Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 5.0 Review

Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 5.0 Review
The Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 5.0 is UD’s latest version of their mid-volume mountain running pack. At 13.4L storage capacity and up to 4 liters of hydration, the Mountain Vest 5.0 is an excellent choice for longer, single day, and ultra-light trail adventures. Also, because it’s so lightweight, it serves just as well on the street for longer runs when you want to bring along some water, fuel, and an extra layer.

Specs at a Glance

  • Volume: 13.4L / 818in3
  • Weight (w/out bottles): 230g / 8.1oz
  • Secured Pockets: 4
  • Hydration: 2x 500mL bottles included (also compatible with a 2-3L hydration reservoir)
  • Materials: Flex Mono Mesh, MicroMono Mesh, 20D Nylon 66 sil/pu, 4-way stretch Nylon/elastane with micro-rip

Vest Ergonomics and Storage

The Mountain Vest 5.0 is clearly designed with on-the-go accessibility in mind. Having most of the pockets and features available without having to remove the pack is a great way to save time and energy while out running on the trail. Not only does this save energy, but hydrating and refueling are necessary to keep your energy levels up for a long day on the trail. Not having to worry about stopping for a drink or snack makes it that much simpler to get your body just what it needs to keep going.

The Mountain Vest 5.0 handled a run on the 18-mile Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains incredibly well. With enough capacity to carry all of my essentials, and supreme comfort, I was very happy with how well it performed
The Mountain Vest 5.0 handled a run on the 18-mile Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains incredibly well. With enough capacity to carry all of my essentials, and supreme comfort, I was very happy with how well it performed

This pack handled a run on the 18-mile Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains incredibly well. With enough capacity to carry all of my essentials, and supreme comfort, I was very happy with how well it performed..jpg

On the front of the pack, there are two cinch pockets for the included collapsible water bottles. They are well placed to easily grab a drink, though it is awkward to dry and drink from them at anything more than a brisk walk on a flat surface. Try to go any faster, or add in some technical terrain, and it becomes all but impossible to get a drink. On the front of each water bottle pocket are two stretch pockets that are perfect for small snacks and their wrappers when you’re done.

Above the water bottles on each shoulder, there are small velcro pouches that are good for lip balm and other small essentials, though not much else. I personally have to be careful about what I put in these pockets, as harder items will tend to press against my collar bone. Also attached to the left shoulder there is a built-in whistle, in case of an emergency.

Below the water bottles, where the strap reconnects to the pack below your arms, is a pocket on each side; one that zips, and one that doesn’t. The pocket that zips is meant to be compatible with a phone, and my iPhone 7 certainly fits no problem. Just be aware that the pocket is under your arm, so on warm and humid days, the phone is not well protected from sweat and humidity. It is always recommended to keep your device in a waterproof case or dry bag when out adventuring.

The main compartment of the MV5 is sizable and well designed, taking advantage of the natural contour of your upper back to keep the weight as close to your center as possible.
The main compartment of the MV5 is sizable and well designed, taking advantage of the natural contour of your upper back to keep the weight as close to your center as possible.

The pocket on the other side is the same size, just without the zip, and would be a likely place for extra snacks, a buff, a pair of glove liners, or even a small map. Since it is a stretchy pocket there really is a whole lot more that this pocket can hold than you might expect. The opening is also designed in a way that does a fair job of keeping the contents from spilling out. Keep in mind, however, that whatever you put in this pocket could end up pressing against your ribs, so it’s best to stick with soft compressible items.

Lastly, on the front, you will find some handy attachments for those of you who like to use trekking poles. Trekking poles can be really helpful when making steep ascents, as you can use your upper body more efficiently to pull yourself uphill, though if the trail starts to get too technical, or you reach a section of road, the poles might begin to get in the way, and it is nice to be able to stash them away. It is important to note that this feature is really only compatible with trekking poles that collapse down to 15 or 16 inches, while standard poles that only collapse down to 24 or 25 inches are really a bit too cumbersome and awkward to fit properly.

All of this storage on the front makes accessing the contents of your pack so much more efficient, and you will likely find that in most instances, you won’t need to stop and remove your bag to grab a snack or pull out your gloves. On a long day running in the mountains, this will likely make a big difference for your self-care habits.

Moving to the back of the vest, there is one large zip pocket that gives you access to the main storage compartment. Here is where you can store the stuff that you might not need to access as often. Personally, this is where I like to keep an extra layer, first aid kit, and an extra energy bar. Also found in this pocket is a smaller internal zip pocket that I tend to keep my headlamp in.

The hydration system for this pack is simple and easy to use. I do wish that the pack had some way to secure the hydration funnel, other than tucking it under the chest strap.
The hydration system for this pack is simple and easy to use. I do wish that the pack had some way to secure the hydration funnel, other than tucking it under the chest strap.

On the very back of the pack, is a large, stretchy, open mesh pocket with bungee netting for added security and storage. This compartment is a good fit for traction devices (micro-spikes or trail crampons), a rain jacket, or other layers. The bungee netting is great for any wet layers that you would like to dry in the open air while keeping them secure.

Vest Hydration

Hydration with the Mountain Vest 5.0 is fairly simple with two main options that can be utilized in tandem. Most prominently is the pair of collapsible water bottles, each holding ~500mL of water, which fit nicely into their respective pockets, one on each shoulder strap.

There is also a built-in compartment on the back for a water reservoir that can hold at least 2 liters of water (not included). With an accompanying opening for the tube, the set up is simple and is separate from the main compartment, so you don’t necessarily need to pull everything out of your bag when stopping for a refill, and there’s little else in the way to fuss with.

From previous versions, Ultimate Direction removed the loops on the shoulder straps meant to secure the tube to the front of the vest, which is not awful, though it means you always have to keep the tube tucked into your chest straps to keep it from flopping back over your shoulder. I haven’t quite understood the decision to forgo those loops, as it hinders the ability to use certain features of the bag, without much benefit other than maybe a half gram less in fabric.

The additional hooks along the outside of the pack are great for securing the contents close to your back.
The additional hooks along the outside of the pack are great for securing the contents close to your back.

Mountain Vest 5.0 Sizing

The Mountain Vest 5.0 is super comfortable, and when it is packed well, you can barely even tell that it’s there. One of the primary benefits of the vest is having the weight balanced between the front and back of your torso, centering the load distribution on your shoulders, and returning your center of balance to a more natural position.

Like all other backpacks, it must be packed well to benefit from its design, and distributing the weight evenly between each shoulder strap, as well as front to back, is going to be key for comfort.

The pack adjustments are also well designed, with the sternum straps being adjustable along a sliding rail system, allowing you to choose where on your chest the straps will rest. The cinch in the lower back helps to shape the bag to your lower back, keeping it well secured, and preventing the contents from bouncing around as you run.

The pack also comes in sizes from small to extra-large, with the sizing chart showing a total range of fit at 23-52 inches, measured around the base of the ribcage.

One feature on this bag that I have really liked in both the Mountain Vest 4.0 and Mountain Vest 5.0 models are the hooks on the outside of the main back pocket that extend the wrap of the bungee net, and more closely secures the water reservoir if you don’t have much of anything in the back pockets. This helps to keep the reservoir from bouncing around and being a nuisance.

Comparable Running Vests and Hydration Packs

Make/ModelCapacityPocketsPrice
Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 5.013.4L12$165
Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 4.013L11$155
Ultimate Direction Halo Hydration Vest11L9$170
Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest 5.017L11$180
Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Set Hydration Vest12L6$170
Salomon XA 15 Hydration Vest15L3$170
Osprey Duro 15 Hydration Vest15L9$140
Black Diamond Distance 15 Trail Pack15L6$150
UltraAspire Bryce XT Hydration Pack15L8$155
Nathan Trail Mix 12 Hydration Vest12L6$150
With the variety of pockets on the front of the MV5, all of the items you want to keep within reach can easily find a spot to be secured for your adventure.
With the variety of pockets on the front of the MV5, all of the items you want to keep within reach can easily find a spot to be secured for your adventure.

Recommendation

The Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 5.0 is ideal for someone who is looking for an ultra-light alternative to their daypack to use for  6-12+ hour day trips and I would certainly recommend it. With it’s easy to use and accessible front pockets, a reasonable capacity for fitting your essentials, along with a healthy volume of water, this pack is well suited to the task. That being said, you will almost certainly need to have other ultra-light gear (rain jackets, gloves, trekking poles, etc.) to fit with the storage capacity and build of this pack. Large, bulky, or heavy items will likely not cut it and could put undue wear on the seams.

Disclosure: The author owns this product.

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Nico Dubois Nico Dubois is a mountain enthusiast who isn’t too picky about how he gets his miles in. Trail running, backpacking, skiing, day hikes, and any other human powered explorations he has the opportunity to enjoy, will do. He spent his teen years hiking the Adirondack 46ers and Hundred Highest with his family, and eventually started guiding youth backpacking trips in 2013. This included a 34 day trip with high-schoolers where he, again, completed the Adirondack 46, coming full circle from his youth. Now he spends his time as a backpacking guide and photographer in the Whites, backcountry skiing in the winter and spring, and spending long days on the trail during summer and fall.

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