Review: Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0

While not technically a backpack, the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0 has all the features you would expect on a pack, and a whole lot more. It’s great for the run commuter who doesn’t carry much with them to work, and is perfect if you also want something light and comfortable for carrying gear and water on long road/trail runs.

Test Model

UD PB Adventure Vest 3.0

Size: Large

Carrying Capacity: 16L, 977 cu. in.

Cost: US $169.95

Add-on: UD 20oz. Water Bottle

Performance and Evaluation

I tested the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0 during 35 miles of run commuting. 

I was worried the Large might be a little big at first, but after adjusting the numerous straps (hidden and otherwise) it felt secure and form-fitting. With a water bottle added in the shoulder strap pocket, it was even more snug. I don’t normally run with water, though, so for most test runs I left the bottle out.

This thing is extremely lightweight – if you put it on while empty, you almost don’t even notice you are wearing it. The reason for that is the almost completely see-thru material from which most of the vest is made. Not only is thin…some of it’s compartments are waterproof, too! Or are they?

I was skeptical, so I ran a test. I placed several folded-up paper towels inside each of the small pockets on the shoulder straps, and then placed a rolled up pair of pants and shirt in the main compartment. All three pouches are made from “SilNylon/66: Silicone-Impregnated 30D nylon with a polyurethane face” which “creates a permanently waterproof fabric.” I was hoping to test it while running in a heavy downpour, but the rains never came. So I did the next best thing I could of…

Waterproof Testing

Result – Everything got wet

The water most likely seeped in through the zippers and not the material, but, still…lesson learned.

Wrap everything you need to stay dry in something waterproof (plastic grocery bag, drybag) before packing it into the vest.

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For most runs, here is what I carried: 

  • A set of work-appropriate clothing, rolled up and placed in a plastic bag (not garment carrier compatible) 

  • Small lunch

  • Cell phones, wallet, work ID

  • Clif bar, and a couple of gels

  • Packable rainjacket

  • Sunglasses

That was a lot to carry in this vest. My regular run commuting pack is a 24L and I usually pack it almost entirely full. The UD PB Adventure Vest’s carrying capacity is only 16L, and while it does have additional external pockets and compartments to stash gear, I had to leave some things out that I would normally carry – namely, my sizeable lunch. However, that is often leftovers in glass containers and race vests aren’t meant to carry that in the first place.  A simple sandwich, with crackers and fruit fit fine.

On the run, the full vest ran extremely well. It felt really good to not have to wear a tightly-fastened waist strap, and the two sternum straps served very well as overall stabilizers of the pack’s load. One thing I noticed that is different than running with a traditional running pack – the weight of the pack is carried quite differently. On a standard pack (waist strap, sternum strap(s), frame or no frame) the full weight of the backpack is pulled against your back and becomes an extension of your body, rather than a bouncy, separate accessory. The UD vest’s weight is carried down lower on your body and pulls at your shoulders, straightening up your back slightly. It was a nice change and similar to how other waist-strapless hydration packs like the Nathan HPL-020 carries it’s weight.

Side view, showing water bottle in shoulder strap pocket

Back of the vest, showing elastic cord lockdown on sides of pack

Front of vest with water bottle

What I Liked

An abundance of run-accessible pouches

Comfortable and carries weight differently than a backpack

Extremely lightweight

Hydration system compatible and accepts additional water bottle

Double sternum straps

What I Didn’t Like

Low carrying capacity

Not waterproof

High cost

Backpack Details

Back

The back of the vest consists of two large, stretchable pouches, with the tops being held together with the blue elastic cord shown in the picture. These pockets are of decent size and can hold a jacket or hat and gloves with ease. The criss-crossed elastic cord area is excellent for holding wet clothing or shed layers.

Once the main compartment of the vest is loaded, the blue cord can be cinched tightly and then connects to a loop at the top of the pack to ensure the contents remain contained. For additional security, the elastic cord may be stretched to the sides and snapped in to gray cord fasteners on the sides and top of the vest (8 in total; 3 per side, 2 on top). These function very similarly to external compression straps found in good running packs.

On the left side of the main compartment is another zippered pouch. Like the main compartment, it is not run accessible, so store things here you won’t need until you are done running.It contains a key clip and (in addition to keys) can hold a wallet and a couple of other small items.

At the bottom of the pack are two reflective, non-stretchable loops. I think these are for carrying an ice axe, so yeah – not really useful for run commuting. 

Elastic cord hooks for extra compression

 Keys and valuables pouch

Main Compartment

The main compartment of the vest is made entirely of water-resistant material, and is closed with a zipper that runs up one side and across the top. It won’t hold much, as it is quite small by normal run commuter pack standards. I fit my clothing in there, but not much else. 

You can easily secure the contents in order to keep things from bouncing by using the elaborate elastic tie-down system.

 Almost full with a pair of pants and a shirt

Sides

The sides of the Adventure Vest are the defining characteristic of vest-style packs. Each side of the vest forms one unbroken loop from the waist all the way to the top of the shoulder. In a backpack the shoulder straps have thinner straps that connect to the bottom of the pack and can be shortened and lengthened to tighten the bag to your shoulder area. With the vest you put your arms through each loop and buckle the sternum straps at the front.

On each side of the vest at hip level, there are large zippered pouches, made of the same soft, stretchy material found on the front of the pack. These are great for storing hats, gloves, sunglasses, etc. Softer things would probably work best though, as this area presses directly against you hips.

Behind each large pouch is a small piece of velcro that, when opened, reveals an adjustable strap that tightens the vest to your waist. It took me a while to realize that this important feature was here, so be sure to make note of it’s location if you plan on buying one.

In front of the large pouches are smaller ones that are ideal for energy bars, gels, a wallet, or other small items that need to be accessed quickly and easily.

 Left side of the vest

Right side of the vest

Shoulder Straps

Working our way up from the bottom on the right side, you will find a pouch that holds a water bottle. It can hold anything really, but was designed to hold a bottle and includes a cinch strap at the top to hold the bottle in place. On the outside of this pouch, you’ll find another small, stretchy pouch that is good for holding one or two gels or a Clif bar.

At the top of the shoulder strap on both the left and right sides, is a narrow, long, zippered pouch that (like the previous pouch) will hold a couple of gels or an energy bar.

On the left side shoulder strap, you will see a large, stretchy, open-top pocket that will hold a hat and/or gloves, camera case, or similar-sized items. Above this is a pouch similar in size and location as the water bottle holder, but zippered on two sides. This is great for a large smartphone, sunglasses, or additional clothing, such as a t-shirt. It will also fit another water bottle!

Sternum Straps

The UD PB Adventure Vest has two sternum straps attached to long, sliding rails allowing for a wide range of adjustment. The straps themselves are thin and unpadded, and connect using small buckles. There are no excess strap holders, so to keep them from flopping around, try securing them with small pieces of Velcro tape.

 Closeup of sternum straps

Zippered pouch on left side holds an additional water bottle

Hydration Pouch

The Adventure Vest does not come with a bladder, but will accommodate most bladders with capacities up to 70 oz. (2L).

The hydration pocket can be found within the zipper located at the top of the vest. Inside is a velcro strap that holds the bladder and keeps it from slipping down and bunching up. The drinking hose can be routed out either the top left or top right side through holes that bring it out and down the shoulder straps. The hose can also be passed underneath the narrow, white, zippered pouches in the shoulder straps to keep the end of the drinking tube from bouncing around while running.

Additional Pictures

Disclaimer

Ultimate Direction provided us with the PB Adventure Vest 3.0 for review, however this did not influence my opinion regarding this product. The thoughts and pictures contained in this review are my own.

Review: Deuter Speedlite 10

This small, light backpack is simple yet sturdy and is perfect for a certain type of runcommuter. It is about as basic as you can get in a pack designed specifically for running/sports. The Speedlite 10 is a great runcommuting pack for those who value durablity, quality, and simplicity, but more significantly, those who want a pack that they can forget about while running. This is one for runners who don’t want to access much whilst on the run.

 

Test Model

Deuter Speedlite 10

Size: One size fits all

Carrying Capacity: 10L, 610 cu. in.

Cost: US $50

Add-on: Dry-bag, 10L

Best for:

  • Runcommuters who don’t want to access phone/water whilst on the run

  • Runcommuters who carry small to medium loads

  • Runcommuters with longer torsos

Performance and Evaluation

The Speedlite 10 comes in a range of colours and has classic styling. If you choose the black version this a backpack that does not look too ‘sporty’ for the office. Whichever color-way you choose, you’ll notice that the Speedlite 10 is not floppy when not being worn. It has a soft foam-and-mesh back, and an internal, sewn-in bendy plastic wire running around the rim of the back panel. This frame is unobtrusive and not stiff – you can still bend the whole pack in half – but it holds the pack in a shape all of the time, meaning the pack doesn’t flop over in a sweaty heap when you put it down. This is a great quality in the pack. Many other small-size lightweight packs have no skeleton and as a result collapse like a badly-built sandcastle when not on your back. Several of the packs of similar load volume (see list below) are very floppy in this way. Floppiness is not a problem for trail-running or casual purposes, but some runcommuters don’t want their pack to be a puddle of sweaty fabric when they’re carrying it around. I runcommuted with a trail-racing ‘vest’ for a while, and it was great on the run but terrible to lug once off my back.

Performance

Performance is good, with little-to-no bounce when running with the pack. However, to prevent side-to-side sway I have to tighten the straps until they are basically too uncomfortable and have me ‘corseted in’ to the pack in a very stiff way. Personally, I prefer a tiny amount of sway to extremely tight straps, and that is the choice to be made for this pack, on medium to smaller-framed people. This brings me to another issue for performance: fit. Although the actual size of this pack is small in terms of how it looks, the positioning of the sternum strap would fit larger people best. This is because for smaller people who want to wear the pack up high the sternum strap may not slide up high enough to be comfortable.  See the photo above for the sternum strap at maximum height. It’s not a huge problem for me, but it might be for anyone smaller than me (particularly ladies, for whom the chest creates specific issues). I’m not small, either: 170cm, with a broad frame (though my torso length is small/medium, rather than medium/large). So, although the Deuter Speedlite 10 looks like it would suit a smaller person, with its compact size and clean lines, this is deceptive: it would fit best on larger/taller/size ‘L’ torso runcommuters.

Sometimes, it rains. We runcommuters have to run in rain at times, as Kyle discusses in his classic ‘How to RAIN commute’ post.

To guard against sweat seepage or sudden unexpected rainstorms, a precaution is to always put your clothes into a dry bag — which will also compress them — before loading them into the main compartment.

There is the option of a small external rain-cover for instead. I did not try this method on the Deuter Speedlite 10, but I would guess that the rain cover would need to be super-small, and even then there might be problems getting the cover to stay on with the usual drawstring method used on rain-covers, because there isn’t much prominent edging for the rain cover to cling around, due to the pack’s compact design.

 

 

Key clip inside top stash pocket, on which are instructions for signalling airplanes for help!

 

 

What I Liked

Durability: high-quality materials and construction

Grab-handle for hanging pack on bathroom hooks

 

Lightweight, bendable ‘frame’ tube that gives a shape to the pack

 

 

Key hook inside…

 

….nicely-sized top pocket

 

Cool English/german instructions for signalling to aircraft for help if stranded on desert island! (the ink on these starts rubbing off pretty quickly though, so you’ll want to be marooned not too long after buying this pack…)

 

 

What I Didn’t Like

No pockets at all on shoulder straps/waistbelt

Shoulder straps a bit ‘harsh’ and may chafe neck on longer runs

 

When the main compartment is full the side mesh drink-bottle pockets are virtually unuseable for carrying drink bottles

 

Tiny anti-slide clips on waist belt don’t really work

 

 

Backpack Details

Front

The front of the pack has four light attachment points, one in each ‘corner’. It also has a small strip of silver reflective material in the lower quarter. There is no bungee cord or straps to cinch down the pack if it is fairly empty. However, this is not a problem, as the pack material keeps its shape well and doesn’t flop around or sag if there’s not much in the pack. If you had a single delicate item such as a camera in the main compartment it would bounce around, but in that scenario I don’t know whether an external bungee or compression straps would help, either.

Sides

The top zip opens the main compartment from halfway down each side of the pack. Below the zip on each side is a mesh pocket with elasticized top edge that keeps the pocket in close to the pack. These mesh pockets work fine when the pack is relatively empty. When the main compartment of the pack is full, however, it’s very difficult to get a drink bottle into the pocket. This means that if you want to carry water to drink while runcommuting it has to be either a very small bottle (like 150ml) or you’ll need to use a hand-held. This could also be annoying if you are using the pack during the day and just want to have somewhere to put your full-size water bottle.

 

Main Compartment and Top Access Pouch

There are no compression straps on either the front or sides of the pack, but this is not really a problem, as the pack is not very deep, and this –combined with the fairly stiff fabric – means that even when the main compartment is entirely empty there is no swinging or flopping or dragging.

For its compact size, this pack holds a fair bit of stuff — enough for many runcommuters. It will take a pair of size US9.5 (women’s, US8 men’s) shoes, and a full set of pants or skirt, underwear and shirt. It won’t have room left for a jacket, however. Without the shoes, the main compartment will fit the pants/skirt, underwear, shirt and lightweight jacket.

I have used this pack in hot conditions, with my work clothes loaded in the main compartment with no plastic or other dry-bag covering. Despite my ladylike perspiration, the clothes remained dry and fresh. This is due, I think, to the thick-ish mesh back panel and the water-resistant inner coating of the main compartment. Together, these features kept sweat from soaking through. However, my longest run in these conditions was one hour, so people running longer or who are more serious sweaters (though I am not a lightweight!), may find moisture transfer occurs. A dry-sack to contain your clothes before you put the whole sack into the main compartment will also serve the function of compressing your clothes to prevent rumpling and load-bounce. (As a related point: the Deuter Speedlite 10 is too small for the iamrunbox clothes organizer).

 

Back, Shoulder Straps and Waist Strap

For me, the main down-sides to this pack are related to the straps. The shoulder straps have a little bit of mesh on the underside, but are not actually padded, and the material they are made from, while robust and durable, is quite stiff and harsh. Several times I have ended up with chafing on the sides of my neck from the straps, after runs of over an hour. However, this was always when I was wearing collarless, thin running t-shirts as my only layer. I think this would not be an issue for people wearing jackets/second layers/rain shells etc. I suspect, also, that the chafing is related to the size of the straps/positioning of the sternum strap on me specifically.

The waist strap also has an annoying problem.  While the waist strap itself is basic but comfortably unobtrusive, there are two little plastic holders, or ‘strap wranglers’, on the waist belt, one either side of the main clip. These are supposed to keep the extra waist-strap lengths from flying around, unfortunately, on my pack they don’t really work. As I run they quickly either slide along the waist strap right up to clip, making them useless. Or, the excess strap ‘jumps’ out of them, again making them redundant. If you look at the photo on the right, above, you can see how the strap-wrangler has slid almost up to the belt clip on the left. On the right is an example of the extra strap simply falling completely out of the strap-wrangler and dangling to its heart’s content.

       This is not a pack for the technology-attached. There are no pockets on the front straps of this pack, so forget about checking your phone whilst on the run.

This pack would be perfect for runcommuting if you don’t want to drink, eat or text whilst on the run.

Hydration System

The Deuter Speedlite 10 does not come with a hydration bladder, so if you want to use one it would need to be bought separately. I said, above, that this is a great pack for those who don’t want to drink on the run. This claim could be modified to: this is a great pack for runcommuters who don’t want to drink on the run, or, for runcommuters who think they might like to dabble in trail running as well. You certainly can drink on the run without taking off the Speedlite 10, as it has a hydration tube opening at the top edge (right hand side only). Inside the pack is a dedicated pocket in which to put your hydration pouch. However, when I put a full 1.5L bladder into the pack there was no longer room for a runcommuter’s clothes + shoes combo. But on a trail run there’s no need for clothes storage room, and the pack is a great size for the trailrunning necessities: food/gels, rain jacket, space-blanket, hat, map, etc.

Comparative Packs

Additional Pictures

By | April 18th, 2016|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , |1 Comment

Run Commuting Tights Fit to Face a Canadian Winter

If you run commute year-round above the 49th parallel, you most likely have a variety of thermal tights. Up until this year, finding a pair that performed well below -20°C/-4°F proved to be tricky (at least for me) unless I was ready to spend lots of money. However, Mountain Equipment Co-op came out with a great new set of tights this year that solves my dilemma: the MEC Flyer Tight.

Source: Mountain Equipment Co-op

The front panel is made of wind-blocking nylon, polyester, spandex, and blended with polyurethane. The back is slightly different, composed of nylon and spandex, with a soft-brushed fleece interior.

Having now used these for the past 2 weeks, I am extremely pleased with the way they keep me warm, even in the coldest weather (-22°C/-8°F). Despite being thicker than most thermal tights, they did not impede my range of motion. That said, the idea behind these tights (front and back panel made of different materials) is not new, but their price make them a real steal: $82 CAD (about $58 USD).

In the same category: Sugoi Firewall 180 Zap tights, $209 CAD ($148 USD)

Modified Running Gloves

A friend, with whom I often run commute, owns a pair of Nike running gloves, which also have a mitt cover for colder days. I have been trying to get a pair of these for many years and just recently found a similar product at MEC. Reviews were not good for the product though, but they were at a discount, so I went for them. I quickly found out why: the mitt cover seams let go after the second day.

I could have taken them back to MEC for a refund, but I decided to go another way: I went to my local shoe repair shop. For a minimal cost, they readily fixed them, and they will be good for many run commuting years to come.

My local shoe repair shop, Cordonnerie Chez Gerry.

Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie

For the past 10 years, I swore by soft shell jackets for winter running. However, last fall was very mild, so I kept my Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie around longer than usual, which led to trying it out in cold temperatures. With the proper base and mid-layers, it turned out to be a very good fit, even in temperatures as cold as -20°C/-4°F. Not only does it work well, but it is half the weight of my soft shell.

Source: www.salomon.com

Perfect Gifts for Run Commuters: Stanley Products

I’ve got to say – these Stanley products have really made me rethink what I use to drink from, not only around our house, but for all outdoor activities in which our family pursues. Our southern summers are hot and humid, and after a few hours of hiking in the woods or playing in the park, cold beverages tend to be infrequent luxuries. Thankfully, Stanley has changed that with their high-quality constructed and classically-designed beverage containers. Check out a few of these great Stanley gift ideas, perfect for the hard-to-buy-for active person in your life.

A lot of run commuters are also bike commuters, and this stainless steel growler is absolutely fantastic for transporting draft beer in a bike pannier. With my old glass growlers, I was always worried that I would hit a bump too hard and the glass would shatter and spill beer everywhere. Not with the Stanley growler!

It is also great for coffee (more practical to carry while run commuting), keeping liquids warm for half of an entire day, and the handle and wide mouth spout make anything easy to pour. Best of all – no refrigeration needed; the Stanley Growler keeps beer cold long enough for you and friend to two to finish it off.

Specs

Keeps beer cold for 16 hours

Keeps liquid hot for 12 hours

64 oz. capacity

Stainless steel, double wall vacuum construction

This is my new favorite thing – An insulated pint glass with a wide drinking opening and built-in bottle opener. Stanley combined their signature style and design to a timeless classic making something completely perfect for beer, coffee, and soda drinkers alike.

The Stanley Pint has consistently kept all of my beers cold until they were gone, easily outperforming any other drinking vessel on warm, Southern afternoons. This is the perfect gift for friends or family members (and at a great price, too!)

Specs

Keeps beer cold 4 1/2 hours

16 oz. capacity

Four color choices

Stainless steel, 

double wall 

vacuum construction

Ever wanted to treat your date to a homemade mixed drink in the park? Have you ever been sitting around a campfire and thought a whiskey sour would really hit the spot? With the Stanley Happy Hour, you can do that! Included in the set are a break-apart shaker, jigger cap, citrus reamer, and two insulated rocks glasses. And the best feature? The whole system fits inside itself for easy packability and/or portability. Pairs appropriately well with the Stanley Flask.

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Specs

Five piece system

20 oz. capacity

Dishwasher Safe

18/8 stainless steel

The Stanley Flask will hold your spirits without leaking during transport, thanks to the securely-attached, hinged lid.

It pours easily from its wide-mouthed spout, and it fits perfect in a back pocket, a backpack, or inside a bike pannier or handlebar bag.

This flask is a classic and should be a part of everyone’s outdoor packing list.

Specs

Leak proof

8 oz. capacity

Four color choices

18/8 stainless steel

Review: Osprey Rev 24

We’ve had our eyes on the Osprey Rev since we first heard about it in 2013, and I finally broke down and bought one to try it out. Though it falls under Osprey’s cycling category on their website, it is intended for trail runners and endurance athletes whose running needs include easy access to storage space and ample hydration.

Test Model

Osprey Rev 24

Size: Small/Medium

Carrying Capacity: 22L, 1,343 cu. in.

Cost: US $130

Add-on: Hi-Vis Rain Cover (X-Small)

Performance and Evaluation

I  ran over 100 miles with the Osprey Rev 24, carrying my clothing in the IAMRUNBOX garment carrier or the Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter, lunch, rain jacket, hat, and an occasional book. The average weight for the entire setup was 7.0 pounds.

On the run, it felt great! The Rev’s fit is snug and secure against the torso when properly adjusted. I was a little concerned that the thin shoulder straps might rub, but aside from a little discomfort against my clavicle once or twice (which stopped after I readjusted the straps), it was comfortable, light, and chafe-free. The shoulder straps run close to the sternum, and then veer off towards the hips at the bottom. This provided my arms with a lot more freedom of movement than I’ve found in other packs.

Another initial worry I had was that there are no external compression straps on the sides. There is, however, a cinch strap/buckle at the top of the pack, and it pulls together the zippered areas at the top of the pack. It did not appear that it would do much for bounce though. The pack itself is made of thin material, making it floppy, and I thought the lack of compression straps would have made it overly bouncy while running. Surprisingly, it runs extremely well with very little bounce. I think that having a garment carrier inside helped the pack hold its shape and minimize up and down bouncing, and the waist/sternum straps eliminate any potential side-to-side movement.

When it comes to having items and storage at the ready, the Rev dominates its field of competitors. I loved having quick, on-the-run access to a hat, wallet, gels/bars, rain jacket, camera, and headlamp. In addition, the flip-down phone holster on the shoulder strap was great for checking emails/texts while waiting at long traffic signals. On one or two occasions, though, I found that the clear vinyl inside of the pocket fogs up, most likely due to the sweat emanating from my torso.

I don’t run with a hydration system unless I’m going long (10 miles+) so I only tried it out for one commute. I like the entire setup of the system, and found it runs extremely well. The quick-disconnect hose allows the bladder to go in and out of the pack with ease, and is ideal for trail races when you want to spend as little time as possible at aid stations. Though it is designed to reduce movement and noise, I still found I needed to burp the bladder before running to reduce sloshing

One thing missing from the Rev is a rain cover. I run commute year-round in whatever weather is occurring when I step out the door, so a rain cover is a necessity (and additional purchase). Osprey’s Hi-Vis Rain Cover in X-Small fits the Rev 24 perfectly. It has reflective markings, a light attachment, and it performs as advertised in wet weather.

What I Liked

Shoulder strap media pouch

Multiple run-accessible storage areas

Very lightweight

Advanced hydration system

No pouches on waist strap

Double sternum straps

Strap placement allows arms to move freely

What I Didn’t Like

Back heats up quickly

No rain cover

No pouches on waist strap

Heavy items in side pouches tend to bounce around

Backpack Details

Front

The front of the pack contains no pouches or light attachment points, however it does have an elastic band tie-down system that can hold many items of different sizes and shapes. It is ideal for holding a damp jacket or a pair of shoes. At the top of the pack is a triangular, black flap with a buckle and cinch strap that sort of pulls together everything at the top of the pack (zippers, pouches, and hydration pocket).

Sides

One of the things I like most about the Rev is that it has so many different quick-access pouches. I love to be able to run without carrying things in my hands, but also be able to access certain items without loosening straps and removing my pack. The Rev has two different styles of side access pouches.

On the right side (while wearing the pack) is a medium-sized pouch made of stretchy material that expands as you put something into it, and contracts back down to look like a small flap when empty. This is an open-ended pocket with no closure, but the elastic does retract to keep things from falling out. It is perfect for holding sunglasses, a camera, or packable rain jacket.

On the left side is a nearly identical pocket. The only difference is that it has a zippered opening so that nothing will fall out.

Main Compartment and Top Access Pouch

Despite looking like a small, low-capacity pack due to the Rev’s somewhat floppy, softer construction materials, the main compartment holds an exceptional amount of gear. It easily fits a set of work clothes in a garment carrier, lunch, additional clothing, and even a pair of shoes, and the single top strap holds everything in place quite well.

The top access pouch (the gray area of the main compartment in the pic below) is reserved for smaller items which need a little more protection, and that aren’t needed during the run, like a wallet, identification badge, checkbook, keys, etc.

Back and Waist Strap

The back of the pack consists of tightly-woven mesh covering 1/8of flexible, padded, breathable material. That’s it. Unlike the Manta and Stratos with their AirSpeed back panels that separate the pack from your back, the Rev comes in direct contact with your back. While still extremely comfortable, it does heat your back up quite fast.

The waist straps have wide, padded “wings” on each side where they attach to the pack. The connecting strap is narrow, non-stretchy, and the plastic buckle is small. On the outside of each wing, and within easy reach while running, are medium-sized, zippered pouches, capable of carrying a wallet, gels, energy bars, or any combination thereof. The whole setup is quite comfortable and I never once experienced any chafing or irritation in this particular area.

Suspension

The shoulder straps are made from the same material as the back of the pack; waffle-like padding covered with a durable mesh material. One of the unique aspects of their design can be seen where the straps attach at the top of the pack. Rather than just have the medium-width straps rest on your shoulders, Osprey added some additional material that makes the top of the straps nearly as wide as the pack, making the pack rest very comfortably in an area that is prone to chafe and irritation, especially when carrying heavier loads.

On the left strap is Osprey’s DigiFlip™ media pocket. It holds smartphones up to 5 ½” long and 3” wide. It fit my HTC One M7 nicely, though without its Otterbox Commuter case. The pouch flips down and your phone is touch-accessible through a clear vinyl cover and the outside of the case is made from water-resistant material, as well, so the phone is completely enclosed and weather-resistant. On the outside of the DigiFlip pocket is another stretchy, storage pouch.

The right strap has two narrow, overlapping stretchy pouches which can hold anything from a flashlight, to gels, bars, or pens and markers. Each strap has two attachment loops above the pouches for routing the hydration hose, or attaching items such as blinking lights.

Connecting both shoulder straps horizontally are two stretchy, adjustable sternum straps. Both can not only be adjusted left and right, but can also be slid up or down along the straps. The topmost chest strap has a magnet on the buckle, and is used to hold the mouthpiece of the hydration hose while in use.

Hydration System

The Rev comes with a 2.5L Hydraulics™ LT bladder that is designed to keep the water from annoyingly sloshing around, as well as to keep the bag flat and from balling up in the bottom of the pack.

The hose has a cool quick-release feature, which allows it to disconnect from the top of the bladder, and end of the hose contains a magnet that attaches to the upper sternum strap buckle, which keeps the bite valve close to your mouth while running.

The backpack has a designated hydration storage section within it that is zippered at the top and rides close to your back when secured. The bladder slips easily in and out and since you can disconnect the hose, it makes for quick refueling stops along the trail. 

Additional Pictures

Review: IAMRUNBOX Garment Carrier

How do you carry your clothes to work? Some people roll them. Others fold them and place them carefully inside their packs. But perhaps you work in an office environment that requires you to wear business attire and your clothes need to look good and freshly-ironed at all times. What do you do then? We recently tested out a product that was made to keep your clothes looking great straight out of your backpack.

What is the IAMRUNBOX?

The IAMRUNBOX is not itself a backpack. Rather, it is a garment carrier designed to fit inside a backpack, carry-on, or suitcase. Overall, the carrier is quite simple, consisting of a semi-soft outer shell, which unzips into two rectangular halves. One side has a small pocket and the other is empty. A single, small carrying handle can be found at the top of the carrier. Included with the IAMRUNBOX is a clothing folding guide and a mesh bag for additional accessories, such as a belt or wallet.

How to fold and pack your clothing

Choose your clothes for the day, then iron and let them cool. If you pack them away hot, your folds may create wrinkles that stubbornly stick around for the rest of the day. Once they have cooled, the folding can begin. Start with the shirt.

Button the top and bottom buttons of your shirt at the very least, then lay it out button-side down and flatten out creases. Place the folding guide at the top of the shirt, centered, underneath the collar. Fold one side over and fold the sleeve into the center. Repeat for the other side. Then, fold the bottom of the shirt up towards the collar, and fold the excess underneath. Place your folded shirt in the IAMRUNBOX. Do not remove the folding guide from the inside of the folded shirt. It works extremely well as a shirt/blouse/skirt stiffener!

Next, fold your pants in half, and then fold in half them once more. Place on top of shirt. Place any remaining undergarments, on top of your shirt and pants. If you have any accessories in the mesh bag, place that on top, as well. Then close the carrier.

Performance

Its semi-soft shell holds its form while inside the pack and, surprisingly, the clothing items remain in place after a long run without bunching up in the bottom. It does take up a lot of space, so it might be best to leave your shoes or other large items at the office.

I tested the IAMRUNBOX while run commuting in multiple packs for over a month. My clothes looked much better than they had while using the Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter. This is no doubt due to the shell on the IAMRUNBOX versus the thin, poly material of the Specter that constricts the clothing in order to hold it in place. With the IAMRUNBOX, clothing and garment carrier coexist peacefully without the crushing and smashing involved with other products and packing methods.

It’s nice to finally see a product that is made for run commuting! It may be heavier than some runners prefer, but if you want your clothes to come out looking good at work, use the IAMRUNBOX on your run commute.

Specifications

IAMRUNBOX

  • Weight: 15 oz. (425g)
  • Capacity: 2 shirts; 1 shirt and pants/skirt (plus undergarments and accessories)
  • Not suitable for carrying suit jackets, blazers, or shoes in addition to a basic set of work clothes.
  • Price: $47.00 (£30)

Size Comparisons

I thought it would be a good idea to show how the IAMRUNBOX looks next to some of the backpacks listed above. Here are a few:

* Disclosure: IAMRUNBOX provided us a free garment carrier for this review.

By | September 5th, 2015|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , |3 Comments

Review: Icebug Mist RB9X Shoes

A pair of shoes from a Swedish company named “Icebug” wouldn’t seem to be appropriate for running in the hot, humid summers of the American South, however, I was quite surprised – they’re pretty damned good.

Though you may not have seen anyone running in Icebugs lately, the company has been around for almost 15 years. They have only had a market presence in the United States for the past few years, however, and just recently opened a unique testing center in Shale Hill, Vermont where the public can try out the shoes at their on-site obstacle course.

I tried out a pair of their Mist RB9X shoes over the past couple of months. Here’s a summary of their performance for both running and run commuting.

Icebug Mist RB9X

Icebug Mist RB9X (US Size 10)

“We were frustrated by having to choose between slipping and saying [sic] no to outdoor activities because of the risk of slipping. The company started as a result of us wanting to be able to stay active year-round.”

– On the origin of Icebug shoes

Initial Wear and Run

The shoes fit great and are true to size. I love the off-center tongue loop and the cushiony feel of the tongue and collar. It makes for a very comfortable feeling around the ankles.

They’re slightly flexible. They initially feel quite stiff and you don’t really feel any cushioning underfoot.

The tread is amazing and makes Icebug shoes stand out from the competitiors. The crazy combination of rubber knobs, raised surfaces, little rounded buttons, and corrugations seem out of place on a road shoe, so I was a bit leery at first about how the Mists would run on streets.   

The upper is made of a tough, durable mesh. While you would expect a mesh upper to be breathable, the Mists seem to surpass that expectation. I had a fan on nearby when I first tried them on and you could feel the breeze pass through extremely well.The only shoe that I’ve worn with a similar breeziness were the Salomon Techamphibians, which – oddly enough – were the shoes I used for run commuting when I first started almost 7 years ago.

Quick Facts

5 mm Drop

9.4 oz. Weight

Rubber 9 Extreme Outsole

Minimal Cushioning (though listed as Medium)

One Color Option (Shell and Sapphire)

My test run – a 5.3-mile morning run commute through urban and suburban neighborhoods – went quite well. My initial thoughts after I finished:

  • The shoes are stiff, but feel fine on the run
  • Terrain grip is excellent
  • Feet did not get warm on hot day while running
  • Did not feel rocks or roots underfoot

To expand upon several of the points above, let’s take a closer look at the traction on the sole.

The tread pattern is grippy on flat, smooth surfaces and very functional on rough terrain. They worked extremely well in all conditions I tested. 

Extended Test Period – Road and Trail

After running over 60 miles in the shoes, I’ve found that the shoes pair best with a slightly padded sock, such as the Thorlo Experia or Trail Runner, rather than a thinner one like the Drymax Lite-Mesh sock. The stiff insole allows the foot to slide around inside a bit too much otherwise. Buying a half size smaller may solve the issue, though I prefer a looser fit in the midfoot and toe.

The shoes are solid performers in the city. You never know what kinds of conditions or terrain you will come across during a run commute, and, in my case, whatever those happened to be, the Mists handled them exceptionally well. Here are some of the surfaces and/or conditions that I encountered:

  • Wet and dry concrete
  • Wet and dry asphalt
  • Dirt trails
  • Stream crossings
  • Slightly muddy trails
  • Heavy-volume rainstorms
  • Gravel
  • Medium-sized stone paths (think railroad grades)
  • Dusty, pollen-covered, and wet steel road plates
  • Wooden footbridges

On my trail test runs, I took them through several stream crossings and was amazed at how well they both shed water and returned to their pre-submerged state. With some trail shoes, the cushioning and upper retain moisture for a long time, leaving you with wet feet and soggy, squishy, heavy steps for up to a mile-and-a-half afterwards.

These shoes would be ideal for obstacle course racing, where the terrain and surface conditions change frequently and you are constantly getting wet. Apparently, I was not the first to realize this – Icebug was just signed on as the official footwear sponsor of the 2015 Obstacle Course Racing World Championships.

Pros

  • Comfortable, airy upper
  • Durable construction
  • Rock-solid tread for any conditions
  • Drains water extremely well
  • Dries quickly
  • Great for road and trail

Cons

  • Little cushioning
  • Rubbed a little on longer runs (8+ miles)

Summary

For the run commuter, the Icebug Mists will treat you well overall. They’re a good, all-around run commuting shoe, in which one can easily switch from hopping paver stones along a sidewalk, to bombing down steep trails and plunging through streams on the detour in to your office. Best for up to mid-distance commutes (5 – 8 miles), and those accustomed to running in minimal shoes.

Icebug’s International Website

* Disclosure: Icebug provided us a pair of Mists for this review.

By | July 13th, 2015|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Ultimate Direction – Fastpack 20

Fastpack 20

Source: Ultimate Direction – Fastpack 20 (more…)

By | May 11th, 2015|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on Ultimate Direction – Fastpack 20

Review: Hoka One One Clifton

The Hoka One One Cliftons are a lot of shoe. When I first pulled one out of the box and turned it over in my hands, it almost felt like I was holding a football at the park, preparing to throw it. But, that look and feel is exactly what makes Hokas, well…Hokas.

Hoka One One emerged in 2010 and turned the tables on the minimal shoe craze that was raging strong with their head-turning “maximalist shoes,” designed to provide the foot with maximum protection against the ground underneath. Since they hit the market, runners wearing Hokas have consistently been performing very well at both trail and road races throughout the years. They’ve been doing especially well in the last two years in ultramarathons, worn by such notable racers as Sage Canaday, Karl Meltzer, Dave Mackey, Darcy Africa, and Jen Benna (who recently placed first female at the American River 50-miler whilewearing Cliftons!).

With all that in mind, Hokas seem like they would be a fantastic shoe for run commuters. We run consistently throughout the year over terrain that, while not usually woodsy trail, can be quite similarly irregular, jagged, rough, and variable. And, unlike a nice soft trail, our commutes are spent pounding bone-shaking pavement day after day, usually with an additional 8 – 10 pounds in our packs.

So, when Hoka One One sent me a pair of their latest model Cliftons to try out, I was pumped. Here’s how they performed for run commuting.

Hoka One One Clifton

The Hoka One One Cliftons (US Size 10)

Initial Wear and Walk

Since the drop in these shoes (5 mm) was a bit more than what I normally run in, I wanted to start off by wearing the Cliftons for a short one-mile walk.

The shoes fit snugly and were slightly tighter in the midfoot region, with more ample space in the toe box. The first few steps were surprising; it was like walking across couch cushions on my living room floor – springy, bouncy, comfortable.

The midfoot region pushed up into my arch at first, but relaxed after about a half mile.

The tread pattern is grippy on flat surfaces and very functional on rough terrain

Quick Facts

5 mm Drop

7.7 oz. Weight

24 – 29 mm Sole

Meta-Rocker Geometry

Six Color Options

The Clifton’s thick sole provides impressive protection and comfort

Things I Noticed on my Run Commute

  • When running, the shoes felt like they caught my foot as I landed, rocked it forward, and then pushed me off again. I’m not used to having such full foot movement, and it was cool to feel. 
  • Hills were the Clifton’s strong game. I felt like I had a distinct advantage, both in comfort and leverage, while running up and down hills. The Meta-Rocker geometry they tout actually works very well.
  • I felt almost nothing underfoot. It took a while to get used to, but the sole thickness provides a ridiculous amount of protection, allowing me to run over large broken rock, pushed-up sidewalk, and a litany of other rough surfaces without discomfort. 

Pros

  • Great for running up and down hills
  • I felt nothing underfoot, even while running over large broken rock
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Excellent tongue material
  • Excellent overall construction
  •  Minimized surface impact

Cons

  • May require an adjustment period if you were previously using a higher drop shoe

Summary

Overall, a great shoe with a unique design that feels like it gives the runner an advantage. A bit bulky at first, and may require a gradual build-up period, but it is worth it. The Cliftons are great on long runs and should have a long use-life (500+ miles?). Perfect for those looking for more foot protection in a shoe. Ideal for run commuters who regularly carry heavy loads.

* Disclosure: Hoka provided us a pair of Cliftons for this review.

By | April 19th, 2015|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

Review: Altra Torin 1.5, Superior 1.5, and Lone Peak 1.5 Minimal Shoes

Keen to try minimalist running? Interested in the latest biomechanical theories about how our bodies run? Want to get a sense of the range of contemporary running shoes that are out there and popular, but don’t want to blow the budget on a possible dud? Well, here’s how you can try out contemporary shoe ‘ideas’ without breaking the bank: it’s the eleventh hour for the old range of Altra shoes, with their 2013/2014 updates well and truly in the shops. But you may see the old range selling at bargain-basement prices at your local running store, and if you do, here’s a review that tells you why you should give them a try.

Altra Torin 1.5

Altra Torin 1.5

Available in several online stores including:

Altra Running

Amazon

Zappos

Campsaver

One of the best shoes for run commuters is the Altra Torin. Why? Because it combines ‘zero drop’ with major cushioning to protect your bones from the repetitive jarring of running on concrete and asphalt.

Many minimalist and barefoot shoes from the early years of the movement had very little rubber between your tootsies and the ground. This is not such a big deal if you always run on grass (though even then, the too-sudden substitution of conventional running shoes to FiveFingers etc. caused injuries in thousands of runners and the subsequent infamous lawsuit.) But when you’re running on pavements and roads all the time, ‘natural’ running can be a painful experience. Hence, the ‘second generation’ of ‘barefoot’ shoes, which some wag dubbed “maximalist shoes” – lots of cushioning, but not necessarily huge ‘heels’.

Quick Facts

23 mm Sole

Zero Drop

Wide Toebox

Uppers Keep Out Water

Cushioning

23mm stack height (cushioning/sole). Zero drop, meaning there is no height difference between the forefoot and the heel when your foot is in the shoe. The cushioning is superb. You feel like you’re running on top of it. The Torin are comparable to Brooks’ Pure Flows in ‘instant comfort’ factor, but happily (in my opinion) their underfoot cushioning feels somehow both more substantial as well as not as ‘marshmallowy’ as the pillows of the Pure Flows.

The Torin’s level of cushioning is protective for distances up to (and beyond, probably!) marathon distances on road. The cushioning in these babies is also very durable, seemingly unsquashable even after miles and miles of run commuting.

Shape and Fit

A wide toe box is the other ‘feature’ of all Altra shoes. The Torin and the Superior are two of the three reviewed here that have, in my view, genuinely ‘wide’ toe boxes. The (female) Torin model is wider than my Brooks Pure Flows men’s version, which are a ‘standard’ men’s D-width (as opposed to the women’s ‘standard’ B-width, which is narrower). The Torin is also ‘straighter’ across the toes than ‘normal’ running shoes, which reflects the wider toe box. On ‘normal’ shoes the toe box is curved more aggressively from the big-toe around the other toes and to meet the lateral edge of the shoe. The drastic curve of normal shoes is what causes the squashing of the toes together and prevents the natural splaying tendency of bare feet in motion. The toe box feels like it was custom-carved to gently cradle my toes and forefoot, with no pressure or squeezing at any point around the coastline of my foot. I’ve never had a blister from these shoes. This may be a happy miracle matching of my foot and the shoes, however. The shape may not be as perfect for everyone, even the wide-footers.

Shape and Fit of Sole 

The bottom ‘edges’ of the Torin—the edge and the back and front ends of the sole—seem to round jauntily upwards, for a turned-up feeling and a rolling of the foot forward when you land square on the middle of the shoe. This is a pleasant—even heady—sensation of swiftness. Turbo-charged in the Torin.

In regards to flexibility, I have read other reviews on the web that comment on the inflexible nature of the Torin. It is true that this shoe does not bend much in the middle when you try to squash the toes and heels of the upper together. Having high arches and normally landing on my forefoot, I personally need and prefer a highly-flexible shoe. However, the Torin seem to encourage me to land square on the midfoot, which feels like the most protective landing position on hard concrete, and it also means my foot doesn’t bend much. I’ve never had any problems with the flexibility of the Torin.

Styling

The confident black and beautiful aqua blue of this shoe is complimented by a dash of white on the edges of the sole rubber and in the Altra label. The female Torin also comes in a magenta, yellow and white colourway.

Summary

Fresh and strong. Cheeky, full of zest, but profoundly capable. Stubborn long-livers. A joy to wear as a daily run commuting shoe for the mean city streets of the modern metropolis.  

Possible Criticisms

If you have a ‘fat’ foot—by which I don’t mean that your foot has been hitting the pizza and ice cream, but that you have a high volume foot/high arches, etc. —you may find the laces too short. I have just such a bulky, well-muscled foot, and I can only just double-tie the bows in the laces.

The upper isn’t made from the softest material…. It’s a kind of rubbery material that is flexible, but I wouldn’t call it actually soft against the skin etc. I wouldn’t wear these without socks, for example. However, turning the negative into a positive (!), the rubbery uppers keep out rain and puddle-splash from wet roads extremely well in my experience.

Run Commuting Potential?

Maximum run commuting joy!

Altra Superior 1.5

Altra Superior 1.5

Available in several online stores including:

Altra Running

Amazon

Moosejaw

Nolashoes

These are the perfect shoe for run commuters who traverse sections of grass, trail, dirt track or road, rocks, fields, paddocks etc. as well as pavement and concrete on their way to work. The grip is definitely trail grip. It’s not going to stick you to the side of wet grass hills as you bomb down them at top speed, and you might experience the occasional slippage on wet rock. But I’ve worn these a lot on highly technical, steep and (dry) rocky single-track, and their grip performs really well. More than adequate for city parks on the way to work. They have the added benefit, unlike other trail shoes, of feeling like ‘normal’ road running shoes when you’re wearing them to run on road.

Like the Torins, the Superiors feature Altra’s wide toe box, zero drop, and enough cushioning to protect your tender footsies.

Quick Facts

18 mm Sole

Sizing Issues

Extremely Wide Toebox

Quickly Wear Out

Cushioning

They are light, very flexible, and initially have a pillowy cushioning that is soft but protective. However, the cushioning on these gets flattened very quickly, and feels like a racing flat after about 100 miles. (see the ‘pancake’ effect on the cushioning in the photo). In my opinion, the metaphorical and literal flexibility of the Superiors makes them worth the quicker wear-out time. Especially for that AU$60 sale price…

They do have a thin plastic ‘rock plate’ underneath the innersole, and they certainly guard against most pointy rock pain, but they don’t allow the same level of ‘ignoring what you’re treading on’ that you can get away with in the Lone Peaks.

Shape and Fit

The toe box is as generous as or even more so than the toe box on the Torins. The review in Trail Runner Magazine described them as “like running in comfy slippers”, which is spot on, though they are not as bulky as slippers!

Sizing

Problematic. I ordered them online without trying them on, and, following the advice of the website, ordered a full size larger than my normal running shoe size, only to be swimming in them with nearly two inches at the end of my toes. Swapped for my regular size, they are still pretty big, and for my next pair I’m ordering down at least half a size.

I think the problem with Altra sizing and the weird phenomenon of my need for a smaller size while many people on the internet report having had to size up, stems from the difference in people’s individual toe lengths. People with very long big toes or second toes need a size bigger than ‘normal’ in Altras, because the Altra toe boxes have the almost horizontal end shape. This means that any toe that is substantially longer than the others is going to be rammed against the end of the shoe. All of my toes are of an almost scaled decreasing size that forms a curve very similar to that of the horizontality and width of the Altra toe box (I hesitate to imply that my toes are perfect, but, well, they are!). Perhaps that’s why I love the Superiors so very very much.

Run Commuting Potential?

Absolutely…just take the alternative route to work along the river bank/through empty lots/across sports fields.

Altra Lone Peak 1.5

Altra Lone Peak 1.5

Limited availability online at:

Altra Running

Amazon

For run commuters who also run trails or those who are curious about beginning trail running, try the Altra Lone Peak 1.5s while they’re on sale.

If you don’t want to shell out the big bucks for the Lone Peak 2.0s, the 1.5s will give you a (cheap) sense of what it’s like to run in trail shoes capable of handling heavy-duty terrain.

Quick Facts

22 mm Sole

Superb Traction

Excellent Durability

Great Water Resistance

Sizing

I had the same issue with the Lone Peak 1.5s as I did with the Superiors, which I ordered half a size bigger (hedging my bets), but which I had to swap for size US9s. These still have ample room at the end of the toes even when I am wearing Injinji toe-socks, which fill the space out. In regular, thinner socks the size 9s are almost too big. So I don’t know what the hell is going on with Altra sizing, basically.

Shape and Fit

Toe box is not big enough! More craziness! Despite the wide toe box being a stated feature of Altra shoes, I find the women’s Lone Peak 1.5s not wide enough. Having got used to the Superiors and the Torins (and having previously worn through three pairs of FiveFingers) my toes like to go their own ways. So, for my second pair of Lone Peak 1.5s—purchased on sale for nearly 1/3 of the price they were on debut—I ordered the men’s model (size US7). The toe box is perfect, and the same width as the women’s Superior toe box. Happy days. For AU$60 you can afford to make an educated guess as to the sizing (after reading this review, of course!).

The Lone Peak 1.5s are much less flexible than the Superiors, but they have greater cushioning and a higher overall level of ‘hardiness’ than the Superiors. They also have deeper lugs (little claws on the sole) for better grip on the trails. In my experience the soles of the Lone Peak 1.5 are more effective in the wet than the soles of the Superior. The Lone Peak’s lugs are still not as grippy as the almost-gecko-like lugs of shoes like the Inov-8 Roc-lites, but then the Lone Peak soles are more protective. Only at the end of a six-hour trail run on hard rocky trail have I felt that I needed more shoe between me and the ground (though by then I felt like my feet never wanted to touch the ground again anyway, so it’s kind of irrelevant!)  One day I hope to run longer than six hours, maybe in the Lone Peak 2.0s, which apparently have even more cushioning. Now I just need to get a complimentary ‘review’ pair from Altra…

Run Commuting Potential

Only for lucky b*%$#rds whose run to work is mostly on trails. They last longer than the Superiors, and like the Superiors, the lugs aren’t really super evident when you’re running short distances on concrete.

Safety Note

For best results, combine the information in this review with Josh’s awesome article on his journey from (running shoe) stilettoes to (running shoe) ballet flats. Snap up a cheap pair of Altras and wear them once or twice a week instead of your existing shoes to transition safely to zero-drop shoes.   

By | April 13th, 2015|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , |0 Comments
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