Trail gear reviews: July

Good Time To Buy…

I was never a shopper. Until I became a trail runner. These days, I’m a bit of a gear guy. Here’s the latest we’ve been playing with on the trails, as featured in the latest edition of Trail Run Mag, Ed#21, downloadable for free from www.trailrunmag.com/magazines.

READ: Where The Road Ends: A Guide To Trail Running
By Meghan M Hicks and Bryon Powell

Where-the-Road-Ends-cover-smallThis is the when, where and how of trail running, written by two of the most experienced trail gatekeepers in the business. Hicks and Powell are the dynamic duo behind iconic trail and ultra media portal, iRunFar.com, a primary go to for trail and ultra runners across the globe. The pair run trail as much as they write about it be that race coverage, issues discussions or reviews, so they know their dirt chops and it shows.

In particular this is a perfect book for those just getting into trail running, covering technique, equipment recommendations, safety, basic conditioning programs and strategies for improving performance.

While the perfect tome for beginners, the book still offers great reminders for trailites who have been weaving along singletrack for years: touching on form and function and nuances that even the most experienced can get lazy on and need a refresher.

Like learning first aid, trail running is the kind of pursuit that benefits from repetition of the basics to ingrain them; Where The Road Ends is one of those books that should sit n all trail runners’ shelves, and over the years be casually thumbed through, ensuring you’re still on track. And well off road.

Published by Human Kinetics // RRP$30.95
www.humankinetics.com/products/all-products/Trail-Running-Guidebook
www.irunfar.com


DRINK: Bare Blends Organic Cacao Whey Protein Mix

raw-organic-cacao-powderAntioxidants, magnesium, strong bones, relaxed muscles, healthy heart, good recovery. These are all terms we want to lap up off the back of a long run. That and chocolate banana berry thickshake. That could just be me.

Regardless, they reckon you have around 45 minutes post run in which to get into your system the nutrients and goodness needed for optimum recovery after a sapping effort. For us, that means smacking down a protein rich smoothie.

Bare Blends Organic Cacao WP1 with native whey protein smacks it out of the park for packing the essentials while tasting damn good – on it’s own in any form of milk (dairy, almond, coconut, rice…), or smashed together with frozen berries and fruits for added punch.

It’s a little decadent to have ‘single origin’ raw cacao powder but it’s a lot healthier and more natural than chocolate topping (refined sugar mostly). Their cacao is organically grown in the central Amazon rainforest of Peru, as it has been for thousands of years by the native Ashaninka and Chene people. The beans are of the renowned heritage heirloom ‘criollo’ variety, which make up less than 1% of cacao grown each year. The small family-based co-operatives in the area have shunned the lower quality hybridized CCN51 variety in favor of the delicious floral fragrance and taste emanating from the ‘criollo’. Unlike traditionally processed cocoa, which is often extracted with chemical solvents and heated to over 150°C, Bare Blends is minimally processed at low temperatures, resulting in far superior nutritional qualities. Making the most of one of the richest sources of antioxidants this mixer will help boost serotonin, endorphins, anandamide and phenylethylamine to promote quick recovery and general health.

Oh, and it tastes awesome. Frozen berries and bananas, coconut milk, and the powder. Trust me.

Available at Run Stop Shop www.runstopshop.com.au – awesome smoothie packs with Freeze Dried Berries and Vanilla Bean > RRP $94.90. 
Single packs 250g >  $12.95  // 500g $23.95 http://bareblends.com.au 

Mt Buller


EAT: Raw Bite

RWB-BUNDLE7Flavour that makes you want more. It’s the one thing that, no matter what the science says is good and digestible nutrition for you on the long run, is a non-negotiable part of the ingredient mix for a bar on the trail. For our money, Raw Bites’ range offers just that, and with flavours that aren’t necessarily expected. Protein or Cashew for the traditionalist. Coconut or Vanilla Berries for the sweet tooth. Apple Cinnamon for those who dig cinnamon (we know – there are some this tester included that just don’t do cinnamon mid-run. Or ever. But some do). Then there’s Spicy Lime, a true favourite, but also given the sweet and spicy mix a love/hate thing. We reckon they should do an Apple-Lime. But that’s by the by. And then there’s cacao for those who like mature, earthy chocolate taste.

So choose your taste, and then enjoy the healthy run: these are all organic fruit & nut bars made from simple, honest healthy ingredients. The bars are processed carefully with no use of heat at all and with just 2-7 whole food ingredients, are free from gluten, dairy, soy, have no added sugar and are damn satisfying.

RRP$4.95 each or $29 for a bundle of six. // www.goodfuel.co


WEAR: Oakley Radar EV Path Prizm trail

main_OO9208-04_radar-ev_polished-back-prizm-trail-path_001_67173_png_zoomAh, Oakley – the original (we reckon) ‘sports sunglass’. Living in a surf town I’m still a Frogskin fan, myself, and I get swayed (and generally prefer to run in) surfy designs. But after getting used to the burnt red tinge – that’s ‘Prizm Trail’ lens to be technical about it – these glasses actually make sense.

The lens has been heightened extending the upper field of view / coverage. The Prizm represents a “revolutionary technology” that fine-tunes vision for specific sports and environments, by control very precisely the light transmission resulting in colors finely tuned to maximize contrast and enhance visibility.

On trail this translates to seeing the contours, the dips and rises, the roots, and the small shifts in shadows that could spell a spill if you don’t catch sight of them and react to them before they trip you up. Ergo, the better the glasses interpret the light at play for your eyes, the better technical runner you can become, as you will become attuned to the trail’s nuances and pitfalls. The airflow gives good ventilation to keep you cool and negate lens fog and on the noggin, they are barely-there comfortable with grippy nosepad and arms meaning zero ‘bounce’ on the run.

Although only tested with one lens, they can be purchased with other interchangeable Lenses letting you optimize vision in any sport environment, so great for multisporters, too, (where you make use one lens for trail running and mountain biking and another for paddling or road riding where environmental contexts are different).

RRP$249.95 // www.oakley.com.au 


 

CARRY: Ultimate Direction AK Mountain Vest 3.0

AK_MtnVest_2-0_front_bottles_UD16_1024x1024If the amount of Ultimate Direction (UD) packs now being sighted at trail events these days is any indication, the brand has made a huge impact on a market once dominated, at least locally in the ‘early days’, by Salomon. This, version-3 pack slapped with Anton Krupika’s credibility and initials, is a good all rounder, big and adaptable enough for some decent length mountain trail missions or events but small enough to be comfortable and unobtrusive. Lighter than the 2.0 Race Vest it obviously has more capacity, that allows it into ultra territory where more gear mandatory or otherwise is needed.

Improvements from predecessors include two soft body bottles up front, and a larger phone pocket for today’s smartphones. Pockets galore include three on each shoulder strap (inclusive of soft flask bottle holders), a zip pocket on each hip, two zip pockets on the rear, a stretch compartment and the main cargo bay split between bladder holder and kit carrier. In total a volume capacity of 11.5L. Then there’s the elastic bungy lines on the rear to hold jackets and the like.

PB_adv_vest_2_0_back_UD16_PC__35705.1456850697.1280.1280A great shift from the norm: loops to hold any collapsible poles on the front, rather than the rear for easy grab access. The lightweight mesh vest material is lithe and comfortable, although a full mesh backing means sweat condenses through to the main compartment – so keep any down jackets, clothing or food in wet sacks. This is a strange downfall given the main bag’s waterproof material keeps the outside elements out perfectly!

The wide-open double zip makes access to that compartment easy and bladder refill easy, although the lacking of cross-shoulder protection means the hard plastic sleeve of most bladders can intrude some. Overall despite a few small niggles, this is a smartly designed vest with Anton’s obvious hard-earned on trail knowledge well reflected in comfort and convenience on the longer single day missions.

RRP$219.95
https://ultimatedirection.com // https://findyourfeet.com.au/


CARRY: Ultimate Direction Groove Mono Belt

groovemono8_ud16_2Unless you’re training specifically to get used to having a pack on, there’s no real reason to lug a full hydropack or vest along. So, anything under ten-fifteen kay, fair weather, a bit of water, your car key, maybe a phone and a gel at a stretch. This is the scenario where the Groove works a treat. Velcro quick straps that stay secure around the waist matched to a singular front stretch pocket with hook clasp. This is perfectly designed to fit a 500ml UD soft flask, plus still fits a phone or other bits and bobs. Also inside this is a secondary small zip pocket for the emergency tenner and car keys. On either side of the cargo hold are drawstring ties that allow you to run with a lightweight rain jacket, which can be scrunched and stowed across the front. Initially you’d think the water flask would bob and bounce, but in action this set up is perhaps the perfect accompaniment for taking the basic necessities on your short to mid range training run or even a half marathon race run.

RRP$69.95
https://ultimatedirection.com // www.wildfiresports.com.au/ultimate-direction-mono


 

WEAR: The North Face Torpedo Jacket

CKR9Y8J_1Great as a protective layer for when the morning run threatens to ramp from mild to a smidgen wild, the Torpedo is a weather-resistant wonder of a lightweight running jacket. A cape vent at the upper back enhances breathability with comfortable knit panels incorporating wicking FlashDry fibers down the sides completing its body-mapped ventilation system. Secure hand pockets, a hem cinch, secure rear pocket, and media-compatible pocket complete the feature list. This is what we would rate as a great shoulder season jacket, not for combatting the cold, more for winds and light rain in shoulder season (spring/autumn).

RRP$150 // www.thenorthface.com.au


WEAR: The North Face Ultra Endurance

NF00CC4BGNM_1We haven’t yet tested the latest shoe from The North Face, but we’re pretty keen to slide our slabs into them, so we thought we’d give a heads up preview. These are billed as a lightweight yet protective trail running shoe that deliver stable ride and good traction. We’ve always found The North Face shoes under rated gems for comfort and ride, in the past our only real niggle being the low-grade grip for Aussie terrain. Now we’re promised much more aggressive Vibram Megagrip outsole “for durable sticky traction in all conditions.” The upper is a welded TPU with suede midfoot support overlays and a hefty toe protection unit. The sole has a 17mm to 9mm heel/forefoot giving a leaning toward tradition 8mm drop. In the rear The North Face Cradle heel-stability carries over, as does the ‘Snake Plate’ forefoot protection.

The North Face runner Dylan Bowman labels these as a “top half of the mountain” shoe, meaning they are designed to perform best when underfoot trail conditions are at their worst.

Read a full review by Bowman here 

RRP$230 // www.thenorthface.com.au


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