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May 22, 2014 Comments (2) Featured, Gear Reviews, Store, Trails, Training

Ultimate Direction Signature Series Jenny “Ultra Vesta”


Every once in a while there is a product that hits the market and totally grabs your attention. Not that it is necessarily some crazy new invention, but mostly because its application is so simple that you wonder why it hadn’t been made sooner. We were particularly excited about this piece because we knew that it was forged from the collective attention to detail from experienced folks in the ultra community. With a continuous increase in the female division of trail and ultra marathon events, it was nice to see that Ultimate Direction took the initiative to introduce the new Jenny collection to their signature series.

Designed for women, by women, the Ultra Vesta is the first vest by Ultimate Direction specifically fit for the female crowd. With input from Jenny Jurek (wife of UD Signature Series’ Scott Jurek) and other female talent, this vest has a great attention to detail. The most obvious female specific change being the placement of the hydration bottles. The sizing is also determined by chest circumference. Let’s see what our testers thought of the product.

Average miles on product per tester at time of the review- 75

Fit & Comfort- 4.1

“It’s a different feeling to have the weight spread across the shoulders, arms and chest rather than across the back”-Leslie

There are two sizes: XS/SM or MD/LG. When asked to find a size, one of our testers questioned, “do they mean small for the running population, or small for the total population?” It seems that every brand interprets it differently. Here is the sizing recommendations copied from the UD site, measuring at the chest:

  •  XS/SM: 20 – 38 in. / 51 – 79 cm
  • MD/LG: 24 – 40 in. / 61 – 102 cm
  • Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear
  • A vest full of gear will fit smaller

Based on these recommendations she decided to try the MD/LG. She chose this because her chest measured smack dab in the middle of the size ranges, fitting in either category. Her report back was that it was a little too big and suggested that, “unless you’re busty, stick to the smaller size”. The vest fits well, doesn’t chafe at any point, has minimal bounce, and cinches down in all the right places with two sliding sternum straps and an adjustable side strap, which does nicely fold up and store in an elastic band, keeping the straps from flinging around.

As mentioned, the female specific adjustments called for the two 10 oz water bottles to sit just above the bust. This took a little getting used to but reports were that it ended up feeling pretty good across the board. The lightweight materials that are found across the whole Signature Series product line are rigid enough to maintain shape while also being stretchy in the right places. The material and weight contributed significantly to such a high score as the packs were tested fully loaded. The Jenny Vesta is an extremely breathable vest, which always helps with comfort.

Capacity and Functionality- 3.75

“The angled pockets up front were great for storage and held everything securely…”- Renee

“…difficult to access regularly and I couldn’t get the top pockets to cinch down well enough for anything other than the bottles”- Leslie

This was an interesting category, as we got scores from all across the board. It seems as though this was the one polarizing factor of the vest. While some completely appreciated the front storage, as the two comments above show, others disagreed. This is definitely more of a subjective category and will depend on how particular each individual is about how they access storage. All the testers did agree, however, that there was plenty of space available among the various pockets.

Another comment made was that using a reservoir may have been difficult during a race where the need for quick access would be appreciated. Otherwise, storage capacity was plenty for the front bottle system in a race where aid stations where fairly reasonably spaced. Tons of room became available by eliminating the front bottles and using a reservoir. That aspect alone made this vest very versatile, a simple one bottle short run pack or a 2L reservoir made this pack ready for a few hours on your own.

Ease of Access – 4.0

“I appreciated the placement of the pockets but because the bottles were held so high, it was difficult to see what you were getting into”- Leslie

As mentioned above there was definitely a polarizing effect when it came to functionality, which affects one’s perceived ease of access. Everything could be reached while on the run just fine. The two bottle system was definitely much more preferred while running through aid stations in terms of quick refill and easy access. But again, a 20oz capacity does create the need for adequate aid stations or water access on a run.

The back pocket was as easy as it could be and what you’d expect in a vest. Luckily, all the adjustable straps held together securely and snapped right back together which meant there was little adjusting needed after taking on and off the vest. We realize that’s more of a “comfort” aspect, but it does play a role in ease of access if you have to re-strap everything down every time you take something out of the pack. The quick pull bungees across the vest made for fast securing of your gear and a little pinch and a tug had it out in a hurry, even in the back pocket, making access easy and secure.


“This was a great pack and something I’ll definitely use in the future. The sloshing of the bottle up front took a handful of miles to get used to but was definitely manageable. I’m just glad that there is finally something built for females rather than being forced to work with “unisex” products and working out the proper adjustments”- Leslie

No doubt the testers appreciated Ultimate Direction for finally catering to the growing female crowd toeing the starting lines. Although it didn’t work perfectly for our more particular testers, it’s a huge step in the right direction and works great for the masses. There is no question as to why it received the award of “Gear of the Year 2013” from TrailRunner Magazine and also received a great score from us. We’ll start to see this vest at more and more races as runners realize its potential, versatility and the attention to female specific details that Jenny and her team put into this awesome vest.

Have a UD Jenny vest? Let us know what you think by commenting below. Don’t have one?  Help support the publication and get it here at our online store!


2 Responses to Ultimate Direction Signature Series Jenny “Ultra Vesta”

  1. Kate says:

    I’ve had my Jenny vest for about a month and I love it! I’m short with a short torso, and this is the first vest I’ve found that doesn’t hit me in the low back. I also like how it fits more snugly on the sides, so my arms don’t constantly brush the material.

  2. Rachel says:

    I have this vest and so far I love it! I used it at the weekend for my first ever 50k race. I love that it doesn’t bounce at all. I have tried a number of water carrying devices and they all annoyed me for some reason ( either it bounced around, or dug in or slipped around) but not the Jenny! I used it with a 1 litre reservoir for water and had electrolyte drink in the 2 bottles . The pockets were big enough to carry my iphone ( with otter box case) in one pocket and gels, nuts and small granola bars in the other . There was plenty of room in the other pockets for loads more stuff!
    I ordered mine online and felt that the sizing was a little confusing as they seemed to overlap a lot. I went for the xs/s and it fit perfectly. It’s easy to adjust too even when wearing it running.
    I highly recommend this vest, and so far, cannot think of anything that could be improved!

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