Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Ultimate Direction - Adventure Vesta 3.0 Review

Guys might have their "gear", but girls definitely have their "accessories". When it comes to trail running one of the must have accessories is a good vest, to store more accessories (mandatory gear), right?! I'll be honest and say that when I think about going for a long run, the last thing I think about is my vest. Probably because in the early days when I started trail running I relied upon an uncomfortable light weight back pack which chafed and allowed its contents to bounce around. Over the following 10 years, I've watched them slowly evolve from crude light-weight back packs into functional running vests. As more brands grasp the vest idea they've slowly evolved more and more, some for the better and some not so, but I suppose that is all part of the development process. I'm pleased to say however there is one vest on the market that comes from a manufacturer that has used great initiative to produce a product that's aimed at the ever growing female trail running market. That brand and product is Ultimate Direction's Adventure Vesta 3.0. A large volume vest that is specifically for female trail runners, and if you ask me they have done it pretty well.

Ultimate Direction Adventure Vesta 3.0
Some vests and packs out there say that they are made for the female figure, but in reality they are at best unisex. As many women know we come in all body shapes and so need a few more adjustments which men just don't need, so they are often left off. The Adventure Vesta 3.0 however is a stand alone vest from the men's, and here's why.
Inside view of vest. So far I haven't had any chafing from its simple construction.

For a large volume vest, 11.2L, this vest fits extremely well to my petite torso. I'm quite small and unlike other vests the Adventure Vesta 3.0 is comparatively short in length. This means that the vests main rear compartment sits nice and high on my back. To hold the vest secure against the body it has side adjustment at the bottom of the shoulder straps, which allows the straps to sit straight down the front of the chest. The shoulder straps are nicely spaced at the top of the vest meaning that the vests weight is carried on the shoulders and not the lower neck. Securing the shoulder straps across the chest are two chest straps connected to ridged slides or rails. Both the side adjustments and chest adjustments can be easily made to accommodate different body types and different thickness in clothing layers. Being able to correctly fit the vest to my body shape I found when running on technical trails that the vest remained stable against my torso and didn't bounce around, no matter how much I moved around.

Top of rear compartment.
At the rear of the vest, closest to the body, there is one large full depth compartment specifically designed for bladders. The easy zip access at the top of the vest has a small Velcro tab to hang the bladder. There is also a mid-height pocket in this compartment which could accommodate a smaller capacity bladder while allowing it to be hung from the top Velcro tab. Both the shoulder straps and base of the compartment have holes large enough to accommodate a bladder tube and mouthpiece which can then be secured on the front in many configurations by the elastic loops located in various location on both shoulder straps. I often find myself switching between bladders, bottles and soft bottles when running and having a vest that allows all three methods of hydration means that I'm using the vest more than I would otherwise.

Positioned on the outside of the bladder compartment is the vests main compartment. This is a large single compartment running the full width and length of the vest. This space is easily accessed via a two way zip which runs vertically along the right side of the compartment and horizontally across the top allowing full access to its contents. It doesn't matter how much you stuff into this compartment it seems to be accepting of everything as the elastic fabric running up the sides allows it to stretch and increase its volume while securing the contents comfortably against the body. One draw back that some vests have is that when these main compartments are fully packed they turn into big sausages, but Ultimate Direction has managed to minimise this effect with this vests construction.
Main compartment (unzipped) easily accessed.
Two more small zipper compartments of equal size continue to extend the vests generous capacity. The top pocket has a key toggle and an emergency hair band (told you its a female vest). Both pockets are constructed of what appears water resistant material, but if you're like me it is very difficult to distinguish the tipping point between how much rain is okay for water resistant and what's not. I'd still recommend a plastic zip lock lunch bag to protect those precious items against water. Since acquiring this vest I've been fortunate enough to avoid running in wet weather, but I'll up date this review next time I'm running in the rain with this vest.

The last outer rear compartment is narrow and deep which is accessed through an unsecure opening at the top. The external layer of elastic material is the same as the vest's main compartment which seems quite accepting of anything you jam into it. Though this compartment has an unsecure opening (no zip, clip or otherwise) at the top, I'm yet to loose anything out of it.

It would be a rare occasion that I'd have all the rear compartments full and its contents secure, but that's not a problem with this vest. Externally this vest has an elastic chord which laces up its centre and can also be fastened to the side hooks to further secured the rear compartments contents against my back.

Lastly the rear of the vest contains two ice axe loops at the base, though for me living in Australia I don't see myself utilising this design feature much.
Body bottle. The vest comes with two of these as standard.
The straps down the front of the vest felt well balanced whilst I was running technical trail. This in part is due to the way that they can be adjusted to sit vertically down my chest. At the top of both straps are two large pockets for Ultimate Directions Body Bottle. It's great to see Ultimate Direction embrace a soft bottle which contours to the body and doesn't allow its contents to slosh around. The large opening at the top of the Body Bottles makes it easy to unscrew the bite cap and fill the bottle. Both pockets are still large enough and deep enough to accept plastic bottles for those who are yet to be converted to Body Bottles. An elastic chord at the top of both pockets adequately secure bottles within the pockets.
Front view of vest.
Just above the bottle pocket on the left shoulder strap is an emergency whistle. As evidence that the vest's design team have put great initiative into this vest , there is a small fold of elastic fabric that forms a neat little pocket to secure the whistle and prevent it from bouncing around. 
Bottle pocket with emergency whistle.
On the left shoulder strap, below the bottle pocket, is another open pocket. It is not very deep, but runs full width of the strap. The top is open and unsecured, but when the bottle pocket above has a bottle in it the opening is reduced considerably. I've been using this pocket to house my gloves or buff while running. I wouldn't put my phone or food in it as these items might bounce out.
Hidden waist adjustment strap.
At the bottom of both shoulder straps are two small compartments with zipper opening. The one on the right is slightly larger than the one on the left. Like the rest of the straps external fabric, it is elastic and can accommodate a generous amount. The base of both compartments are secured with Velcro which comes in handy when hiding the waist adjustment strap. I'm my situation the waist adjustment strap had a long tail which neatly tucked away behind these compartments. These compartments then fold down over the tail to discretely hide them. Another plus is that the waist adjustment can be easily made without removing the rest.

To finish off the front strap features there are elastic chords designed to secure compactable poles. Again this is a feature I'm unlikely to use as I don't have the arm strength for poles, but you never know I might give it a go some time in the future.

All the features on the front straps are easily accessible. I was able to reach everything on the front and dig deep in to all the pockets/compartments without issues. Ultimate Direction hasn't designed the rear features to be accessible when wearing the vest, which is a good thing as I'm not a flexible person. They also haven't put features in positons that are frustratingly out of reach. If you need to access the rear features you will need to take at least one shoulder out of the vest to reach around.

In summary I'm struggling to think of design features that Ultimate Direction have missed, or could improve on. This vest has only been on the market for a short time, but its features and quality of construction is likely to ensure that it remains a market leader for a few years yet. Sounds like too much praise? For a large volume female vest it really does tick the boxes. It's definitely a vest that I'll be getting lots of use out of. So if you are after a guilty purchase then seriously consider Ultimate Direction's Adventure Vesta 3.0. You'll be able to justify the purchase after your first run, I promise.

My credentials to write this review is in my running wardrobe which contains a historical collection of "top of the range" running packs and vests that I've purchased, won or been given over the last 10 years. My collection has packs and vests ranging in volume from 1L to 12L, that are designed for bladders, bottles, soft bottles and a mix of both. I've used each and every one of them over the years on training runs and races alike. Of course I have favourites, but they are my favourites for a reason, its because they are functional and I like wearing them. At the time of writing this review I'd run +100km with the Adventure Vesta 3.0 on various trail terrains.

As a disclaimer I'd like to declare that the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vesta 3.0 (XS/S) was provided by Injinji Performance Products and that at the time of writing this review I'm fortunate to be an Ultimate Direction Australia Brand Ambassador.


  1. hi Beth, I'm just starting out as an ultrarunner, and I'm wondering how HOT the vest is? have you used it on a warm day with a bladder in the back?

  2. I've been using a 1.5L bladder in the pack which fits comfortably into the compartment. The 2L bladder is a little too long in my XS pack.

    As the pack sits high on the back there is lots of airflow around the rest of my torso. The construction of the shoulder straps doesn't allow the heat to build up against the skin so long as you are moving. I haven't found it to be any hotter than any other packs of similar size I've used in the past. All my running friends who have UD packs are getting a long life out of them.

  3. Hi Beth
    Thanks for the great review. Not sure if you can help me but I am trying to work out sizing as I am unable to try one on where i live. I have the original ultravesta in a M/L as was on the upper end of the dimensions for the small. However I have heaps of room for adjustment with the side straps. I am on the upper end of the measurements for chest again for the adventurevesta and wondering if I should go the smaller size this time. Not sure how the velcro sizing straps compare to the old style.
    I dont wear many layers in training as it is very warm here most of the time however I still may need to layers up when travelling interstate for holidays and events.

    1. Hi Rachel,
      Not sure I'm the best person to ask about sizing, that would be the distributor. http://www.injinjiperformanceshop.com.au/collections/ultimate-direction
      What I can say is that I'm at the smallest end of the XS/S. I've used plenty of brands but none have had the level of adjustment that this vest does. This is the first vest that has allowed me to reduce the adjustments and achieve a secure and comfortable fit (without needing to get the sewing machine out and make personalised adjustments). On the plus side, it has a lot of scope to loosen the adjustments out to overlap with a M size. Being between sizes can be frustrating if you cannot try both sizes on, but by the sounds of it you could probably get away with either the XS/S or M/L.
      Hope this helps.

  4. Hi Beth
    Great review, thank you. I'm doing my first 50km trail run in Tassie soon, I have the Ultimate Direction Wink & love it however squeezing in the mandatory gear is really really tight, do you fit mandatory gear in the Adventure Vesta comfortably?
    Thanks heaps

  5. Hi Naomi. Its awesome that you are giving a 50km trail run a go. Tassie is such a beautiful place for trail running.
    The Adventure Vesta (11.2L) is a larger pack than the Wink (7.4L). At the Ultra Trail Australia I was able to comfortably fit all the mandatory gear into the Adventure Vesta, and Ultra Trail Australia is known for its extensive gear list. A good trick that I've picked up is to wrap mandatory gear clothing in plastic food wrap, like a sausage roll. It helps condense their volume, plus keeps it water tight.

  6. Hey Beth
    Have you had any issues with the Velcro adjustment straps. I love he vest. It am continually and now more frequently having issues with one of them coming undone during my run. Just wondering if I'm doing something wrong - I sized up to the M/L vest so it's not that it's too small.

  7. Hi Rachel. I haven't had problems with the Velcro and I've run hundreds of kilometers with the pack. I'd suggest securing it with a safety pin, or if you don't intend to adjust it then put a stitch through it with nylon thread. Let me know if you find a solution.