and water means the construction needs to last. So on first inspection the materials are sturdy, the rails that run vertically down the straps across the front feel robust but with enough give that you can flex them to suit your body shape - I just wish I'd figured this out before I started off on a 9 mile test run!  So, I decided to hit the Ridgeway - a gorgeous trail that includes it's fair share of ups and downs, off road, mud, dirt and uneven ground. 
My current running apparel is typically either waist belts (I hate them with a passion but they work for short distances) or a backpack style bladder. The Ultra Vesta has a pouch on the reverse big enough for a 2l bladder, however it also uses two 500ml soft body bottles (that come with the vest) that are strapped to the front; I've seen these types of vests on other runners and must admit that my inner FOMO was itching to try them out.  
However, I love the feel of putting on my old gnarly backpack, it's like a hug, it fits where it needs to, it doesn't ever rub, I can cram loads into it - flapjack bars, the odd fluff covered jelly bean, a 3l bladder, a coat, map, odds and sods etc, but the downsides are it keeps your back super hot and sweaty and it can cut into your hips and restrict your midriff and make you feel quite sick if you don't find the right fit. My old faithful however has always been comfortable to wear right from the get-go, even when i've used it for running long races, it's taken me happily across the finish on races such as the CTS Dorset half, around the French Alps, and the Grizzly without any troubles. 
So this had something to live up to, not least sentiment. 
The Ultra Vesta comes in two sizes, XS/S - the one I was testing, and M/L. I'm typically a UK size 8-10 and this size felt good, perfectly snug but with extra strap adjustment I felt I would have room for layers in the winter and for stuffing more into the pockets without discomfort. Both options are identical in design.  It's also very pretty. I know, but I am a girl!  It's a stylish mix of purple, flashes of pink and orange, and cleverly edged with grey to avoid showing the inevitable muck and dirt that it'll accumulate over time.  Aside from the pretty/cool factor, what else do you get for your money: 
Front features:
Soft body bottles and holsters which can be tightened with bungee style straps to keep the bottles secure
Two further pockets - one zip-able one Velcro for nutrition, keys, and a small mobile at a push
Sliding rail sternum straps
Emergency whistle (it's a bit feeble to be honest, it's not got much by way of pep, I'd be hard pushed to be heard across a crowded race start let alone atop a big old hill)
Back features:
Trekking pole loops
Open side adjustment straps to customise your fit
A mesh pouch for wet or larger gear like coats and for wet gear as it appears to be made of water-repellent fabric so that it keeps the wet gear away from your back
A compression bungee
A pouch for a 2l bladder

UD Moggers

So let's start with the less good stuff:
The water bottles when filled with water feel like unruly jiggly boobs lacking sufficient scaffolding to keep them reined in; the mesh pockets are super lightweight and so forward motion & arm swing brings with it sideways motion of the water bottles and it's a bit disconcerting to start off with. The answer - drink the water. Not ideal really. So to that end I was a bit disappointed, the pockets give the overall vest a great lightweight versatility, but perhaps could do with a bit of toughening up so that the pockets move about a little less. 
The vertical rails that run on the outer part of the front straps felt quite restricted to start off with, they were digging in to my lower ribs almost immediately to the point i was stopping and faffing a lot with the side straps to find a fit that felt comfortable. I worked out that the rails were malleable however and managed to flex them so that they contoured to the shape of my body better - I wish I'd known that, do other runners know this stuff or is it just me that has no clue about how gear actually works?
The really good stuff:
The water bottles themselves were great - no leaks, and the bite valve makes it easy to drink from when running without over-glugging or sucking in air as can so often happen with a bladder. 
The pocket options give great space for all sorts - coat, gloves, hat, poles, all the nutrition you could need, and space for additional water on those long runs. 
The lovely lightweight feel to the vest; unlike my backpack this felt great - so light, I had complete range of motion, I didn't miss having a disgustingly sweaty back (funny that) and I loved the ability to move the sternum straps up and down to suit your body shape - this made a world of difference to the comfort levels and unlike backpacks it meant my stomach and waist were restriction free, this is absolutely golden, so many runs have been ruined for me when wearing waist belts or even backpacks - they have compressed my stomach too much to the point I've felt lousy wearing them, this was probably the biggest win and gets the big tick gold star epic award. 

Moggers UD

Overall it took me a while and some adjusting to find the right fit, but when I did I felt comfortable and I could have happily kept running for longer.  I had no chafing, nothing rubbed, it hardly moves and I'd worn the vest in humid sticky conditions. The trick however, and I'm sure I'm staying the obvious, is to adjust and play with the straps before you testa the Vetsa in anger; really make sure you have the straps where you need them, and contour the rails to fit your curves. The bounce of the front bottles took me a while to get used to, but it's a good reminder to drink your water and keep you hydrated - canny move ;-)
The Ultra Vesta gets a great big overall tick from me, it fits all the requirements of a super lightweight vest that's thoughtfully designed, flexible to suit your running needs, reassuringly well made, pretty, and definitely for women. Whilst there is room for teeny small tweaks overall it's likely to replace my huggy backpack - I didn't think I'd be saying that. So thank you ladies for your efforts and considerations and for really paying attention to what a girl needs when running. It's a gem. 
The UK stockist for Ultimate Direction is betaclimbingdesigns.com
RRP is £100


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