Trail runners around Utah (and all over the country on Instagram) know Tara Warren, the ultra-enthusiastic, always-on-the-move mom who, in any weather (good, bad or ugly), shows the world what it takes to be a committed athlete. A multiyear Ultimate Direction ambassador, Tara has put endless miles and development feedback into our vests. Now with the release of the Signature Series 4 Vestas, Tara has identified four aspects (and a recommendation) that make these vests our best ever.

By: Tara Warren

Your gear should be the last thing you worry about when you are out on a training run or pushing the pace on race day. Ultimate Direction launched the new Signature Series 4 vests and vestas in February and I have been testing out these pieces this past October. Here are a few things I’ve learned and want to share.

Custom Fit

The most notable change for me was the new cinching mechanism (Comfort Cinch!) embedded in the back of the vest. In previous models, there were buckle cinches or velcro tabs where you could get a tight fit and improve the feel and ride of the vests.

Each of this year’s Signature Series 4 vests and vestas come with this unique Comfort Cinch technology where you can loosen or tighten the main part of the vest on the go by just yanking the cords. This is super easy and extremely useful for when you have on extra layers of clothes or may need to adjust the ride because you’re carrying more gear …or if you’ve eaten too many quesadillas.

Signature Series 4 Ultra Vesta

Improved Adjustability

Along with Comfort Cinch, these vests are even more customizable with the sliding sternum straps. These two straps are placed on rails where you can change the position of the straps based on your body type (i.e. chest size) and level of comfort.

The buckles allow you to pull the straps down tighter or let it ride a little more loosely. If your Signature Series 4 Vesta doesn’t have the slide rail sternum straps, it will have adjustable T-hooks. To change the position of the T-hooks you simply remove the front two straps and reposition them in any of the holes.

Each of the new style vests has a bungee cord system on the back. With the seasons transitioning, I’ll throw a rain jacket, shirt or hat in these cords so I can reach around and grab it without slowing down. Or, this bungee can be used to used to tighten down your load giving you an additional option for adjustments.

Signature Series 4 Ultra Vesta

No Jostling

For me, one of the most important things about the new Signature Series 4 vests is the ability to customize the fit for each run. At a race a few weeks back, I was shuffling behind a racer who’s pack was bouncing around like a basketball on their back. It bobbled from side to side and looked totally uncomfortable. But, if that’s all you’ve known about hydration packs, you might think that it’s normal movement… it’s not. I have even heard some people mention that you need to “break in a pack.” Bouncing packs not only can chaffe your back, pits, and neck, it’s an energy zapper. You can load up these packs, use the custom fitting and cruise around without any jostling.

Signature Series 4 Ultra Vesta

Lightweight, Four Way Stretch Material

One of the first things I noticed when I pulled out my new vest from the box was how light it was. It’s a new four-way stretch material that ultimately decreases the vest’s weight by almost 20% from last year’s packs. That’s a HUGE benefit if you’re toting around 5-10 pounds of gear for a 100 mile race, weekend adventure in the desert or quick training run around your neighborhood trails.

With the lighter weight vests more pockets/outside storage was added. You will find multiple storage pockets and pouches in each of the men’s and women’s options. Because of the four-way stretch material many of those pockets can hold so much more than you would ever believe.

In my Ultra Vesta left lower front pocket I have: two gels, a pack of gum, chapstick, gloves and a baggie full of s-caps. In my right lower front pocket I can fit my iPhone 7 in a large Mophie case.


Which Vest do I Recommend?

All of them! If your budget will allow only one of the new Signature Series 4 vests this year, I would pick the Adventure Vest or Vesta (male or female specific). Why get the larger one? With this vest you have exactly what you need for training and race day. You get one new style Body Bottle 500 and you get the customization that goes along with the larger vest. Headed out on a 10 miler and don’t really need a vest but want to carry your phone, GoPro and maybe water? Cinch the vest down and make it compatible to what you need. Deciding on what to carry during your next hundred miler? No biggie. The Adventure Vests are dreamy with the multiple pockets to stay organized with killer storage for anything else you can imagine. There’s also a separate compartment to add a water reservoir (purchased separately).

With the springtime weather happening and more miles on the horizon, feel confident that you are buying a durable, athlete-friendly-and tested product with the new Signature Series 4. Have a wonderful and successful year!

Find Tara on Instagram.