Ultimate Direction Women’s Ultra Jacket ReviewAugust 26, 2015
- Innovative sleeve design
- Hood stays put when running
- Lightweight and highly packable
- Superfluous ruching
This jacket was literally designed specifically for Europe’s Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB)—so it’s no doubt it excels at this very purpose of keeping ultrarunners dry, comfortable and unencumbered on spectacularly long runs in the high alpine.
As a jacket specifically designed for ultrarunning (rather than a hiking shell that happens to be lightweight enough to be runner-friendly), the Ultra takes careful note of the usual areas where rain tends to leak in while running—at the neck and wrists—and takes careful steps in design to preempt water entry in these vulnerable spots. Fully taped seams reinforce the waterproof, breathable fabric (designed to exceed UTMB’s standards) and kept testers dry for hours in summer storms.
Breathability accents—in the form of small, mesh-lined armpit vents—are concentrated in areas unaffected by wearing a hydration vest on the back. The fabric feels comparable to others in this test, offering decent airflow, though still gathering some internal clamminess during especially aerobic efforts or in particularly humid weather.
This jacket has several patent-pending design innovations that testers found to work spectacularly well in practice. The sleeve cuff “FlipMitts” create a natural umbrella over the backs of the hands, effectively fending off rain—or creating a virtually seamless barrier with gloves. For extra protection the jacket sleeves flip inside out to create waterproof mitts on the fly.
The hood is fully adjustable at the sides, as well as at the rear; its wire brim is substantial enough to both prevent rain from hitting runners in the eyes or from leaking into the jacket at the sides of the neck. Best of all, it stays in place while running without restricting vision on either side.
An internal pocket at the chest is large enough to accommodate an iPhone 6 and includes a headphone port. The fit of the jacket is close enough to the body that a phone stowed in this pocket didn’t bounce much while running.
This piece features an athletic fit without being restrictive anywhere. The sleeves are plenty long without being excessive. The band of ruching fabric at the back seems like a superfluous design choice (to look more “feminine,” perhaps?) that appears to add nothing in function. It looks a bit odd and feels distracting while running.
At a scant 5.3 ounces, this is one of the lighter fully waterproof jackets available. It zips neatly into its own internal chest pocket.