Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 4.0 Review

Overview of the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 4.0

The Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 4.0 is the updated Scott Jurek Signature Series vest for 2018. Now on to the fourth (or fifth if you count the Scott Jurek FKT vest) iteration of the Jurek vest we see some major changes in this version compared to the previous models. The most notable change is the inclusion of the Comfort Cinch ™ system which UD is touting as a more comfortable way to make lateral adjustments leading to improved sizing and stability. Is this true? Does the Ultra Vest 4.0 unseat either of my two, current favorite running vests? Read on to find out!

Specs:

  • Weight: 119g (4.2oz) without soft flasks or a bladder (note: that’s REALLY light for this much storage)
  • Storage volume: 10.3L
  • Size options: three (S, M, L)
  • Included water storage options: Two 500ml wide-mouth soft flasks
  • Bladder compatible? Yes, up to 2.0L
  • Pole storage options? Primarily on the front with dedicated pole straps on each shoulder strap but could be stored on the back as well under the external bungee system in a pinch.

Presenting the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 4.0

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 vest.
  2. What could be improved: tweaks or improvements that could be made to make the vest better.
  3. When to use it: the situations or scenarios where the vest excels.
  4. How it compares: my current go-to running vests and how this vest compares.
  5. Should you purchase? My overall recommendation on whether to purchase this vest or not.
  6. Purchasing Information: where to go to purchase this vest.

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

What’s good?

  • Advanced materials. The main material against your clothing/skin is what UD is calling Knit Mono Mesh. I can certainly vouch for how soft and comfortable it is. Additionally, the front pockets and rear bottom pocket use a really stretchy material with plenty of expansion.

The mesh used on the inside of the vest is comfortable and breathable

  • Improved front pole storage. The top, pole attachment point on each shoulder strap is now an elastic strap connected to the shoulder strap via a snap button. I like this design better compared to the bungee system used before as it is more secure and potentially faster to use on the fly. I do worry about long-term durability here at the snap button attachment point as I’ve had bad luck with snap buttons attached to lightweight fabrics like this before but UD did a great job of reinforcing the way the snap button attaches it appears.

The front pole storage attachment point at the top has been improved compared to previous versions.

  • Innovative idea. I really applaud UD for the Comfort Cinch ™ idea. Instead of potentially using side adjustment straps to laterally tighten the vest for your body shape you simply pull down on a single bungee cord on either side. Then, this system tightens up around your lower back which should, in theory, then compress the side straps more. I say “in theory” because while there is definitely some compression that occurs when yanking down on the bungee cords I don’t believe it is enough if the front of your vest is loaded up with 500ml soft flasks. Some bounce still occurs. On top of that it’s a little cumbersome to then loosen the bungee straps if desired while on the run due to the placement of the attachment points. The idea is sound but the execution needs a bit of improvement in future versions of the Signature Series vests.

The Comfort Cinch ™ is a novel idea that could use some minor tweaks in future versions.

  • Increased storage in a lighter package. We see a jump from 8.5L of storage volume capacity in version 3.0 to 10.3L in this version. And that’s in a lighter package this time around too. Two additional front pockets have been added on top of the right soft flask pocket. Plenty of rear storage is available too with three different secure pockets to choose from. Yes, it’s 2L bladder compatible as well with an attachment point at the top to keep the bladder from sliding down. A bladder hose can be passed through either shoulder strap to keep things nice and tidy too.

Plenty of rear, secure storage options.

What could be improved on the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 4.0?

  • More front and lateral compression. As briefly mentioned I like the idea of the new, rear bungee system to compress the fit of this pack. However, it doesn’t compress enough and as a result it bounces a bit more than I would like when loaded up in the front. Similarly, UD again chose to make only one of the two chest straps elasticized. I’m sure there is a distinctive reason behind this but I’ve never understood this design choice. The best fitting vests I’ve worn are those where both chest straps are elasticized. Increased front and lateral compression would lead to a significantly improved fit when you want to load up the front of the vest with water, poles, etc.

Increased lateral compression is needed

The top chest strap is not elasticized while the bottom chest strap is partially

  • Larger front pocket for phone storage. As currently designed you can just barely fit up to a 4.7” smartphone (e.g., iPhone 7, 8) horizontally in one of the bottom, front pockets. And that’s the non-zippered pocket that really has to stretch to accommodate the 4.7” phone. A 5.5” smartphone (e.g., iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus) can only fit in one of the two pockets I would rather use for soft flasks or bottles. So, your only other choice would be to use the bottom, rear zippered pocket. It fits in that rear pocket with plenty of room to spare but I would prefer a better front storage option.

When to use it?

  • Anytime you want to wear a running vest when you don’t plan to load up the front with too much weight

Similar running vests to compare with:

  • Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack (review here): If you have read my review for the Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack you know that I love that vest. And I still do. It’s a better overall vest I believe due to the side and front compressive design/materials that keeps front bounce to a bare minimum.
  • Raidlight Responsiv 10L Race Vest (review here): I believe I noted the Raidlight Responsiv 10L was my second favorite vest at this point behind the Salomon Advanced Skin 5 and that is still true today. The Ultra Vest 4.0 is better than the Raidlight in some ways (e.g., the back is more breathable) but the overall design / compression / fit / front storage of the Raidlight is better in my opinion so the Raidlight wins out here.
  • Nathan VaporKrar 4L Race Vest (review here): The Ultra Vest 4.0 breathes much better and is more comfortable overall. Despite my best efforts both vests bounced when loaded up front with soft flasks. However, given some of the additional features (e.g., front pole attachment points and a rear bungee system for external carry) the Ultra Vest 4.0 wins fairly easily here for me.

Should you purchase?

So, the $150 question – should you purchase the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 4.0?

In a word, maybe. I’d recommend trying it on first, loading up the front with soft flasks and/or poles, and seeing how it rides. If the vest fits you well and doesn’t bounce I think you will like the comfort, weight (or lack thereof), breathability, and design of the Ultra Vest 4.0.

Questions, comments, or feedback on this vest? 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 once it’s available online. 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: This vest was provided to URP/Ben for testing purposes. All words and thoughts are ours and no compensation was offered or received.

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