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Ultimate Direction Summer 2022 Vest Review: Warm Weather Wonders

What You Need To Know

  • Sometimes pockets just aren’t enough
  • Ultimate Direction has vests for every speed and distance
  • All vests come in size S/M or M/L
  • Available now from Ultimate Direction’s website

MELISSA: Allow me to preface this review by saying I’ve been an Ultimate Direction customer for many years. Over the last decade, I’ve owned four Ultimate Direction vests and packs, and each one proved to be perfect for the job and extremely durable. My most recent vest lasted four years and thousands of miles, so you can guess how excited I was to try another one.

The early birds and evening runners will appreciate the bright yellow color and large reflective logo keeping you safe on the road. This marathon vest is lightweight and comes with two hard plastic bottles as well as room for a 2L bladder in the back (bladder not included). Although this is more specifically designed for road running, I think it can be enjoyed by road and trail runners alike.

JAYTON: I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: it’s too damn hot in Texas. My summer days start with making the bed, brushing my teeth, and then stepping outside to crack my breakfast on the sidewalk. Hydration is important, and although I’m new to the hydration pack world (See my thoughts about the Nathan Hydration Pack), I’m really digging the practicality of bringing my water with me everywhere I go. I reviewed the Ultimate Direction Highland Vest, which includes a 1.5 L reservoir, so it’s ready to rock-and-roll out of the box.


Marathon Vest v2

ultimate direction marathon vest

MELISSA: I was immediately impressed by how lightweight and minimal this vest is. It might be the lightest feeling vest I’ve run in and one that I’d almost forget I’m wearing. Complementing the light weight is a light price tag. This vest would be a great option for someone training for their first marathon or ultramarathon.

The material used to make the Marathon vest is very sturdy and has great breathability/moisture wicking, which I benefitted from on hotter summer days. The adjustable straps located on the front and along the side/back gave me the ability to achieve a perfect fit.

I enjoyed the available pocket options — the small pocket on the strap is the perfect size for a car key. The open mesh pockets on the side are great for holding trash, providing easy access for quick disposal at trash cans and aid stations, and the pockets in the front provide ample room for water bottles, gels, and a cell phone. The back pocket can hold a shirt, buff, or thin windbreaker.

While I appreciate the minimalistic feel of the Marathon vest, I notice that less weight means fewer features.

I suspect that my experience running in Ultimate Direction’s ultra vests might have skewed my expectations for this one. For starters, I had a lot of trouble with the front hook closures. They were easy to unhook but difficult to secure unless you hit them at the perfect angle. I much prefer the small buckle closures featured in some of the other packs. I also didn’t hold anything in the back pocket due to my concerns about unknowingly losing items. The small square of velcro holding it closed just doesn’t seem secure enough to withstand my bouncing.

If you’re looking for a very minimal running vest with basic features, then this might be the one for you. Although the Marathon vest is at a great price, personally, I would pay a little more for another model offering more features. Ultimate Direction vests last a very long time and can withstand years of sweat, machine washing, and all the miles. Why not pay more for some extra (and more secure) pockets, better clasps, and better bottle options?

Regardless of whether you go with this one or another model, you really can’t go wrong.

PRICE: $89, on sale for $54

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Highland Vest

ultimate direction highland vest

JAYTON: The weight of this vest was incredible, coming in around 10 oz, with almost no unnecessary weight. I love the front pockets, which offer super easy access to two Body Bottle 500 handhelds that you can grab from Ultimate Direction. The pockets didn’t fit my Camelback Podium Chill water bottles, but you could squeeze 16 oz single-use plastic bottles instead, which are occasionally handed out at running events, so that’s a plus.

The pack’s construction is excellent. It’s made from 100% polyester, which allows the pack to dry quickly when exposed to liquids and makes it a breeze to wash it after a long session. The reservoir is easy to use and even has extra space for some compact on-trail snacks or bandages. Ultimate Direction’s magnetic buckle adds a premium feel to the pack, and there’s a clip that secures the hose to your chest to keep it from flailing about.

One flaw of minimalist hydration packs is that this one comes with two chest straps but is missing a waist strap that some might want for added security. Also, I found that the pack bounced more when it was full, which caused irritation on my shoulders.

I think when you’re paying $150 for a piece of running equipment like this, an insulated reservoir should be included. When the reservoir sits right on your back, it warms up too quickly. The only way I managed to keep my water cold on a run was by freezing the reservoir with the water inside overnight and letting it thaw throughout my 6-mile run.

Ultimate Direction claims that this is the “Perfect Vest for your first Ultra,” and despite my personal fitment gripes, I think I agree with them. Eventually, I might grow to appreciate the two straps, but I am a maximalist at heart. However, I know ultrarunners will love how light and minimal this pack is while still being able to hold a lot of nutrition or supplies when they scamper between aid stations.

PRICE: $150

Shop Ultimate Direction Highland Vest

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