Ultimate Direction Hydro Short Review
By Andrew Hagen
It’s not often that one writes about a pair of shorts, but the new Hyrdo Short from Ultimate Direction is much more than a pair of shorts. A lot of the time, these shorts will be all you need, you can even leave your hydration pack at home for those shorter in-between runs.
In a nutshell, this is a pair of shorts that can hold 2 x 300ml bottles, plus a phone and/or other lightweight objects such as energy bars or a windbreaker, and it’s designed so that they fit snugly to your body and don’t move around while you run. The shorts themselves are a combination of inner shorts to reduce chafe, and light and stretchy outer shorts. Bottles and other items are stored in three pockets at the back.
Every panel of fabric in these shorts has a bit of stretch to it - Nylon and Spandex inners, Polyester and Spandex outer shorts, and stretch mesh for the pockets. For extra security (especially when you have full bottles on board) there is a robust waist strap to cinch down and prevent bounce. It has plenty of adjustment and can be easily tucked away into its own stretchy compartment. The construction of these shorts is excellent and gives the impression of high quality and attention to detail, and I find that there are no friction points to worry about. One thing to keep in mind is that the pockets are not waterproof, so you’d be wise to use ziplock bags for certain items.
The Hydro Short comes with a pair of plastic bottles (rather than soft flasks) which are shaped to sit flat against the top of your glutes. I couldn’t quite believe that such small and sleek bottles could hold 300ml each, so I measured it, and indeed they carry exactly 300ml. The bottles slip snugly into symmetrical, dedicated pockets. An elasticated flap holds the top of the bottle in place, so there is no need to faff with drawcords or zips and it’s easy to get the bottle in an out with one hand. Between the bottle pockets is a wider pouch designed to hold a phone and/or other items. It opens and closes in a similar way but has the extra security of a small Velcro patch. The stretchiness of all the pockets means that you have a bit of freedom in what you carry, and it is easy to slide your phone back into place without breaking stride. The centre pocket is especially useful, because it can accommodate more volume than the bottle pockets. I can fit a typical lightweight running jacket in there, and at about 100g, it doesn’t bounce around at all even if I don’t bother to cinch down the waist strap. The shorts also have reflective overlays on the back and thighs for safety at night.
UD have done a great job with these shorts. With full bottles on board and the waist strap secure, the bottles don’t move around at all. If you’re skinny like me, you might feel them jiggle slightly, but they are going nowhere. And to be honest, I’ve run with a variety of bottle belts over the years and these shorts hold the bottles more securely with far less fuss. Whatever your running range was without water, 600ml should add an hour or so to that in most conditions.
Where I live, mountain streams are generally safe to drink from, so I often don’t need to carry water and instead find myself using the pockets for safety gear more than hydration. At the minimum, this means carrying a phone, and if that’s all you need then you won’t even notice it is there (and neither will anyone else, probably). Up on the remote mountain trails, I can whip out my windbreaker, or trail gaiters, an energy bar, or even a space blanket if I’ve really made a pig’s ear of my outing. The simple overlapping elastic design means that all these things can be carried with no hassle or modifications. A nice detail is that there are two layers of fabric between what you are carrying and your skin, so things don’t chafe or irritate.
In my testing, I like these shorts best for mountain missions, and their range of motion plus the ability to keep your hands free makes rock scrambling easy. I also find myself appreciating the extra layer in the shorts when there’s a bit of chill in the air.
Are there any negatives? As with most hydration solutions, it’s difficult to keep a small volume of water cold on a hot day when you are carrying it against your body or in your hand. On the flip side, keeping energy gels, chews and bars warm against your body on a cold day makes them easier to eat. Another factor to consider is whether you like shorts with inner tights. If you want to keep wearing your favourite pair of ultra-light split shorts, then the Utility Belt is a great alternative.
In summary, the Hydro Short is a well-designed and high-quality piece of kit, and it bridges the gap between pack and no pack, with maximum comfort and minimum fuss.
Use the code "HydroShortsRule" at checkout for a 10% discount.