If you follow any news in the running world, there is no doubt you have heard of Scott Jurek, the champion ultra runner. His wife, Jenny, is herself an accomplished ultra runner and she’s been a designer in the outdoor apparel and gear business for over 16 years. It’s no surprise then that Ultimate Direction, the hydration pack company, created a women’s line with Jenny at the helm. In fact, the Adventure Vesta pack is part of an assortment of packs, waist packs, and hand-held water bottles called the Jenny Collection. Jenny is first and foremost a climber, which is visible in some of the details of the pack, like loops for ice axes. While I’d love to say I took it up a frozen face, I’m no climber (yet…) so we’ll mostly discuss how it performed as a running and hiking pack.
The Adventure Vesta has a capacity of 11.2 liters and has an overall dimension of roughly 11.8 x 9.4 x 9.8 inches. It’s very lightweight, weighing just under 10 ounces without the water bottles. That’s because this is a mostly mesh bag. In particular, almost all over you’ll find airwall and Darlington power mesh, which are simply different types of mesh but at different gap sizes. For example, the side of the pack that sits directly on your back has a larger gapped mesh so more airflow or heat dissipation is possible across this surface. In some places there’s also a rip-stop nylon so when you’re stuffing your pack full of material, you’re not risking tearing the fabric quite as quickly. I can vouch for the fact that the bag has no traces of ripped
Now, let’s go through the various parts of the Adventure Vesta. On the runner’s backside is a pouch that opens at the top via a zipper. It has a little Velcro loop at the very top to hold a water bladder, if you wish to carry one. The drinking tube can be strung along either the of the shoulder straps. In front of this pouch Is the main compartment. A zipper runs across the top and down the right side, with two pull tabs so you can access it from opposite ends of the zipper. This is where you store most of your gear. For one of my ultra marathons this summer I carried a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, a small rain jacket, food, a small extra water bottle, bandages, and a headlamp in this compartment, with still a little room to spare. It is definitely a lot bigger than it looks. The fabric here is also reinforced with a polyester lining that helps keep your sweat or rain from soaking your gear. In front of this compartment are two smaller pockets, each with a vertical zipper on the left-hand side. They are equal in size and construction, with the only difference being that the top pocket contains a line of fabric and a little clip that hold an Ultimate Direction hair tie. I was thrilled to see this because that’s a really excellent detail to include. I always pack an extra hair tie in case something happens to the one I’m wearing on the trail and while I’ve never had to use a backup, more than once has another woman asked to lend one. If you have no need for the hair tie, you can use the fabric line and hook to attach your keys or something else that you want easy access to. In these pockets I usually placed a pack of tissues, some food, and a credit card and money. I always had more room if I wanted it, but the Adventure Vesta has plenty of other pockets and pouches that I ended up filling with other items. Finally, A line of mesh fabric is strong down the bag on top of these small pockets. It is permanently open at the top and only semi-closed by hooking the bungee cord clip (read more below) through a little fabric loop at the very neck of the Adventure Vesta. There are a variety of items you can pack in there but I found this pouch most convenient for a really lightweight jacket. When the pack is full, it becomes difficult to stuff anything with size into the pouch, especially something you want to be able to access quickly.
Running in an “X” pattern down the outside of the Adventure Vesta is a thin bungee cord. At the top of the bag is a clip that can be used to tighten the cord but it can also be fastened horizontally across the bag and tucked under loops on the perimeter of the pack. Overall this helps to tighten and strap down the gear in the pack so it doesn’t bounce as much. That’s especially true when the pack isn’t completely full. If you plan to run with the Adventure Vesta, this feature is really nice to have, but chances are you won’t need it for a slower activity like hiking. At times I used it to hold down a jacket on the outside of the pack or even strung my hiking poles through there as one option of carrying them. In other words, you can get pretty creative about how you make use of this bungee cord.
I loved that the Adventure Vesta has so many pouches and pockets at the front so you can store stuff that’s very easily accessible. For example, on long days out on the trail, I need to have easy access to 3 things, namely my cell phone, tissues, and lip balm. It was easy to find a place to put these where I also didn’t have to fumble around reaching for them.
The pack can be adjusted in many small ways, which is terrific to find a good fit. I especially liked that you can adjust the placement of the chest straps, but also tighten the shoulder straps at the lower back.
While the Adventure Vesta is nearly perfect in all ways, I just wasn’t crazy about the water bottle system. When full, the water bottles sit nicely in the bottle pouches, with their spouts extending just above the fabric. Though you can (and actually need to) tighten the pouch opening to hold down the water bottles, as they are slowly emptied during the run, there’s no option to keep the spout above the pouch line. What you’re left with is a water bottle that slowly starts collapsing downward as it is emptied, eventually sitting at the very bottom in the pouch, scrunched up into a little ball. I found this a bit frustrating as I kept having to dig down into the pouch and pull up the spout just to drink some water. The Adventure Vesta accompanied me on a 12-hour ultra marathon this summer and it’s the small things that start nagging you after several hours into a long race or training day. My solution to this was to stop at every water stop and keep filling up the water bottles as often as possible so they would stay above the fabric line. When the bottles were half emptied (or rather, half full!), the hard plastic rim at the top of the bottles would sit on the apex of my chest (aka, right on my breasts), which felt a bit uncomfortable for me especially when I ran and the bottles would knock around a bit. I should say, though, that this wasn’t a problem for me when I used the pack for hiking and the speed was heavily reduced. At any rate, I would love to see Ultimate Direction make a change to the next generation of the Adventure Vesta to solve this issue. Ultimately you can do it yourself by avoiding the water bottles all together and just using a water bladder instead.
The Adventure Vesta comes in two sizes: xs/sm and m/l. With clothes on, the small should fit somebody with a chest size of 26-38 inches (66-97 cm) while the larger size should fit somebody between 32-41 inches (81-104 cm). Keep in mind that when the pack is full, it fits more snug. I used the size m/l and felt that it fit me really well. As a basis for comparison: I usually wear a size small in tops. When I used the Adventure Vesta for running, I did have to tighten the chest straps as tight as they could go. Somebody with a smaller upper body than me would find it hard to get a snug fit with the m/l. Although I have a feeling the xs/sm would have worked for me as well, as a hiking pack the larger size is probably more comfortable.
It’s no surprise many customer reviews of the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vesta floating around the internet are awarding this pack 5 stars. With an admirably comfortable fit, lots of storage space, many pouches and pockets for tucking away small items, the capacity to fit either (or both) a bladder or water bottles, the AD Adventure Vesta has a lot to offer any runner. Whether you plan to use this pack mostly for hiking but with the occasional long run, or you’re a die-hard ultra runner that will use the Adventure Vesta every weekend, you won’t be disappointed with it’s quality and versatility. Plus, it has a great design with cool colours that will probably leave you making up excuses to use the pack even outside of your athletic adventures. For a running pack with this much to offer, $149.50 is a seriously fair price. Like most things in this world, if you want a pack that can keep up with you and last several years, paying a little bit more is an overall small price to pay.