Ultimate Direction Bottle With Kicker Valves Review

What’s the surest way to know that a gear reviewer really loves a product? See them buy the gear full-priced with their own hard earned money. Two weeks prior to the Marathon des Sables this spring I walked into a local running store and bought two 26-ounce Ultimate Direction bottles with kicker valves ($10). If I needed another bottle today, I’d go ahead and do the same thing. As I recently shared on iRunFar’s Facebook page, this classic from Ultimate Direction is still the best water bottle I’ve ever used while running.

I could talk about the bottle’s comfortable shape or the fact that the top doesn’t leak (surprisingly, not always true of water bottles), but no feature compares to the UD bottles’ kicker valve. It’s easy to open and even even easier to shut, taking only a wave of the opposite hand or a quick brush against the torso to seal the bottle tight.

Ultimate Direction bottle Kicker ValveThe Ultimate Direction Kicker Valve in its various states of openness

The valve is also very easy on the mouth – a big plus when you’re using it for 10, 20, 30, or more hours at a time. I’ve had other bottles tear up the inside of my mouth after extended use.


  • What’s your favorite bottle to use while running?
  • If you’ve used an Ultimate Direction bottle with kicker valves, what did you think?

[Disclosure: The link to Amazon in this post is part of an affiliate program that helps support iRunFar.com. No free samples were received from Ultimate Direction in connection with this review.]

There are 30 comments

  1. Chris Freet

    Hi Bryon,I have two 20oz. UD handheld bottles and I am pleased with them overall. I agree with you that they are easy to use and actually I find them comfortable to carry. However, I have found that mine do leak occasionally, but not enough to annoy me.Another aspect as well is the overall durability of the bottle. Using them on tough trail runs involves tripping and flying headlong on the trail, when this happens the handhelds take the brunt of the fall and actually protect me hands. In spite of this the UD bottles may be scratched but work just as well as when I first got them.Thanks for the reviews.- Chris

  2. KMAX

    I had the plastic seal around the kicker valve on my UD bottle rip out of the cap, spilling half my water over my face as I ran and leaving me with a topless bottle. It was leaking around the seal for a while leading up to that and when it went the entire kicker valve went with it.Not sure if I had a faulty bottle or maybe if I was rougher on it then others but I was pretty dissapointed.I've started using a basic water bottle with the rubberized seal top which limits the leaking, though it definitely still does leak a good bit if laying on its side on the car seat… Also with the UD bottles, I found it more difficult to get water to my usual running partner (of the canine variety) without a hard forced spray in her face. She definitely much prefers the easier pouring capabilities of the regular water bottle. I'd like to try out the newer Camelback bottles as they seem to have a similar no-spill design.

  3. Ray

    I debated getting some UD handhelds, as they seemed to dominate the ultra scene. However, almost all my other hydration products are Nathan, so stuck with those and have been very happy! I sometimes have to double check to ensure the valves have closed all the way, but otherwise don't have a problem with them leaking.

  4. Josh

    I've got two hand bottles–a Nathan and an Ultimate Direction. I find I use the UD more often. I was having issues with it leaking when it was really full, but I've resolved this by compressing the bottle slightly while drinking and keeping it compressed when closing the kicker valve. The backpressure created keeps things leak free now, so my shorts no longer get soaked.

  5. Anonymous

    I had the same issue as KMAX. The ring around the "kicker valve". I have super glued the ring back in place a few times, but the last time the valve got stuck in the closed position. I still use the bottle, but keep it tethered in my Kayak. I have to unscrew the top for a drink. Otherwise I love my "ba ba". The finger grooves are perfect, and I really like the kicker valve, though it is a little difficult to spray water on oneself.I usually drop a Nuuns tablet in my bottle, as the tablet dissolves, gas builds up inside the bottle. Eventually the gas releases out of the kicker valve like a fart. Be careful of that. I wish UD sold replacement tops. Try to keep the kicker valve in the open position most of the time.

  6. Derrick

    Very impressed. Love UD bottles and the kicker valve. I only began to use them in the spring and it's now the only one I can see myself ever using. Great product!

  7. robert.blair

    I have had a mixed experience this year:Originally, I bought 4 of the UD 20 oz. kicker valve bottles and loved them. But one of the caps was hard to screw back on to the bottle. it definitely took some jimmying to get back on each time I screwed it off.At ultras, volunteers would try to screw it back on and after a while I would have to say, that one's a little "screwed up". I'll do it, and I would have to finesse it for a while to get it back on and tight, before continuing to run.So I bought some Nathan 22 oz. bottles, and though I liked the extra 2 oz, unlike the UD bottles, I had to remember to close the tops of the Nathans after having a sip, because otherwise, naturally, water would fly out of the top and there would go the extra 2 oz. of water or more!Eventually, I took the UD kicker valve tops from the UD bottles and put them onto the Nathan 22 oz. bottles and those are my preferred bottles to use. Even when the UD kicker valve is open I have never found that water comes out of the top. There is that cap seal issue though, and a local running store told me they stopped buying UDs because they have gotten whole shipments where the kicker valves just came right off the bottles as they pulled them out of the box, before the bottles were even used.Since I have not had that problem with my two UD kicker valve tops, and I have used them all year on training runs and races, I am glad to learn that UD has a 26 oz. bottle, and will be buying two of those online soon, because that kicker valve beats the other valve tops by far (as long as it is not already defective as the running store experienced), and I do not have to worry about water flying out of it if I do not close it.Thanks for the post.

  8. Dan

    I have several bottles from Nathan, GoLite and UD. The kicker valve on the UD is easy on the teeth and mouth and is the most leak proof(which I like)but also the most difficult for getting the fluid out (which I dislike). I have to squeeze the bottle harder than I do with the Nathan and GoLite. The cap is easiest to remove of the three which is good late in a race when you’re tired and can't seem to do the simplest tasks.

  9. Lori

    I have found for me,I have a problem drawing enough out. I drink less when I use UD so I switched to Nathan. I also had a lot of leakage with UD.

  10. gene

    i experienced the same gas problems with my UD bottles when i use nuun. other than that, they hold up great on trail runs. i also have the same problem getting my dog to drink from it, so when i take him along with me, i tend to use my camelbak bladder, which i otherwise find waaay too noisy. over all very happy with the UD product.

  11. Chris

    I run with a dog and I have not found a bottle that she can easily drink from:The UD bottle sprays too hard which is a shame. The UD bottle's ergonomics are perfect for my hand. I have not experienced any leaking problems. If I'm not running with my dog, UD is my bottle of choice.The Specialized Big Mouth spray is a mess.I have two Camelbak bottles. One sprays great, the other slightly better than the Specialized. There is a good chance she will lick the nozzle. The catch – the bottles don't fit well in my UD or GoLite hand carriers. I need to carry the bottles in a waist pack. If I'm not running with my husband (he thinks dog germs are gross), I'll use them. I have used NUUN with the Camelbak bottles. If you lock the nozzle, there is minimal leaking.

  12. Caren

    I have the UD bottle and a ton of the Nathan bottles, and for some reason prefer the Nathan bottles although they definiteoy leak more. I guess it's user-error, but I always have issues getting enough water out of the UD bottle too.I just wanted to add to Gene who finds his camelbak too noisy, when you fill up the bladder, seal it, turn it upside down and suck the air out of the mouthpiece. This gets all the air out and you won't have that annoying racket going on.Thanks for the review Bryon!

  13. xclimber

    Maybe (ok, no maybe's about it) I'm just clumsy, but I always seem to punch myself in the mouth with it if I try to drink from it whilst running… Personaly, I prefer my Amphipod bottle or my Nathan Race Vest.

  14. Dave Chan

    UD is my favorite handheld. I love the kicker valve. When the time comes for new bottles, it will be UD again. They hold up well and I have had no leaking problems.

  15. Will Thomas

    I love the feel of the UD in my hand. The thumb and finger routes fit perfect. The kicker valve is also the best bottle valve out there.That being said; I've had the valve tear right off one of my caps. Then one of my caps (not valves) always leaks from the bottle neck when I squeeze hard. I've also found over time that the cap ends up being screwed on even further to make a tight fit, thus the kicker valve and the clip ring aren't lined up well and I have to turn the bottle at a weird angle to drink if I want to keep my fingers and thumb in their routes.I like the carabiner like clip ring on my Nathan water bottle cap. Maybe UD could incorporate that into their new model.

  16. Shaun Hansen

    I run with two of these all the time… took a while to get used to having my hands full, but they are perfect! Small pocket on the bottle bag is perfect for carrying cell phone or car key when you're at a trailhead!

    1. @patterbt

      Yes, I use an 20oz hyrdaform bottle and LOVE the shape of it. I have tried to carry "regular round" water bottles like the nathan or UD, but didn't like how they force me to unnaturally curl my hand around as I ran. The amphipod bottle is the perfect shape to just put your hand on one side of it and let the hand strap hold it for you. I actually use a funky combination of amphipod bottle, specialized cap, and InkNBurn handheld holder. The amphipod cap leaks too much while running if you don't close it all the time, whereas the specialized cap never leaks even when it is open so all I need to do is open it once while out on a run and never worry about closing it again. The InkNBurn handheld holder is expensive, but it is by far the most comfortable one I have worn yet.

  17. Bryon Powell

    Some points based on others comments:* I've never had mine leak or the valve assembly detach from the lid. Sorry to hear that some have had that problem.* I've found the bottles to be very durable. I've pounded them into the ground (unintentionally) and they've always stood up to the abuse.* I'm not a big fan of the ring on the top. I suppose it could help spin the bottle top, but I'd be happier without it… but not so happy that I've tried to remove it myself.* I guess kicker valves aren't great for watering dogs. I'll never know.As for other bottles:* I like the new CamelBak Podium ChillJacket bottle a good deal. In fact, I used it all summer long… when I wasn't running. It's shape doesn't match up with my handhelds so it's a no go for me while running.* I've not tried the Amphipod Hydraform bottle.Caren, I wish I would have known. I got rid of some unused Nathan bottles before I moved. I may still have some around…

  18. Mark Lundblad

    The only issue I've ever had with the UD bottles leaking is when I put them in the dishwasher and used the heated dry option. It warped the threads and comprimised the seal on the kicker valve somehow, so now I hand wash or obviously don't dry them via the heat option in the dishwasher.

  19. Marc Meyer

    I have used the UD bottles for two years and have not experienced any leaking. However, I did have one of the kicker valves break off one bottle. I contacted UD and they sent me two additional complete tops at no cost.

  20. Steve Bohrer

    I'm a little late to this discussion, but I love my UD bottles so I'll comment. They're the only bottles I've had that don't leak. In the spirit of continuous improvement, Nathan could learn something there. The other plus is their fall-breaking ability. I was running with two UD handhelds, one kicker and one the old style. I took a sudden digger, landing on my hands. The old-style lid simply blew off, spilling the entire bottle into the dirt. The kicker valve allowed a controlled release of pressure. Some liquid sprayed out, but most of it stayed in the bottle. My only problem is that my little kids seem to think the valve is a binky and they chew on it if they find them laying around or while hiking. They don't hold up to sharp little toddler teeth. But overall, I love them.

  21. Will Thomas

    I second Steve's comment. My teething, bottle fed child is much more drawn to my UD bottle over any other bottle. My UD bottles have passed the ultimate endurance test and keep on working.

  22. Anonymous

    I've had 4 bottles in use for 2 years and I've experienced the white valve seperating from the gray top. Tried contacting UD twice, but neve got a response. When they weren't broken they worked great. But 2 years is not great in terms of product life. I wished they sold the just the kicker valve top.Picked up 4 Camelbak Podiums and they are looking like the replacement for the UD. I do miss the looped cap, but the nozzle mechanism looks like it may be a bit more sturdy. I leave it in always open position and it never leaks. We'll see if these last more than 2 years.

  23. Bryon Powell

    Anonymous,I'm sort to hear that you've had durability problems with the UD kicker valves. How frequently do you use the bottles? The Camelback Podium does have a nice valve, but I've not found the shape to my liking while running.

  24. Cupertino

    I agree with most comments on this page, including:

    1. durability overall (has taken quite a few spills)

    2. mostly leak proof (except when the valve gets shredded by your kids)

    3. feels good in the hand, ergonomically.

    The kicker valve nipple itself is not as durable when your kids get a hold of it, and bite on the nipple. Mine has ripped and while still usable, leaking is more prevalent, esp in the open position.

    UD now offers a kicker cap replacement, selling for $6. The trick is finding a vendor who actually sells this part. If you google "ultimate direction kicker cap replacement", you may find a vendor who sell the replacement cap (I found one today).

    UD warranty told me they do not not warranty tears on the opening of the kicker valve, because it is considered "normal wear and tear" and they can't account for people who might be "biting the nipple" (wait.. their instructions say to open it with your fingers or teeth..so.. this is strange now upon further reflection).

    I would probably try and call warranty again, since "biting" is a recommended way of opening the bottle, but since my kids probably have done more more then "bite".. and maybe have "chewed" on it some over time.. I'll chalk this up to my own "consumer abuse" of the product.

    Overall.. I recommend the product, though I wish the kicker valve was a little more durable.

    Now I just have to go order a replacement cap.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Thanks for the info Cupertino. I wasn't aware that UD was selling replacement caps. Good stuff.

      As for the kids, I think you're right that there's a big difference between biting and chewing. ;-) I've always used my teeth to open the kicker valve, but have never seen the slightest wear.

  25. JPort

    The kicker valve on my bottles have held up nicely over the past 5-6 years and show no signs of deterioration or tears. Getting water through the valve can be a bit tricky at first, but is very easy once you're used to it.

    My index finger fits through the loop on the cap and enables me to, comfortably, carry these bottles without an additional sleeve.

    These bottles are great! Highly recommended.

  26. nemesis

    I've been using a UD bottle as my only drinks bottle (gym, walking, out in the car) for 6 years now and apart from minor tears on the top of the valve itself, it's still going strong.

    It gets used pretty much every day in one shape or another and I've got another 2 in the cupboard for when the original finally kicks the bucket, but in the last 6 years I can honestly say that I've dropped it, knocked it off things and occasionally fallen on it and it's never leaked.

    I like the loop on top. I've got manual dexterity problems with one arm and I find that it means I can screw and unscrew the top much easier than I can with other bottles, and it also makes for much more certain carrying than holding around the bottle when I have to carry it with my gammy hand because my decent hand is busy.

    I'm sure if I moved to another bottle with a standard valve I'd spend months smashing myself in the teeth whilst trying to drink from it, so I guess I'm stuck with it for the duration now :)

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