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Tank Top Running Vest: Ultimate Direction Xodus Fits Like No Other

The Xodus Vest reinvents the running vest by packing tons of accessible pockets and a no-bounce fit into a unique tank top shape that’s sure to turn heads as you run by.

(Photo/Sam Schild)
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Running along the rocky desert trail in my cropped tank top running vest, I couldn’t help but wonder if I looked ridiculous. It didn’t feel so different compared to my typical trail-running garb. But the Ultimate Direction Xodus ($180) sure looks different than what most trail runners are sporting these days. And that’s because it is.

The Ultimate Direction Xodus Vest fits more like a long sports bra or cropped tank top than a traditional vest. It reaches down to just above my belly button. It’s still called a “vest.” And technically it is. But it has material that fully wraps around your upper torso across the chest. This extra material allows for more pockets and a tighter, more comfortable fit.

I’ve been testing an early sample of the Ultimate Direction Xodus Vest on countless 10-20+ mile runs all winter and spring. This thing is fantastic. I’m not going to throw out my other running vests, but I’ve certainly been neglecting my trusty go-to running vest for months now.

In short: The Ultimate Direction Xodus completely reimagines the running vest, mostly for the better. It improves fit, comfort, and accessible storage compared to traditional vests. And with 12 accessible pockets, you can load this thing full of trail essentials and some extras. It doesn’t bounce, even when fully loaded for a big day. With it fully cinched down, the form-fitting design prevents chafing. The extra material is slightly hotter than an open-chested trail running vest. But this is also the only running vest I’ve ever been able to run shirtless while wearing. Overall, I’m pretty sold on the reinvention of this wheel.

If you want to check out how this vest compares to GearJunkie’s Best Running Hydration Packs & Vests, see our guide.

Ultimate Direction Xodus Vest


  • Weight 8.6 oz.
  • Volume 7 L
  • Front pockets 9
  • Total pockets 11
  • Zipper Under right arm


  • Excellent fit
  • Tons of pockets
  • Very comfortable
  • Secure zippered phone pocket


  • Hotter than open-chested vests
  • Harder to take on and off

Ultimate Direction Xodus Review

Pockets Galore

(Photo/Sam Schild)

The Xodus has nine pockets on the front of the vest (plus two slots for hydration). I’ve stuffed a lot into these pockets.

Typically, on longer trail runs, I carry a large smartphone in the center zipper pocket. Then I can also carry two 500 mL soft flasks, a GoPro camera, a Joby GorrillaPod mini tripod, gummy candy, a bar or two, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (cut into quarters), electrolyte packs, chapstick, sunscreen, and my keys. Collectively, all of this fits into the front of the Xodus.

Note: There is a slight difference in pocket configuration between the early sample I tested and the production version. My sample had 11 front pockets but only two zippered pockets. Also, three pockets were less usable because they were buried directly underneath three others. The production version removes these doubled-up pockets and adds a third zipper pocket. I think it’s an improvement over the version I tested.

Accessible Rear Pocket

Ultimate Direction Xodus Running Vest
(Photo/Sam Schild)

The Xodus has a large back pocket with side entry points on both sides. You can reach into this pocket without taking the vest off if your shoulders are mobile enough. This pocket is perfect for a jacket and any other layers you want within reach.

Most running vests have a large back pocket, but to access it you have to stop (or at least slow down), take your vest off, and unload your jacket. The Xodus allows you to reach behind and grab that jacket while you’re moving, throw it on, and keep running along that windy ridge without breaking stride.

No-Bounce Fit

Ultimate Direction Xodus Running Vest
(Photo/Sam Schild)

The Xodus vest fits snugly around your entire torso. Even when you have it loaded as full as I often do, it doesn’t bounce. Every pocket is stretch mesh, so everything rides tightly against your body. The vest adjusts under both arms with shock cord lacing. You can cinch this as tightly as needed.

Even when I cinch it as tightly as possible, the stretch materials still don’t make it feel like a corset. But it’s still tight enough that it never bounces more than I do. It rides naturally on my body while I move without feeling too tight.

The Perfect Vest? Not Quite

Before you burn your old running vest and order this one, there are a few drawbacks to the Xodus.

It’s not as easy to get on or take off as other vests that fit like a backpack. To put it on, you pull it over your head as you would with a tank top, then zip the front and the back together under your arm. The first time I tried this, I had to have someone else help me. It’s gotten easier, though, and I can now put this on by myself. Still, it’s not as simple as throwing on a backpack and clipping a pair of sternum straps.

Since it’s harder to take on and off, it’s not as great for cold weather when you may need to change up your layering system regularly. You can fit a shell over the top since it fits snugly against your torso, but adding a layer underneath is more of a to-do than with a traditional running vest.

Also, all that extra material across the chest is hotter than an open-chested vest. I’ve worn this on many hot desert runs, and since it’s made entirely of breathable mesh, it isn’t too hot to bear. But after a few months of wear, my Xodus Vest has a fair number of salt stains across the chest.

My solution to the extra fabric creating extra heat is simple: When the temperature rises, I wear it without a shirt. After all, it practically is a shirt. It doesn’t chafe against my bare skin. So, why not?

Ultimate Direction Xodus Vest: Final Thoughts

Ultimate Direction Xodus Running Vest
(Photo/Sam Schild)

Whatever you call the Xodus, it’ll comfortably carry everything you need on your next run. The amount of storage the 11 chest pockets offer goes well beyond other running vests. It lends itself well to storing things snugly against your body while you’re trail running.

The design itself is wholly unique, too. The standard running vest design doesn’t compare when it comes to holding weight from bouncing around. The Xodus is notably more secure for a smoother run. And I’m still amazed that I can wear it without a shirt — almost any other running vest would sand my skin off.

The men’s version of the Xodus (called the Vest) will be available on April 15 on the Ultimate Direction website. The women’s version (the Vesta) is available now.

For runners looking for a more secure running vest, with better storage options than your current vest, I have no issue recommending the Ultimate Direction Xodus running vest. I’ve been impressed with mine and will continue to use it frequently.

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