Monday, April 18, 2016

Ultimate Direction: Groove Stereo with Bottles Review

We hydrate every single day and more often when we exercise. Water is one of the main fuels that keeps the body in motion. I can literally go for 10 miles of running without any gels or bar but not without water. What we use to store our water is integral part of our gears. Hydration system is important! However, finding the right hydration system can sometimes be exhausting (expensive too) and you won’t really know if you’ll like it until you test it yourself. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll notice that I’ve been busy doing some reviews on hydration systems made by different companies. I’m fortunate enough that Ultimate Direction granted me to review one of their newest products on their 2016 Spring collections, the Groove Stereo with Bottles.

Ultimate Direction is based in Boulder, CO and founded by Bryce Thatcher back in 1985. UD (as known by most) has created the first waist pack for carrying bottles and have made many innovations on the existing hydration systems today. They popularized the “vest” concept that has been widely used in Ultra marathons and other long distance events throughout the world. What I like most about UD, aside from the highest quality materials that they used, is that their products are designed by athletes for athletes. I believe that the direct relationship of athletes to their gears is what makes a great product. So let’s get to the fun part and know this gear better.

-       AirRip Mesh
·      Lightweight, breathable mesh harness for all-day comfort.
-       MonoRip Mesh
·      Breathable, non-stretch, and hydrophobic - this lightweight monofilament mesh is ideal for bounce-free load carrying.
-       4-way PowerStretch Woven
·      A spandex-enhanced stretch woven for secure carry and great looks.
-       70D Nylon Ripstop
·      The perfect balance between weight and durability, the 70D nylon is PU coated for waterproofness and strength.
-       Weight 
·      4.5 oz. / 130g (without bottles)
-       Capacity
·       177 in/ 2.9 L
-       Size
·       (XS/SM): 22-33 in. / 56-84 cm
·      (MD/LG): 31-40 in. / 80-104 cm

Fit and Functionality

The Groove Stereo with Bottles is a waist belt type hydration system that utilizes two sections to complete the system. The first section is a combination of both the Lo-Fi, aka “the belt” and the Hi-Fi, aka “the front pouch”. The top portion of the Hi-Fi is sewn directly to the belt, while the bottom portion is secured by a Velcro system that can be attached and detached for proper adjustment when securing the belt and for a bounce free run. The front pouch has three stretchable spandex compartments, one of which is zippered. The front pouch is big enough where I can put some of my running essentials like credit card, cash, bars, gels, phone and it has a key clip to securely hold my key, preventing it from flying off while I dig for my gels.

The second section is the back pouch that carries the 2 x 500ml collapsible flasks. This pouch is much larger compared to the front and it has a zippered pocket located in between the two bottle carriers that I can use to store my lightweight jacket or light clothing if needed and two individual bungee cords to hold either gloves or a cap. Both pouches are equipped with reflective striping for safety and greater visibility during low light conditions. The collapsible bottles, aka “the softflask” were exclusively made by Hydrapak. I’m really pleased that UD chose the collapsible flasks instead of the hard case bottles to go with it. Unlike hard bottles, the flask collapses as it empties (and it feels like it's not even there), making it easy to stash and it requires less space. Since the flask is collapsible, this helps eliminate the sloshing sound which is common for hard case bottles. This also helps the pouch from bouncing around that could be annoying during the run. You can use hard case bottles if that’s your preference but be prepared for some bounce during the run.

When it comes to materials, this is far one of the best I tested. The back panel of the mesh material creates a channel for air to flow that helps to wick the moisture out. Other notable feature is that, instead of the belt buckle type system, UD utilized the Velcro system. The two Velcro systems on either side of the belt can easily be adjusted for proper fit and hug. It literally stays and lock in place.

My Verdict
Would I recommend this? ABSOLUTELY!!! There is no doubt that Ultimate Direction hits a home run with the Groove Stereo. Their passion and innovation runs in their blood and it really shows that they spent a lot of thoughts and ideas to deliver a product this great. I ran with the Groove Stereo with Bottles on my 11 mi long run and I loved how it performed. It didn’t slow me down and it moved along with my body. It provided more than enough room for me to carry the items I normally couldn’t carry on my runs. The Groove Stereo with Bottles is an excellent design that conforms to my body. A bounce free system that consumers will surely love and appreciate. I love the different varieties of the hydration systems today, from handheld to vest to waist can always find something from Ultimate Direction that will suit your needs. This is definitely one of my “go to” hydration systems when going for a long distance training. I couldn’t ask for anything better, it is that great that!

You can purchase the Groove Stereo with Bottles for $99.95  directly on their website or at retail stores near you. If you prefer to use your own hard case bottle, the Groove System is also available without the bottles and sells for $69.95.  I know, the price tag is a bit hefty compared with other waist belt system out there but I think the price is justifiable with the highest quality materials and innovation that Ultimate Direction has put into it. 

Here’s a short video courtesy of Ultimate Direction. UD guarantees that the materials and workmanship in every product they make will stand up to the use for which it was designed. Give it a try and I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

Thanks again for reading and I hope this has been beneficial and if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post below.

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