By Jason Boyle
The Ultimate Direction Jurek Endure is a feature rich two-bottle hydration belt. The belt features two 10 oz. bpa free, angled opening plastic bottles, a stretch pocket with hook and loop closure that is in between the bottle pockets, an accessory pocket with a soft foam backing that can hold an iPhone 4s, and sliding, reflective bib clips. There belt combines several different types of fabrics, most important to me is the “Vevetex” on the inside of the bottle holders/pockets. This fabric is soft and I am optimistic that it won’t chafe even if I wear it next to my skin. The belt itself is standard inch wide nylon strap with a buckle fastener and according to the informational tag fits waist sizes from 26” to 44”.
Spring is here in Juneau, AK, which means the lowland trails will be snow free, but muddy, and the alpine areas will have hard pack snow to play on. This will give me plenty of variation as I train and race this spring. I average between 30 to 40 miles a week running and hiking and have a full schedule of races set for this spring, including a marathon on Prince of Wales Island at the end of May, the Southeast Road Runners weekly series, and potentially an ultramarathon later in the summer.
I have several things I will be looking for over the test period. First, is overall comfort – do I want to wear the belt or do I wear it because “I have too!” Second, how useful are the features: Do I need/want two water bottles? How does the belt feel when I have one empty bottle and one full bottle? What can I realistically carry in the back pocket and front accessory pocket? My third concern will be durability – the belt’s pockets consist of silnylon and mesh, how do these fabrics hold up to rocks, bushwacking and other nasty terrain features encountered running through the rainforest in southeast AK.
Update May 26, 2014
Over the past month, I have worn the Jurek Endure on 10 runs and hikes putting in over 100 miles on everything from a short 3 mile hike above treeline in Anchorage; a 5 hour, 9 peak “run” through snow and mountains in Juneau; to a marathon on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. Most of the trips have been a mix of on and off trail adventures with some road running. Most of my off trail adventures have consisted of postholing up and down the mountains of Junea on mostly consolidated snow. I haven’t done much in the way of bushwhacking yet. I have worn the belt in all weather conditions; light rain, clear sunny days, and the cloudy & windy days in between. The belt has shrugged off all conditions with ease. I didn’t notice any difference regardless of the weather. This leads me to my first point – comfort.
I found the belt to be very comfortable. Except for the occasional tug to retighten the belt I forgot that it was there most of the time. I am also impressed with how little the belt bounces while running. It hugged my lower back even while bombing downhill on snow post holing up to my knee with each step. The cushioned front pocket was great; I could put keys or other pokey items in here and not feel them.
I was concerned that I would have bruising from tightening the belt, but I am glad to say that even after wearing it for 5 plus hours I had no bruising. A second comfort concern that I had was how the belt would feel when I had one empty bottle and one full bottle. I am happy to report that even though I could feel a difference in the belt, it was hardly noticeable.
My second test factor is usability. I definitely like the two bottles. I find this is a good amount of water for me on runs up to about 10 miles or about an hour and a half for a hike. After this distance/time, I need to be able to resupply or have an additional source of hydration. I like to use the bottle on my left side first, even though I am right hand dominant, however, both bottles are easy to grab though and with practice I am able to get the bottle back in the pocket even while running. The bottle pockets do a good job of holding the bottles in place and I have not had any miscues where a bottle fell out while I was wearing the belt.
The cushioned pocket on the front is more useful than I anticipated. As I alluded in my first report it holds an iPhone 4s in an Otter Box with ease. During the marathon, I used the pocket to hold 3 gels and several sticks of gum, and still had room to spare. The bungees straps on the outside of the pocket between the bottles are useful as well. On the 9 peak traverse, I was able to scrunch down a windproof vest and stuff it under the bungees. It bounced around some but not enough to be annoying and I really appreciated having the vest when the winds picked up in the afternoon.
There were two features I didn’t find very useful. The first was the pocket in between the bottles. I couldn’t put more than a gel or two in there before it was so full that I couldn’t get the Velcro closure to work. Other than using it to hold my iPod during the marathon, I didn’t find this pocket as useful as I had hoped. The second feature that I didn’t particularly find useful was the race bib straps. Between the front pocket and excess belt length the bib straps ended up putting the number over my left leg in an inconvenient spot. I used the bib straps on an 8 mile trail race and ended up hitting my bib almost every step with my left hand and even accidentally ripped off my perforated scoring sheet from the bottom of the bib which resulted in my carrying it for several miles at the end of the race. I think bib straps are good in general, but maybe this belt is too busy for them to be effective, at least for me.
My third test factor is durability. Overall, the belt still looks new. However, I broke a bottle on my second trip, or more accurately I broke a bottle top. One of the bottles fell out of the belt as I pulled it from my truck and hit the asphalt pavement below resulting in a cracked lid and my precious water spilling out all over the parking lot. Since this incident, I have been more careful with the bottles usually leaving them out of the belt until I have it on, and then placing them in the bottle holders. Other than this one instance, everything on the belt seems to be bomber. There are no tears, pulls on seams, or abrasions on the belt or pockets.
I will continue to use the belt over the next month before I make my final report. I will continue to look at comfort, usability, and durability and make my final evaluation based on these factors.
Final Report – July 18
I have continued to test the Jurek Endure over the past month, but have had limited use due to a sprained ankle. Overall, I am pleased with the hydration belt and will continue to use it after my ankle heals and I can resume my long distance running.
I used the Jurek Endure on several trail races and a couple of hikes here in Southeast Alaska. Summer ended in May, and we entered our monsoon season breaking the record for rain here with 7 plus inches over the past month. Trail conditions consisted of running and hiking through second growth rainforest with moderate elevation gain. Temperatures have been in the upper 40’s F to 50’s F. Overall I have used the Jurek Endure for 140 miles.
Comfort has been superb. I have not experienced any chaffing, or bruising from the belt and most of the time I don’t even notice that the belt is there. Usability has continued to be good. Practice makes perfect and I found that I can use either hand to grab and replace the bottles. I also appreciate the bungee cord in between the bottles. I started several of my runs with a light windbreaker and once I warmed up I could easily stash the jacket under the bungee cord with no noticeable bounce or degradation in performance. Durability continues to be excellent. There are no noticeable wear spots or loose threads. I anticipate that I can get several hundred or more miles out of the belt before it is worn out. The bottles have also displayed good durability minus the one incident where I dropped the bottle. I was concerned that the pull cap would loosen on the top and leak. However, that has not happened and they continue to be tight and leak free.
My cons with the Jurek Endure remain the same. I don’t like the placement of the bib clips and the pocket in between the bottle holders is not large enough to hold anything useful.