Friday, May 1, 2015

Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra 2.0 Hydration Vest Review

I love running with water and hydration packs are a great way to take a decent amount of water with you.  Most of the packs that I have used in the past utilize a water bladder in with a tube.  The SJ Ultra 2.0 Vest from Ultimate Direction is a little different.  It has spots for 2-20 ounce bottles in the front of the vest. It was designed by (and named after) Scott Jurek who is one of the kings of ultra running.  He knows what runners need and tried to incorporate those items into the pack.

This vest has tons of room to store food and other supplies.  There are 2 pockets on either side of each bottle, 2 pockets below the bottles in the front of the vest, and two more pockets above the bottles.  6 of the pockets are for energy gels and other smaller items, while the two pockets above the bottles were for “smart phones,” but my Samsung Galaxy S5 was too big for those pockets.  There are two larger pockets on the sides.  I was able to get my phone to fit in the side pockets without any problems.  My one issue with this design is that I had a difficult time putting my phone back in the side pockets without taking the vest off.  With that being said, I am trail running, so I don’t need to be taking my phone out all of the time anyway. 

There are two large pockets in the back of the vest for your larger items and an elastic cord to put your jacket if it gets too warm out.  You could also buy a hydration bladder (sold separately) and put it in one of the back pockets.

UltimateDirection uses the lightest weight materials of any hydration pack that I have tried. The material is very breathable too, so I never felt hot with it on (unlike many of my other hydration packs).    The vest utilizes the following materials:
  • Silnylon 66: Impregnating nylon with Silicon and Polyurethane creates this permanently waterproof fabric, and also substantially increases its seam and tear strength.
  • Hex Mesh: The Hex Mesh vest structure is completely breathable, extremely strong, and lightweight. Its inability to absorb moisture results in a drier, more comfortable wear.
  • Power Mesh: All pockets are strong and stretchy, made with heavy duty 340gm Power Mesh stretch fabric so the vest expands as you need it to. 
  • Super soft VelvetexTM no-chafe binding
This vest fit great.  The two straps in the front adjust up or down as well as loosen and tighten to get the right fit for your body type.  There are also straps on the sides, which remain hidden, that you can use to further adjust the fit.  This vest did not move around at all.  It felt like it was an extension of my body, although the bottles sticking out in front of me took a few minutes to get used to.

There are a few features that several companies have not included which I feel are awesome.  Ultimate Direction added an emergency whistle.  If you are out and get injured or lost, this would be a great tool.  Also, if you come across some predator (person or animal), the whistle could help scare them off.  The vest also has loops for trekking poles and an ice axe.  I don’t know where they run, but I won’t need to utilize the ice axe loop anytime soon. 

The bottles work well, although on occasion the caps tend to loosen and water starts to leak out.  A simple twist of the lid and the problem is solved though.  The bottle’s top makes getting water easy and you can push the nipple in to lock it.  The water does slosh around a lot once the bottles are only half way filled, but you get that with almost all hydration packs as well.  

Very light weight material
Tons of storage
Great fit, doesn’t move around
Has an emergency whistle

Phone is hard to access without taking off the vest.

This is a great vest, weather you are running on the road or on a trail.  I have used it during two half marathons and numerous trail runs.  It is a great pack and the price is very reasonable.  The SJ Ultra Vest 2.0 has tons of storage and is extremely comfortable.  You can pick up your own vest for around $129.95 at the Ultimate Direction website or at Amazon.

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

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