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ApparelGear Reviews

Ultimate Direction Summer 2021 Apparel Collection Review

Ultimate Direction has pumped out quality gear for what seems like forever now geared towards the self-propelled athlete. Every piece is well thought out and designed with a purpose in mind. They aren’t just schlepping the next hot color or something that looks functional but sucks. UD is the real deal and provides top-of-the-line gear for your next adventure, big or small.

That quality translates to their latest apparel line. While without the flair of most modern running gear, this collection serves as a microcosm for the UD brand. Each piece is well crafted and gets the job done with little need for fanfare.


Ultra Jacket (M & W) and Pant (Unisex)

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Photo courtesy of Ultimate Direction

TAYLOR: The UD Ultra Jacket and Pant somehow strike the balance of shielding from the elements while providing excellent breathability. A couple of hand-sized underarm vents are the primary source of airflow. They work pretty darn well until a certain body/external temperature. For me, around 55 degrees and light rain was a very comfortable setting. Any warmer and you start to feel the sauna effect. The Ultra Jacket and Pant are 100% nylon, meaning durability, flexibility, and a smooth feeling on the skin.

A structured hood also sets this jacket apart from others. It acts as a personal awning with its cap-like lip extending from the forehead. The only downside to this style of hood is that it gets pretty bouncy when down. 

One huge bonus for those of us in wet and chilly climates: sewin-in flip mitts. They’re made of the same nylon material to keep your fingers dry and usable.

ALEX: The Ultra Jacket and Pants are super lightweight and packable. I was able to fit both of these into my 12L running vest with lots of room to spare. While I didn’t love the rubbery feeling on the inside, it was effective in keeping moisture out at low efforts. The breathability of the material was as good as it gets for me when it comes to rain gear. 

The jacket has a couple of unique features including a hat-like brim on the hood to keep water out. I really like the design, although I wonder how well it will maintain its shape after repeated packing. It also has integrated hand covers which are nice to have in theory. I have a hard time getting my hands in when I need them, and vice versa. That part of the design just appears to be lacking. Additional features include vented pits to increase breathability and a small mesh pocket on the inside of the jacket. 

I really appreciate the unisex sizing on the pants as I like my rain and outerwear to have a more relaxed fit. The side zip on the pants goes up to the knee on me and is great for throwing these on in a hurry.

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JACKET PRICE: $190

PANT PRICE: $120

Shop Ultra Jacket – Men Shop Ultra Jacket – Women Shop Ultra Pant

Hydro Short (Men and Women)

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TAYLOR: The Hydro Short is probably my favorite piece of this collection. I almost always wear my UD Utility Belt for the limited storage of small garments, a phone, and the occasional water bottle. The Hydro Short has that same capability built-in, and it works really well.

I love the storage layout of these shorts. Two water bottle pockets, a rear zipper pocket big enough for a large smartphone, and small pockets along the waistband provide ample storage for short or long runs. All the junk in the trunk rides smoothly. A magnetic clasp on the real belt allows for plenty of adjusting. 

An outer short is thin and soft while the built-in brief is the same tight material used in the Hydro Tight. The two layers work together seamlessly (get it?), like a luchador tag team. The Hydro Short is very similar to the Tracksmith Trail Short, but these carry the load so much better.

ALEX: First things first, the waist on these runs small on me. My normal size small is a bit of a pain to slip on, and a seam (or two) definitely burst. 

The inner liner is a close-fit design with a lightweight outer. While I appreciate the chafe protection that this combo offers, it feels like I’m layering shorts and adding unnecessary weight and bulkiness to a pair of shorts that already have a lot going on. 

The integrated bottle pockets are a huge plus in my book. They minimize the amount of gear needed to bring while freeing up my hands. The two 300 ml bottles fit securely, are easy to get in and out, and ride well in the shorts. The large central zip pocket replaces the need for a belt as I’m able to fit my phone and even a lightweight jacket in there. The two side stretch pockets are great for food, gloves, and other small items. There’s additional storage in the front of the waistband keys and such. 

The hidden magnetic waist-adjuster belt allows you to adjust fit. With more gear stashed in the shorts, I find it really helpful to tighten the Hydro Short down for a more secure fit.

PRICE: $100 (Men), $85 (Women)

Shop Hydro Short – Men Shop Hydro Short – Women

Nimbus Tee and Cumulus Tank (Men and Women)

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TAYLOR: Here’s a new take on the traditional tech shirt. A new Polartec Delta fabric, knitted construction, and flat seams create ultimate comfort for runners. The fit trends a little more loose and flowy (both genders), but comfort and performance are notable. The garment is light, soft, and rests easily on the shoulders. 

I’ll admit that I was skeptical of Polartec and its supposed benefits. My first run in this shirt made me feel like a fool. It was hot out with zero wind. The sun was relentless, and I could literally feel the heat rising from my chest. What a perfect condition to test the Nimbus Tee out. I reached under my shirt and felt my stomach and chest. They were cool to the touch. Being that I’m a hot-bodied guy, this is a technology that seems too good to be true. No doubt that this has been my go-to shirt for hot Summer runs so far.

ALEX: The Cumulus Tank and Nimbus Tee are both constructed of Polartec Delta fabric. This material is hydrophilic on the inside, and hydrophobic on the outside, designed to pull sweat away from your body to the exterior of the shirt. All that to say they wick moisture well. Both items have flatlock anti-chafe seams and a simple design.

Both tops have Polygiene antimicrobial odor control technology. When I find something I love to run in, I wear it nearly every day. These tops are some of the best that I’ve experienced at minimizing the stank and allowing me to go back to them day in and day out.

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Photo courtesy of Ultimate Direction

NIMBUS PRICE: $70

CUMULUS PRICE: $65

Shop Nimbus Tee – Men Shop Nimbus Tee – Women Shop Cumulus Tank – Men Shop Cumulus Tank – Women

Ventro Windshield (Men and Women)

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TAYLOR: Say hello to my little friend! Pfshhhwip (That’s my jacket being ripped out from my UD Utility belt). Simple in design and adequate in performance, the Ventro Jacket is an extremely practical layer to take to any party in the woods.

The tag “Ventro” is the clue to know that one of the main goals of this garment is to be breathable. Underarm vents provide better airflow in that region, and a large envelope-folded slit in the back really helps cool things down.

The lightweight, water-resistant polyester is durable enough to protect from whipping winds yet light and breathable enough for it to be a mainstay piece. However, I would caution against veering off-trail with this jacket, as it’s so thin the right tree could rip it up.

PRICE: $90

Shop Ventro Windshield – Men Shop Ventro Windshield – Women

Alex is an ultra runner who lives for the long, cold Minnesota winters. She works in public health and enjoys applying creative problem solving to emerging health and environmental issues faced by local communities.

Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultrarunner living in Estes Park, CO, with his wife and daughter. He and his wife both love running the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. When not running, Taylor is a Kindergarten/1st grade teacher, running coach, and youth leader for his church.

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