Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 3.0

8.4
8.4 score
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Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 3.0Review Facts
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When running mile after mile on a medium to long distance path—whether in training or competition—it’s important to be able to carry much-needed items like water and have the on-hand capacity to store essentials. Particularly if you’re going to be miles away from any sort of relief, runners can only depend on what they have on their person at any given time. This is where running vests come into play: lightweight clothing options that comfortably fit the runner that doesn’t restrict movement and provides them with the ability to carry much-needed items.

The Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 3—the signature series of Ultimate Direction—has been made for long-distance runners who require the ability to keep supplies on-hand during a run. Designed and tested by Scott Jurek, one of the world’s leading distance runners—the SJ Ultra Vest was fine-tuned as Jurek tested out the prototype during a 43-day Appalachian Trail world record run and made improvements based on his experiences.

The latest in UD’s line of Ultra Vests—the 3.0—has substantially improved upon previous editions. With an overall storage capacity increase of 8.5 liters (up from 7 liters in previous editions), the storage options include an upper rear pocket for a large bladder, a secure pocket located at the base of the back, which can be easily reached while running, two long pockets in the front for storing Ultimate Direction soft bottles as well as regular bottles, a zipper pocket made of stretch mesh, and another stretch pocket for small food items or a phone. With lightweight T-Hook adjustable sternum straps, trekking pole holders, a reservoir-compatible pouch, and an adjustable lateral strap that provides stability, runners will feel safe and secure wearing the SJ Ultra Vest while keeping all necessities close at hand during a long run. Lightweight and loaded with great features, the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 3 will keep runners comfortable and well-equipped for whatever circumstances they may find themselves many miles into a long-distance run.

Pros
  • Lots of available space for water, gels, solid food, and running accessories.
  • Ease of access doesn’t slow down runner while reaching for water
  • Built-in pole holders that are easy to store and kept out of the runner’s way
  • Lightweight garment made of durable materials
  • Unobtrusive, no chafing, doesn’t restrict mobility
Cons
  • Pockets not as stable as ideal
  • Tends to run small in size
Use
Use

Use

The UD SJ Ultra Vest 3 is ideally used in medium to long distance runs, particularly during ultra marathons, where the runner may find themselves many miles away from relief and depend on what they have on hand to make it to the finish. This hydration vest is fit for every type and offers secure usable spaces for runners to store their necessities—everything from water and gels to cell phones and small supplies is guaranteed space in the Ultra Vest 3. Pockets of various sizes are placed throughout the vest, from secured stretch mesh pockets that vary in size to accommodate a water bottle or bladder or small items like chapstick and audio devices, totaling eight storage compartments. Made of non-chafing Mono Mesh, this lightweight (6.2 ounce/176 gram) vest provides secure storage of essentials needed on long runs.
Breathability
Breathability

Breathability

Made of Mono Mesh, the bulk of the garment is highly breathable, and while some runners have commented on feeling a little warm while wearing the Ultra Vest 3, its open design allows for complete arm mobility and only completely covers the torso. Its lightweight design also provides the SJ Ultra Vest 3 with a “barely there” feel while wearing it.
Comfort
Comfort

Comfort

Made for rugged conditions but with a lightweight construction, the SJ Ultra Vest 3 is most comfortable when it’s secured firmly on the runner’s body—which is to say, it will remain in place even during strenuous activities. Comprised of Mono Mesh, a material that lessens the risk of skin abrasions and overall chafing, this flexible material is highly breathable. The placement of the many pockets that are the highlight features of the Ultra Vest 3 is also easy to access while wearing the vest. With a large front mesh pocket and another one placed on the back, runners can safely and comfortably store many supplies without feeling loaded down or awkward.
Size
Size

Size

When it comes to sizing the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 3, there are two ways to go: one is going by company-provided measurements (6.2 ounces/167 grams, fits chests 24-38/31-42/36-50) and then there is how the sizes actually fit. A few reviewers found that the sizes tend to run small, which means if you’re a Small, order a medium, and if you’re a medium, you may want to get the Large. Having the right fit when wearing a storage vest on long-distance runs, only to experience discomfort and chafing, defeats the purpose of this wearable, after all, so with the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 3 it’s best to either try it on first or ordering a size larger to ensure a good fit.
Durability
Durability

Durability

Made of synthetic materials—from its Mono Mesh main fabric to its nylon mesh pouches and sturdy sternum straps—the SJ Ultra Vest 3 is a durable running vest. Made to withstand extreme conditions and hold up against the always-changing forces of nature, this vest is made to go the distance and retain its functionality even long into a hike, run, or ultra marathon.
Accessories
Accessories

Accessories

Branding has gotten a large push for the Scott Jurek line that Ultimate Direction has rolled out, and the accessories for the Ultra Vest 3 follow this suit. While it does come with two Body Bottles, which are meant to fit perfectly in the front holsters designed for them, the Scott Jurek line doesn’t stop with just this vest. Most prominently associated with this vest is the refillable (Scott Jurek-approved) FlexForm bottles. Also, there is a host of add-ons and options that range from grips for the bottles to matching additional gear and hydration storage equipment. The entire Jurek line seems to be a large, matching line of accessories that runners can collect for the whole set, so it’s easier to say that the Ultra Vest 3 is as much an accessory to the rest of the Jurek collection as any other part of it is.
Style
Style

Style

The phrase that first comes to mind when looking at the SJ Ultra Vest 3 is: no-nonsense. This hydration vest is not out to win over those looking for a fashion statement but for the runner who wants to wear a durable, lightweight vest for storage and hydration options as they embark on a marathon-length (or longer) endurance run. It looks mostly like a safety jacket from a dangerous job site, only cooler in its aesthetic and much more multi-purpose. Functionality fits form here, and if the function one is looking for in a hydration vest is in its accessibility, performance, and comfort, then the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 3 might just be your style.
Price
Price

Price

If you’re in the market for a hydration vest for long-distance runs, then more likely than not you are an experienced runner. And as an experienced runner, you may be very familiar with the pricing of sports equipment and accessories in the running world: high-price specialty sneakers, expensive supplements and add-ons, and other add-ons that may provide a much-needed service but at a premium price. This is all to lead up to the Ultra Vest 3’s price point: it’s not exactly cheap. While not the most expensive on the market, this hydration vest is priced maybe higher than some runners would spend on such an item. But its price also reflects its quality. With the first two editions of the SJ Ultra Vest having found a solid base of ultra marathoners who enjoy its easy access, amount of available storage space, and overall comfort—especially as the miles wear on—this is a higher-end hydration vest meant to continue performing for as long as the runner does.
Key Features
Key Features

Key Features

• T-hook adjustable sternum straps
• Included 500ml Body Bottles with holsters
• Phone-compatible pockets
• Trekking pole holders
• Upper back open for maximum ventilation
• Accessible two-layered pockets for storage
• Wide lateral straps provide stability
Bottom Line
Bottom Line

Bottom Line

It’s no surprise the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest line is one of the most popular on the market today. With great storage capability and a wide variety of storage sizes to fit various purposes, this versatile hydration vest has found an appreciative audience in the medium- to the long-distance running world. With included Body Bottles that fit perfectly in the two front holsters, the wide storage pocket that runs across the front, and the numerous smaller, secure pockets that can hold small accessories, phones, or cameras, the Ultra Vest 3 has taken an already well-received design and continued to tweak it. Improving on accessibility and securing the vest firmly to the body, Ultimate Direction has produced another winner—and one whose popularity will be sure to continue if future editions continue to get just a little closer to perfection. But for the best that’s available right at the moment, the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 3 is a hydration vest option that leaves its competition in the dust.