Monday, April 14, 2014

Ultra Vesta is the "Besta"

Last year I used a backpack hydration system for all of my long training runs and also the first 16 miles of the Woodstock 50K.  Did it work? Yes.  Did it serve it's purpose? Yes.  Did I love it? No.  Was it the ultimate pack for me? No, and considering I have scars from where it chafed I knew I needed to find a solution.  This is not to say it was not a good pack, it was well built, but it did not fit the curves of this women and I never could get the adjustment "just" right.  It also had a reservoir, and during Woodstock this was a huge pain to refill, so I knew I wanted a bottle option that was easily refillable at aid stations.

In my search I found the Jenny Collection Ultra Vesta from Ultimate Direction.  Made by a woman, for women and worn by Jenny Jurek and 2014 Female Ultra Runner of the Year Michele Yates.  Points for Ultimate Direction, they did not just take a vest, make it purple and call it a women's vest.  The biggest problem I had was that I found this vest on the internet in late fall and had to wait until it's release in January to actually order it.  After waiting so "patiently" (aka stalking the website and Ultimate Direction twitter account for the launch), I really was hoping that the Ultra Vesta did not disappoint and leave me chafed like the last one.

I have had the Ultra Vesta now for 3 months, and have worn it for my long runs including several 18's, a 20, several 3+ hours on the trails and a handful of runs over 12 miles.  I have worn it in -15 degree whether and 70 degree weather (thanks Michigan for that weather swing so I could do a full review).

Initial thoughts: 

  • After unpacking the box of course I had to hop back on the treadmill and run a few more miles just to try it out.  My first thoughts were it was well made, sturdy, easy to fit right with a few pulls of the straps and lightweight.  I got a M/L since I was right on the edge of the sizes and I am glad I went up a size b/c it fits perfect with summer clothes and also over layers of winter clothes.
First test run on the treadmill in a tank top & no extra Body Glide w/ no issues
After testing it out over the last few months....
  • Front zipper pocket: This is actually large enough to hold my iPhone in a LifeProof case & chapstick (I like to have easy access to my phone, mostly for pictures but also in case I need to use it)
  • Adjustable front straps: Not only do they adjust length wise but they slide up and down the piping as well so the straps are in the perfect place for a women's body (read not directly across the chest region and smashing the "girls")
  • Adjustable side straps: With 2 side straps as well it makes it easier to get the fit that is right for you.
  • Bottle placement: The small lightweight bottles fit nicely right above the chest and right below the shoulder blades when adjusted properly.

Once properly adjusted the bottles sit much higher so it's not squishing anything and the straps can be adjusted to go above and below the chest.

  •  Sleek: Seriously without the bladder in the vest, even with other stuff like TP, Picky Bars and spare gloves it fits nicely against the back and is not bulky or have a "back pack" type feel.

No added bulk even when it has stuff in the back pouches
  • Storage: There are tons of pockets, including a front zipper pouch, front velcro closed pouch, 2 large compartments on the back and a small zippered pouch for a key or other little objects
Front Pockets/View
Front w/ pockets "packed" -The 2 straps on the front of the vest slide up and down the piping for the perfect fit
What is packed in those closed pockets

Back compartments & bungee for clothing storage:

Small zipper pouch & the extra hair tie included (it's the little things people!)

  • Chafing or lack of: So far I have had no issues with chafing and now that it is properly adjusted for warm weather running (tank tops and humidity) I do not see an issue in the future either.  The material is soft and does not have an harsh seams that rub which makes it really comfortable to wear.

3.5 hour trail run in a tech shirt w/ no issues
  • Bottle Size/Fluid Capacity: Because of where the bottles sit you are limited to the smaller sized bottles.  This is not saying you cannot throw a 20 oz bottle in there, it just may jab you in the chin a few times.  The 10 oz bottles will not be a problem on race day either since aide stations are close enough together that 20 oz will be enough.  However, on unsupported long runs 20 oz is not enough unless you are looping several times.  There are 2 fixes for these however both do require separate purchases.  The 70 oz reservoir, then I could fill the small bottles through out the run or the new Body Bottles that are 14 oz (adding an extra 8 total onces, and possibly carry 2 spare bottles in one of the back compartments so I would have 48 total oz of water)  This is a minor detail though in my opinion since it can be remedied with the additional purchases. (I will update my review once I pick up these items and try it on a few unsupported, non looping long runs)

Overall I am really happy with the Jenny Collection Ultra Vesta, it was worth both the wait and the money in my opinion. I would recommend it to any women looking for a new hydration system.

UPDATE:  The Jenny Ultra Vesta has done a good job in all of the training runs and the self supported 50k on a looped course.  It still has not caused any chafing and held up well so far.  My concern is still the smaller bottles (I did purchase both the reservoir and the body bottles and have used both).  As I pack and plan for the Mohican I am having issues trying to figure out where to put the Tailwind Nutrition, where to put water and how to carry as little as possible since there will be aid stations ever 4-8 miles.  As of now it looks like I will have Tailwind in the front 2 bottles and carry the water in the reservoir, this is not actually ideal, 20 oz of Tailwind is not enough to get me to my 2nd drop bag so I will have to mix at an aid station or on the trail, which can be a pain with the smaller bottles.  I had thought about just carrying the reservoir with Tailwind, but then what happens when I want to rinse off or just want water, I wish it was a double chambered reservoir.  I will update once I finish the Mohican, by then I may have it figured it out.

Have you checked out the new Jenny Collection Ultra Vesta?  Do you have any questions about the vest that I missed in my review? 

(Note: I purchased the Ultra Vesta with my own money and reviewed it without compensation from Ultimate Direction)

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