TAYLOR: Low light and bitter, cloudy weather are the two least motivating conditions to run in. Luckily, it’s 2020 so we have some incredible technologies from brands who have years of testing and tuning experience. When I got the pieces for the Ultimate Direction Fall/Winter 2020 collection, it was perfect timing – snowy runs were becoming the norm again here in Colorado, so I was able to put them to good use. I wore all these pieces for many runs over the last month and a half, to give you what works and what doesn’t, and how Ultimate Direction can get you on the trails (and on the road) in comfort. Be warm and be seen.
COURTNEY: Like Taylor said, this gear arrived at just the right time for me here in Idaho. The cold was getting real, so it was nice to have these pieces on hand for all my wintry-type runs. The bonus? I take my dog on most of my runs, so they were able to throw in the Dog Vest, featuring a bunch of storage for those long adventures. Anyway, check out our review, featuring jackets, tights, waist belts, and more.
Ventro Jacket (Men’s and Women’s)
TAYLOR: Staying warm is a tall task for runners when winter slaps you in the face. Keeping sweat at bay is a whole other story. The Ventro Jacket, while not perfect, does a dang good job at offering warmth with some rad ventilation tech to keep you dry.
UD is focused on its award-winning Clo Eco Viho insulation. A thin layer (very similar to a down layer) is utilized around the chest, shoulders, neck and hood. Also, finger snaps to their dedication to using 90% recycled fibers.
A ventilated mesh is applied in high-sweat areas. Forearms, underarms, and side panels contain a thicker, softer grid fleece material. It’s like the crunch-wrap supreme.
For a warm-bodied runner like me, this is a jacket that is best for sub-20 degree weather. One run was fairly windy, snowing, and around 10 degrees. I wore one short sleeve layer underneath, and that was about perfect for me. I even shed my heavy running mitts for the built-in mitts in the sleeves.
Fair warning with the Ventro Jacket: all that insulation means that moisture stays in too. Be mindful when breaking this piece out, it could turn your winter miles into summer miles if it’s not cold enough.
COURTNEY: It might be impossible to list all the great things about this jacket. My other running jackets have certainly been getting ignored since the Ventro came into my life. It’s noticeable that a lot of thought went into the design of this jacket and UD mastered warmth, wind protection, and breathability with the Clo® Eco Vivo insulation. The built-in Flip Mitts™ are a nice cozy touch.
Perhaps a little color variety could be nice. The $200.00 price tag might deter some folks, but if I have learned anything about winter gear it is that it’s definitely worth investing in and you usually get what you pay for.
PRICE: $199.95Shop Ventro – Men’s Shop Ventro – Women’s
Hydro Tight (Men’s and Women’s)
TAYLOR: Pre-test thought: these might be a little too “euro” for me.
Post-test thought: these are practical and high-performing.
I love these experiences about reviewing the odd-ball types of gear. UD’s Hydro Tight really surprised me in a good way. I mean, it makes sense. I almost always wear the Ultimate Direction Utility Belt. When it’s below 40 degrees, I will most likely wear tights. Why not put the ideas together?
Looking at these strictly through a running lense, they perform just as well as the most expensive Nike tights I own. They fit great and the paneled construction offers solid range of motion.
Polyester is the main ingredient. This particular blend gives the Hydro Tights a good balance of breathability and warmth. I’d say they have a wide range of use. An overcast 50-degree day with a breeze could be just as comfortable as a crisp 30-degree morning. Any higher or lower would be pushing their limits.
The Hydro Tights accommodate plenty of junk for your trunk. The two outer waist pockets fit specific Flexform 300ml hard flasks. I expected to be picking up my bottles every half-mile, but an overlaying fabric kept them nicely stowed away. It also helped that they fit really nicely in the side-butt dimple. Does anybody know the anatomical term for that? Either way, you get the picture.
A large center pocket is big enough for any size phone and, if needed, a very thin wind layer. A deeper thigh pocket on each side provided plenty of room for stowing mittens, a mask, etc.
COURTNEY: These tights offer so much storage, I didn’t have enough things to haul with me. The center back pocket fits my large iPhone, which is always my ultimate test. The bottle pockets are very secure and bounce-free. While I don’t really have anything to store in the mesh thigh pockets on each side, other than a doggy bag or a gel, it’s a secure pocket and I kind of love the aesthetic of it. The waist adjuster took me a while to get used to, but it does add stability. While breathable and made from 85% poly 15% spandex these tights are also supportive and warm.
Unfortunately, I am noticing a thread starting to come out of a seam on the lower leg in these tights, and the reflective wording/logos started to peel off within a week of wearing them.
PRICE: Normally $129.95, on sale for $77.97Shop Hydro – Men’s Shop Hydro – Women’s
Marathon Vest v2 (Men’s and Women’s)
TAYLOR: As for the Marathon Vest v2, it’s a bare minimum vest. It’s super light and would be easy to slip on for daily runs just to be seen. A larger open main pocket can accommodate a couple of layers or a 2L bladder. Five forward-facing pockets on the shoulder straps provide more storage space.
COURTNEY: For the minimalist design this vest sure has a lot to offer! The Marathon Vest gives you the option to run with 2 FlexForm™ II 300 ml bottles upfront or use a 2L bladder (sold separately) on the back. Personally, I’m a “bottles up front” kind of gal so I can monitor how much water I’m drinking.
You know that feeling of excitement you get when you discover a dress that you really like has pockets? Brace yourselves. This vest has so many pockets. The Marathon Vest V2 offers 5 pockets on the front that you can utilize for water storage, running nutrition, and small gear. There are an additional 2 pockets on the back for slightly larger items like a jacket, a selfie stick, dog leash, etc. There are also 2 lateral pockets. This vest does have a minimal design, but it’s mighty.
Ladies – this part is for you. Guys, stick to Taylor’s thoughts. The Marathon Vest V2 is unisex, and you can feel it. With UD’s women’s vests, such as the Race Vesta and Mountain Vesta, bottles sit right at about your shoulders. The bottle placement on the Marathon Vest V2, however, tends to lay right on top of your breasts or just below, which is awkward no matter your chest size. There is also a lot of room underneath the shoulder straps, and I don’t quite get the hug from this vest that I like from my Race and Mountain Vesta.
PRICE: $89.95Shop Marathon Vest v2
Comfort Belt High Beam Reflective
COURTNEY: When I originally got into running I did run with a FlipBelt for a short time, and the Comfort Belt High Beam Reflective completely blows it out of the water. This belt is very soft and the class 2 high visibility yellow color gives me a sense of safety because I often run in the dark on weekdays during the winter.
The comfort belt comes in 5 different sizes from XS-XL. I’m 5’8, wear a small in most athletic apparel and the small belt fits perfectly. There’s no ride up, slip or bounce on the run and it can be worn around the waist or hips. There are 4 large pockets, a small pocket, a built-in key clip and silicone printed elastic straps for storage. My large iPhone, running nutrition, a soft water bottle, keys, a dog leash, gloves, all fit in the Comfort Belt.
PRICE: $34.95Shop Comfort Belt
TAYLOR: The Ultimate Direction Utility Belt is probably my closest running companion. After getting a pretty serious concussion on a trail run my wife has made me bring my phone. As a trail runner, this has been the best fit for having something while not bringing the whole pack. There are 360 degrees worth of pockets that hold gear securely. Use the extra side loops to secure your keys, though. Trust me. A pair of loops are also added to store collapsible poles. The class 2 yellow really adds to the practicality of the belt.
PRICE: $39.95Shop Utility Belt
COURTNEY: The storage on this vest is remarkable. There are two large pockets on either side, side stash pockets and zippered bottle pockets. From treats to a collapsible dog bowl (they include a water bowl and a treat bag with the vest) to doggie bags, there’s plenty of room for all you need.
The vest is made from 100D reinforced contrast ripstop nylon and a durable 4-way stretch woven nylon mesh. For size, Rush is 55 pounds and the medium fits him quite well.
This vest only comes in black with silver lettering. For safety reasons, I run with Rush off-leash and prefer him to wear brighter colors so he can be seen. Unfortunately, this vest does not have any padding on the straps, causing raw spots on Rush after a 14-mile trek.
Ultimate Direction is off to a decent start in their venture to cater to the 4-legged adventure buddies, however, there is room for improvement when it comes to this vest.
PRICE: $79.95Shop Dog Vest
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.