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Ultimate Direction Men’s Ultra Jacket review: some great features but the cracks start showing in heavy rain

An innovative waterproof, the Ultimate Direction Men’s Ultra Jacket has an impressive hood and fantastic, fold-out hand covers

Ultimate Direction Men’s Ultra Jacket
(Image: © Ultimate Direction)

Our Verdict

Brilliant features here, namely the hood and Flip Mitts, but the extremely waterproof fabric is sadly let down by the open underarm venting and lack of a storm flap behind the main zip.

For

  • • Excellent peaked, adjustable hood
  • • Flip mitts at the cuffs
  • • Reflective details
  • • Glove-compatible zip cord
  • • One inside mesh pocket/stuff sack
  • • Hem adjustment
  • • Meets UTMB race requirements

Against

  • • A little heavier than some others
  • • No cuff adjustment
  • • Arms feel restricted when using Flip Mitts
  • • No storm flap behind main zip
  • • Armpit venting lets in heavier rain

Ultimate Direction Men’s Ultra Jacket: first impressions

Along with the best hood in our best lightweight running jackets buying guide, the Ultimate Direction Men’s Ultra Jacket has one awesome feature that no other jacket boasts: ‘Flip Mitts’ at the cuff, made from the same waterproof fabric as the jacket, so you can pop them over your hands or running gloves to keep them dry and warm. It’s a genius idea for cold, wet days. The only slight drawback to this is that people with longer arms will find that they want a bit of extra elbow room when wearing the Flip Mitts, so a longer arm length from the jacket would be useful in future incarnations. 

The other great thing is that the hood is fully adjustable, unlike many of the other lighter-weight jackets we tested. The peak is wide, wired and stiffened, and you can pull the toggles in to create a perfect fit even over a ponytail.

Ultimate Direction Men’s Ultra Jacket

(Image credit: Ultimate Direction)

Disappointingly, though, the jacket does not seem to be as waterproof as the super-high 30,000mm Hydrostatic Head measurement seems to suggest – although this is down to the design rather than the material. Rain does bead up and roll off, but after a while the water wriggles its sneaky way inside. This is most probably down to the lack of storm flap behind the main zip, and also the wide open underarm vents – plenty of opportunity for a heavy downpour to find its way in there in the wind.

Specifications

• RRP: $190 (US) / £145 (UK)
• Weight (Men’s size M): 186g / 6.6oz
• Colors: Men’s: Blue
• Hydrostatic Head: 30,000mm
• Breathability: 30,000 g/m2
• Compatibility: Light, well ventilated, best for warmer climates

Ultimate Direction Men’s Ultra Jacket: on the trails

Ultimate Direction Men’s Ultra Jacket

The underarm vents are great for cooling you down, but not so great for keep the damp out (Image credit: Ultimate Direction)

We really like this jacket and love the Flip Mitts feature (but please make the arms a little longer for us orangutans, UD!), which really came in handy on days where we were just out for a quick run without gloves and the wind picked up at the top of the hillside. 

The hood is also excellent – with its wind-proof, wide peak and full adjustment, it is easily the best one we’ve come across in the lightweight running jacket category, and well worth carrying a few extra grams to get that fit right. 

However, despite the 30,000mm Hydrostatic Head being twice or triple what most of jackets state, this was unfortunately not reflected in testing in proper British driving rain, which just WILL find its pesky way into any nook or cranny that hasn’t been covered. 

We are fully on board with the rating for the fabric, but if you don’t then add a nice wide storm flap behind the main zip, and then cut a big hole under the arms for venting, then you’re just inviting wind-blown, dribbled-down raindrops to the armpit party. Yes, it sounds like a nice idea for ventilation, but it creates an area of vulnerability in a storm. How about losing that and letting us just unzip the jacket or take it off if we get too hot?

The co-founder and former editor of Trail Running magazine, Claire now runs the YouTube channel Wild Ginger Running, creating films packed with trail- and ultra-running content. An award-winning journalist, writing for outdoor and adventure sports magazines and websites, her first book The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running 5k to 50k is out in January 2021. Claire also speaks and presents at events and races.