Ultimate Direction Wink Hydration Pack {Review}

I’ve been complimented and asked several questions on the type of hydration pack I use. I’ve been meaning to write a full review on it for quite some time and today is finally the day. If you’re in the market for a hydration pack, or just like reading about them, here you go!

The hydration pack you’ve seen me use in my pictures is the Ultimate Direction Wink (the Wink is the women’s version, the Wasp is the men’s).

I bought the pack when I was in the middle of training for my first marathon. A lot of my girl friends in my running club have the Wink and raved about it–knowing I’d also be trekking the Canyon, I figured it’d be a great purchase.

When my marathon came, I went back and forth a million times on whether or not I should run with it. I had trained all the way leading up to the big day and many of my running buddies said I should stick with what I had trained with, so I did. In retrospect, I think I would have done things differently. By mile 18, my shoulders ached and were slumping forward (of course, this isn’t only because of the pack but because I was dying of exhaustion) and all I wanted to do was rip the pack off. When my husband reached me at mile 20, I unclipped it and handed it over. I did feel a lot lighter.

What I recommend: If you want to run your marathon with a pack, I suggest a lighter one with a smaller bladder.

However, I absolutely LOVED the pack when I did the double crossing of the Canyon. Like, I thank all the heavens above I had the Wink.

One of the things we were told in preparation for Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim was that we had to have ample space in our packs for all our gear (food, flashlight, sunscreen, poles, etc. and of course water). The Wink has amazing space. AMAZING.

Canyon ready!

Canyon ready!

When I was training, I’d practice weighing it (by that I mean making it heavy to mimic how it’d be when I crossed the Canyon). Despite it’s weight, it was super comfortable. The straps do not dig in to my shoulders, the pack does not bounce, and it is super easy to refill the water–which I had to do multiple times.

When I crossed the Canyon, I had an orange, four rolled up tortillas, a bag of pecans, a bag of beef jerky, 1 Honey Stinger waffle, a bag of Oreo cookies, 2 Gu packs, a bag of salt tablets, sunscreen, a flashlight, Chapstick, my phone, hair ties, bobby pins, band aids, my EPI pen, a towel, a jacket, a walkie talkie, and my poles. Oh, and with the reservoir filled up to the 70 oz mark.

Whew! But everything fit perfectly and I was actually super comfortable!

With my poles attached to my pack

With my poles attached to my pack


at the finish line of the Canyon :)

at the finish line of the Canyon 🙂 45 hours of wearing the pack

I used it for when I did the Adrenaline 27k Night Run and it worked perfect for that race. I was really glad I had it then too.

Adrenaline 27k

Adrenaline 27k

And I also used it this past Sunday for our under 3 mile hike up Camelback Mountain. In this instance, since it was a strict hike and no running, I didn’t mind using it at all for this short of distance. Loved it!

Sunday's #RunEatTweetAZ hike

Sunday’s #RunEatTweetAZ hike

In short, here’s a PRO/CON rundown:


  • Large reservoir of 70 oz/2 L
  • Very, very comfortable (designed for the women’s body)
  • 4 front pockets for easy access (this was a big plus for me because I didn’t have to keep taking it off for items I needed often)
  • Simple refuel process (another major plus)
  • Does not bounce
  • A lot of storage space (there are 3 main zippers–a small one for an ID and money, a large one that holds the bulk of your stuff, and side zipper for extra storage)
  • Easy to maintain care

Possible Cons:

  • I think it’s best for longer runs where there might be a shortage of fueling stations. A smaller pack is ideal for distances shorter than 15 miles in my opinion.
  • The velcro clip that attaches to the tube fell off relatively quickly. I just tucked the tube under one of the front straps and went about my way with zero problems (like in the last pic).

I hope you’ve found this review helpful! Let me know if you have any more questions about it 🙂

Do you/have you run with a hydration pack?

Ultimate Direction did not compensate me in any way for the write up of this review. I purchased the Wink and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.

17 responses

  1. I didn’t realize you had done R2R2R – that’s on my bucket list!!! I just Google’d to find your blog recaps of it 😉

    I have a 70oz Camelbak that I’ve used on one long run so far. The only thing I don’t like about it is that I can’t feel the breeze on my back! I like it much better than my belt though!

  2. Great review, I haven’t heard of this brand before but sounds great and super roomy!! I can’t believe it held all of that stuff on your R2R!

    I run with my Hydrapak E-Lite, and its perfect for runs up to 15-20 miles since its bladder can’t hold as much as the wink. I used it while training for my last marathon and it was a life saver, especially in the winter when I didn’t want to wear my fuel belt or hold water because I was wearing gloves.

  3. I never thought about wearing a backpack for water/fuel while running, but it’s a really good idea for long runs! I usually carry a water bottle or wear one small one around my waist for my half marathons but I do hike with a full CamelBak day pack and it’s so much more convenient. I’ll think about this if I ever run a marathon!

    • I do think it’s tough for a marathon, but for training it’s perfect! I think that the water stations in marathons alleviate the need for the water pack unless you really want storage but then you can use other things…I don’t know lol

  4. I have a Nathan pack that I really like except for the zip pockets on the front. Sometimes my arms rub them, I kind of wish I could find one that has a completely flat front near my arms. It’s great you found something you love. I have tried several different belts but they all drive me crazy. I guess I don’t like the weight feeling on my hips.

  5. I’ve been wondering what it would feel like to run with a hydration pack! I use a fuel belt right now for my longer runs, but they don’t match your distances by any means. I love the idea of being able to carry so much in such a small space. I will definitely consider when it comes time to running a marathon!

    • I do think it’s tough running a marathon with one, at least in my one and only experience. But I found that for training it was extremely helpful. When I would go out for 16, 18+ mile runs without a water station on my route, the pack was SUPER handy.

  6. Great review. I was thinking of getting some sort of hydration system as I start upping my mileage. I was looking at belts, but a girl in my group has a camelbak. So now I’m a bit intrigued by the backpacks. And I love Ultimate Direction products too…so I may have to take a closer look at them.

  7. Very nice review! I’ve never run with one. I do carry a hand held bottle on my training runs, but never in a race. I want to have as few things on my person as possible. I think the pack would drive me crazy between the weight and the back sweat it would build up. Glad it works for you though!

    • That’s why I totally don’t recommend it for road marathons. I like it on the trail because I usually have to pack more and there are no (or less) fueling/water stations like in a race. I figure part of paying for a race is taking advantage of the fuel/water they’re providing right? And yeah, the less the stuff the better! I learned that from my first marathon for sure.

  8. Pingback: Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim: What I Packed and Other Misc. | hellyontherun

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