If there’s one bag brand that has been missing from these pages over the past few years, it’s Ultimate Direction. From my experiences around the UK and Chamonix, it is easily one of the two most popular storage solutions (other opinions may differ)for trail and ultra runners, regardless of ability and aspirations. I’ve been keeping an eye out for the past 5 years, so when I got the opportunity to review some of their products, I leaped at the chance. For those days when you are running light or heading flat out , where you’ll need some supplies, a jacket or water, the Race Belt 4.0 fits into the category well. Designed to take a 500ml soft flask and phone (iPhone 8 for those wondering about size), it will also take a compact jacket, or hat/gloves/arm warmers. Essentially, small things. Utilising a two way adjustable velcro waist belt, which allows you to fine tune the fit at either end, you can get your fit dialled pretty quickly and to be fair, once its on, its not going anywhere. No need to worry about clips or bungee cords. I opted for the size Small/Medium and when I first tried it on, I thought the larger size may have been a better option. It was snug. However, persistence and more over, time wearing the Race Belt has stretched out the fibres some what and I can can get a better fit. I’m pretty sure I haven’t been loosing weight. For reference I’m a towering 5ft 7″ / 170cm and 11 Stone something / 72kg.
Now, I’ve been using the Race Belt 4.0 for the vast majority of runs this year, everything from easy runs, intervals, fartlek, hill reps, long runs….. pretty much everything and anything. The majority of the time it has carried a jacket or essential accessories i.e. hat and gloves, but one thing it has always carried is my phone.Behind the 0.8 litre main compartment, there is a zippered pocket which keeps your phone from bouncing out down the trail and leaves you safe in the knowledge you wont be needing back to check its on your person constantly. Now, if I could tweak it, I would have a headphone hole at one end, as I’m living in the past and use the original headphones that came with my iPhone 7. The microphone no longer works, I can’t skip tracks and I have to press the options button frantically to get audio to divert into my ears. But, they work and I don’t have to worry about my battery getting drained by bluetooth. When I run, I keep it on air plane mode, good luck getting hold of me.
Once I’m plugged in and listening to a podcast, I’m in my zone, though this does mean the lead gets kinked at the terminal – a hole would stop that, potentially. But then again, should we not be embracing the trails, the sounds, smells and experiences that they emit and share with us?On the right hand side of the belt, you’ll find a small velcro pocket for your key or salt tabs. Saves using the rear pocket of your shorts or tights!
The construction of the UD Race Belt 4.0 is lightweight. The belt consists of flex mono mesh, which does a good job of not holding much water and allows for relatively good breathability. I’ve had no chafing or damage to the variety of jerseys and jackets that I’ve worn beneath. On the rear MonoRip™ mesh is comfortable and has stood up to a few months of continuous use with no signs of wear.
The mud under the D is from stacking it on the Pyllon XP 2 night run, when I was thinking about photos, rather than the bog I was chasing John through
The Race Belt 4.0 comes with a soft flask, with the latest edition of UD’s signature bite valve. I own a UD Fastdraw 20 from a few years ago and the one off putting thing was the valve. Without subjecting you to a photo, none of my teeth, other than molars, meet. Bitting things is a daily challenge for me. Ok, yes you can do it with your hand, but when you’re running fast and are in this scenario, busy, it does somewhat dampen the experience. Or in this case, leave it arid. I personally, am happy to report the latest version doesn’t provide me with the same challenges and I’m able to use bite valve of the 500ml body bottle with my very English wonky teeth. The flow of water is good and the added security of having a lockable valve for something that will spend the vast majority of its time horizontal across your back, priceless.
On the rear, there are two bungee cords for strapping down an extra jacket, even poles if you haven’t loaded up the Race Belt. Poles are possible and there are toggle adjusters on each of the bungee cords, but you will need to utilise the belt for this purpose and this purpose only. If someone invents a bendy pole when stored, then you can truly go wild. For quick removal of your chosen item, the bungee clips on to a small paracord loop which remains engaged when under tension. All on all, for something minimal and small, the Ultimate Direction Race Belt 4.0 has a lot going on. It offers hydration, storage, expandability (with the bungees), key security, all staying out of your way when you run. Positioing it on your waist is something you get used to, there is definitely an optimum tension on the belt. A little too loose and it will ride up, but once you have the fit dialled it sticks in place. The headphone eyelet would be a great addition, but isn’t a deal breaker. Storage is just enough and of course, UD offer a range of larger belts if that is what you require.
Overall it’s a thumbs up from me.
It is easy to over look waist belts, as we are used to wearing race vests. Personally, I utilise waist belts where possible for connivence, minimalism and to reduce the chances of overheating in my torso. Yes it can’t carry the same equipment, but unless you’re in the mountains, going super long or racing, is it necessary?
Product supplied by Beta Running | This is not a paid promotion
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