Ultimate Direction Ultra 2.0 Jacket Review (+ Female Review!)

Overview of the Ultimate Direction Ultra 2.0 Jacket

My take: “Lightweight, breathable, and fully waterproof…” is how Ultimate Direction (UD) initially describes the updated Ultra Jacket and that’s an appropriate, simple description. In addition to being lightweight, breathable, and waterproof the Ultimate Direction Ultra 2.0 Jacket has a streamlined, comfortable fit as well as perhaps the best hood in the (running jacket) business. This jacket has a lot to love with only a few suggested improvements. So how does this jacket perform? Read on for our opinions! (note: we are including female-specific reviews/comments as well which we hope to do a lot more of in the future!)

Her take: I wore this jacket a few times in the Bay Area, hoping the temps would necessitate it, but it generally felt too warm after just 5 minutes. As we chatted about a while ago, most rain jackets feel like overkill in the Bay unless we’re having a cool spell. But I also wore it in Colorado in a wintery mix (temps in 30s), and it was perfect with a Salomon base layer: didn’t overheat and felt sufficiently warm. I could see it being super useful in places like CO and the PNW.

Specs:

  • Weight: 160g (5.6oz) – women’s medium; 174g (6.1oz) – men’s large
  • Size options: four for each gender (women: XS, S, M, L; men: S, M, L, XL)
  • Material: 2.5L 100% nylon
  • 30,000 mm water entry pressure and 30,000 moisture vapor transmission rates
 (i.e., It’s easily UTMB compliant)

Presenting the Ultimate Direction Ultra 2.0 Jacket

Now for more details. In this review, we’ll break things down in to six areas:

  1. What’s good: the new, differentiating, or simply well designed or built features or aspects of the jacket.
  2. What could be improved: tweaks or improvements that could be made to make the jacket better.
  3. When to use it: the situations or scenarios where the jacket excels.
  4. How it compares: my current go-to running jackets and how this vest compares.
  5. Should you purchase? My overall recommendation on whether to purchase this jacket or not.
  6. Purchasing Information: where to go to purchase this jacket.

I’ll try to be as succinct as possible. After all, you’ve probably got more running you can do today!

What’s good?

  • The overall package. Quite simply, this jacket does a lot of things right. It’s not the lightest waterproof running jacket on the market, but it is by no means heavy. It’s not the most water proof jacket running-specific jacket out there, but it holds up well in inclement weather. It’s not the most expensive jacket for what it does – but it’s not inexpensive either. I could keep going on and on like this so the point is that this is a ‘good’ jacket and worth considering as your go-to running-specific nasty weather jacket. (Her take: Lightweight…seems like it would be a good investment for UTMB required gear or other similar races.)
  • The protection. It’s hard to make a truly waterproof AND breathable jacket that can hold up to the demands that running puts on a jacket. This is because running is a high output activity by jacket standards. We sweat – a lot. So, we often get that clammy feeling and think the jacket has soaked through when running in a downpour. The UD Ultra 2.0 Jacket will protect you in nasty weather in all the right ways when pushing the pace. However, the 2.5L shell will not protect you like a 3L Gore-Tex jacket does so in REALLY wet and cold conditions, especially when you may be moving slower, the 3L jackets have their place in your jacket quiver. (Her take: At least on the CO test run, it actually felt waterproof. I’ve had jackets fail on me in terms of waterproof performance, so it was nice to actually stay dry!)
  • The hood. UD calls it a Tunnel Effect™ hood. I call it the best hood I’ve used in a running jacket. I love the hood for two reasons: 1) the design allows for great airflow over the top of your head and out the back, 2) the length, coverage, and reinforced brim-stiffener make the hood operate perfectly in rainy conditions.

The design of the hood allows for great airflow over the top of your head and out the back while still keeping you dry

The brim-stiffener works perfectly and the proportions of the hood provide ideal coverage without being too bulky

  • Underarm venting. With two underarm vents under each arm the breathability here is good. The vents are designed in a way that they should not let in water yet allow for air flow when on the run. (Her take: Underarm vents are helpful for cooling.)

The underarm venting is good and certainly appreciated

  • The fit. The jacket is a slightly relaxed fit through the body and arms with a shorter hemline. Fans of the Patagonia slim fit should look away. However, it’s not a bulky fit and actually works well in a waterproof running jacket I believe as it allows for layering as well as slightly increased airflow. The length of the jacket should hit the top portion of your running shorts or tights as well just perfectly. (Her take: It felt true to size and/or a bit on the looser side. I tend to wear small in Salomon so I’m comparing the same sizes here. The UD jacket (size small) felt like there was extra material around the shoulders and waist. The flipside is that extra length in the back might be useful in keeping running tights protected if it’s a muddy/snowy run.)

A simple, single pull adjustment on the hemline works well

An internal, single flap chest pocket is large enough for a plus-sized smartphone

What could be improved?

  • Venting on the back. I’m really picky about shirts or jackets that don’t vent properly across the upper back. My back must have a lot of sweat glands because I’m rather porous there. I’d love to see this jacket add a vent across the top of the back designed just like the underarm vents. This would make it an almost perfect running jacket for me.

Add a vent across the upper back and this jacket might be perfect

  • Longer flip mitts. It’s great UD continued to use flip mitts on this jacket but just like in the first version of this jacket they are a little too short and as a result force your hand in to uncomfortable or annoying positions when using. (Her take: The mitten flaps felt a bit extraneous. Perhaps some people would like them, but it just felt like extra unused material to me.)

The flip mitts are just a little too short to be comfortable when used

The flip mitts offer some protection but I’m not sure it’s enough to make them worthwhile

The flip mitts stow way when not in use – though they do catch on your running watch easily

  • Her take: Overall, the cons feel relatively minor! 

When to use it?

  • Anytime you want to wear a windproof and/or waterproof running jacket in all but the harshest conditions
  • Packed away in a vest or rolled up on a waist belt as part of a mandatory kit or on long adventure runs
  • Her take: I’d also use it for other activities, such as fastpacking/backpacking. It’s nice when gear can serve a few purposes and isn’t limited to one sport. 

Similar running jackets to compare with:

  • Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket: The first version of this jacket was my go-to rain jacket in 2016. This version is better in every way. v2.0 wins easily here.
  • Salomon Bonatti WP Jacket: very similar jackets in nearly all the key aspects (protection, weight, pack-ability, awesome hoods) with one key exception – the UD Ultra 2.0 Jacket breathes better due to the inclusion of the under-arm venting. The Salomon jacket does not have any type of ‘extra’ venting features built-in. As a result, I’m giving the slight edge to the UD Ultra 2.0 Jacket here.

Should you purchase?

So, the $190 question – should you purchase the Ultimate Direction Ultra 2.0 Jacket?

In a word, yes. There are lighter ‘waterproof’ running jackets out there (that likely cost more or don’t offer as good of a hood) or more bombproof jackets out there (that aren’t as light or packable) but the UD Ultra 2.0 Jacket does everything well in a lightweight, fairly breathable, and protective package. Note: UD also now offers matching pants for the first time should you want a full kit for when the conditions are really nasty.

Questions, comments, or feedback on this jacket? Please share! And thanks for reading!

Purchasing Information

If you’re interested in purchasing this vest, please first check availability at your local, independently owned running specialty store. They need your business and are a great resource for the community.

If that’s not an option, please consider using sites like Running Warehouse (women’s jacket available here and men’s jacket available here). Thank You!

Meet Your Reviewer: Ben Zuehlsdorf

I am an avid running gear junkie. When I’m not smelling new shoes I’m usually running or racing around the local trails in Marin County, California or talking shop with the San Francisco Running Company community of friends. I was once a road marathoner but now have transitioned almost exclusively to the trails and racing ultras the last few years.


Disclaimer: These jackets were provided to URP/Ben for testing purposes. All words and thoughts are ours and no compensation was offered or received.

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