Testing Ultimate Direction’s New OCR Vest

Ultimate Direction is launching its first-ever hydration vest designed specifically for obstacle-course racing, with input from pro OCR racer Amelia Boone. I got a sneak preview of the OCR Vest ($ 110), which looks minimal yet durable, boasting just enough storage to get you through a long race without weighing you down.

At its core, the new OCR Vest is no different from regular running vests. It’s got a main compartment that fits a two-liter bladder, with external compression straps that can hold an extra layer. And the shoulder straps have two zippered pockets and two open, stretchy pockets, one of which fits a 600-milliliter soft flask. Among the various compartments, there’s room for snacks, thin gloves, sunglasses, and any other small accessories you like to have with you on course. 

What’s different is the material, plus a few extra features. The vest is made out of 100-denier ripstop nylon, which is tougher than the material used on many of Ultimate Direction’s other running vests. (Panels of heavy-duty stretch mesh along the sides of the back panel and across some of the front pockets add comfort.) It’s burly—but light enough that you won’t think twice about taking it out on hot days. 

ultimate direction
(Courtesy Ultimate Direction)

A roll-top, water-resistant plastic pouch on the left strap holds a smartphone, so you can continue to snap photos and video without fear of your cell taking a mud bath. (The pouch buckles into place and is easy to remove and reattach during an event.) And several of the pockets are equipped with drain holes, so runners won’t get weighed down after going through muddy or watery obstacles.

However, most of these OCR-specific features aren’t built to handle serious obstacle courses. The fabric, while burlier than a typical vest’s, isn’t tough enough to withstand barbed wire and the like. And the water-resistant phone case will protect your electronics from splashes but it’s not fully waterproof, which means it might not protect against full submersion.

If you’re looking for a vest to use in all of your OCRs, even the most extreme ones, Ulimate Direction’s new offering may not be for you. On the other hand, if you want a vest for training and mellower races, the OCR vest might be exactly what you need. It’s pared down from vests built for ultras, which require the runner to carry more gear than an OCR, without compromising on features. It comes in two sizes (small/medium and medium/large) and goes on sale in September, just in time for the fall racing season.

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