Product Review: Ultra Direction’s SJ Ultra Vest 3.0 – Running Vest & Hydration Pack

“There is no sexy way to run with a backpack…”

                                       -from Pintrest, I think…

So running with a pack on…  Yes, I had to be forced to even consider this notion. By now I have conceded; if one must, this is the vest to use.

Over this past summer I have transitioned from simply a runner to a trail runner. For years I have run recreationally. I trained for and checked off a marathon or two along the way. I have stayed busy running consistently, but I was beginning to bore of the pavement pounding monotony of long road runs. I have found new energy and excitement running  trails and, as distance has increased, so has my need for more gear and a vest to carry it.

I think it was my wife who originally informed me that ultra marathoners actually take breaks and walk from time to time, and only then did I too get the trail running bug- with ultra marathon aspirations. My wife is truly addicted to running so I have had to keep up the training. We are planning on running the Portland Marathon next month; toeing the line at our first ultra marathon this December.

Needless to say; I have spent many miles and hours harnessed to this running vest over the last 6 months and feel I have earned my opinion on the matter.



The Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek Ultra Vest 3.0 – 


Take note: this is my first running vest. I have had plenty of hydration packs over the years but nothing with quite the same specific purpose for running. The goal of anything strapped to one’s body while running is minimize bounce; this vest does accomplish the goal well.

Balance is what it’s all about. The Ultra Vest 3.0 does an excellent job of spreading the weight both on the front and the back of the vest. I was surprised to learn that (although there is a pocket for one) a large reservoir of water (think CamelBack) is not the trend, as it is not as easily carried compared to multiple small compressible water bottles. I use two compressible 16oz water bottles (that come with the pack) one on the front of the vest and one resting in the large pocket in back. Now, that being said, for longer unsupported runs many do carry a large back reservoir of water. I have not used this pack for that purpose but from reading online other’s who have find the velcro strap at the top of a bladder to be weak and a fail point, some have resorted to using safety pins to hold a reservoir up in this situation.

Depending on the length of the run I throw a few similar small 5oz compressible bottles in either front or back to even out the load. Similarly, I pack the rest of my gu, peanut butter, shot blocks, or energy bars with a few in the front and a few in the back until everything rides as balanced as possible. One of my favorite things about this vest are the straps both across the chest and on each lateral side. The two chest straps do a fine job of securing the extremely lightweight pack, although changing the ‘T-hooks’ up or down is only possible during a break from the run. I find that I am constantly adjusting the lateral straps depending on whether ascending, descending, or based on how full the water bottles were.  I like the adjustability of the lateral straps, on the fly, depending on how I am moving, breathing and loaded.


Pro’s:  Great placement of pockets on front and back of vest for load distribution. Functional straps on front and sides, minimizing bounce. Minimal chafing with soft straps on all contact points. Ideal volume for most distances I have run thus far (as far as 20 miles unsupported) and apparent room to grow for further distance and gear. Extremely lightweight for the quality and volume the vest offers.

Con’s:  Front chest straps are not too adjustable on the fly. While the wide-mouth water bottles that come with the vest work better than other brands for using electrolyte tabs or refilling on the fly, they do sit rather awkwardly in the chest pockets. And, finally the cell phone pocket is not really shaped to fit a cell phone at all; on the left front strap, it sits at the bottom of the vest, as tightened down it pulls the phone painfully up into my left ribs.  I have found my phone pocket on my running shorts still works the best for my cell phone. Price – hefty price tag for a fancy water bottle and running snack holder!



The Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek Ultra Vest 3.0 2016 – 


  • Volume Capacity: 518 in/ 8.5L
  • Weight: 7.11 oz. (9.56 oz. with bottles) / 203 g (273 g with bottles)
  • Height: 18.1 in. / 46 cm
  • Width: 11 in. / 28 cm
  • Depth: 5.5 in. / 14 cm

      Cost: 124$

Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 3.0 – link to the website

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