Disclaimer: This post reviews the UD Jenny and UD Wink packs, both of which were given to me by Ultimate Direction [one through an unaffiliated giveaway, one for product testing]. While they did not require a blog post in exchange for the product I really love the packs [and the company!] so I want to share my thoughts and experiences! Aside from product I am not being compensated for this post and all opinions are my own!
When I first started running it was shorter distances on roads and I was rarely concerned about carrying along water, food or gear. As I started signing up for longer races my solo training run got longer and I needed a way to drag along water and snacks. In the past I’ve strapped on a Nathan Fuel Belt on longer training runs, regularly filled the SPIBelt for shorter runs + races and made good use of handhelds. This all changed when I decided to take on ultra running. I spent the days before the Bear Chase 50K concerned about how I would survive with just a handheld. In the end it worked out perfectly; the aid stations were wonderfully stocked and my Ultimate Direction handheld was great for gauging my water intake between aid stations.
Finishing with just an Ultimate Direction Fastdraw handheld
But what about longer distances…like the Run Rabbit Run 100 I had my eye on? A handheld wouldn’t be quite enough.
About the time I started really looking at running a 100 mile race Ultimate Direction was coming out with the UD Jenny Pack – their first pack designed for women by a woman, Jenny Jurek. I was eyeballing the pack and just happened to seriously luck out and win a prototype pack through one of Ultimate Direction’s Facebook giveaways [seriously, like UD on FB, they have a lot of great contests!]. I was beyond excited the day it arrived at my door…now I HAD to run the 100 miler, I had the gear I needed!
I put the Jenny pack to good use when the 2014 race season rolled around…it came on every long training run, I toted it along the course of the Quad Rock 50M and the North Fork 50M and I lent it out to Marissa as she took on the Indian Creek 50K. It’s a great pack – the stretchy material makes it really versatile, it doesn’t bounce and the smaller 10oz bottles are perfect for measuring out electrolytes/gel mixtures.
As my “selective memory” kicked in after Run Rabbit Run I started looking at 2015 races…specifically longer, more remote races that would require packing along more essentials. I had been chatting with the crew at Ultimate Direction and mentioned my goals for 2015. They are an awesome, supportive company and I was thrilled when they offered me the new version of the UD Wink Pack to test out!
The Wink while slightly larger pack, is also designed for women. It’s not quite big enough for solo fastpacking but it’s great for trail adventures that require a lot of food/water OR take you through a wide range of weather [aka, you need to pack waterproof + warm gear!]. I’ve spent the last two months trekking around with the Wink pack and have put my Jenny pack through a year of abuse…so let’s compare the two! Spoiler Alert: I will NOT be picking a favorite at the end, it’s just not possible!
First off – you can get all of specific details for each pack on Ultimate Direction’s site. I’m not good with the little details, just the parts that actually affect my life, so click on over to the UD Jenny pack and the UD Wink pack. You can also read about the new packs coming up in December + watch an in depth video on the UD Wink [+ UD Wasp, the guy’s version!] in Ultimate Direction’s Trail Collection release!
How Much Gear Fits, Exactly?
This pack is the smaller of the two and if you don’t pack it full it can easily be called a “vest” rather than pack. It is completely feasible to leave the back of the Jenny pack empty and use just the front pouches + pockets for water or food. That said, the material of the pack is stretchy [and has two big pockets, layered on top of each other with two separate openings — this lets your water bladder stay separate from layers + food] and can easily be packed with layers, extra water and lots of food. Technically it holds up to 4L, which is roughly pictured below…
If you’re looking for a pack with room to carry a few layers of clothing or if you’re headed somewhere that doesn’t have easy water refills this would be a great option. It is the size of a small backpack but it’s still stretchy enough to fit a lot or a little, depending upon your specific needs. Again, technically the UD Wink has capacity for 7.4L, which includes at least all the gear pictured below…
Does it Fit? Is it Comfortable?
I have worn this pack a lot…and it is not uncommon for me to forget I even have it on my back, especially if I don’t have it packed very full. If I’m using it as just a vest the only reminder of it’s existence is the slosh of water in the front pouch bottles [sometimes this is crazy annoying, like during a really bad run and I need something to focus my anger on].
Essentially, this is an extremely comfortable pack with a LOT of adjustability. The side straps are easy to adjust as you move layers from your body to the pack and vise versa and the chest straps move up and down so you can fit them just right across your chest [I’m told this is really handy for busty ladies, but I can’t speak from experience].
The overall fit of this pack is similar to the Jenny – the front pouches are similarly sized and placed, the straps are equally comfortable and the side adjustment straps are easily accessed and adjusted. There are two areas that I noticed a big difference between the two.
First, only the top chest strap is up/down adjustable – this wasn’t a real issue for me but it may become problematic if you have a legit chest to work with. [UPDATE: Lance from Ultimate Direction verified that this has been changed for all of the UD Wink packs that are going on sale in December — the top strap is fixed while the lower strap is adjustable…which I think is a big improvement and gives the pack at lot more “womanly” versatility! Plus, this is SO much proof that Ultimate Direction really does listen to their runners + testers!]
Second, the pack didn’t ride quick as nicely as the Jenny pack when empty. This actually makes sense as the Jenny becomes a “vest” when empty but the Wink is build to hold it’s size/shape when empty and is easily avoidable if you’re a “just in case” runner that always wants a jacket with you! Even with the fit variations the Wink pack is comfy and, most importantly, does NOT bounce around when you’re running!
Price + Is It Worth It?
Jenny Pack - $124.95
While I did win a prototype pack [that a few changes were made to before it became available for sale] I do think this pack is worth the price. It has probably covered 300+ miles on my back and it is yet to fail me in any way. I love the fact it’s so versatile – I’ve taken it along on short runs where I wanted a “just in case” rain jacket and I’ve packed it full of food, water and multiple layers for 6+ hour mountain runs. It can do a lot and it fits great, so yes…totally worth the money! If I didn’t win it I would have purchased it without an ounce of buyer’s remorse.
Wink Pack - $119.95
Once again, I did not pay for the new version of this pack; however, when compared to other packs this size it’s a good, competitive price. In short, yes, I think it’s worth the price. I have used this pack hiking in Summit County, running in Portland, hiking along Boulder trails and running the trails of Horsetooth Reservoir. It’s most comfortable when you pack a little weight into the pack but the Wink is still functional when it’s not stuffed full of gear and food.
At the end of the day? Both packs are pretty awesome and I just might have a crazy crush on the Ultimate Direction gear in general. I know I’ll be putting both packs to good use in the very near future! The UD Jenny will be put to use during a lot of training runs and a few 50+ mile races while the UD Wink will be perfect for group runs and solo mountain adventures like the Zion Traverse and Ten Mile Traverse.
Do you use a pack, vest or some other contraption to carry gear + food + water along while running?
And if you do use a pack what are some of the most important features in your world?