With their newly designed Signature Series 4.0, Ultimate Direction (UD) has given women 3 new options in the running vest market: the Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 4.0 (smallest and lightest), the Ultra Vesta (medium sized offering with more space in the back panel), and the Adventure Vesta (the largest of the bunch, designed for a full day outing). This review will cover the Race Vesta 4.0.
The designers did not take a “shrink it and pink it” approach as they tackled these vests. See the “Differences” section in the Specs below. The Race Vesta 4.0 is designed specifically for women, not only with women’s different anatomy in mind, but with thought to how we like to carry our gear when we run. Super stretchy fabric molds to the body, and the new Comfort Cinch adjustment system allows the user to really customize the fit.
2 front bottle pockets (16 oz soft flask bottles included)
2 front zippered storage pockets
Large back compartment that can hold a 2 liter bladder
1 small back zippered pocket
Shock cord on back compartment
Trekking pole holder
Comfort Cinch technology for easy adjustment
Differences between the Men’s Race Vesta and Women’s Race Vesta
Hydration bladder compatible
Two zippered pockets
No stash pockets on the front of the bottle pockets
Different configuration for pole attachment
Now for more details. In this review, we’ll break things down in to six areas:
What’s good: the new, differentiating, or simply well-designed-or-built features of the vest.
In the past women had two running packs to choose from in the UD lineup, the Ultra Vesta and the Adventure Vesta. This year we get a lightweight entry that is streamlined for racing.
My first foray into the front bottle pocket style of hydration vest was back in 2013 when UD had just come out with the AK vest. I took it for a spin around my neighborhood and then returned it to my local running shop. Why? Because the vest was definitely not created with women in mind. It didn’t take too long for UD to figure out they needed to tweak the bottle placement for women, and they seem to have perfected it with their latest Signature Series vests.
When you first look at that pack it may seem as though the bottles are going to be positioned around your ears, but once on, they don’t seem to sit that high.
The bottles are advantageously positioned above the breast, so the weight of the bottle is riding on the slope of the breast, instead of being positioned out in front.
In this configuration, a 16oz bottle does not seem too heavy. The one downside is that I did find it difficult to drink from the bottles while moving.
Hydration Options for the Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 4.0
The Race Vesta 4.0 offers women the option of carrying their hydration by utilizing the front bottle pockets or opting to use the back panel for a hydration bladder. If you need to carry a lot of fluid, or you want to go with a combo of water and electrolyte mix, you could use both. The Vesta comes with two 16oz soft flask bottles but does not come with a bladder. One of the main ways the Race Vesta 4.0 differs from the Race Vest 4.0 is the hydration bladder compartment; the men’s version simply has a small stash pocket on the back. If you choose to use a hydration bladder, the vest has multiple loops for you to route the hydration tube.
I don’t know about you, but I have both loved and cursed soft flasks in the past. I love their lack of slosh when moving, but hate trying to slide them into the front bottle pockets. If you spend much time hanging out at aid stations, this often seems to be a process that causes a lot of swearing, both from runners and volunteers.
The stretchy fabric of the Vestas’ front pockets combined with the UD bottles that have a bit of rigid plastic at the base, allow the bottles to slide in and out of the pockets with relative ease.
A shock cord at the top of each bottle pocket make adjustments quick and easy.
Front Zippered Pockets
The pockets are big enough to fit full sized bars, gels, and much more. The super stretchiness of the fabric means you can cram a lot into these pockets, and the zippers give you confidence that you won’t lose anything along the way. If you have a small phone (iPhone 5 size), it will fit in one of the zippered front pockets.
The Comfort Cinch technology consists of several pieces of plastic and shock cord that lives in the back panel of the vest. By pulling on the two pieces of cord that dangle from the back of the vest you can pull the side panels of the pack closer to the back panel, thereby “cinching” the vest and achieving a tighter fit. This adjustment gives the runner the ability to customize the fit while on the go, without adding much weight to the pack.
What could be improved: tweaks or improvements that could be made to make the vest better.
I found the pole attachments fussy at best. The snaps on the straps to attach the poles are not easy to open and close, and after just a couple of days of playing around with the vest and attempting to attach poles, one of the snaps was close to detaching from the strap. If you plan to regularly stash your poles I would recommend practicing with the attachment system before you hit the trail. The pole attachments also don’t work well with particularly short poles.
T-Hook Sternum Straps
The adjustment for the sternum straps on the Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 4.0 employs a series of pre-sewn loops that you can slide the t-hooks through to move the straps up or down. Again, they are just a bit fussy, and really hard to change while on the go. I think the slider system on the Ultra and Adventure Vesta are far superior to this system, and would love to see all of the Vestas use the slider system in future releases.
I’d love to see women’s vests offered in less infantile colors. Baby pink and baby blue are your options here. I’m at least thankful that blue is an option.
The stretchy material of the pack excels in allowing the vest to move with you. The one downside to all that stretch is in that when you use a hydration bladder in the back panel there is significant “sag.” This results because there is nothing stiff in the bottom of the back panel to support the bottom of the hydration bladder. A potential easy fix for this would be to line the bottom of the back panel with the ripstop nylon that is used on the back bottom third of the panel to prevent abrasion where it contacts the Comfort Cinch adjustment.
When to use it: the situations or scenarios where the Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 4.0 excels.
The Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 4.0 is designed with the racer in mind! Just enough space to carry the essentials, but not so much space that you can unintentionally weigh yourself down. For races with inclement weather, the back panel offers enough space to carry an extra layer, and the shock cord will expand upon that space if absolutely needed.
How it compares: my current go-to pack and how this vest compares.
The vest that I was running in prior to testing was the Nathan VaporAiress. The UD Race Vesta is lighter than the VaporAiress, and the stretchier materials really allows it to move with you. However, the stretchier fabric of the Vesta and design of the collar, make it ride much lower than the VaporAiress. That results in the bulk of the weight of they hydration bladder being at the lower-mid back, which is less advantageous most other running vests. I found that having the weight lower on my back was more fatiguing. This is likely something I would get used to over time, but in three weeks of testing, I didn’t quite get used to it.
Should you purchase? My overall recommendation on whether to purchase this vest or not.
Maybe. The Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 4.0 is a solid pack for the runner who wants a streamlined, lightweight vest that will fit their needs for racing. If that sounds like you, then I would recommend picking up the UD Race Vesta 4.0.
Purchasing Information for the Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 4.0
If you are interested in purchasing this vest, check out your local, independently-owned running specialty store to check it out. If that’s not possible, please use this link to Amazon.They’ve got a great return policy and the affiliate program will drop a few bucks into the URP coffers. Thanks.
Your Reviewer: Sarah Bradham
I started my love of gear as a climber and as I turned my attention to running I shifted from carabiners, ice tools, and crampons to hydration packs, midsole foam types, compression clothing, and everything in between. After several years of foot injuries, I’m enjoying getting back to my beloved muddy and rocky trails near my home in Portland, Ore. In my work life, I enjoy coordinating an annual Mountain and Ultra Running Camp at the base of Mt. Hood with Yassine Diboun, Amy Sproston, Joelle Vaught, Krissy Moehl and Jeff “Bronco Billy” Browning.
Disclaimer: This product was provided to URP/me for review purposes. Compensation was neither offered nor requested and all words and thoughts are 100% my own.