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Ultimate Direction Halo - Women's Review

A less comfortable minimally-minded hydration vest with a great volume to weight ratio but not much else
Ultimate Direction Halo - Women's
Photo: Ultimate Direction
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Price:  $170 List | $67.98 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, minimalist, great soft bottles
Cons:  Uncomfortable, expensive, no secure pockets
Manufacturer:   Ultimate Direction
By Ally Meller ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 20, 2021
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60
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 9
  • Comfort - 30% 3
  • Features - 25% 6
  • Hydration System - 15% 7
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 10
  • Pockets - 15% 7

Our Verdict

The Ultimate Direction Halo fell short in some of our most important metrics. This is the hydration vest we wanted to love due to its other-worldly volume to weight ratio, but at the end of the day, we couldn't see past the abrasive and uncomfortable knitted monofilament mesh. If you're motivated by a low weight and are looking to shave seconds of your time without emphasizing comfort, you should check out the Halo. Otherwise, we recommend hauling a bit more and focusing on the extreme comfort that other options provide.

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73
Star Rating
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Pros Lightweight, minimalist, great soft bottlesComfortable, huge storage capacity, great pockets, lots of size options, durableUltra comfortable, stretchy, breathable, simple yet precise pocketsIncredibly comfortable, great pockets, breathableAffordable, ample water storage, user-friendly, durable
Cons Uncomfortable, expensive, no secure pocketsExpensiveNo trekking pole attachment, slight sloshing, priceyStrange hydration straws, average storage capacityLess gear storage, less frills
Bottom Line A less comfortable minimally-minded hydration vest with a great volume to weight ratio but not much elseThe most comfortable and spacious hydration pack that we have tested to dateA super comfortable and brilliantly designed hydration pack for long days on your feetA storage-oriented hydration vest that wears like a silky-smooth second skin and packs all of the essentials with easeThis is an affordable pack that offers ample storage with enough room for your trail running essentials
Rating Categories Halo Pinnacle 12L Nathan VaporHowe 2.... Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set Nathan TrailMix 7L...
Comfort (30%)
3.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
Features (25%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Hydration System (15%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)
10.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
7.0
Pockets (15%)
7.0
10.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Halo Pinnacle 12L Nathan VaporHowe 2.... Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set Nathan TrailMix 7L...
Weight (without hydration system) 4.94 oz 7.20 oz 7.09 oz 10.16 oz 7.13 oz
Carrying Capacity (liters) 10L 12L 12L 8L 7L
Included Liquid Capacity (liters) 1L 1.6L 1.6L 1L 2L
OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!) 2.02 1.6 1.69 0.79 0.98
External Storage? Yes- back flap, inaccessibble front exterior storage Yes- large rear kangaroo pocket, front nutrition or soft flask accomodations. Yes- Nutrition pouches on the front Yes- many bungees and one kangaroo-esque pockey Yes- rear daisy chain, pole holder loops, and nutrition pockets.
Type of Water Storage 2 soft 500mL bottles 1.6 liter hourglass, insulated reservoir 1.6 liter hourglass, insulated reservoir 2 soft 500mL bottles 2 liter reservoir
Pole Holders? Yes Yes No Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

This expensive hydration vest boasts a 10L storage capacity for only 4.94 oz. While this is impressive, the lack of comfort lowered our ratings significantly.

Performance Comparison


Taking a moment to enjoy the scenery while wearing the Ultimate...
Taking a moment to enjoy the scenery while wearing the Ultimate Direction Halo.
Photo: Ally Meller

Comfort


The Halo is the hydration pack we wanted to fall for. We unboxed it and were surprised and delighted by the minimalist profile and sneakily smart storage. However, every testing run yielded the same unfortunate results. The stiff upper mesh rubbed the back of our neck time and time again. Running is already uncomfortable, and wearing the Halo feels to us like wearing an ill-fitted sports bra — you know, the one you hang onto because it's cute. The upper portion of the vest cannot be customized, leading to its high-riding, neck-chafing fit. It sits so high up on the back of the neck that it almost felt, at certain times, like it was subtly encouraging us to round our shoulders forward in an ergonomically improper way.

This unforgiving upper chafed, rubbed, and bothered us through every...
This unforgiving upper chafed, rubbed, and bothered us through every run.
Photo: Ally Meller

The elastic loops are flexible and customizable, which is a plus for this generally uncomfortable pack. There are two adjustable front straps to secure the vest to your chest and a set of underarm bungees on each side to ensure a cinched fit. We could easily cinch and change the size of the vest depending upon how much gear we wanted to carry. However, when fully loaded, the weight doesn't feel very well distributed, which we found distracting on our long days.

The lower bungees are easy to adjust on the go.
The lower bungees are easy to adjust on the go.
Photo: Ally Meller

Features


We have to hand it to the Halo here. It offers quite a few features for an itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny, minimalistic vest. The mesh is breathable, albeit scratchy, and as mentioned, the options for a customized fit are vast. This is due to the Comfort Cinch 2.0 technology. There is a stealthy-included safety whistle attached to the left chest panel, an excellent addition in case of emergencies.

Here we are again, trying to make sense of this vest's comfort.
Here we are again, trying to make sense of this vest's comfort.
Photo: Ally Meller

This hydration pack even has pole holders! We were surprised to discover this because of its tiny profile. Unfortunately, the pole holders are inconvenient. The poles can be secured with snap closure loops, so they don't bounce, which is good because they might bounce right into your eye if they did. In general, this vest rides higher up on the body than what we are used to, and the pole holders are no exception. We found ourselves wanting to ditch our (admittedly large) trekking poles while out with this vest because the whole configuration was intolerable.

The lack of smooth, spacious surfaces doesn't leave much space for...
The lack of smooth, spacious surfaces doesn't leave much space for seamless trekking pole storage.
Photo: Ally Meller

Hydration System


The Halo is a reliable choice for runs when you want to bring water and only a few other essentials. Thankfully, the hydration system delivers. This vest comes equipped with two 500mL soft flasks that can be seamlessly stowed in the deep chest pockets. Because this pack sits high, the bite valves truly sit within mouth's reach. You pull the mouthpiece up to release water and push it back to close it. We never had any trouble with these valves leaking.

Ultimate Direction does make some of the best soft flasks we've had...
Ultimate Direction does make some of the best soft flasks we've had the opportunity to test.
Photo: Ally Meller

The Halo also offers the option to use a 2L hydration bladder instead of, or in addition to, the soft bottles. The stretchy back panel expands to accommodate a full bladder, and the snap loop atop the back pocket can secure your hydration hose in place. There are bilateral elastic loops to guide the hose as well. We prefer the feeling of running with the weight of our water on our backs, as opposed to our fronts. While using a hydration bladder, which did not come included, we found this vest to be mildly more comfortable. Unfortunately, no matter how we stashed our water, the weight of it never evened out.

This vest is so small that you can barely see if from a distance.
This vest is so small that you can barely see if from a distance.
Photo: Ally Meller

Volume to Weight Ratio


This is the metric in which the Halo truly shines. It weighs in at a super low 4.94 oz and can hold up to 10L of gear. While this is notable in the world of hydration vests, we can't help but feel like this is the first version of a vest that has so much potential. We hope that Ultimate Direction can take the Halo from an uncomfortable minimalist vest to a high-tech, ultra-light hydration system that runners won't want to live without.

Though not our favorite hydration vest, this super lightweight...
Though not our favorite hydration vest, this super lightweight option didn't slow us down.
Photo: Ally Meller

Pockets


There are 10 total pockets on the Halo, including the pockets intended for a hydration system. The back of this vest has a long, narrow pocket for holding a hydration bladder with three additional pockets on top of that. Two of these pockets are hand-sized and offer the most basic and untrustworthy elastic closures. The most superficial pocket is about the same size as the other two mid-sized pockets and has a cinch strap closure. Each underarm panel has a small, Velcro-closure pocket that is the perfect size for your gels, lip balms, and other small items.

There are quite a few back pockets available, but none of them have...
There are quite a few back pockets available, but none of them have secure closures.
Photo: Ally Meller

The front panels of this hydration pack have two deep pockets for holding soft water bottles, and each has a small pocket atop that. These pockets are difficult to access with full bottles and simply do not offer enough space for our essentials. We were disappointed that we were unable to carry our smartphone in the front pockets. While we understand that this isn't necessary, we like having quick access to our maps on the trails or song changes on the roads. We remain disappointed by the lack of secure closures available on this pack. We truly do not know where the safest place to store our car keys is.

The front pockets are maxed out with full flasks inside them.
The front pockets are maxed out with full flasks inside them.
Photo: Ally Meller

Value


The Halo is by no means a bargain buy. It's less expensive than others we tested, but we'd rather not cough up this much cash for a hydration system that ultimately doesn't meet our needs.

For the price, the Ultimate Direction Halo just doesn't do it for us.
For the price, the Ultimate Direction Halo just doesn't do it for us.
Photo: Ally Meller

Conclusion


As much as we wanted to go minimalist and love the unique profile of this vest, we didn't. Its lack of comfort, secure pockets, and weight distribution didn't live up to our expectations. If you are an experienced, gritty trail runner looking to shed weight, carry nothing but the basics, and throw comfort to the breeze, then the Ultimate Direction Halo is the pack for you. For the rest of us, running presents plenty of discomfort and challenges in itself. We'll stick with silky smooth, well-fitted vests for now.

It might look subtle and oh-so fly, but we couldn't wait to get home...
It might look subtle and oh-so fly, but we couldn't wait to get home so we could shed this vest.
Photo: Ally Meller

Ally Meller