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.
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
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 1/8” of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
* Disclosure: IAMRUNBOX provided us a free garment carrier for this review.
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.
5 mm Drop
9.4 oz. Weight
Rubber 9 Extreme Outsole
Minimal Cushioning (though listed as Medium)
One Color Option (Shell and Sapphire)
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
- 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.
- Comfortable, airy upper
- Durable construction
- Rock-solid tread for any conditions
- Drains water extremely well
- Dries quickly
- Great for road and trail
- Little cushioning
- Rubbed a little on longer runs (8+ miles)
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.
* Disclosure: Icebug provided us a pair of Mists for this review.
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
5 mm Drop
7.7 oz. Weight
24 – 29 mm Sole
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.
- 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
- May require an adjustment period if you were previously using a higher drop shoe
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.