The Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket is a 6.3 ounce lightweight rain jacket (in a size men’s XL) that is light enough to be used as a wind shirt or a rain jacket. Specially designed for ultra runners in Europe’s Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, it has high waterproof/breathability ratings in lab tests, but like all waterproof/breathable rain jackets, is still susceptible to wetting out and internal condensation issues when you hike in rain.
Still, the Ultra Jacket has many nice features that distinguish it from other minimalist rain coats including attached stowaway rain mitts, an adjustable hood, underarm pit vents, and an interior zippered chest pocket. Most minimalist rain jackets don’t have any of these, which limits their range to warm weather use only.
The coolest feature on the Ultra Jacket are stowaway mitts, called FlipMitts, which can be used as rain or wind mitts but fold away up into the sleeves when not in use. While not fully watertight – there’s an open slit at the base where they attach to the sleeve – they provide sufficient extra warmth in cold rain or wind to keep your hands from freezing as long as you’re running or hiking vigorously. They’re also loose enough that you can still grip trekking poles while wearing them. It’s a fantastic innovation to include them as part of a rain jacket.
The Ultra Jacket has a fully featured hood, something that’s also often missing on minimalist rain jackets. First off, there’s an extended front bill over the eyes that is very effective at keeping rain off your face as well as an elastic volume adjuster in the back so you can adjust the hood to fit your head. Side pulls let you cinch the hood down around your face, providing a customized fit that keeps wind and water out.
The front bill is shaped using a strip of plastic, not a wire brim, but is just as effective at holding its shape. The bill’s underside is covered with mesh, so that air caught under the brim can flow through an air channel sewn into the hood and out a vent in the back of the hood. It’s a neat idea, but I honestly couldn’t tell if it made a difference on rainy days.
Underarm Pitt Vents
The Ultra Jacket has small mesh vents sewn under the armpits to help vent moisture. These are covered by flaps to prevent moisture ingress in the rain. While they do help vent perspiration build-up under your arms, they’re most effective in low humidity weather when evaporation can occur.
The Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket is low weight waterproof/breathable shell that has many more technical features than you normally find on a minimalist style rain jacket. With integrated rain mitts and a fully featured hood, the Ultra Jacket spans the gap between minimal rain shells, best worn in warmer weather, and much heavier and feature rich hard shells that you’d wear for winter hiking. The Ultra Jacket is also lightweight enough to be used as a wind shirt by itself or over an insulating mid-layer garment like a fleece pullover, again more feature rich than most wind shirts for just a few ounces more.
- Waterproof/Breathability – Over 12,000mm/Over 22,000g/m2 24hrs
- Weight – 6.3 ounces in a men’s XL
- Fully-taped seams
- Stuff into internal chest pocket
- Underarm vents
- Fully featured hood with volume adjuster, pull tabs, shaped brim, and vent
- Self-storing rain mitts
- Hem adjustment
- Reflective tabs
Disclosure: Ultimate Direction provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with an Ultra Jacket for this review.
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