Ultimate Direction Hydro(Light) Skin Short Review

Summer runs can be a particular challenge.

It’s good to carry a phone; summer heat means there’s a need to carry some water; I usually carry some camera gear – but how, when the lightest clothes seem too much?

Enter Ultimate Direction’s Hydrolight Series, the Hydro Shorts and Hydro Skin Shorts.

In summer – much as I like running vests and certain backpacks – I don’t want that additional layer. And a bit of water, my Osmo Pocket and/or RX0, and smartphone don’t exactly require much space.

My tights don’t have more space than for the house key, though.

Ultimate Direction’s Hydrolight

This carry problem is exactly what Ultimate Direction’s Hydrolight series was made to address.

The two versions of shorts available in this series are:

1, the Hydro Shorts, which have fabric over the legs to look like ordinary shorts with tights inside.

It looks quite a bit like my wife’s modesty tights that prevent upskirt shots – though the modesty here is to not just wear tights by themselves.

2, the Hydro Skin Shorts, which is just the short tights.

Skin-tight, they show the bulge of the crotch – which I, like the prototypical European runner, don’t have issues showing.

Why (Skin) Shorts?

My choice was not just for the Skin Shorts because I run in tights, anyways.

This version also has additional pockets on the thighs. If I want to get myself tights with pockets; I want to get the most pockets…

The (not-Skin) Shorts might look more like ordinary sportswear to you, if that matters.

Pockets

The main pockets of (all) Hydro shorts are the smartphone pocket on the top, at the lower back (just underneath the waistband) and the two water bottle-holder pockets left and right of that.

Middle Back Smartphone Pocket

The smartphone pocket is big enough for most, if not all, the large current models. My Galaxy S9 sure fits in without any issues, with room to spare.

A minuscule emergency first aid kit could, in fact, almost certainly still fit.

This middle pocket has a bit of textile, just under the waistband of the shorts, forming a fold to keep things in; in the middle, it holds closed with a small patch of Velcro.

I have seen some complaints that this is too little closure, but I’m pretty sure if there were more, people would complain about the hassle of that.

As it is, the stretch of the pocket together with the fold should keep your smartphone (and anything else you put in there) safe enough.

You would have to put your phone in that pocket very haphazardly, maybe lengthwise so quite a bit of it sticks out from the get-go, to lose it.

Put into that pocket as it should be, it is almost certain to catch on the fold, even if the Velcro happened not to stick together. (If it rips open again, you’re probably carrying too much stuff in there.)

Water Bottles and Pockets

The two water bottles that come with the Hydro shorts are hard flasks of 300 ml volume with slide-open valves (like those on many – earlier – bike water bottles).

The openings and valves are angled outwards from the main body of the bottles.

The overall shape of the bottles is, of course, made to exactly fit into their pockets, sliding easily but with a bit of tension to be kept in place.

The angle of the valves makes them easy to hook against the material at the top of the bottle pockets, and they put enough pressure against that to stay safely inside.

(Even without that, I haven’t had a bottle fall out, but they could do so more easily. The textile over the valves also protects them a bit from dust or dirt.)

Hydro Skin Short Thigh Pockets

The thigh pockets on the Ultimate Direction Hydro Skin Shorts are left and right, following the leg’s curve towards the front.

They are constructed of a mesh material with a taped-on look to their construction, as they are attached to the short’s main material and closed at the top.

It’s been testament to good materials and constructions how these thigh pockets have held up.

I keep waiting for my key to saw its way through the mesh and fall out, or for the RX0 or Osmo Pocket to stretch the material out permanently. For the top to get stretched out and let things fall out, too.

None of that has happened.

The top may not be as snug against the leg as it used to be, but that’s it – and that’s more of a feeling than an observation I feel is provable.

Of course, carrying something like the RX0 camera in that pocket, small as it is compared to a “real” camera, draws the mesh out quite a bit and feels a bit odd against the leg, too. Even that has worked and not left any damage, though.

Wear and Carry Comfort and Advice

The one thing you have to be aware of, and you might not like, is that these tights are really made to carry all that stuff with close to zero bounce – which they can only achieve by being really snug.

Waistband Drawcord

The waistband’s drawcord better be opened as far as it goes before pulling the shorts on. Even then, they are most definitely tight tights to pull on.

(And don’t try to pull them up with the gear already inside them. Dropping them to the knees if nature calls, works alright – after opening the drawcord at the waist! – but it’s good to get used to how that works.)

Start cinching the waist tight, then put in the gear – and see if you can’t cinch everything tighter yet to avoid bounce.

I find the difference in length that the waistband shows during that slightly disconcerting; it all might not work well if your, let’s say, percentage of body fat is higher, but it’s been working perfectly for me and my physique.

There is only one slight caveat: My short’s drawcord seems to have become twisted around a bit. It’s not a problem for the wearing comfort; there seems to be enough material around it for this not to be noticeable by feel.

Sometimes when I want to cinch it tight, though, I have to make sure it is flat or it won’t slide through without hitches.

Bounce?

The water in the bottles sloshes around when they are not full, of course, given that they are hard flasks.

That’s the only “bounce” I have ever noticed.

Well, my key (put in the thigh pocket) can move around enough to clink against the key ring – and that I am able to mention this as something I have noticed should tell you just how quiet these shorts move, even with everything that could be carried with them.

Pricing and Value

For a pair of shorts, they are not cheap at around $90, but that’s well in-line with many compression tights/shorts – and even more so if you consider that they save you an extra-light running vest, as well.

Sure I’d have preferred if Ultimate Direction and I had managed a cooperation for that, but I found the money to buy those Hydro (Skin) Shorts well-spent.

Experiences

It’s now the second summer I am using the Ultimate Direction Hydro Skin Shorts.

I had them with me in China in the summer of 2019 and used them there – given the high temperatures and humidity, which made bringing some water a *very* good idea – intensely.

Sweat?

There should be enough sweating, if not on the legs, at least in the crotch, but I have never felt uncomfortable in these shorts.

They wick sweat fast enough to remain comfortable and not get soaked, even as the material looks like it should get hot and waterlogged if only given enough heat and sweating.

(Admittedly, I did not ever get into a downpour in the Hydro Skin Shorts.)

Same thing now, back in Austria, in the dog days of a summer that has come with regular intense heat waves – and in which I am going out running quite a bit.

Use

Quite a bit of that sumer running I do now is not so long and special that I’d need more than my phone, some water, and a little more gear – but that I need and want to have.

A total 600 ml of water is not particularly much, but these shorts are not meant to replace a running vest for mountain pursuits or a backpack for an overnighter, of course.

They are just a tool for those hot training runs where bringing some water is a rather good idea, but it won’t be an outright marathon.

For that, for me, the Ultimate Direction Hydro Skin Shorts have been working very well – and apart from the labeling heat-applied to them rubbing off, they still look and function like new.

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