I tested out the Ultimate Direction Diablo hydration pack on a few recent runs and wanted to share my thoughts on it. Ultimate Direction has been making hydration packs for a bunch of different sports for the past few decades – in fact my first ever hydration pack one of theirs many years ago. With all that experience I was expecting great things for the Diablo running hydration pack!
The Diablo has room to carry about 7L of gear which makes for quite a bit of space even with a large water bladder inside. It is designed for longer distance running when you might need to carry gear like a jacket, hat, nutrition, and of course lots of water. The pack I received came with the older style 96 oz (2.8L) water bladder, and the 20oz “kicker” bottle.
I was impressed with the fit of the pack. It is a vest style which I have found to really work well in the larger packs I have tried. It has got some simple adjustment straps that allow you to customize the fit to work for you. I found it easy to make a couple of quick adjustments once I had the pack on and it was a good fit. The way the weight sits low on the back of the pack (from the water bladder and bottle) made it balanced so that I didn’t have to keep the front super tight and constricting. The vest stayed in place while allowing me lots of room to breathe and be comfortable.
The fabrics used in the Diablo pack are heavy duty and should be very durable. It also seemed to be well manufactured and I had no issues with zippers, seams, etc during the time that I used it. It had mesh on the straps and back to reduce overheating. As with any pack, I found it warm but the open front with just 2 straps made for good ventilation. I found the narrow profile of the actual pack was also good for reducing overheating in the back.
I was using the pack during the summer so I didn’t need to carry too much extra stuff, but I did use the pockets to get a sense of how it feels loaded up. There are a number of pockets with some nice organizing features built in to keep things in place. The side pocket has a small inner velcro sleeve and a couple elastic loops to keep smaller items in place. I also really liked the pockets on the front vest section – I like having access to some things without taking the pack off and the Diablo had loads of room up front for my phone/camera, some gels, car keys, ipod, etc. It also had a couple of mesh pockets with elastic openings which were perfect to stuff my empty gel and bar wrappers. I also loaded up with lots more water than I needed and found the Diablo pack handled the weight well.
I really liked the bottle sleeve on the back of the pack. It was easy to grab the bottle (the Ultimate Direction Kicker bottle has a rigid loop on the cap that helps with this) and reinsert it when you’re done – it takes a bit of flexibility but I would think most people should have no problem accessing it. Even though the bottle just lays in the sleeve, it was well designed with raised lower edges at each side and I didn’t have any issues with the bottle falling out. I liked the option of having a mixed electrolyte drink in the bottle, and water in the bladder. One thing that would be even better would be to have a simple handheld bottle system in the back so that if you wanted to carry it for a while, you had the option of a handstrap.
The Ultimate Direction Kicker bottle that the pack came with works really well. I have used it before in one of my handhelds and I really like the design of the lid. The valve is the unique part that can pop (or “kick”) in and out for use. When it is in, the bottle won’t leak and when it is popped out you just need to bite and squeeze the bottle to get it to flow. Even with the valve popped out I have never experienced much leakage (unless the bottle gets squeezed/crushed). I found it took some getting used to get good flow out of the valve but once I figured it out it worked great.
There were a couple of smaller, but useful design features on the Diablo pack. One was the elastic loop for securing the strap tails. This let me roll up the excess strap material and secure it in place so it wasn’t just hanging. The Diablo pack also had reflective material in the logo patch, piping, and a large reflective strip across the lower section. Great if you’re using this in traffic (or at night on trails with other users).
The only real room for improvement I found with this pack was the bladder. The one that came with this Diablo pack was the older style Ultimate Direction 96oz bladder. This design has been around for a long time (I remember having it in the first hydration pack I ever owned many years ago) and it has fallen behind based on features I have seen in other designs. The good news is that the Ultimate Direction website now shows this pack shipping with a newly designed 100oz bladder – the new bladder is the Hydrapak design which I have used and definitely like a lot more. If you are buying this pack, I would suggest making sure it has the new style bladder with the sliding clip and removable drinking hose.
If you’re looking for a pack that will carry a whole lot of water, as well as everything else you would need for a long run you should check this one out. Its heavy duty, durable design and large volume storage would make it great for years of training duty.