Sunday, 21 September 2014

Gear Review: Ultimate Direction JUREK ESSENTIAL Waist Belt

In my quest for the perfect solution to carrying a small amount of kit/food on the run, I got chatting with Keith Godden at www.ULTRAmarathonRunningStore.com.  He's in the great position of hearing opinions from a wide range of runners and sales reps, so was a good sounding board for talking through some options.  Knowing that I get as big a kick out of reviewing kit as trying it out, he sent me the Ultimate Direction JUREK ESSENTIAL Waist Belt to try out and review.  Having taken it out for a couple of hundred miles now, I've  come to know it pretty well.

The Ultimate Direction JUREK ESSENTIAL Waist Belt 

The belt is pretty simple - 3 pockets on a light belt.  If you want to carry water in your belt, you should have a look at the JUREK ENDURE belt instead (my review of it).  For my longer runs, and for shorter runs where I want to add some element of upper-body work-out, I've taken to carrying small handhelds with the ESSENTIAL belt.  It's an ideal combination, since I can carry soft-flasks and avoid any irritating sloshing noises.

The three pockets offer a great range of options for carrying everything I need on most runs.  Like the ENDURE belt, there are also two reflective race number snaps, which are both very bright and quite handy.  The buckle is easy to operate and the belt tends to sit quite comfortably.  Under the back pockets, the belt is a fine, breathable mesh which minimizes the heat retention on your back.

The small front pocket usually has some ID, some emergency cash, and my keys.  The pocket has a Velcro closure which has stayed secure so far.  Ideally, I'd rather carry my mini tin of Vaseline in this pocket than my keys, since I'm more likely to need that on the run.  But, it's not quite the right shape so doesn't fit particularly well.

The left main pocket is waterproof, and big enough for most smartphones.  My stupidly large Lumia 920 just fits, without its case.  An iPhone would fit just fine in a case.  I use the stretchy mesh right pocket for my first-aid kit, Vaseline, and if needed a few gels.  Because this pocket isn't waterproof, anything I want to keep dry (plasters, tape, etc.) goes into a small plastic bag first.  That's not really an issue for me, since I have my first-aid kit divvied up into small bags anyway, so I can quickly find what I need.  If I want to carry more, like a jacket, I tend to simply slip an extra pouch onto the belt.  So many jackets come with a carry pouch that has a belt loop, that it's quite an easy way to create additional space comfortably.



Sliding my jacket pouch onto the belt means I have everything I need.

The Fit

The ESSENTIAL belt fits very comfortably, and is easy to adjust.  On occasion, if I get tired of the weight imbalance from having the relatively heavy phone on one side, It's still comfortable if I rotate it so the waterproof pouch is on my right hip and the mesh pouch moves around to the front.  It sits easily on my hips and generally stays in place on the run.

Things I Like

I like having a waterproof pocket for my phone.  When I need to use the phone (calling for help, or more likely taking a work-related call while I'm sneaking a run into a sunny afternoon), I don't want to have to faff about with getting the phone out of a bag to use it.

I also like just how comfortably I can slip an extra pouch (or two) onto the belt if I want to.  Having that extra flexibility means I can tweak things for different types of run.

Things I'd like to see improved

I like the concept of the little front pocket, but it's just a touch too small and fiddly to be as useful as it could be.  Keeping the pocket area the same, but with a slightly larger volume would increase the flexibility of how the pocket can be used.

Things I love

There's nothing about the belt makes me purr, but I really like that it does everything I need for almost all of my runs.  It just ticks the boxes.  And, when it doesn't, because I need more gear or water, it's still light enough that I can still be pretty lazy and just chuck it into my backpack so I don't have to transfer any of my core kit from bag to bag.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, if you want a good, light belt that lets you carry pretty much everything you need, then this is a great belt.  If you want to carry water on your belt, or want to have more carrying capacity, then it's probably not going to do the job for you.

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