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Osprey Pack – Duro15 Review

The Osprey Duro 15 is an ideal pack for extended trips into the backcountry on foot or for urban commuting where you’re hauling a substantial amount of gear. For this review I ran and hiked with this pack over 100 kilometres over varied urban and backcountry terrain. It responded quite well to everything I needed it to do. When properly secured and adjusted there is minimal bounce in the pack. There is an abundance of pockets if you’re a junky for having everything right where you want it while running. The two front pouches are handy for gels, snacks and other items you wish to access quickly while on the run – like bear spray. There’s also a front zipper pocket, discretely built into the design, that is ideal for a cell phone to catch those scenic shots on the trail (or call for help). The Duro15 comes in two sizes a small/medium and a medium/large. The small/medium option was reviewed and fit my 5 ft. 6 in slim frame quite well. My problem with most packs is too much room as I don’t tend to fill them out, resulting in too much bounce of the pack. This wasn’t the case with the Duro 15.

One of the features I really like about this pack is the waterproof main compartment. This is done in combination with a nicely designed mesh back that allows for sufficient ventilation and minimizes back sweating and heat build-up. A common issue (for me) is that back sweat tends to seep into packs and get the contents wet. The reverse can also be true, that contents in your pack, like messy food, water bottles, or other can leak and get you wet. Osprey designers addressed these two issues as mentioned above. While I didn’t test the waterproofing material for the main compartment in a downpour I have placed some very wet clothes in there and cannot feel them on the outside. On the reverse while commuting with dress clothes in the pack I never worry about getting them sweaty from the outside in.

The space within the main compartment is plenty large for your longest day trip. For an overnight trip it would be tough to pack sufficiently during anything but the summer season. Although I’m sure minimalist-type folks would enjoy the challenge. The one challenge for the pack is if you’re trying to bring along spare footwear. The pack just isn’t big enough for those types of extras on the inside; however there is an outer shell that can be snapped shut which provides additional storage capacity – like footwear, bike or climbing helmet or similar.

In terms of safety components, the pack also includes a small whistle. However, it doesn’t compare to a proper Fox40 safety whistle and can’t be heard from long distance, so I’d suggest you still pack a Fox40 whistle if you heading to the backcountry and consider that an essential safety item.

The Duro15 comes complete with a full hydration bladder that clasps nicely to the front of the vest-pack with a magnetic clip. As usual, getting the correct length for the hydration hose is always tricky, with not too much extra hanging out.

Overall this is the type of pack I would use for extended backcountry runs, long distance races (>50km) or shorter races with no/minimal aid stations, urban commuting and general hiking or biking. I may leave it at home during shorter trail runs or races with plenty of aid stations. If you’re adventuring into longer trail runs I’d highly recommend looking at the Osprey Duro15. It has everything you will want in long distance trail pack while staying slim and efficient in weight and design.

 

MSRP: $200
Weblink: https://www.osprey.com/za/en/product/duro-15-with-2-5l-reservoir-DURO15.html

VOLUME DIMENSIONS WEIGHT
S/M 793 IN3 / 13 L 16.93H X 8.66W X 8.27D IN. 1.543 LBS.
M/L 915 IN3 / 15 L 18.9H X 8.66W X 8.27D IN. 1.687 LBS.
ultra-carrier-shirt[1]

WAA Ultra Carrier Long Sleeve Shirt

Gear Review: WAA Ultra Equipment Long Sleeve

We tested and reviewed the innovative WAA Ultra Equipment (What An Adventure) Ultra Carrier long sleeve shirt. The reference to shirt is not entirely accurate as this is more a piece of gear than just an item of clothing.

Sure, it’s a shirt but it’s a lot more than that as it offers what a lightweight pack can but you’re wearing it, as you would  wear a shirt anyway, without the hassle of straps or a waist belt for those long runs when you need to carry some nutrition and basic essentials for any weather changes. This is also a great option in a race that doesn’t require much or any mandatory gear.

  

The Design

The fact that this shirt is able to carry a variety of items and eliminates using a pack in some instances, shows that this is a unique design that had some R&D go into it.

Front Pockets:

The front pockets on either side for nutrition such like gels or bars and other items likes keys or a phone are easily sealed with Velcro tabs but also easy to open again. The pockets remain flat and hug the body so that they’re compact once packed with basic items.

Rear Pockets:

Two rear pockets that wrap around the side, make it easy to reach those items and also offering secure Velcro tabs so you don’t lose anything while out there. The two rear pockets cleverly have 4 Velcro tabs that enable you to split the storage space into 4 different pockets or use the gaps between the different tabs to poke the top of a longer bottle out of. The rear/side pockets can fit a small collapsible water flask, light-weight rain jacket, gloves or hat.

There are also thumb holes at the end of the sleeves that allow you to cover half of your hands, may it be to take the chill off or just for comfort in holding down your sleeves.

 

 

Functionality:

No bounce! This was the first thing we wondered about when seeing this for the first time. Even with the pockets full there is no or very little bounce in the areas you’re carrying stuff.

The two rear/side pockets allow you to carry up to 750ml/25.3oz of water at any given time so if you’re out for a few hours and have the opportunity to fill up your bottles, once again no need for a pack with a bladder.

The location of the pockets on the front and back make for easy accessibility of your gear while on the move. They’re easy to reach and easy to open with the handy tabs attached to the Velcro that can be pulled to get it open.

If you’re ever concerned about sun burn and want to be shielding yourself from the sun, the long sleeves and the SPF 100 offering could be useful on those long sunny days.

The shirt offers a range for weather conditions of around 5 degrees Celsius to 20 degrees Celsius. Having the ability to take a wind breaker with you in one of the pockets can probably provide a little more assurance when the temps drop towards the bottom of that range.

The Fabric

Made up of 92% Polyester and 8% Spandex , its light – weighing in at just 183 grams/6.4 oz. The shirt moves moisture efficiently and holds very little when sweating so it does not pick up any extra weight or remain cool as it wicks to the outside and dries off pretty quickly. We tested it on the treadmill indoors as well which meant sweating was a key factor and it performed efficiently.

 

The Fit

This is a snug fit. This hugging style is what enables the garment to move and manage moisture so efficiently as its flush with your body to allow it to transport moisture to the outside of the garment. Having space between the body and garment often delays the process or reduces efficiency in moisture transport.

Even if you aren’t used to snug-fitting running garments, this is a comfortable piece of clothing and gear. Its soft on the skin and no chafe was experienced on long runs of 3-4 hours. There is no feeling of being restricted as it’s a flexible design moving with you as the various parts of the body change direction.

Make sure you check out the pretty detailed and informative size chart on their website.

 

Durability

The Ultra carrier gives the impression it will stand up to frequent use, weather resistance and laundry demands of a busy runner, provided it’s washed according to instructions. It is washing machine safe, which is great to toss it in with your other items ready for another long run.

It’s a lightweight garment with very technical features and as with most things nowadays it wont last forever but if it’s a tool you can use for long runs and get a good few seasons out of it that allows you to leave the pack or waist belt at home. This is value for money.

 

 

 

 

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Altra Lone Peak 3.0

 

The Altra Lone Peak 3.0 is the 2016/2017 update on the 2.5 from seasons prior. Having now run in both shoes in a variety of conditions on dry trail, rivers and winter with snow-covered trails, we were able to put forward our verdict via a review comparing the two models and the upgrades made.

Underneath

Maintaining the goal of being a moderate cushion shoe with relatively aggressive tread pattern suitable for medium to more technical running, the 3.0 has lived up to its reputation in comparison to its pretty solid predecessor the 2.5. With great grip on technical trails and snow it performed as expected, pretty well and trust-worthy with well thought-out lugs and rubber with its Altra MaxTrac Sticky Rubber with TrailClaw™ for great traction yet not so aggressive and large they can still feel tender to some well groomed trails.

The Ride

Lighter than the 2.5, which weighed in at a little more than 11 ounces compared to the 3.0 now weighing in at around 10 ounces in the size we tested, this is already a more efficient shoe over longer distances.

Remember that this is a zero-offset or shoe with zero differential so take this into account when trying it out, which can only be a positive addition to your running arsenal, provided you follow the transition guidelines found on their website.

Being a moderate cushion shoe with a stack height of 25mm this is still a great tool for going long and loading volume but light and efficient enough to blast through the shorter stuff. Having said that this is still not an all out racing shoe and aimed at higher mileage. The longest run we did in the 3.0 was 30KM’s while the longest run in the 2.5’s was around 60KM’s, so heading out on a few more runs getting longer as the summer approaches, means time will tell how it performs but judging on how it stacked up on the 30KM runs with no cause for concern, has limited any doubt about running 60KM’s plus in the shoe.

Though this is a relatively well cushioned shoe it still offers some rigidity to give feedback off the ground when striking and pushing off, rather than too squishy with no response as can be the case with higher cushion or stack shoes. It’s a pretty responsive shoe with cushion that still allows your feet to tell your brain that the surface is constantly changing underneath you.

 

The Fit

The 2.5 felt wider in the toe-box, not that the 3.0 seems narrow now, I just have the feeling its got a slightly-more-snug fit, yet still offering the generous room in the front that Altra is known for with their FootShape™ Toe Box.

The foot sits well in the heel-cup to provide great stability over the technical trails and when climbing there is no feeling of any heel-slip or lifting out the shoe.

The shoe feels lighter than the old model due to it reduced size. While wondering if that’s just a placebo effect knowing that its a lighter-weight shoe now or not, it feels super efficient while still offering room in front and snug at the back to offer a feeling of security over the technical bits.

 

The Upper

Even though it seems the upper has been improved and made lighter to take out some overall weight from the shoe, it looks and feels more heavy-duty than the old upper. I know that the old upper was pretty much bullet-proof but this upper gives the impression its quite tough and will last the test of time and push out the lifespan of the shoe.

 

Durability

The 2.5 got a good working over and took a beating while lasting pretty long at about 300 Miles to be exact. Not bad for somebody pretty hard on shoes. With all of the above notes and mentions about improving what was already a good shoe, sometimes one wonders if the durability has been sacrificed and will be up to standard. Based on this pair and a couple others I have seen tested, I am confident the new 3.0 will be a shoe that gets you the mileage and value for money.

For more on this shoe check out Altra Running

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Merrell Overlook 6 Ice+

With the advent of the new Arctic Grip™ by Vibram®, various shoes have hit the market.  I was fortunate to try out the new Merrll Overlook 6 Ice+.  This boot features the new Arctic Grip compound wedged between standard softer rubber lugs with a waterproof upper  and M Select™ WARM lightweight insulation.  If you are looking for a winter hiking/ general use boot, you may want to consider this option.

After the recent 2 weeks of true winter weather here in Calgary, I was really able to put the boot through its paces.  What I came to appreciated was the warmth and waterproof attributes of the boot.

Fit and upper.

The boot fits slightly larger than size, but not overly so.  This is a very good thing as with a winter boot, more room for larger socks and wiggle room keep you warm instead of cramped and cold.  At no point did my feet get sweaty even when working hard while wearing this boot.  I’m not sure how this is achieved as the boot is also very waterproof. Merrell did a fine job of making this boot warm, breathable and able to resist all elements. Top marks for the upper material.  Laces were also standard and did not easily untie.  A simple thing, that some manufacturers consistently miss the mark; not the case here. The construction of the boot is also quality.  The only comment I have regarding the upper would be the addition of a second set of eyelets to give a more secure ankle fit.  Otherwise, the boot is excellent.

Outsole.

With the release of the new Arctic Grip™ compound by Vibram® , I was curious to see what it could really do.  The analogy most often used with this compound, is that it is like “sandpaper” on ice.  If you are expecting to grip ice like spikes or a crampon, you will be disappointed.  However, if walking/ hiking or hitting trails with a mix of wet slush, snow, packed snow, icy snow and ice,  you will leave without slipping.  Essentially, I would suggest that if your adventure has anything more than 20% ice, you best buy spikes or crampons, otherwise the Arctic Grip™ compound does very well.  The design of the lugs may be toned down a bit to allow the sticky rubber more bite, but otherwise the  grip was excellent.

Image result for merrell Overlook 6 Ice+ Waterproof in Granite The lug depth on the side could be reduced to allow the middle compound a better chance to grip.

Ride?

I must admit, I did try running in this boot.  I figured these might actually serve as dual purpose footwear.  Unfortunately, I don’t think Merrell had this in mind for this boot.  For walking I did manage to squeak in a pleasant 10km around Calgary’s closest playground- West Bragg Creek.  I was comfortable throughout and for a typical winter jaunt, they were great.

Overall.

I was pleased with the construction fit and materials of the Merrell Overlook 6 Ice+. Overall this is a worthy option for a winter hiking boot.  With a few minor tweaks to the ankle collar and outsole I think, some functionality could be improved.  Nevertheless, this is one tough boot for what appears to be a tough winter ahead!

The Merrell Overlook 6 Ice+ retails for $180 at most Canadian Retailers.  A fair price given the features packed in this boot.

Image result for merrell Overlook 6 Ice+ Waterproof price

 

Happy Trails.

Nick J.

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Osprey Manta 28

The Osprey Manta 28 is a fantastic pack for the long haul.  Too big for your typical trail run, this pack steers toward long trips and fastpacking.

MANTA AG™ 28

If you do not plan on packing a lot of food or a sleeping bag, I wouldn’t consider this as part of my quiver. However, my recent 2 day fastpack over the Brazeau Lake Loop in Jasper National Park was the perfect test for this bag.

Simple design with a separate bladder pouch, 2 main pockets, 1 smaller pocket for small survival essentials, an outboard clip pocket and two roomy hip belt pockets was just enough  to pack only the essentials. The side slip pockets were great for bear spray and poles. The built in rain cover proves handy when the weather turns.  The airflow back design allows for some circulation and doesn’t jostle when moving quickly with a full pack.

Packing is simple and with the difference in size of pockets allows for easy sorting of gear.  I for one am a proponent of the less is more philosophy.  I am always pleased to see less, well thought out pockets rather than more pockets where I am left wondering what the use really is.

Once full, the pack fits secure.  The shoulder straps seemed thin, but once cinched down, do their job and were surprisingly comfortable running 40km each day for 2 days.  The hip belt was wide and comfortable, however I was unable to tighten any further; anyone with a 29 inch waist or less, beware. The side hip pockets were quite large and easily fit over 4 bars! This could have the potential to get in the way of one’s arm swing, but I didn’t have any issue.  Some rubbing and chaffing did occur, but given the distance, speed and weight carried, I was pleased with overall comfort.

Design and use of the bladder was awesome.  2.5L capacity is more than enough.  the clip in/clip off straw was also a nice touch and allowed for easy refilling on the trail. The rain cover did its job and kept the bag dry during a lengthy storm.

Overall I am quite pleased with the design and fit of this pack and would recommend it for anyone who wants to run longer multiday adventures.

These packs are available across Canada at all Osprey retailers.

Jonas Shoulder

Nick J

Nathan Ice Cutter Hydration Collection

New to the Nathan line up is the Ice Cutter series built specifically for winter running, with three hydration options to solve the troubles of freezing water.

IceSpeed Insulated Handheld

18oz / 535ml double-wall insulated SpeedDraw Flask is just a bit bigger than the common 500ml for that extra sip. A double-wall insulated flask for preventing liquids from freezing. The SpeedDraw Flask features a unique shape, with a flatter side sitting comfortably in the hand combined with the thumb loop for grip-free running, I find this handheld effortless to carry. To bring visibility to you the flask and adjustable hand strap is covered in reflective markings and a bright yellow Ice Cutter Cap to cover the Blast Valve, protecting it from icy winds.

There are four well thought-out pockets. The large expandable zippered pocket has a glove friendly zipper pull. Inside the main compartment is small pocket where you can securely store a key or gel. On the outside of the main pocket is another mesh pocket. The fourth pocket is designed for a hand warmer. It’s located in-between the flask and your main pocket. It works to keep your gels and water from freezing in combination with the insulated flask. If you don’t want to put a hand warmer in the fourth pocket, it’s a great spot to stash a little bit of money or an id card. Weight 4.50z / 127g.

IMG_8936 IMG_8939 IMG_0157

 

IceStorm Insulated Waist Pak:

18oz / 535ml double-wall insulated SpeedDraw Flask with Ice Cutter Cap and Blast Valve. Easy access angled insulated bottle holder with reflective markings and bungee cord system for a jacket. Behind the insulated bottle holder is a hand warmer pocket. There are five additional storage compartments including a large zippered pocket, plus a key clip. Weight 8oz/225g.

IMG_0159

 

IceSleeve Insulated Winter Hydration Kit:

For those of us that like to use our hydration packs for a long wintery run Nathan offers an Insulated 2L winter bladder sleeve. Features an insulated hose and bite valve cover. Cleaning Brush included. BPA-free with odorless and tasteless technology. Although I still stash my hydration pack under my jacket, this offers one more layer of protection against freezing water.

Features: 10/10
Durability: 10/10
Cost: 9/10
Appearance: 10/10

 

~Kelly Anne Wald is an ultra runner in Barrie, Ontario. Photo credit Nathan Sports.

Shoe Review: Inov-8 X-Talon 212

 

Extreme terrain? Snow? Mud?

The X-TALON™ 212 is built like a beast to handle whatever a trail throws at you. A fair number of trail shoes are built from road shoe designs and then given a slightly more grippy outsole. The X-Talon feels like it was born for the roughest, wettest, snowy icy terrain nature can throw. The main feature of the shoe is the outsole and the large grippy lugs. I tested them on snowy winter trails with some ice, as well as some pavement to get to the trail. The shoe handled superbly on the snowy and icy trails; however the pavement was a different story. The large lugs make for some slightly awkward running, but some runners may actually like the effect, which is a bit of a bouncing effect as the lugs depress on the impact and give a bit of a rebound on the release of the foot from the ground.

The uppers are very comfortable with standard lacing. The colours and design of the shoe are bold, matching the bold/aggressive outsole.

The X-TALON 212 shoe in my opinion is a shoe for the trail purest or snowy/icy paved trails. The shoe is not ideal for mixed paved/trail terrin for the reasons mentioned above. It’s the perfect shoe for certain winter and rugged trail conditions; however it’s likely not going to be your only shoe. Look for this shoe if you are focusing on rugged terrain, wet/snowy/icy trails and don’t have a lot of distance on paved trails before he hit the trails.

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Mountain Hardwear Ratio 15 Sleeping Bag

This summer I spent many chilly nights in the mountains keeping warm and dry in the Ratio 15 sleeping bag. I’m a fan of running multi-day races, and last year I spent too many sleepless nights frozen because I didn’t put enough thought into the right sleeping bag. I learned my lesson and did my research this year before heading out to another race.

When doing my research I was focused on the moisture plus cold temperatures combined that creeps in when you’re sleeping close to the ground. Also given that I needed to fit everything I needed for 12 days into one bag, I was looking for a sleeping bag that promised to keep in the heat and keep out the cold and moisture, this way I wouldn’t need to bother with any other gear essentials for sleeping. The Ratio 15 did keep its promise, it was rainy and frosty overnight at elevation and when morning came I was reluctant to leave my cozy mummy style bag.

The zippers were air tight and I slept comfortably in minimal layers and socks. Because of the mummy style hood on the bag I also ended up not needing to wear a hat. I’m 5’8 and used the regular sized bag and found there was plenty of room to still move around while also snug enough to create a cocoon. But you have to be fan of mummy style sleeping bags to enjoy this one!

Mountain Hardwear Ratio 15

For those ready to step up to down. The innovative ThermoTrap baffle construction of this 15° F/-9° C rated bag delivers three-season warmth for backpackers and campers.

Additional Features:

Q.Shield™ DOWN 650-fill has an advanced treatment applied that resists heat robbing moisture and retains maximum loft in damp conditions.

Unique ThermoTrap Baffle construction locks down into smaller chambers for less down migration, even loft height and more consistent warmth.

Comfort mummy cut efficiently maximizes warmth and minimizes weight without constriction

Down-filled face fasket comfortably blocks drafts at the hood opening

Insulated draft tube with anti-snag panel prevents cold spots along zipper

Single-handed draw cords easily adjust hood closure

 

~Kelly Wald is an ultra runner in Barrie, Ontario.

Mountain Hardwear Optic 3.5 Tent

This past August I headed out to the mountains of Colorado for 12 days of camping and running. Camping has the same simplicity and peaceful impact as running trails. The idea of getting away and completely surrendering yourself to the trails and isolation of the land is the perfect way to reconnect with your inner self. It also often makes sense to camp at the start area of a race, especially if it is an ultra where you embrace those early start times. This was my second trip out to the high country and this year I took a new tent with me, the Optic 3.5 by Mountain Hardwear.

I needed a tent that could do a lot of things, the weather at elevation is moody and once I got back home, I wanted to be able to use this tent for spring, summer and fall races. Which means wind, rain, hail, cold, hot and humid. While I was dreaming of dry summer weather, we didn’t get that this year. It was a season of high winds, sheet rain, hail storms and lightening both in Colorado and back home in Ontario. This tent got put to the test.

The first big thing I loved, is how fast you can set it up. Although I suspect most new tents these days are simple setup and take down, this one is for sure. In regards to space, it’s a three person tent which means two people plus gear in my world. I like to sleep with an air mattress and because of the rainy season I kept all my gear inside the tent except for my shoes which I stored under one of two vestibules. The shape of the tent is a rectangle with a high roof. Something unique about the entrances is that they are two sides of the tent that are side by side and essentially make half of the entire tent open up. You can open up the tent to a wide view of the land and given that one of the entrances is quite large it was great when setting up my mattress, sleeping bag and tossing in all my gear.

The tent has plenty of easy tie systems, the cover attaches to the rods with Velcro wraps and there is the basic storage pocket inside for headlamps and so forth as well as a loop to hang a light. The outer shell has some reflective markings and did an excellent job in the rain, wind and hail in the mountains. The shell and bottom of the tent was waterproof as it poured on me in Colorado and Haliburton Ontario. In the days leading up to a race I camped in a rather windy spot where the winds seemed to come down the side of the mountain and slam into my tent on a couple occasions, the shell held up well here also. The only tricky option with this tent, is when it’s hot and sunny. You can open up the tent, but since the entrances are side by side on one side of the tent, you need to be into the wind to cool off and have shade. The other option is to remove the shell but then you lose your shade. As oppose to a tent with entrances on opposite sides where you can open up both entrances and hopefully catch a breeze passing through.

Mountain Hardwear Optic 3.5 

For backpackers and campers who appreciate extra square footage and open, airy architecture. Adjacent doors zip away for an expansive view.

Additional Features:

–          Industry leading DAC Pressfit™ poles

–          Doors on adjoining sides roll back to offer huge view and easy access

–          Two mesh doors with dual-slider zipper for easy entry and exit

–          Dual vestibule design creates a dry entry into tent and room for gear storage

–          Internal pockets help keep you organized

–          Reflective colour coded starter tab on the rainfly and canopy make pitching easy

–          Optional rectangular or triangular gear loft stows gear off the floor (sold separately)

 

~Kelly Wald is an ultra runner in Barrie, Ontario.

Nathan VaporShadow Pack

For longer runs, or runs where I need to carry more gear, I’ve been playing with the Nathan VaporShadow pack.

Right away I noticed this pack has a lot going on. It’s advertised as a high-capacity race vest designed to fit a women’s torso. In terms of storage it’s got plenty of compartments if you like to separate and organize your gear. The front has what seems to be the standardnathan-front-back on most packs, one zipper pocket and one quick drop pocket, but then they have added this neat little quick access gel pocket and one of my favourite features a salt pocket. There are two good sized side zip pockets and then four separate compartments that make up the back of the pack. It holds a 2L bladder in a compartment that is lined to keep liquids cool, I really liked this feature. Then there is two storage spaces divided by a mesh lining and then another space separated by a thicker lining that is accessible from a side zip. As well as they added a bungee rope system on the outer back. Lots of options for how you want to carry and sort your gear.

I love the colours, it’s great to see that they chose fun bright ideas, and it’s covered in reflective markings from front to back. There is a load stabilizer system built into the pack that I played around with a bit with the pack fully loaded up, but in all honesty I didn’t notice that it made a huge difference, the pack fits well to my body to begin with and I didn’t find there was much movement when running. The front secure straps are built on an adjustable ribbing with an easy clip system that works well for me, I like being able to adjust where I feel I need the front straps. However the magnet mount for the hydration hose wasn’t a feature I liked or trusted, I found I spent more time trying to line that magnet up then I do with packs where it’s a simpler clip. Which brings me to the second feature I struggled with, there are a lot of hanging ropes and plastic bobbles on this pack that need to be tucked away or managed somehow. Specifically the side ropes that are used to secure the pack further. Another item that didn’t work for me was the small clip that secures the top of the bladder to the pack, I found it not quick and easy so refills took a bit longer. The pack sits on the heavier side of most of my running packs as well.

Over all I was happy to see that clearly there was a lot of thought put into this pack, there are some great features that I find key when I pick a running pack, the salt pocket, the compartment options, 2L bladder, trekking pole loops, and the snug fit. The ability to adjust the front secure straps is great and for a long run where I need to carry extra layers and fuel I really liked the storage options. Seems like a pretty tough pack and can handle some serious kms.

~Kelly Wald is an ultra runner in Barrie, Ontario.

 

Shoe Review: Montrail FluidFlex 2

If you’re a minimal shoe fan, I recently checked out the Montrail FluidFlex 2, and if you’re a numbers person here are the numbers.

  • 4mm offset
  • 15mm heel
  • 11mm forefoot
  • 6.9oz or 196g
montrail2

Montrail FluidFlex 2

While I can’t do all my running in minimal shoes, I really like them and keep a pair handy for shorter runs throughout the week.

I found this shoe great for dirt packed trails, rail trail and any trail that is somewhat groomed, I even did some snowy spring running in this shoe. It does have a fairly aggressive tread of grippy looking mirco-lugs and did still maintain a “close to the ground” feel as advertised. The unique looking sole of this shoe is the midsole of Compression-molded Fluidfoam & outsole of Gryptonite, I pick these shoes when I plan a road to trail run as I personally found they had a little more cushion than other minimal shoes I’ve tried. The shoe is super breathable, flexible, and light at 6.9oz or 196g.

Montrail FluidFlex 2

Montrail FluidFlex 2

Something I particularly liked was the inner heel has molded padding that prevents your foot from slipping. The shoe fits average meaning not narrow or wide and there is plenty of toe room.

As with many minimal shoes, I question the durability. I have yet to find a minimal shoe that holds up as long as shoes not considered minimal. However this shoe is holding up the best so far and I’m still getting kms out of them. There’s not much of a toe guard and it would be nice to see the women’s version of this shoe offered in another colour other than mostly black. I didn’t find this shoe great for muddy, or extremely soft trails, but they do dry fast after running through puddles and streams.

Overall, I really like this shoe and have switched making this my new minimal shoe and I’m looking forward to seeing what Montrail does with the FluidFlex going forward.

~Kelly Wald is an ultra runner in Barrie, Ontario. 

Gear Review: Salomon Speed Cross 3

This is not so much of a Salomon Speed Cross 3 CS review as it is a long-term test of a true winter killer. Before the Classic Ontario Winter started, I purchased a wonderfully bright orange and black pair of Salomon Speed Cross 3s with Climashield in the hopes I would be able to use it on occasion when the winter weather of 2014 became ugly. Coming upon three months later I’m wondering when I do not have to wear these shoes for almost every outside run that I do. This was not only out of necessity to battle the elements, but for comfort and fit as well.

For anyone who knows these shoes, or takes a quick look at the picture, they quickly appreciate the elegance and raw aggressiveness of the Speed Cross. This is a beautiful shoe to behold and although it’s aggressive looking, it wears like a slipper that stabilizes, hugs the foot to perfection and runs really well. Running in the winter usually means I am just happy to be outside, but this shoe has been a pleasant surprise. I could actually run fast and with the same confidence like running on dirt. Whether it was ice, deep snow, groomed snowmobile trail, and yes even snow packed sidewalks, the Speed Cross 3s never faltered.

The Speed Cross 3s do keep a traditional heel to toe offset, but the ride is low to the ground and quite flexible. Being a mid-foot striker I didn’t find the heel to be a problem at all. Salomon went without a rock guard on the 3s, which for winter running is fine by me. On the surface what looks to be a big gnarly shoe is actually offers a racing flat-like feel.

I did go up a half size from my normal 11.5 to 12 and I am glad that I did as the shoe is a bit on the narrow side for my foot anyway. After about 100 hours in everything that winter has been able to offer, the Speed Cross 3 shows no signs of wear because they do not get dirty in the winter, so they still look brand new. I did use a pair of Salomon Sense Mantra insoles, which are thin one piece foam versus the given Ortholites. I have always found Ortholites a little too squishy. I also wish the tongue did not come up so high as ends up acting as a place to trap snow.

Pros:

  • Aggressive V-shaped lugs, superior traction for snow and ice.
  • Salomon’s Sensifit and gusseted tongue design really wraps around the foot.
  • Climashield keeps the weather out and the warmth in.
  • Low to the ground feel with great flexibility
  • Amazing colour choices

Cons:

  • Narrow
  • Not a door to trail if you have pavement to run on first.
  • Tongue too bulky
  • Ortholite too soft

 ~Adam Hill is an Ontario-based trail runner.

Gear Review: The North Face Better than Naked Jacket, Short-Sleeve and Singlet

Better Than Naked

First of all, I need to explain the photo of our Canadian World Mountain Running Team on top of a mountain in Poland. I hoped this picture would never see the light of day but alas here it is. For the record I did have shorts on, my engine just runs a little hot in general.

But when I do wear clothes, the “Better Than Naked” line part of the The North Face Flight Series keeps me cool and dry on those hot days and comfortably warm on some really cold days.

The Better Than Naked Jacket

Better than Naked Jacket

Better than Naked Jacket

My first impression: “what is this material?! Helium-infused-water-resistant-silk-paper?!”

This jacket is light! Whether you have it on or its packed away you’ll barely notice it’s there making it ideal for safety in the mountain trails or a perfect race kit addition taking minimal room (I packed this 125km around the Canadian Death Race). The blaze orange is stylish and safe, from urban runs to remote, you won’t be missed. I found it a perfect fit– close to the body but in no way constricting.

Climate: I personally tested this jacket in conditions from a -28C blizzard to +10C and light rain. During the cold days the jacket with a single long sleeve shirt underneath was more than enough to keep me warm. The jacket features breathable holes in the middle of the back that work together with The Better Than Naked shirt or singlet to breath and not build up moisture.

Feature: One chest pocket with headphone hole is great for tucking away those annoying cables.

The Better Than Naked Short-Sleeve and Singlet

singlet

The North Face Singlet

Some of the best advice I’ve heard is to dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Well, why not dress for the speed you want! These tops look fast with their mullet style- business in the front, smart solid colors, and party in the back with speed stripes intimidating anyone you fly by.

Highlight: These shirts have ultra-endurance to match its wearer! I wore the short sleeve for the first 12 hours of the Death Race and switched into the fresh singlet, more as a mental boost, to finish off the final leg.

Both shirts are designed to work with the jacket for complete moisture and temperature control.

 

~Calum Neff is a member of Canada’s national mountain running team and The North Face Trail Ambassador for Alberta. 

Gear Review: Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail N1

Over the years Pearl Izumi has built a reputation for making trail shoes that just plain work. When I heard that there would be a new trail shoe in 2013 I was pretty excited.

My initial thoughts on the E:Motion Trail N1 were that the shoe was both roomy and light. The mid-foot to heel width was bigger than comparable models and plenty of room in the toe box without your foot slipping.

The upper of the shoe adds to the comfort by being completely seamless. The material used is a two way mesh which gives you excellent breathability while keeping most trail debris out. The shoe saves weight by having minimal overlays which only occur in the back two thirds of shoe and seem to solely be for some added structure and stability.

One thing I will say about the upper is that it drains exceptionally well, but I still would have liked a gusseted tongue to add to the overall protection from trail debris.

The real innovation in the Trail N1 is in the mid-sole.  Pearl Izumi uses 1:1 Energy Foam which is supposed to provide the runner with a return on the energy placed into the foot strike. I don’t know much about the science in this claim, but the shoe itself does feel “springy” when you are rolling along the trail from my experience.

With no medial post for stability the shoe gives the runner a full feel for the trail, while allowing you to guide your foot through technical sections. This allows for micro recalibrations of foot falls with minimal interference from the shoe.

Now the way that the Trail N1 rides can only be described as smooth and fast. How it does this is the physical geometry of the shoes strike pattern. Most racing flats are minimalist in strike pattern, meaning they are for the most part zero drop from heel to toe and assume the runner will strike close to the ball of the foot. What Pearl Izumi has done is move the strike zone further back near the mid-foot of the shoe and from that zone to the fore foot it appears the shoe is rockered. This geometry gave the sensation that the shoe rolled me forward effortlessly. This was universal at any pace, but not quite as noticeable when picking my way through more technical trail sections.

One last point about the sole was the lugs which felt at home on almost all types of terrain except for the most muddy trails. The lug spacing and depth shed trail debris effectively and provided excellent traction and grip.

Overall the Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail N1 is an exception trail shoe. Considering the lightness (sub 10 ounces in a US 9), durability and price (115$) you will be hard pressed to find another full featured shoe on the market that will leave you satisfied on the trail every time you leave the trailhead.

Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail N1 shoes available from: http://www.jrhuntersports.com/jrhuntersports_004.htm

~Keith Iskiw is a trail and ultra runner from Kingston, Ontario. Find his blog at http://keithiskiw.wordpress.com/

Gear Review: Salomon Speedcross3

So far during 2013 I have been blessed with all sorts of weather to test trail shoes. Rain, sleet and snow have been a constant companion on my runs and the one shoe that has been able to keep up with all the abuse that Mother Nature can dish out is the Speedcross3 from Salomon.

Having used the Speedcross2 previously I had high expectation for the 3rd version of this highly popular shoe. It did not disappoint.

First, the shoe itself has a very dense weave in the upper rip-stop nylon that does a decent enough job keeping the elements (and the physical environment) at bay. During some of my longer runs I rarely had numb toes even on the coldest and wettest runs.

speed1speed2speed3

The overlays that give the Speedcross3 its trademark look don’t seem to bother the interior of the shoe as they are welded seamlessly to the upper saving a bit on weight and aiding the quick draw lacing system.

With regard to the lacing system, although at first I had some issues dialing in my fit I found the lacing system to be very good overall. It was nice to have a way to quickly adjust the shoe without having to spend too much time messing around with a traditional lace. I do wonder if the lace itself could be a bit more elastic to give the foot a bit of freedom

The midsole and outsole of the shoe saw little change from the previous version of the shoe. The heel drop was reduced slightly down to 10mm. The injection-molded EVA in the mid foot of the shoe provides enough cushion to protect you when the trail gets more technical. Salomon also kept with the same chevron styled lug design. These thick, aggressive lugs do an excellent job providing you with traction on all kinds of terrain and weather conditions. Proper spacing of these lugs allows the undercarriage of the shoe to not collect mud and debris.

The Speedcross3 weighs in at about 11 ounces in a size 9 (US). Although this is a bit on the heavy side for a trail racing flat but you do gain added stability, protection and traction for that extra weight.

Overall the Salomon Speedcross3 has lived up to its predecessors in many ways and Salomon has done an admiral job updating this classic trail racer

PROS

  • Excellent traction on varying surfaces
  • Cushioning is excellent for a high mileage trainer
  • Out of the box comfort
  • Micro adjusting lacing for proper fit (static lace)

CONS

  • No rock plate

For more information on the Salomon Speedcross3 please follow this LINK. To purchase the Salomon Speedcross3 at MEC please follow this LINK.

~Keith Iskiw is a trail and ultra runner from Kingston, Ontario. Find his blog at http://keithiskiw.wordpress.com/

Gear Review: The North Face Torpedo Jacket

There is still some snow around, but things are starting to warm up with spring around the corner. The North Face Torpedo Jacket has been working really well for me in this type of weather. It’s super lightweight, making it easy to stuff in my pack or wrap around my waist. I find I can even scrunch it up and store it in my water belt system.

I’m a big fan of pockets and this jacket has six. Two in the front that zip and two on the lower back. The lower back pockets are my preference, with one that’s small and perfect for a key or one gel and has a zip. The second lower back pocket is large enough for several gels or a buff and is easy for quick access with an elastic type design so you can simply reach in. I’ve been keeping my gels and cookies in this one. There are also two more pockets inside the jacket on the front.

The Torpedo has a couple of reflective markings on the front, the back and bottom of the sleeves. The fit is decent, as it’s cut to suit body shape, but leaves enough extra room for a layer underneath on a frosty morning and has the pull cord tie option on the bottom, which I almost always look for in a jacket.

The back of the jacket has several vents making it breathable and comfortable and I love that the vents are covered for water resistance and have a mesh material inside. If you’ve ever had an incident with a bee getting stuck incidentally you will look for things like these mesh linings! I found the jacket to be water resistant and dried quickly.

So far this jacket has been great for spring conditions and has quickly become the one that I reach for on my runs. I can see it being a useful summer night and fall season item as it works well as a shell or layered with other items.

~ Kelly Wald is The North Face Trail Ambassador for Ontario. You can follow her blog at: http://kellyannewald.wordpress.com/