The Great Unboxing – SKORA Shoes for the Run Commuters

Heads up runners and run commuters! 

The three of us here at TRC headquarters were given three different pairs of SKORA running shoes to review for you, so we will be testing them out over the next few weeks and posting a detailed, three-person review, so you will have all of the information you’ll need to make an informed decision before buying some for yourself.

Here were some of our initial thoughts after opening them up and briefly trying them out:

The cushioning was minimal and firm, but comfortable.

The Forms fit very well. The nearest comparable shoe-feel that I’ve experienced is the New Balance MR10’s.

Though I was given a size 11 of the red shoes (Phase), I can still comfortably fit into the size 10 black Form. SKORA says their shoes run true to size, but I think they run quite long. I did notice that the size 10 didn’t feel very wide, which is a trend with most minimal, zero drop shoes. 

The shoes fit my feet like well-protected socks. I didn’t notice any pressure points, most likely because they contoured/moulded to the foot so evenly.

Other than sizing differences, these fit well. My heel sits perfectly in the back and feels locked down, and the footbed is contoured almost perfectly to my foot. Interestingly, the removable insole has little bumps all over it. It struck me as of until I remembered reading a study where scientists found that small bumps on the insole of shows can help improve the wearer’s proprioception and balance. I wonder if that would affect people while running though.

The stitching and seams on the Forms are top-notch and appear very durable.

I love the asymmetrical lacing, it’s yet another aspect of these sites that gives a great fit.

The leather is soft and reminds me of some of the better soccer cleats I wore in my playing days, though I find it funny that those companies almost completely replaced real leather with faux leather years ago.

SKORA Forms

SKORA Forms

Hall with the SKORA Phase

Hall with the SKORA Phase

Kyle wearing the SKORA Base

Kyle wearing the SKORA Base

 

SKORA Form fresh out of the box

SKORA Form fresh out of the box

Kyle trying out the SKORA Base

Kyle trying out the SKORA Base

Speed-lacing with the SKORA Phase

Speed-lacing with the SKORA Phase

For more info, visit SKORA’s website or check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:44+00:00 October 18th, 2013|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , |3 Comments

Review: Osprey Manta 20

We here at TRC keep our eyes out for good run commuting packs, and have so far found the best ones are made by Osprey Packs or REI. With the exception of the Latloc E70 backpack, I’ve run exclusively with Osprey gear on my back over the last four years. I began with the now-discontinued Osprey Revo, and then moved on to the Stratos 24. I want to tell you about another great pack for run commuting – the Osprey Manta 20, and its female-specific counterpart, the Mira 18.

Osprey Manta 20

Osprey Manta 20

Review Model Details (Manta 20)

Carrying Capacity: 20L/1,220 cu. in.

Weight: 2 pounds/0.91 kg

Load Range: Up to 25 pounds

Color: Silt Gray

Release Year: 2012 (Note: the 2013 models have a few added features not listed below)

The Osprey Manta 20 shares many of the same great features as the Stratos 24: AirSpeed Suspension System; dual side compression straps; padded hip belt and shoulder straps; and built-in raincover; but it adds another feature that makes it a great multi-season run commuting rig.

It’s a hydration pack.

Gone are the days of the simple Camelbak. The Osprey Manta integrates a unique hydration bladder into a separate compartment of the pack which tucks it away securely and neatly, so it doesn’t get in the way of the rest of your contents.

The hose comes out of the top of the pack, curves around in front of your body, and attaches to the Manta’s sternum strap using a magnetic quick release system. The bladder itself has a rigid handle built its front it that makes handling and refilling a snap. Hands down, it’s the best hydration system I have ever used.            

During the hot, sweltering summer months down here in the south, adequate hydration during your morning and afternoon run commute is essential. Once the temperature hits 65 degrees, I usually carry a handheld water bottle (Nathan Quickdraw). When it climbs above 90 and 95 in the afternoon, I use two. But I like to have my hands free, so I prefer to carry water on my back and out of the way. There is plenty of space left over for your run commuting supplies, too.

My daily gear consists of a set of dress clothes (packed into the Eagle Creek Pack-It Folder 15), lunch, wallet, keys, IDs, and a few other odds and ends. With 1,220 cu. in. of space, everything fits, with some space leftover for a rain jacket or fleece. In the hip belt pockets, I keep my phone and bus pass. If I need to carry additional items at the end of the day, there is leftover space in the outside zippered pouches, or in the soft, stretchy front base pouch on which the Osprey Manta logo resides.

While I didn’t review the Mira, I definitely want all of the female run commuters to know about it! From Osprey’s site:

The Mira series is our versatile multi-sport hydration packs.The all-new Mira, with women’s specific fit, joins the Manta in a new line-up of volumes designed to span a wider range of hiking related activities. Highly ventilated and loaded with features, this series is unique in the world of hydration packs.

Product links for the complete Manta and Mira series are located at the bottom of this post.

Run Commuting Evaluation

I have logged over 200 miles of running with this pack so far, and honestly, I have nothing bad to say about it. So here are the things I like:

Strap Wranglers: There was always a lot of leftover strap once everything was cinched down on other packs (Osprey Stratos); I had to tie them together, tuck them, or roll and wrap them; the Manta, however, has added plastic buckles which secure the used and excess straps to each other, eliminating altogether the former danglers .

Adjustable Sternum Strap: Each side of the sternum strap is attached to a covered, five-inch-long bar that allows strap adjustment by sliding each side up or down. Sometimes, as you add layers, your pack fits differently, and this handy little feature helps maintain your comfort level no matter what you wear or carry.

Adjustable sternum strap with bite-valve magnet

Adjustable sternum strap with bite-valve magnet

Blinkie/Flasher Attachment: Something very simple, but useful. Stay visible!

AirSpeed Suspension System: The light wire frame and tight, mesh back panel together create a perfect bag-body connection, keeping you free from chafing and providing a space for air to flow freely in between you and the pack. I originally thought the mesh back panel would act similarly to a cheese grater on my back, but was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it is while running.

In summary, it can carry a decent amount of gear and water, comfortably and securely, from your home to your office and back. We even recently took it for a long run in the mountains, where it performed very well over 65 miles and 20 hours of use.

Also, just because it’s a hydration pack doesn’t mean you should cross it off your list for a potential run commuting pack. I only use the hydration bladder during extremely hot days, or for long endurance events. It is a fantastic pack with or without it!

Recommended for Run Commuting?

Yes! One of the greats, in my opinion.

Note: This backpack was purchased for use by the author.

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:44+00:00 June 18th, 2013|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , , , , , |12 Comments

Review: RIBZ Front Pack

We were recently asked if we wanted a free RIBZ Front Pack (coordinated by Deep Creek Public Relations) in consideration for review publication. While it’s normally promoted as a product for a wide variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing and kayaking, we decided to try it out and see how well it performed for run commuting.

We ran it through two different scenarios: run commuting with the front pack/backpack together, and one with the front pack alone. The results were photographed and video-recorded on separate days.

P1040037-600

Initial Inspection

Stored neatly in it’s own drawstring bag, the RIBZ Front Pack is made of lightweight nylon and overall construction is fairly minimal. It runs $59.99, comes in three colors, and two sizes (Regular and Small). Our review model was a Regular size in Alpine (Green).

The pack straps are thinly padded and narrow, with the ability to slide forwards and backwards freely from the middle of your shoulder blades to about the middle of your chest. The two main compartments are very roomy, with zippered pouches on the outside and mesh pockets on the inside. Both of these zip together in the middle with a large plastic zipper. The shoulder straps cinch down tightly, and a stretchable band behind the pack tightens down to fit it snug on your torso. It reminds me of my old LCE from my army days, in both form and function.

Test #1:  RIBZ Front Pack with Backpack

Gearing Up: After putting on the front pack and zipping it up, I strapped my Osprey Manta 20 to my back and cinched down all the straps. The waist strap had to be secured a little bit lower that usual, so that it fit underneath the front pack which covered most of my stomach. The chest and shoulder straps fit like normal, with the front pack’s thin shoulder straps lying directly underneath the Manta’s. It felt good as a complete unit.

Running:  I started out at an 8:30 pace and ran on the street, switching to sidewalk soon thereafter. Everything felt fine: I didn’t notice any spots that might chafe, my breathing wasn’t hindered, and it wasn’t uncomfortable on my torso. After about 20 minutes, I began noticing some small annoyances.

First, there was bounce. After the front pack started heating up and getting damp with sweat, the material became more broken in and flexible. The contents of one of my pouches began bouncing quite a bit. One item began hitting my side with each new step, and I could tell this would become a problem if left alone. I repacked the contents and it helped, but it didn’t eliminate bounce (see video below). A compression strap on each pouch would most likely take care of that problem.

Second, the RIBZ Front Pack’s shoulder straps drifted a lot. It wasn’t a major issue, but I had to readjust about every 5 minutes to keep them in check. I imagine hikers have this issue, too. A simple fix RIBZ could make would be adding small velcro straps to each shoulder strap; when a backpack was placed on top, they could wrap around and lock on to the straps, securing them as one unit.

The Front Pack covers a good portion of your torso, so keep that in mind if you are intending to use it during very hot summer days. I felt hotter than I normally do during my run commute in 60 degree weather. I imagine it would be pretty uncomfortable when it’s 90 with 85% humidity.

Overall, I liked it! Having access to items without taking my pack off was great; especially when I needed to get out the camera and tripod frequently. Distribution of weight was nice, too. I’m used to running with all of the weight on my back and it was refreshing to have some of that added to the front of my body. Wearing the Manta/RIBZ combination didn’t drastically alter my running form; however, as you can see in the video below, I had to run with my arms out a bit farther than normal. The change was noticeable enough to feel it in my shoulders afterwards.

Test #2:  RIBZ Front Pack by Itself

It was OK. The same issues from before were only worsened with the removal of the backpack. The straps drifted backward this time, as opposed to sideways. The bouncing — well, just check out the video below.

Storage was awesome: 700 cu. in. was plenty of space for my normal run commuting supplies. The ability to easily access things was fantastic. No chafing, but my running form did change quite a bit. It worked, but I wouldn’t do it everyday.

Recommended for Run Commuting?

Not unless you combine it with a backpack. Great for hiking or biking, though.

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:45+00:00 May 13th, 2013|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

Pack Comfort Evaluation: Extended Ultramarathon Edition

Though we use them nearly daily on roads, our run commute packs are all designed for trails, for hikers, through-hikers, fastpackers. One can see in our reviews how well they serve their purposes and meet our run commuting needs; however, perhaps readers still wonder about their comfort and ability during those 3-6 mile runs. How about 65 miles in varied temps, wind, and sun? We are now able to offer better perspective on said service, after humping these packs over several mountains, for 20 hours, during the inaugural Georgia Death Race.

www.georgiadeathrace.com

You will forever afterward see in this “professionally designed” race logo a man farting streams of flame. Not a wholly inaccurate take on the race’s pains.

Hall, Josh, and Kyle lit out from Atlanta with crew chief Laura on Friday, March 15, to tackle this course up in the north Georgia mountains. We had all run ultras before; however, this one would be twice as far as the 50Ks we’d done, with 30,000 feet of elevation change: it was no joke.

The race was first billed as 55 miles; then 60-ish; but it turned out to be closer to 65 miles, and temperature fluctuations between elevations (sometimes 20°F difference, with wind and shade) would make for an extremely challenging race. The race began at 4 a.m. Saturday, March 16, and was open for 28 hours, allowing everyone some chance to finish. We’ll get up a race report if you want it, but for now we want to offer insight as to the run commuting/ultramarathon connection.

One: up to 50 percent of our training miles came from running to work, or from it. The remainder came from long road runs, hill and stair training, shorter ultras, and mountain training weekends.

Two: racers had a mandatory gear list to carry during the race. Part of it was due to the backcountry requirements of Vogel State Park and the U.S. Forest Service; and the rest was deemed necessary in case of injury; or if you could no longer run/walk/hobble, and were too far from an aid station. Here’s the list:

Mandatory:

  • 1 Space blanket

  • 1 Thermal top

  • 1 Warm hat (beanie)

  • 1 Pair of warm gloves

  • 1 Waterproof jacket (poncho not acceptable)

  • 1 Whistle

  • 1 Map (provided)

  • 1 22 oz (or greater) capacity for water.

  • 1 Food ration

Recommended:

  • 1 Working cell phone

  • 1 Extra set of batteries for your head lamp

  • 1 Thermal bottom

GDR-Packs2

Off to the pre-race meeting the night before, and for mandatory gear check. L to R: Osprey Stratos 24 (Hall), Osprey Manta 20 (Josh), REI Stoke 19 (Kyle)

And, three, while a lot of ultramarathoners wear hydration packs, like the Nathan Endurance Race Vest, Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5, or the increasingly-popular UltrAspire Omega Hydration Vest, we would need to carry more than just water and gels for this race. But owing to our run commuting, we were already accustomed to running with full backpacks.

Would packs we use for run commuting perform well during this race? Here are our thoughts, in brief:

Tester:  Josh

Pack:  Osprey Manta 20

Comfort: None of the straps chafed at all.  I normally wear a short or long-sleeve compression shirt to reduce any possibility of chafing (usually underarms, or around my waist). With the Manta 20, however, the straps were adequately padded, positioned properly, and secured with non-irritating buckles, making it fantastic no matter what clothing was underneath. The weight of the pack was distributed very well, too.

Storage: With 17L (1,037 cu. in.) of internal storage, I had plenty of room for all the required gear, plus changes of socks and shirts, with additional space leftover. There are many outside pockets that are easily accessible as well, including dual waist strap pouches. These were perfect for gels, Clif bars, and other snacks. I could grab them on the fly, eat, and continue running without stopping.

Hydration: A unique 3L hydration bladder was standard on the S/M model.  This was more than enough to supply adequate hydration from one aid station to another.

User Notes: I love everything about this pack. In fact, I would choose this over my previous favorite, the Osprey Stratos 24. The hydration system features were ridiculously handy, the pack was super-comfortable, and I felt like if I were to changeover to another crazy sport – fastpacking, for instance – it would be a fantastic piece of gear for the job. I can’t say enough good things about the Manta 20. Seriously.

3:50 am - Race Day

3:50 am – Race Day

Tester:  Hall

Pack: Osprey Stratos 24

Comfort: Starting at 2lbs without any gear, or even a hydration bladder, this backpack was surprisingly comfortable over the 44 miles I covered before my eventual exit from the race (see Editor’s Note below). Due to a former injury, a broken collar bone to be exact, I am always wary of carrying anything on my shoulders for long periods of time. Especially with standard backpack straps. But the Osprey Stratos 24’s numerous options for cinching down the straps prevented any irritation. The large amount of straps and different ways to secure the gear and prevent any shifting or unnecessary movement helped keep it quiet as well. Once the temperatures warmed up and the sun rose above the North Georgia mountains, the stretched mesh back panel allowed my back to breathe.

Storage: At times I lost track of where certain items were in my pack due to the plethora of harness pockets, hipbelt pockets, and other compartments. It’s a good problem to have, and though I ended up having to wash out some of them due to carrying used gel packets, I was glad to be able to have most of what I needed constantly accessible.

Hydration: My Osprey Hydraulics 2 Liter Reservoir was a great purchase. The handle and rigid structure didn’t add much weight, but certainly made it a lot easier to fill at aid stations and even at home under the sink.

Editor’s Note: Hall neglected to mention that his reason for exiting the race at mile 44 was that his tendons were about to ‘splode. This is for real. He’d just finished a course of antibiotics, amongst the serious warnings for which was listed severe likelihood of tendons rupturing from exercise and strain. But from mile 44, without missing a beat or dropping a smile, Hall became crew lieutenant, and we were joyed to see him with Laura at the final crew station, and again at the finish! –KT

Twenty-five miles into the race, over the Duncan Ridge Trail, and onto Forest Service roads. Photo: Hall's mom

Twenty-five miles into the race, over the Duncan Ridge Trail, and onto Forest Service roads. The mountains we scaled and descended paled compared to Kyle’s forehead. Photo: Hall’s mom

Tester:  Kyle

Pack:  REI Stoke 19

Comfort: As mentioned in my previous review, the Stoke 19 lacks any kind of ventilation for your back. Lack of air flow yields plenty of sweat, and mid-race my shorts had an inch-wide salt band; however, my pack remained wonderfully cushy, and all the straps are wide and plush, so nothing cuts or saws into your torso. From the chilly morning to the mid-day roasting sun, I experienced no discomfort. I had one small chafe spot when I took stock of my ravaged body the next day: the right shoulder strap rubbed my collar bone, but that almost certainly owes to said clavicle’s odd shape.

Storage: So many pockets, filled with GUs, Clif bars, at one point an entire sweet potato. There was ample room for my required gear (and a safety whistle is built into the chest strap) and leftover space for fuel, though never did anything feel unsecured: all remained perfectly in place. The race offered a $100 bonus to whomever brought in the most trash from the trail; we retrieved multiple wrappers, spent GU packets, some beer cans, and more, and mashed them all into my pack’s side pockets. (The bonus went to a guy who dropped off at an aid station a 12-pack box he stuffed with garbage, and a freaking car tire, with which he’d run two miles — while then in third place: well-earned.)

Hydration: I’ve been using a Camelbak Omega 100oz. bladder for years now. By about mile 20, the hook by which it is secured at its top had twisted off, but, like I said: years old, so some failure is to be expected. It stayed put despite this. It was difficult getting the full bladder back into the Stoke 19 with all my gear inside. Often, I would have to pull it all out, slide the bladder back in place, then replace my gear inside.

User Notes: The Stoke 19’s biggest drawback was the difficulty replacing the bladder, and subsequently the time necessary to do so. Speaking with someone before the race about her Ultimate Direction SJ Race Vest, which in lieu of a bladder touts twin 22-ounce bottles, holstered on the shoulder straps. It was, she said, “the difference between a 30-second aid station stop and three minutes.” That was a prescient statement, I came to find. But the Stoke 19 allows you to maintain a higher center of gravity. Look again at the photo of the three of us above: note that mine (on the right) rides much higher and tighter than do Josh’s or Hall’s. That was on the trail, as it is on my run commute, an asset.

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:45+00:00 April 29th, 2013|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Review: Eagle Creek Pack-It Folder 15

We each have our own little tricks for getting our clothes to the office in the best condition possible.  Considering all the jostling your pack can do while run commuting, what goes in looking nice one minute, can come out looking terrible the next.

Kyle is a an iron-and-roller.  Hall rolls-and-stows.  I am an iron-and-folder.  All those techniques work for us in our respective jobs, but sometimes, no matter how well they’re packed, your clothes might come out a little wrinkly, wonky, or looking like you just pulled them out of the dirty clothes pile before you put them on.

Enter the Eagle Creek Pack-It Folder 15

Packit - Main pic

Closed and empty.

Eagle Creek makes fantastic travel gear. They have a unique four-step system that shows how best to pack for a trip and, of course, which of their products will be most useful for each step. The Pack-It Folder is part of their “packing solutions” category, and most useful to us as run commuters.

Construction is simple, consisting of 300-D poly weave materials, velcro closures, mesh, and a handle. There are five color options available, from black to red to zebra print.

Packit - Open

When open. Hmm. Looks familiar…

I knew I'd seen this somewhere before!

I knew I’d seen it somewhere before!

This is a very simple and reasonable solution to keep your clothes wrinkle-free while transporting them in your pack (the Pack-It 15 – not the manta…)

Packit - Instructions

That plastic card that you see inside the Pack-It doubles as folding instructions and a bag/clothing stiffener.  The easy-to-follow guide makes your clothes look like they just came off the shelf at the Gap.

Saturday Night Live – when it was good. (David Spade, Adam Sandler, and Chris Farley as SNL’s “Gap Girls”)

You fold your shirt(s), fold your pants, add your underthings and socks, and then compress it altogether into a neat, little package that’s ready to slip into your run commuting pack. If you want to take two days worth of clothing, the Pack-It Folder 15 can handle that, too (holds up to 7 items).

A one-day supply of clothing: Pants, dress shirt, undershirt, underthings, and socks.

A one-day supply of clothing: Pants, dress shirt, undershirt, underthings, and socks.

The Pack-It folder 15 inside the Osprey Manta 20.

The Pack-It folder 15 inside the Osprey Manta 20.

It worked amazingly well!  My clothes were ready to go when I arrived and looked like they just came off the shelf.

The only thing I would have done differently is used a larger pack, like the Osprey Manta 25.  It was a bit tough to fit my lunch inside on top of the Folder, but I do make a big lunch, so maybe it’s just me.

Thankfully, I keep my shoes at work, so those didn’t have to go in my pack on top of everything else (but a coworker recently saw my shoe collection, which I keep on a bookshelf, and stared at it admiringly?, saying she was going to come back and take a picture.  Is there an office equivalent of a cat lady?  That’s probably me.)

Recommended for run commuting?

Hell, yes.

Specs

Sizes:  15, 18, and 20

Dimensions: 

Warranty:

  • Lifetime – Defects in workmanship and materials.

  • 5-Year – Functional damage.

Colors:

  • Aqua/Lime

  • Black

  • Pacific Blue

  • Torch Red

  • Zambia

Special thanks to Patrick H. and Soog for suggesting these cool pieces of gear!

Note: This gear was purchased for use by the author.

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:45+00:00 April 25th, 2013|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , |3 Comments

Noisy Backpacks

Do you mind the sound of keys jingling?  No?  I bet you would after you heard them make that noise over 5,000 times in 45 minutes.  That’s how many times the loose keys in your backpack could make noise on a 45-minute run to work.  How’s that for some early morning ear candy?

Well, fellow run commuters, we’re going to show you how to silence your commute.  No more key jingle.  No more water sloshing.  No more tink-tink-tink sounds from your zippers – just a nice, quiet pack for your run to work.  Let’s tackle them in the order of annoyance:

Top Noise Makers

  1. Keys
  2. Belt Buckles
  3. Zippers
  4. Hydration Bladder/Liquid
  5. Loose Items/Food

Solutions

 

1.  Keys

I have a lot of locks to open, so I have a lot of keys on my key ring.  And, key ring cards.  And, doodads.  All of those together make for a baseball-sized bundle of noise.  I’ve found that there are two ways to effectively silence keys.

Camera Case

I had one of these lying around unused, so I tried it out one day and found it worked very well.  As a bonus, it has a small zippered pouch that my metal watch fits into nicely.  You can easily find one that will fit your keys, no matter what size they may be. Simply go to a camera case display at any store and try it out with your own keys to find the best fit.

Key SilencerRubber Band

For the especially frugal or minimalist run commuter, you can use a rubber band.  The one pictured here was holding some store-bought vegetables together (either asparagus or broccoli).  It’s wide, short and durable, making it an ideal combination to bind your keys together.

 

Belt Buckle Silencer2.  Belt Buckles

There is one particular type of buckle that will annoy the crap out of you when you’re running – the web belt buckle.  There is a little metal bar inside the metal buckle that will bounce around clanging and jingling, almost like the sound coins in a cup make.  For this solution, we turn to our old friend rubber band.

Once again, it does the trick.  Just be certain to pin the metal bar down under the rubber band or it won’t work.  You can also secure the entire belt by wrapping part of the rubber band around the coiled belt and buckle.

3.  Zippers

These pics should be self-explanatory.  There are probably a few more techniques I missed, but these are the main ones (and pretty simple and low-cost.)

 

Add a Zipper Pull

Use Some String/Cord

String Monkey Fist

Tie whatever works – just remember to burn the ends of the string so the ends don’t come unraveled.

Wrap Them With Tape

Tape Zipper

I used easy-to-remove painter’s tape here, because, hey – you might want to hear that noise again and don’t want to hassle with a difficult removal. (Note: the blue tape was used for the pic – choice tape is electrical or the king of tapes…DUCT TAPE.)

4.  Hydration Bladders

This one is pretty simple.  Turn the bladder upside down and suck out all of the air.

5.  Loose Food/Items

This one is sort of simple, too.  The key is to eliminate the empty space.

Loose Food

Loose Items

The first thing you can do is to ensure that the items in your pack are arranged properly.  One of our favorite companies, Osprey, created a handy graphic that shows you how to pack items based on weight.

Osprey Packs - "How to Pack Your Pack" http://www.ospreypacks.com/en/web/how_to_pack_your_pack

Osprey Packs – “How to Pack Your Pack”

When run commuting, however, we don’t always run with a full load.  So no matter how well you arrange things inside, there may still be plenty of empty space for things to bounce around.  That’s why we recommend a pack with compression straps:

Stratos Compression Straps

Top and Bottom Compression Straps

Compression straps allow you to change the size of your pack by squeezing the outside layer of material closer to your back, which in turn pulls items inside together tightly.  No more bounce!

———

Hopefully you found some of these tips useful.  If you have any other suggestions, let us know!

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:46+00:00 March 4th, 2013|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |4 Comments

Review: LatLock E70 Running Backpack

LatLock-Front-on-Ground-2Specs

Make: LatLock
Model: E70
Available Colors: Black/Yellow, Black/Blue, Black/Pink, Black/Green
Sizes: One size fits all
Volume: 1428 cu. in.
Maximum Load: 40 pounds
Year Manufactured: 2011
MSRP: $62.95
Website:

1 – Shoulder Straps. 2 – LatLock Strap. 3 – Upper Chest Strap.

While similar to the old version of the U.S. Army’s Assault Pack, the LatLock has a very unique set of straps that do a great job of keeping your load from bouncing. First, lets look at the shoulder straps.

Unlike shoulder straps on most backpacks, the LatLock’s straps are short, with the bottom of the strap attached higher up than usual.  This, by itself, considerably minimizes the amount of vertical movement that occurs while running.  The strap wraps around the shoulder under the armpit and can be cinched down tightly on even the skinniest runner.

The second strap is the LatLock strap.  This strap secures the pack firmly to your back and reduces side-to-side movement.  Where traditional packs have a waist strap, that buckles and cinch just below your bellybutton, the LatLock’s padded strap tightens around the upper torso.

 

The LatLock on the Official Run Commuter Headless Mannequin, Josh

The third strap is the Upper Chest Strap and is used to completely meld the LatLock to your body.  It tends to ride up a bit high; sometimes making contact with your neck.  I normally run without using this strap at all.  However, if carrying larger loads, it would probably help take some strain off your shoulders.

The bag’s square construction allows for a varied arrangements of typical, or atypical, items to carry: shoes; slacks; lunches; tomahawks; video games; bags of lettuce; or whatever. You are able to place them where you want, how you want, rather than work within the tapered confines of other packs suitable to run commuting or fastpacking.

The multi-directional compression straps on the outside of the pack are a nice touch. Kind of like making a hobo bindle: arrange your things how you want, tighten it up, make everything nice and snug from the sides and above, and it will stay put.

Running Feel

The pack runs fairly well.  Overall body movement is less constricted than running with frame packs like the Osprey Stratos 24, therefore allowing you to run faster with the same amount of payload.  It keeps gear high on your back, while nearly eliminating all bouncing.  Items packed inside the bag are very secure.

The tightness of the straps tends to push ones arms out to the sides more than normal, giving you a similar style of running to downhill trails, where your arms are more outstretched to maintain balance.  On two of our reviewers, the shoulder straps chafed enough for them to stop using it within a mile or so.

Pros

  • No bouncing.

  • No waist strap = no lower back or hip chafing.

  • Compression straps do an excellent job of securing gear inside pack.

  • Padded laptop sleeve.

Cons

  • Underarm chafing.  All three reviewers had issues with underarm chafing.

  • Zippers will open if zipped close at the top of the pack (we recommend zipping both down one side).  Also, adding pulls would help with access.

Recommended

Yes and No.  One reviewer thought this was an amazing pack while the others did not like it.  It has to be adjusted just right in order to prevent a chafe-free run and it does take some getting used to.  To adjust it properly, follow the instructions listed on LatLock’s website.

Changes in the next generation pack (available soon)

  1. Front pockets or holders for cell phone, wallet, keys, ipod, MP3 player, water bottles.

  2. Bigger, more rugged zipper.

  3. Zipper Design Change, Easier to get into pack and not have to completely un-zip to get to contents in the lowest area of the Pack.

  4. Added External Sleeve for hydration bladder.

  5. Added Internal Sleeve for papers, so you can place loose paper in the bag and not crumple it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: We received a LatLock E70  for free from LatLock, LLC in consideration for review publication.

By | 2017-02-16T10:34:47+00:00 December 12th, 2012|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , |7 Comments

Review: REI Stoke 19 Backpack

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The transition from runner to run commuter mandates a method of transport, and so, a bag of some kind becomes necessary, be it a cloth drawstring bag the likes of which are given out at job fairs and to elementary schoolers; your mom’s old fanny pack or your dad’s new fanny pack; or, for me, the REI Stoke 19. In my two years with the Stoke 19, I have used it on a near-daily basis, and battered it with various injuries, including rain, sleet, hail, dark of night, sweat and its corrosive salt, the stink of unwashed wool, and hemorrhaging strawberries. It has withstood and served, and continues to endure, under all stresses, remains comfortable, and retains the quality with which it was originally imbued.

BASICS
The Stoke 19 is a frameless daypack made of ripstop nylon, prices around $80, weighs in at a meager 1 lb. 4 oz., and has a 19-liter cargo capacity. Mine is the 2010 model. As such, I have two years’ perspective on it; however, I have inspected the 2012 models and they are compatible, with a few minor upgrades to the latter. The panel-loading pack features one main interior pocket, with two internal sleeves along the sides; a rear mesh pocket; a rear zippered pocket, with two interior mesh sleeves and a key clip; two exterior mesh pockets along the pack’s sides; and two zippered waist strap pockets. Consequently, I never want to type the word “pocket” again, yet I will sally forth for you, as there is one more: a zippered compartment on the pack’s backing, which accommodates a 70-ounce hydration bladder.
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COMFORT
The Stoke 19 has a soft, waffled backing, which rests comfortably on the back, but also prohibits two things: air flow, and sweat drainage. Often in my endeavors, I have bagged my interior goods because I know that the bag will soak a great deal of sweat on my commute, particularly in summer. This, for me, is inevitable, as I am a profuse sweater. Yet I am able to say the ripstop nylon dries quickly: after running to work, it is dry within a few hours, and quicker still if I have my fan trained on it. Still, some might favor a pack with an airflow system, like the comparable Osprey Talon. The Stoke 19’s shoulder and waist straps are ventilated and padded, respectively, and several inches wide. I have yet to experience any chafing, pinching, or cutting.

FIT
The Stoke 19 sits high and tight on my back, its bottom nesting near the small of my back: I like this. It keeps my center of gravity from dropping too low, particularly when running with a full sack. It features two horizontal straps: a chest strap (with safety whistle, help, help!) with a minor elastic band, to accommodate jouncing on runs and hikes; and a thicker, middle-buckling waist strap. The chest strap is adjustable, sliding vertically on a six-inch curve. I prefer mine toward the middle of that curve, but I find my left slider has difficulty staying put. It often slides up, requiring frequent adjustment on the go. The waist strap’s pockets have come in handy for carting gels, Clif bars, keys, ID, pepper spray, a fistful of pecans found during a run, and other sundry flotsam; however, I find I need to cinch them very tightly.

The Stoke 19 might fit a bit loosely for thin folks. At 6’4″ and 170 pounds, I need to pull the chest strap fully tight, and the hip straps nearly so, otherwise it fits loosely and bounces around, a sensation I detest. This fit improves with the amount of cargo you stuff in the bag, as the ends of the shoulder straps pull not from the rear, but the front. This is important, as it helps compress your cargo and secure it.
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CARGO
I might carry on a typical day: my lunch box; pants; socks; underpants; undershirt; work shirt; belt; wallet; small notebook; phone; keys; and perhaps a Clif bar. But most days also see the inclusion of any of these things: a book, parcels of mail, a sweet potato, a second pair of shoes; yet I have also transported: a tomahawk; a Kindle; a stack of CDs; a thermos of coffee; and a four-pound flat of strawberries. This last was more good intent than good idea, as the motion of my running mashed the strawberries and bled them into the bag’s bottom. (Side note on DURABILITY: it washes clean of strawberry muck, and the stink of salt and wool.) I have been surprised by how much I am able to fit inside this bag, and have only once been unable to accommodate all my items (on that occasion, I ran with another bundle tucked under my arm).

SUMMARY
The Stoke 19 has more than amply met my needs for running to work; long training runs; trail runs; hiking; and cycling. It does not look large — in fact, smaller than most school kids’ backpacks — yet its capacity has surprised me, as has its durability. It washes clean of grime, sweat, and salt (and fruit) stains without problems. It sits tight and high, though this negates air flow, resulting in a snug, albeit sweaty, fit. As a bonus: REI Members are able to exchange it if not completely satisfied. If they endeavor to abuse REI’s extremely liberal returns policy, it’s probably possible to exchange it after two years’ use.

Note: This backpack was purchased for use by the author.

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:47+00:00 November 30th, 2012|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , |2 Comments

Review: New Balance 730 Shoes

I have been using New Balance MR10’s over the last year and love them.  However, there is one thing I don’t like about them – how fast the sole wears out.  A New Balance employee at my local store told me that they should be replaced after 250 miles.  I was already at 450, the heels and soles were worn down, and my toes and feet were starting to really feel the ground.  250 sounds like the right replacement mileage, but running 1000+ miles a year would require me to buy 4 or more pairs of these per year at $100 a pop.  So, I was excited to hear about the thicker sole and similar style of the New Balance 730’s  and ordered a pair from Running Warehouse to try out.

The New Balance 730’s are the perfect mix of minimal shoe:  They’re light, breathable, roomy, durable, inexpensive, have more cushioning than a traditional minimal, and have a small heel-toe drop.  Here’s how they ran:

Initial Run (4.75 miles)

– Firm, stiff soles.  They became comfortably flexible after 2 miles into my run.

– Lightweight.  7.3 oz.

– Breathable.  I could feel wind blowing through the shoe.

– Ample toebox.  I could easily splay my toes and still not touch either side.

– My calves were sore after the initial run.  With just a slight change in heel-toe drop – from 4mm in the New Balance MR10’s to the 3mm drop of the 730’s – I could feel the difference afterwards.  That’s why we recommend a slow transition from traditional to minimal shoes.  No one wants to suffer an unnecessary injury that will keep you from running…

Adjustment Phase (2 Days)

Due to the calf stiffness I was experiencing, I decided to wear the shoes around for a couple of days so my legs could get used to them while walking.  This worked surprisingly well and I was soon ready to crank out some more running miles.

Additional Mileage (16.25 miles)

– Soles are solid (though flexible) – not a lot of shock absorption.

– Tongue drifts to the sides under the laces.  There is no lace guide on the tongue, which would help to hold it in place.

– A lot of ground feel.  I tried them out on some small-medium gravel and you can definitely feel it on your feet.  I was also surprised I could feel the smooth, rounded edges of paver stones on the sidewalk.

No lace guide on tongue…

…leads to some drifting after a few miles


So, should you buy them?

Yes – but only if you are already comfortable with a minimal heel-toe drop, or you have some time to get used to them in training.  They’re ridiculously inexpensive compared to similar shoes of it’s kind (as low as $50 a pair!) and you’ll get a fair amount more mileage out of them, too.

Note: These shoes were purchased for use by the author.

 

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:47+00:00 November 30th, 2012|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

Cleaning Your Running Clothes and Gear

Start run commuting on a regular basis and you’ll quickly learn two things about your clothing: 1) You don’t have enough; or 2) You’re doing laundry every other night. If you don’t have the money to sink into multiple sets of running clothes, then hopefully you are doing your laundry in a way that extends the life of the fabric to the maximum extent. In this brief post, I’ll show you how to take care of your technical fabrics and equipment.

Fabric Types

If you’ve been running races over the past 10 years, you will have likely noticed an overwhelming trend in race shirts moving away from cotton to technical fabrics. Pre-2005, cotton was king. Now, I would say about 90% of the races I’ve run over the past few years have all given out tech shirts at the finish line. Why the switch?

Technical fabrics have several advantages over cotton – They are more breathable, more durable, dry faster, and, in most cases, fight bacteria and odor much better. I say most cases because I have found that this type of gear becomes particularly stinky after running during rainstorms in the city.  They take on a new level of funk of which George Clinton would be proud.

Wool is another cotton-alternative that runners, like TRC’s own Kyle T., swear by (and at sometimes). Wool has similar advantages as technical fabrics and, when surveyed recently, 9 out of 10 sheep preferred it over cotton.  So there you have it…

Cotton has been around for a long time. A lot of runners simply prefer the feel of cotton over anything else. The main thing I dislike about cotton is that it gets heavy when wet. Also, it has a higher chafe factor.

Note: The methods described below are what I have been using for years and generally accepted for use on technical clothing. Be sure to check your tags first to make sure you are doing the right thing. I don’t want to be responsible for ruining your new ultra-breathable, eco-friendly shirt made from the fur of 1,000 Peruvian hamsters (sustainably harvested, no doubt). (more…)

By | 2016-12-24T10:24:19+00:00 February 17th, 2012|Categories: Gear, How To|Tags: , , , , |7 Comments
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