Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ultimate Direction: Spring 2017 Review

Spring has sprung whether you like it or not. I know my friends back in the east coast are dreading for this winter to be over, I can’t blame them though. Yup spring is here, but this past few weeks the weather was somewhat iffy. The weather suddenly shifted from being on the mild 70’s then we got pounded by rain all throughout the week. I’m not complaining, it just amazing how weather could sometimes shift so quick.

Well, since we are on a new season and to keep you on the upbeat on what’s new (and what’s hot) with Ultimate Direction, I have few items that I tested this past few weeks that I really enjoyed and something that might interest you. Temperature here is still on the cold side (and wet) especially in the early mornings, and if you’re one of those early risers then the Ultra Jacket is the gear you don’t want to leave the house without. On top of that, we know how vital hydration is when it comes to running…the Groove Mono and the Amp hydration systems are something that you may want to consider to keep your fuel top off.

If you’ve been following my blog, I have tested few items of Ultimate Direction products in the past and you can read them by clicking below:
·      AK Mountain Vest 3.0
·      Marathon Shell Jacket

So, let’s start with the ULTRA JACKET


·      48gsm 20D HexNylon Fastbreath Ultra™ Fabric

Weight
·      5.9 ounces / 167 g

Features
·   Exceeds the breathability and waterproofness standard required by the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc
·   Fastbreath Ultra – waterproof/ breathable fabric
·   Fully taped seams
·   Internal chest pocket
·   Underarm vents
·   Ergonomic shoulder construction
·   Self-bound seams
·   Patent pending tunnel effect hood channel
·   Patent pending FlipMitts

Fit and Functionality
The Ultra Jacket is UD’s finest jacket that serves a dual purpose. Not only it is a windbreaker but it’s also waterproof. Yeah other jackets have that too (you may say) …but what makes this better from the rest is its lightness. There are not too many waterproof jackets this light, most of them are bulky, heavy and doesn’t compress into a small size where you can easily stash it in your back pocket.  

The Ultra Jacket is one of the lightest jackets that I have tested, weighing 5.9 ounces. It’s semi fitted that follows the contour of the body yet offers enough room for the body to breathe. It is made of a 20D Hex nylon Ripstop that is durable. The materials are put together using a fully tape seams that can withstand the tearing and ripping, something that is vital especially on trails where you could be expose to branches that could potentially rip your first layer of protection.

As for ventilation and breathability, this jacket has mesh ports pretty much where it’s needed. First is the hood area, we know that our head emits hot air during activities so UD created a channel where hot air can travel out to the back. Next is the armpit area, where a small piece of mesh cloth is sewn to the fabric and a flap outside that shields the mesh from unwanted moisture.


Unlike the Marathon Shell Jacket where the zipper is only half length, the Ultra Jacket has a full length zipper that offers much breathability and ease of putting it on and off when needed. The full zipper has an internal flap preventing the cold air from coming in. At the very top, is a zipper garage that hides the zipper and protects your neck and chin from rubbing against it.


The cuff is semi elastic around the circumference and will not constrict your wrist. There is a good amount of clearance between the wrist and cuff that helps fresh air to get thru. Additionally, there is a hidden “Flip mitts” sewn to the cuff where you can hide and protect your fingers from cold wind and rain. This is quite interesting if you forgot your gloves (or if you’re not fond of wearing one). I found this design very ingenious, however, there is a potential flaw on it since this could also be a “collection pool” for your sweat. This may not be true for everybody but something I need to point out if you sweat a lot.


One of the great features that I like most from this jacket is the fully adjustable hood (along with sturdy brim) that conforms to your head. It has a pull string at the back and around the perimeter that keeps the hood in place even when strong wind is blowing straight to my face. Most runners shy away from wearing the hood of their jacket because it creates a tunnel vision. Well the Ultra Jacket’s hood is quite the opposite, they even have a patent pending for it because their hood doesn’t interfere with the peripheral vision which makes you aware of your surroundings and eliminates that tunnel vision effect.

This jacket is a true minimalist, that said it doesn’t have much pockets to offer. There is only one pocket located inside the left chest that serves as a dual purpose. You can stash your running essentials like gels and some cash to this pocket. But I wouldn’t suggest to put anything too much (or heavy) in this pocket since it will create a lot of bounce and will just probably annoy you while you run. This pocket also serves as a sack for the jacket itself when not in use and you can easily throw it in your pocket or hydration vest when not in use


As for safety, this jacket is equipped with reflective materials that will make you visible during low light conditions. Their UD logo along the front and at the right arm will surely keep you visible with motorists and pedestrians. There is also a draw string along the hem that you can access with just one hand and this prevents cold air from getting in.



My Verdict
ULTRA JACKET ($169.95): Performance is what this jacket is all about, this shouldn’t be a surprise for a brand like Ultimate Direction. The Ultra Jacket is an excellent choice to have with you when the weather seems unpredictable, it’s lightweight, windproof, waterproof and very portable. The breathability was never an issue during my runs, thanks to the 20K vapor transfer that kept me dry inside and out. If you’re unsure what to bring when weather seems unpredictable, just bring the Ultra Jacket and you’ll be glad you have it when things go south on you.


As for the price, it sells for $169.95 which I found to be average in today’s market. So if you’re in the market for brand new jacket, this is something worth looking for.

GROOVE MONO


Materials
·      AirRip Mesh
·      MonoRip Mesh
·      4-way PowerStretch Woven
·      70D Nylon RipStop

Weight
·      3.8 ounces / 108 g

Features
·   Single Rear PowerStretch Woven mesh pouch holds a 500ml body bottle plus
·   Trim Lo-Fi minimal front strap with key pocket
·   MonoRip mesh dual compression waist belt provides secure and breathable fit
·   Channel wick mesh back panel creates channels for airflow and moisture management
·   Individual compression bungee bands add extra attachment points

Fit and Functionality
The Groove Mono is a waist type belt type hydration system that utilizes two components to make the system. The first component is the “Lo-Fi” which is basically the Velcro belt and the second component is the “Mono” pouch which holds one 500ml collapsible bottle (included) plus a zippered pocket just behind it. Putting them together is a breeze, you simply loop around the Lo-Fi to the ends of the Mono that has two rectangular receiver hook, put it around your waist and adjust accordingly.


It comes into two different sizes and even the medium size that I requested still has plenty of room to adjust the belt for a proper fit and snug. One of the biggest challenges for any waist belt hydration systems is how to minimize (or at least eliminate) the bouncing. Ultimate Direction hit a home run by combining a Velcro system with a PowerStretch woven material that has the proper amount of stretch when pulled. It sits closer to the body and follows the contour of your back. Unlike the traditional belt clip that other companies are using, it tends to loosen as you run, requiring you to adjust mile after mile. Not the Groove Mono, the Velcro system stays in place and tight. The only time I needed to adjust was when the fluid in my flask started to decrease, but I did the adjustment on the fly without the need to stop. The Velcro system is much better choice than the belt clip is so many ways.

Woven Material

It offers a lot of functionality despite only having a single pouch (Mono means one). The pouch can handle one 500ml flask (17 ounces) and there is an internal zippered pouch to secure some of your valuables like car key, cash, gel and credit card. I have to remind you that the pouch is not waterproof…moisture and sweat can dampen the materials you put in this pouch. So, if you are thinking of squeezing your phone in there, make sure that you put it in a plastic or waterproof bag. The Mono also has loop cord (bungee) where you can hook trekking poles if needed.


As a bonus, there is one small pocket at one of the ends of the belt that is secured by a Velcro where you can put some electrolyte tabs for easy access.


My Verdict
GROOVE MONO ($34.95): I have tested a lot of hydration belt systems and I can honestly say that this is one of the best waist hydration systems that I can strongly recommend to all. The materials that UD put on to this belt is an excellent choice and it wicks moisture out so quick. The Groove Mono is so comfortable to use and ideal for minimalist runners who tend to keep things light, simple and will never slow you down.

AMP


Materials
·      AirRip Mesh
·      4-way PowerStretch Woven
·      70D Nylon RipStop

Weight
·      2.5 ounces / 72 g

Features
·   Unique “Vector Strap” allows multiple hand positions
·   Secure key pocket
·   Gel pouches on the sides
·   Cross bungee allows easy bottle removal

Fit and Functionality
If you are a hardcore minimalist runner then you’ll probably sporting this kind of hydration system. The AMP is one of Ultimate Direction’s handheld hydration systems that utilizes the collapsible flask as their container, the other one is the Clutch. It’s a one size fits all system that would probably accommodate the great majority of runners.

The AMP holds a one 17 ounces container that collapses as it empties. It has a total of three pockets (two stretchable pockets on the side and one small at the bottom). Those pockets can hold some of your running essentials like gels, gummies and electrolyte tabs.


It has a Vector hand straps at the back of the pouch that allows multiple hand positions, and one of the straps is adjustable. There are two cross over bungee cords on top of the pouch that secures the flask from flying out. As for safety, they incorporate some reflective materials to keep you visible during low light conditions.


If you’re not used to handheld system then this may feel awkward in the beginning. Don’t worry coz it wouldn’t take you that long to get used to. The Amp is designed to give you a quick access to fluids without the hassle of hose and fumbling around. The only drawback is that you will ended up tiring your arms from holding it. So, to avoid any numbness and your hands from getting tired, try switching it once in a while every mile or two. I really have no problem with it and I found the straps comfortable the longer I use it.  


My Verdict
AMP ($39.95): The Amp is designed with a simple premise in mind, to give runners a light weight and fast hydration on the go. This is one of my favorite handheld systems that I will always have from 5k to Ultra.

Ultimate Direction guarantees the materials and workmanship in every product they make will stand up to the use for which it was designed. Check out these three super items that I have tested, I hope that you’ll enjoy them as much as I do and let me know how it works for you.

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