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Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 5.0 - Women's Review

A very functional hydration vest with a good volume to weight ratio that is made specifically for long-distance runners
Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 5.0 - Women's
Photo: Ultimate Direction
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Price:  $140 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Great pockets, breathable, good for beginners
Cons:  Less comfortable, less intuitive hydration system
Manufacturer:   Ultimate Direction
By Ally Meller ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 20, 2021
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 9
  • Comfort - 30% 6
  • Features - 25% 7
  • Hydration System - 15% 5
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 8
  • Pockets - 15% 8

Our Verdict

The Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 5.0 is a tried-and-true hydration pack that casual runners and elite runners both enjoy running in. This vest offers plenty of newly-designed, accessible pockets and a bounce-free ride for a lower price than some of its competitors. Ultimate Direction upped the ante with stretchier fabric and stronger compression bungees this time around. They also reconfigured the pockets to allow for easier on-the-go access. We like the lightweight and breathable mesh and ripstop components of this durable pack. If you are a new trail runner looking for a hydration vest, the Ultra Vesta is a great and relatively affordable choice.

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$123.96 at Backcountry
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$90 List
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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58
Star Rating
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Pros Great pockets, breathable, good for beginnersIncredibly comfortable, great pockets, breathableAffordable, ample water storage, user-friendly, durableRugged, affordable, comfortable, intelligent hydration system, solid pole holdersSimple, compact, easily navigated pockets, affordable
Cons Less comfortable, less intuitive hydration systemStrange hydration straws, average storage capacityLess gear storage, less frillsPoor volume to weight ratio, less softPoor volume to weight ratio, less comfortable
Bottom Line A very functional hydration vest with a good volume to weight ratio that is made specifically for long-distance runnersA 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 Ultra Vesta 5.0 Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set Nathan TrailMix 7L... Osprey Dyna 6 - Wom... REI Swiftland Hydro 5L
Comfort (30%)
6.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Features (25%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
5.0
Hydration System (15%)
5.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
3.0
4.0
Pockets (15%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Ultra Vesta 5.0 Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set Nathan TrailMix 7L... Osprey Dyna 6 - Wom... REI Swiftland Hydro 5L
Weight (without hydration system) 6.67 oz 10.16 oz 7.13 oz 10.69 oz 8.57 oz
Carrying Capacity (liters) 10L 8L 7L 5L 5L
Included Liquid Capacity (liters) 1L 1L 2L 1.5L 1.5L
OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!) 1.49 0.79 0.98 0.46 0.58
External Storage? Yes- excessive bungees, underarm pockets, front nutrition pouches, Yes- many bungees and one kangaroo-esque pockey Yes- rear daisy chain, pole holder loops, and nutrition pockets. Yes- back flap pouch, front external pockets, zipper pulls are bungee loops, plus a bottom loop that runs horizontally Yes- back flap, mesh pockets,
Type of Water Storage 2 soft 500mL bottles 2 soft 500mL bottles 2 liter reservoir 1.5 liter reservoir 1.5 L reservoir
Pole Holders? Yes Yes Yes Yes No

Our Analysis and Test Results

This strong hydration pack offers all of the basics in one moderately comfortable package. The excessive number of bungees makes it an excellent choice for comfortable large-load hauling.

Performance Comparison


The Ultra Vesta 5.0 can hold up to 10L of gear.
The Ultra Vesta 5.0 can hold up to 10L of gear.
Photo: Ally Meller

Comfort


On the surface, the Ultra Vesta 5.0 doesn't seem like the most comfortable option. It may not offer a sleek surface or svelte profile, but its ripstop nylon componentry and abundant lightweight mesh turn this pack into a comfortable running companion. The feather-light straps and horizontal, underarm bungees allow you to customize your fit further. This pack utilizes a hook and loop closure that cuts down on the overall weight. The bungees on the back of the pack seem excessive, but we found this to be a major attribute. Instead of offering an internal compression system, the bungees act as an external compression system to keep the bulk of the load close to your body. The bungees and close ride make this pack one of the most bounce-free we've ever tested. The Ultra Vesta is also one of the more frameless options in our lineup. Instead of having any boning on the chest panels, the edging of the entire pack is made of a soft yet strong, fleecy material. The lack of structure is yet another comfort feature that we like about this vest.

The lightweight closure option helps keep the overall weight of the...
The lightweight closure option helps keep the overall weight of the vest to a minimum.
Photo: Ally Meller

While the mesh backing of the Ultra Vesta is light and breathable, it is not especially high-tech. The comfortable shape of the pack overall compensates for its average textile feel, but it is worth noting that it isn't the softest pack around. The mesh is breathable and airy but also stiff and rough. These panels could potentially irritate sensitive skin. Overall, this tough and breezy pack offers a snug ride and ample 10L capacity for a low price and a low weight to match.

The stiff mesh backing definitely holds up but it's a bit out of the...
The stiff mesh backing definitely holds up but it's a bit out of the ordinary.
Photo: Ally Meller

Features


The Ultra Vesta offers some great features, safety-focused and otherwise. The included whistle rides comfortably in the left breast pocket, and the reflective logo on the back of the pack provides a bit more visibility during lowlight runs. The lowest of the front pockets are stretchy and engineered specifically to fit a smartphone, a unique and well-thought-out attribute. The Ultra Vesta also possesses great trekking pole storage if you have highly collapsible poles. There are elastic loops bilaterally on the breast panel and the waist belt. Collapsible poles can be neatly stored on either side, depending upon your preference. We like having the option to carry our poles on the front side of our vests while running. This helps us pull them out with ease when the terrain gets aggressive.

Our poles aren't as collapsible as the ones the pole holders of this...
Our poles aren't as collapsible as the ones the pole holders of this vest are made for. We made it work in this way and ended up logging a ton of miles.
Photo: Ally Meller

Ultimate Direction made some serious upgrades when it comes to the features of the Ultra Vesta 5.0 and it shows. Still, the fact that there are straps and bungees everywhere takes some getting used to. The external compression system has benefits, but we generally like a bit more internal storage for our gear. However, if you are looking for a standard, bounce-free hydration vest to help ignite your trail running career, the Ultra Vesta is a great choice. Ultimately, this vest scores in the middle of the pack and is perfectly functional; it just isn't our favorite.

The external bungee system offers great compression to create a...
The external bungee system offers great compression to create a bounce-free run.
Photo: Ally Meller

Hydration System


The double bottle system of the Ultra Vesta 5.0 allows you to carry up to 1L of water on your front with accommodations for a hydration bladder in the back pocket. The weight of the bottles stays snug against your body, and when we opted to shove a 2L bladder into the back and fill both breast bottles, we felt evenly weighted and comfortable.

The floppy soft bottles of the Ultra Vesta aren't our favorites.
The floppy soft bottles of the Ultra Vesta aren't our favorites.
Photo: Ally Meller

However, our words of praise for the hydration system end there. The bottles are a bit too low to offer easy access. You can choose to angle your head down to sip or use your hands to bring the spout closer to your mouth. Either way, a bit of coordination is involved, making this a rather impractical race day endeavor. Furthermore, it is not realistic to remove the bottles from their designated pockets each time you want a sip as they are difficult to replace, especially when you have your front pockets full of other items. And, if you happen to have your vest off and it tips upside down, your bottles will fall straight onto the trail. The soft bottle conundrum can be solved by employing a hydration bladder instead. After all, the compression bungees ensure a bounce and slosh-free experience. Unfortunately, the mesh is so thin that you can feel the water temperature through it. If you choose to start out with icy water, your back will be frigid until you warm up, at which point your water will follow suit. Overall, if you want to comfortably stow a lot of water, the Ultra Vesta shows up and will work well. However, there are more precisely engineered options available.

You have to reach to sip from these soft flasks.
You have to reach to sip from these soft flasks.
Photo: Ally Meller

Volume to Weight Ratio


The volume to weight ratio of the Ultra Vesta 5.0 is definitely better than much of its competition. This pack can hold up to 10L of gear and weighs in at just over 6.5 oz when empty. The materials that comprise the Ultra Vesta are incredibly lightweight and stretchy, adding to the practical application of the volume to weight ratio. The engineers behind this pack did a really great job making use of every bit of real estate, which we will discuss in more detail below.

The expandable fabric and lightweight mesh come together to create a...
The expandable fabric and lightweight mesh come together to create a great volume to weight ratio.
Photo: Ally Meller

Pockets


As mentioned, the people in charge of updating the pocket situation on this vest deserve kudos. The pockets are all well-placed and stretchy, allowing them to easily house whatever you need to bring on your runs. The pockets are easily navigated, with just enough extra to promote good organization. We love how expandable this pack is. In total, the Ultra Vesta has 11 pockets, including those meant for the hydration system components.

Once we pulled the bottles out for a swig, we had a tough time...
Once we pulled the bottles out for a swig, we had a tough time stuffing them back into their homes.
Photo: Ally Meller

The back of the pack is basic enough. It has one large, mesh-backed pocket that holds a hydration bladder if you choose to run with one. The mesh is strong, so if you happen to slip a sharp item (like keys, for example) into it, it is a bit more resistant to punctures than the thinner, more spaciously holed mesh that other vests use. There is a large side entry pocket that runs the length of the pack. It has a double-zippered closure, which allows you to keep everything housed even when you need to find something from the depths on the trail. There is another long, vertical pocket with a fist-sized opening running the length of the pack. It offers little in the way of closure but has one loop that can be modified to provide a bit of protection. This pocket is where the main external compression bungee is mounted. The surface of the back of the pack is split horizontally into two compartments, both with 4-inch long zippered closures on opposite sides. These pockets are great for securing small items.

The wide zippered pocket is one of our favorites on this pack.
The wide zippered pocket is one of our favorites on this pack.
Photo: Ally Meller

The deepest front pockets are designed to hold the included 500mL soft bottles. Atop the right breast panel pocket is a small, closure-less pocket that is split into two segments. These particular segments are the perfect size to stash an energy gel into each one. The waist panels each have wide, horizontally oriented pockets. The right side has a zipper for secure closure, and the left is open. Since the pocket runs the length of the waist panel and underarm area, we never had any trouble with our smartphones bouncing out of this pocket while we ran. All in all, the pockets on the Ultra Vesta 5.0 are expertly crafted and upped the rating of this hydration pack significantly.

The shape of this vest helps the load sit comfortably so you can...
The shape of this vest helps the load sit comfortably so you can focus on your pace.
Photo: Ally Meller

Value


The Ultra Vesta 5.0 is on the lower end of the price spectrum. Even though it isn't one of our top contenders, its competitive price and strong durability make it a great value.

Conclusion


If you are in the market for a lightweight hydration pack that offers slight weather resistance on a budget, the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 5.0 could be a great choice for you. It offers the features of the pricier options and is a good choice for new trail runners who don't feel ready to plunge into a more expensive arena yet. The Ultra Vesta might not be the running hydration vest that you fall in love with, but it is certain to satisfy your needs and get you running in the right direction.

It may not be our favorite vest, but it will get the job done for a...
It may not be our favorite vest, but it will get the job done for a relatively affordable price.
Photo: Ally Meller

Ally Meller