PRODUCT REVIEW: ULTIMATE DIRECTION’S ULTRAVESTA

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IMG_20140715_124611_236 It’s mid-August. Hot, of course. The plan is twelvish miles, based on a map I made in my head while trying to sleep last night. The heat, and the distance, mean that my running buddy Clayton the Malador will have to stay home. He’s more of a cool weather guy, and this run will take me miles away from the muddy streams he uses to cool off.

Twelve miles can be a nice morning run. Or twelve miles can be hours of climbing, flying downhill, climbing again; searching for a little shade, just a little, a shrub, a blade of grass?!?

Heat induced delirium can make cactus look like a bunny

Heat induced delirium can make cactus look like a bunny

This run was the latter.

But I wasn’t entirely alone, because I had a good friend on my back, Ultimate Direction’s Ultravesta from the Jenny Collection. I hope Jenny Jurek doesn’t mind that I just call my Ultravesta Jenny. Sometimes, alone on a hillside, I’ll do my best Forrest Gump impression and say, “I love you, Jenny.”

Because I do. I do love you, Jenny.

Why do I love my Jenny? I’m going to tell you.

10 oz. bottle, phone, whistle!

I’ll start with the front. On my left side, there is an upper drawstring pocket that holds one of the included 10 oz. bottles. I have Gatorade in this one right now, because it’s about 90 degrees, but I can stuff the pocket full of gels if I don’t need that much hydration. The drawstring closes tight enough that I don’t worry about losing anything even as the pocket empties. There’s a lower pocket that closes with a bit of Velcro. I have my phone in this pocket, mainly for the camera, since there is no reception up here. My phone pokes out the top, but it’s a nice snug fit so I don’t have to worry about it falling out.

Oh, and above the pockets there is an attached whistle. I haven’t used it yet, but I like having it within reach.

10 oz. bottle, zipper pocket

10 oz. bottle, zipper pocket

On the right side there’s another upper drawstring pocket for the other 10 oz. bottle or food. Under this is a pretty sizeable zippered pocket. Running alone like I am today, I have my pepper spray in this pocket. It’s also a good size for gels or a baggy of real food (like running potatoes). But what I really love about this pocket is that there is a smaller pocket inside. This holds my lip balm, a few pepto tablets, a bag of salt tablets, and matches. I kind of wish this pocket was more accessible, since I have to get past the big pocket contents to get to the little pocket, but I’m still glad to have it. Those tiny items are too easy to lose if they’re mixed in with everything else.

On the back of the pack there is a horizontal zip pocket at the top. This pocket seems small, but right now it’s holding an inhaler, a knife, and some tissues. I think there is still room for my headlamp when the time comes. There’s a hook inside that’s perfect for keys. It comes with an Ultimate Direction ponytail holder that would be really cool, but I recently chopped off all my hair. Someday…

Internal bungee

Internal bungee

On the right side of the back is a vertical zipper pocket that holds up to a 2L reservoir. I read reviews before I bought this and it sounded like a 2L reservoir was kind of a tight fit. I suppose that’s true, but I haven’t had much trouble with my 2L UltrAspire reservoir. It takes just a little bit of wrestling to get it in there when it’s full. There’s a Velcro strap at the top of the pocket so the reservoir doesn’t sink down, and… drum roll please… adjustable bungee cords that hold the reservoir in place and can be tightened as the reservoir empties. I’ve never tightened them during a run, but I snug them up ahead of time and I have effectively killed the slosh! The top of the reservoir kind of poked me in the back at first, so I keep a bandana between the reservoir and my back.

External bungee

External bungee

On the left side is another vertical zipper pocket. This pocket is almost as big as the reservoir pocket and sits on top of it. This is like the Ultimate (get it) gold mine for extra storage. On this gorgeous August day I have extra gels in here and that’s about it, but by fall I’ll include hat and gloves, a big garbage bag and an emergency blanket. Even then, I’ll have plenty of room to spare.

On top of all these pockets is an external bungee cord that is currently holding my trekking poles. Separate from the bungee cord are two loops that keep the trekking poles from sliding out from under the cords. This bungee cord is plenty big enough for a jacket, even while holding the trekking poles. There’s a loop for an ice pick but I don’t own one, so I use it to hang the pack up.2014-10-19 13.35.52

I’ve run out of water on runs. In hot weather, nothing pushes me to the edge of panic like running out of water. So I really appreciate the substantial amount of hydration this pack carries. Another great thing about the Ultravesta is how well the weight is distributed. It might be so heavy it’s difficult to pick up, but once it’s on my back, it’s barely noticeable.

Oh, and it’s a beautiful deep purple blue color.

2014-10-19 13.35.46The Ultravesta has two clasps in the front that are easy to use even when delirious. It has two front straps and two side straps that make the fit easy to adjust on the run. Like all packs, it irritated the hell out of me on my first run, but I knew from past experience to use it on a short run and get it adjusted until it seemed to disappear. It didn’t take long.

I have a smaller pack that I use for shorter runs. But if I’m out for a longer run, especially one that takes me far from help, I like to know I’m prepared for the little jokes Mother Nature likes to play on me.

And for that, I love you, Jenny.