During the 2016 Bear 100 Mile, now known as the ‘Polar Bear,’ I came into the mile-52 Tony Grove aid station shivering out of control and absolutely soaked. I’d thought I’d dressed well for the day, which started as a 40-degree-Fahrenheit deluge and escalated to blowing snow in the higher elevations. I chose poorly, and it resulted in a DNF. Fast forward to the 2017 Bighorn Trail 100 Mile, where again I came into the course’s halfway point shivering uncontrollably and contemplating the lunacy of the entire endeavor. A warm tent did little to encourage a hasty departure, but after a clothing change I headed back out into the fray and finished. The difference? I had my ‘Oh Sh¡t Jacket.’
What is an Oh Sh¡t Jacket, you say? Typically reserved for more extreme alpine pursuits, like frolicking in hail storms and blizzards, the Oh Sh¡t Jacket is typically heavier, completely waterproof with some sort of Gore-Tex material, and not something that any self-respecting runner would ever carry due to its weight. As trail running gear, especially jackets, get extremely ultralight (and sheer for some reason), they’ve lost their ability to provide protection from the elements outside of a bit of chilly wind. While these ultralight jackets certainly have their place in mildly bad conditions, they also look outstanding pasted and sheer onto your soaked torso when you’ve decided you should’ve brought something a bit heavier.
Enter the Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket V2 ($190) and Ultra Pant V2 ($120). These are the first products I’ve used that are truly waterproof and windproof for very cold and wet temperatures while still feeling and moving like a running rain jacket and pants. That is, they perform like the Oh Sh¡t Jacket but otherwise move and act like something you’d want to run in and stow in a hydration pack.
Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket V2
Weighing in at 6.1 ounces for men and 5.6 ounces for women, the Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket V2 doesn’t feel much more robust in your pack than an ultralight shell, but the protection is way more substantial. With this second version, Ultimate Direction adds an improved cinching system around the hood and a zipper cover that comes right up to the chin and does not rub, which is a problem I’ve had with almost every other hooded rain jacket. Additionally, a pliable visor really functions to keep the rain out of your face and this is a jacket I can comfortably cocoon into during a downpour and not have rain seep in. The hood also offers some mesh venting at the back of the head behind a protective lip, which does help with airflow.
The tech specs of this jacket state that it’s made from 10D high-strength 2.5L nylon. The idea with waterproofing versus breathability in any jacket is for large water molecules to stay out while letting sweat-vapor moisture from your body out. When a running jacket is two layers (2L), it usually consists of a durable water repellent (DWR) coating applied to nylon. In a 2.5L jacket, you get the light flexibility of a hyper-light 2L shell with some additional printed or sprayed-on coating for additional weather protection. The Ultra Jacket V2 has a 30,000 mm water entry pressure and 30,000 mm vapor transmission rate, both of which exceed the waterproofing and breathability standards for UTMB mandatory kit.
Ultimate Direction adds some nifty mittens for added hand warmth that are easily tucked into the jacket cuffs when not needed. Unfortunately, they do not accommodate the thumbs, and for those of us with cold hands, these little mitts don’t do too much. Venting is also added underneath the arms and an internal pocket, accessed only by unzipping the jacket, does fit plus-size smartphones and keeps things dry.
At 5’10” and 155 pounds with narrow shoulders, a men’s small felt just right for me. I have heard grumblings that this jacket is a bit more form fitting than the original Ultra Jacket. The length of this jacket basically comes right past the waistband.
Ultimate Direction Ultra Pant V2
The Ultimate Direction Ultra Pant V2 is a simple, comfortable-to-run-in, and highly protective pant. It weighs in at 3.5 ounces in both the men’s and women’s models, and is made of the same 10D high-strength 2.5L nylon material as the jacket. I loved the leg zips that allowed me to slip these on and off over shoes, as well as the running-pant-like fit, which has significantly less ‘swishing’ than in rain pants from other brands. The Ultra Pant V2 can be worn over shorts in significantly colder conditions than any other rain pant I’ve tried. Compared to the second-best running rain pant on the market, the Patagonia Houdini Pant, the Ultra Pant V2 is more comfortable, more protective, and feels much more durable.
The Ultra Pant V2 packs in itself via an inconspicuous pocket tucked in the waistband, and this pocket can be used to carry a couple of gels. There is also a minimal and flexible drawcord incorporated into the waistband that stays in place when you cinch to your preference. In the Ultra Pant V2, a men’s medium fits me well.
Dressing for the weather is completely subjective, and what some runners might wear in certain conditions could be conceived as overkill by others. The Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket V2 and Ultra Pant V2 is not a system I’d recommend for a misty, 50-degree-Fahrenheit, calm day. This kit is designed for keeping you warm during a middle-of-the-night bonk in a sleet storm on the side of a mountain when you can no longer run enough to generate heat. This is Oh Sh¡t Kit that you can zip up and tunnel vision your way through a really bad storm with during an ultramarathon or long adventure run.
For runners who typically run a bit cold, this kit would be an excellent investment for you. But, if you’re a runner who tends to sweat profusely under layers and shows up to 20-degree-Fahrenheit winter runs in shorts and a long sleeve, then you’ll likely get overheated in this jacket-and-pant combination. I think the Ultra Jacket V2 works very well to layer under for very cold conditions in the winter when you don’t want the added weight of a heavier insulated jacket. Full disclosure, I dress like a complete wimp in cold conditions.
While $310 is a lot to pay for a jacket-and-pant combo, I think they are so well made that it might be a one-and-done purchase. If you’ve ever had to drop from an ultramarathon due to not having the right clothes in inclement weather, consider an investment in the Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket V2 and the Ultra Pant V2.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Do you have the Ultra Jacket V2 and the Ultra Pant V2? If so, what are your overall impressions of them? How would you compare these pieces to other ultralight waterproof/breathable running kit out there?
- What do you think about the details and features of the jacket and pants? The hood, the mitts, the ankle zip, and more?
- If you’ve worn both the original and V2 versions, can you share your thoughts on the updates made to V2?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]