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Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket Review

The Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket wetted out on me after a few hours of hiking in the rain. It doesn't matter what the waterproof/breathability rating of your jacket is. Condensation will still occur in the right circumstances and soak you inside any rain coat.JPG
The Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket is a lightweight rain jacket than can serve double duty as a wind shirt. While minimal in weight, it is loaded with technical features that make it a stand-out among other minimal rain jackets.

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.

FlipMitts are stowaway attached rain mitts that fold into the Ulta Jackets sleeves when not in use
FlipMitts are stowaway attached rain mitts that fold into the Ultra Jacket’s sleeves when not in use. Elasticized cuffs help retain heat when the FlipMitts are not in use.


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.

Adjustable Hood

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 Ultra Jacket hood has a bill stiffener to help keep rain off of your face
The Ultra Jacket hood has a bill stiffener to help keep rain off of your face

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.

Manufacturer Specs/Features

  • Waterproof/Breathability – Over 12,000mm/Over 22,000g/m24hrs
  • 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 ( with an Ultra Jacket for this review.
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  1. Another rain jacket that doesn’t keep you dry. Hard to believe that people buy this snake oil!

  2. I shy away from one-garmet-for-broad-weather-conditions solutions, especially since I’ve easily overwhelmed the breathability of any WPB jackets I’ve tried.

    I’ll continue to tolerate the extra 3oz a dedicated windshirt will “cost” my pack weight budget.

    The FlipMitts are an interesting idea though and I suspect I’d like that hood adjustment setup.

  3. I think this has real potential for lightweight backpacking. Yes, the face fabric will eventually wet out, but it’s a very light face fabric and should dry quickly given a chance. Yes, some of us (me included) will overwhelm the breathability if we don’t adjust down our pace, but that’s going to be true of any waterproof jacket. This one is very light and has very good features for that minimal weight (I love the mitts idea!). Like Jim C I’d include a windshirt for 3-season outings, but my heavyweight windshirt (4.5 oz) AND this rain jacket weigh less than my current rain jacket. I can also see tossing this jacket in with my winter kit. I wear a microfiber softshell jacket for most conditions, but it does occasionally decide to outright rain; for that occurrence a very light rain jacket is nice.

    My one concern at that weight is that it won’t survive even minimal abrasion damage. Otherwise, nice…

    • That’s why I published that picture of me wearing the jacket after it wetted out on a 3 hour hike and completely drenched my 200 weight fleece mid layer with internal condensation….I do think it will be a fine warm weather shell though when hypothermia is less of a risk, since you know you can’t expect a rain jacket to keep you dry, just warm.

      I do like a heavier winter shell however with lots of pockets and much better pit-zips and I’m willing to carry it.

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