Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta (Gear of the Year 2013)
Trail Runner Gear of the Year: Best Women's Hydration Pack | $125 | www.ultimatedirection.com
Since the Ultra Vesta's official release party was just a few days ago in Boulder, Colorado, we admit this is actually more of a 2014 product--but we're including it in our Gear of the Year roundup this week anyway because we've been testing it for several months and love it just that much. (We originally scoped it out at Outdoor Retailer last summer.) Designed by ultrarunner Jenny Jurek and other athletes from the Women's Collective, the Ultra Vesta is one of the first packs designed 100% specifically for women.
Like many existing UD packs, the Ultra Vesta features front bottles, though the bottles are smaller (10 oz. each) and situated higher up on the chest than on the men’s signature series packs. Having tried a number of packs over the past year or two with front bottles, I found this to be the first pack that really fits me well and doesn't bounce; the ergonomic design keeps everything hugged in so snugly to my body that I almost forget I'm wearing a pack at all. I've also been astounded by how much gear I can fit into all the pockets throughout, given the relatively small overall size of the pack.
The Vesta features adjustable double straps in front, and comes in two different sizes, to accommodate a variety of women’s chest and torso sizes. Though it doesn't come with a reservoir, it can accommodate a 2-liter one, with ample room still remaining in the rear compartment for other essentials. The front stow pockets are roomy enough to hold smartphones, cameras and all the gels, bars or other trail fuel you could want for a few hours (or more!) in the mountains. A rear bungee cord lets you stow a jacket without taking up valuable interior space.