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Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 5.0 - Women's Review

For its lower-than-average price, this vest offers well-designed and placed pockets with a great compression system
Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 5.0 - Women's
Photo: Ultimate Direction
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Price:  $125 List | $124.95 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, great features, well-designed pockets, good compression system
Cons:  Basic hydration system, mesh could be softer
Manufacturer:   Ultimate Direction
By Ally Arcuri ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 1, 2021
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 11
  • Comfort - 30% 7
  • Features - 25% 7
  • Hydration System - 15% 6
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 7
  • Pockets - 15% 8

Our Verdict

The Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 5.0 impressed us by offering far beyond the bare minimum requirements. Though its 5-liter carrying capacity is not huge, the pockets and bungees are all placed in such a way to truly accommodate whatever it is you need to bring on your run. We love the adjustable front closure and external compression system. The mesh is lightweight and breathable, though the seam around the neck area is slightly abrasive. If you're looking for an affordable hydration vest that can carry your goods from road runs to trail days, this is a great vest to consider.

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Awards  Top Pick Award Best Buy Award   
Price $124.95 at REI
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$109.95 at Backcountry
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$90 List
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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73
68
58
Star Rating
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Pros Lightweight, great features, well-designed pockets, good compression systemIncredibly comfortable, great pockets, breathableAffordable, ample water storage, user-friendly, durableRugged, affordable, comfortable, intelligent hydration system, solid pole holdersSimple, compact, easily navigated pockets, affordable
Cons Basic hydration system, mesh could be softerStrange hydration straws, average storage capacityLess gear storage, less frillsPoor volume to weight ratio, less softPoor volume to weight ratio, less comfortable
Bottom Line For its lower-than-average price, this vest offers well-designed and placed pockets with a great compression systemA 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 essentialsAn affordable running partner with a great design, built for the grittiest trails you can findThis is a rugged and affordable pack that can stash all of your goodies for shorter mountain excursions
Rating Categories Ultimate Direction... Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set Nathan TrailMix 7L... Osprey Dyna 6 - Wom... REI Swiftland Hydro 5L
Comfort (30%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Features (25%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
5.0
Hydration System (15%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)
7.0
6.0
7.0
3.0
4.0
Pockets (15%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Ultimate Direction... Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set Nathan TrailMix 7L... Osprey Dyna 6 - Wom... REI Swiftland Hydro 5L
Weight (without hydration system) 5.26 oz 10.16 oz 7.13 oz 10.69 oz 8.57 oz
Carrying Capacity (liters) 5L 8L 7L 5L 5L
Included Liquid Capacity (liters) 1L 1L 2L 1.5L 1.5L
OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!) 0.95 0.79 0.98 0.46 0.58
External Storage Bungees, easy access to front left pocket Many bungees and one kangaroo-esque pocket Rear daisy chain, pole holder loops, and nutrition pockets Back flap pouch, front external pockets, zipper pulls are bungee loops Back flap, mesh pockets
Type of Water Storage 2 500ml soft bottles 2 soft 500mL bottles 2L reservoir 1.5L reservoir 1.5L reservoir
Pole Holders? Yes Yes Yes Yes No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Race Vesta 5.0 is an adjustable hydration pack that makes for a great daily running sidekick. It is made of lightweight, breathable mesh and has perfectly placed pockets so you can focus on your run, not grabbing your gels. With a decent volume-to-weight ratio, you can tote everything you need without feeling weighed down. The clasp system on the sternum panels is easy to adjust and tighten, even after you shed a layer or two. The backside also has comfort cinch straps to help secure the load close to your body for minimal bouncing.

Performance Comparison


We love the narrow shape and external compression system on the Race...
We love the narrow shape and external compression system on the Race Vesta 5.0.
Photo: Ally Arcuri

Comfort


The adjustability of the Race Vesta 5.0 is one of the main components that makes it such a comfortable choice. The sternum straps cinch horizontally, and the backside cinch straps get secured vertically, making for well-rounded compression and comfort. The curvature of the shoulder panels towards the midline of the body also helps this vest hug your curves for added comfort. The narrow width of the main compartment on the back helps to ensure that even the most petite runners can find a good fit in one of the three available sizes.

The contours of this vest make it a comfortable choice for long runs.
The contours of this vest make it a comfortable choice for long runs.
Photo: Ally Arcuri

The Race Vesta 5.0 is not as soft to the touch as some of the other vests we tested. The mesh is lightweight and breathable, and once we had this vest on, its tougher-than-average texture was hardly noticeable. However, we occasionally noticed that the upper edge of the neck fabric felt a bit scratchy. We re-cinched some straps, and this sensation went away, but if you are highly attuned to sensory things like this, it's something to be aware of.

The collar feels a little stiff, but when it is configured...
The collar feels a little stiff, but when it is configured correctly, it doesn't rub.
Photo: Ally Arcuri

Features


The Race Vesta has all the essential features we like to see. There are designated and functional pole holders in addition to a safety whistle. These two features make it a great choice for trail runs. We also can't say enough about the intelligence of the external compression system on this vest. It works better than many others we've tested. With some gentle cinching, you can secure your load close to your body, which is optimal for running, no matter the terrain.

We love that most of the best hydration vests come with safety...
We love that most of the best hydration vests come with safety whistles included.
Photo: Ally Arcuri

Overall, the Race Vesta doesn't provide any groundbreaking features, but it gives us everything we want in a hydration vest. It has helpful safety features, pole holders, breathable mesh, and a strong compression system so you can get your runs in with ease.

The bungees beneath the main pocket help secure this pack in place.
The bungees beneath the main pocket help secure this pack in place.
Photo: Ally Arcuri

Hydration System


The hydration system on the Race Vesta is the one thing we felt a bit let down by. It comes with two leak-proof, BPA and PVC-free 500mL soft flasks. While the flasks can be inserted and removed easily, the architecture of the system is lacking, in our opinion. This is yet another front-loading vest that feels a bit imbalanced when the hydration system is fully loaded. We prefer the sensation of the weight being cinched close to our backs but understand that other runners might prefer the weight distribution of front-loaded soft flasks. That choice is entirely personal.

The Race Vesta 5.0 comes with standard, 500 mL soft flasks.
The Race Vesta 5.0 comes with standard, 500 mL soft flasks.
Photo: Ally Arcuri

One of the upsides to this vest is the versatility of the hydration system. It does not come with a bladder but is set up to accommodate one. Ultimate Direction states that the back pocket can hold a 2-liter bladder. That said, we aren't so sure that we agree. We filled the skinny, 2-liter bladder from the Nathan TrailMix 7 and could not fit it into the back pocket of the Race Vesta. We drained half a liter of water out and could then squeeze it in for a trail run. Ultimately, this worked, but since the back compartment is narrow, you won't be able to count on it fitting any old 2-liter hydration bladder.

The narrow back pocket makes it hard to stuff a full 2-liter bladder...
The narrow back pocket makes it hard to stuff a full 2-liter bladder into it.
Photo: Ally Arcuri

Volume to Weight Ratio


The Race Vesta 5.0 is not the most impressive in terms of volume to weight ratio, but it scored pretty well in this metric. While we love loading up bigger vests with anything we might need on the trails, this vest's 5-liter capacity hits a real sweet spot. It allows plenty of space for the essentials and a few extras, but without feeling like your upper body is cloaked in fabric. Ours weighs in at 5.26 ounces, which is light. The external compression bungees help the load stay close to the body, which also helps it feel light while running.

This lightweight vest boasts a pretty impressive volume to weight...
This lightweight vest boasts a pretty impressive volume to weight ratio.
Photo: Ally Arcuri

Pockets


While the Race Vesta 5.0 does not have the most pockets out of all of the hydration vests we tested, the ones it does have are excellent. Each one offers great closures and is placed in such a way to be accessible while you run. There are more layers of pockets than we originally thought, and we enjoyed running with a full 5 liters of gear stashed between them.

The front, compartmentalized pocket is great for carrying gels that...
The front, compartmentalized pocket is great for carrying gels that you'll want quick access to.
Photo: Ally Arcuri

The front panels of this vest each have a pocket for a 500mL soft flask. They are not as deep as the flask pockets on other vests, but the flasks can be removed, filled, and replaced with relative ease. The left front panel has a bungee and a small daisy chain on top of the flask pocket. On the lower portion of the front left panel, a wide pocket extends beneath the armpit. It has a mild elastic closure and makes a great pocket for stashing extra socks. The right breast panel has a separated pocket atop the flask pocket; it is a great place to store nutrition that you'll need while you're in motion. Instead of having the elastic-closure pocket, the right side has a pocket that closes with a horizontal zipper, making it one of the two most secure pockets on the vest.

The soft flask pockets are great for hauling water, or other items...
The soft flask pockets are great for hauling water, or other items if you opt to use a hydration bladder instead of the bottles.
Photo: Ally Arcuri

The backside of the Race Vesta has a fist-sized, superficial pocket with a hook inside and a vertical zipper for closure. The main back pocket runs the entire length of the vest, and while the shape of this pack is pretty narrow, this main pocket can hold a lot of gear. The external bungees are great for securing more gear, but they also effectively compress the pack against your body for a bounce-free run. With so many spacious pockets, loops, and bungees, this pack can accommodate more gear than it looks like it could.

We love the security and size of this zippered front pocket.
We love the security and size of this zippered front pocket.
Photo: Ally Arcuri


Value


The Race Vesta is available for less than many of its outstandingly high-performing competitors. The mono mesh and ripstop nylon make for a very durable and easy-to-clean vest. For what it offers, it is a great value.

The clasp closures on the Race Vesta are customizable and easy to...
The clasp closures on the Race Vesta are customizable and easy to use, even if your fingers are swelling at altitude.
Photo: Ally Arcuri

Conclusion


The Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 5.0 is a solid and affordable choice for a running hydration vest. It is made of durable and breathable mesh and provides well-placed pockets for easy access while on the move. If you are looking to invest in a hydration pack that will be with you for trail race after trail race, the Race Vesta is a great choice.

We will happily spend our days running up mountains with the Race...
We will happily spend our days running up mountains with the Race Vesta strapped to our backs.
Photo: Ally Arcuri

Ally Arcuri

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