Run Commuting Story Roundup – April 2017

It’s the end of April and it is time for another edition of the Run Commuting Story Roundup! There seems to have been an increase in articles about lately, and while it’s probably tied to warmer temperatures (people more likely to run) we like to think it’s because run commuting is becoming more popular.

If you have written a post about run commuting on your blog, or have read a news article or post about run commuting that you want us to know about, send us an email and it may show up in a future Run Commuting Story Roundup.

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Review: Alpine Dam’s “The Shoreline” Trucker Hat

If a Goldilocks exists in my modest collection of running caps, it is Alpine Dam’s Shoreline model. The sweet spot especially is its brim.

That is no small praise. There is a glut of trucker caps proffered to the running community these days. They have grown increasingly popular since Anton Krupicka wore a trucker cap in his Leadville 100 victory. They espouse, perhaps embody, the simplicity and care-free attitude self-proclaimed dirtbag runners seek to claim – yet that counter culture cap, once de novo, has become de rigueur.

Salt-crusted hats are where it’s at.

Short of blocking sun, containing hair, or concealing a bald spot, choice of such caps really comes down to brand. They are, like bread, permutations of only a few ingredients assembled in different manners and amounts.

I have several, some of which were race takeaways, others I’ve purchased since my wife encouraged me to wear sun protection during Atlanta’s immolating summers. The reasons that have led to my abandoning some are precisely why I have grown enamored of Alpine Dam’s cap in the several weeks since they provided it for review. My disdain and disappointment in most are enumerated thus:

  1. Brim too long

  2. Dome too high

  3. Material destroyed by my incessant and salt-heavy sweat

There is a little room in the Shoreline’s crown, so air can move through and hair isn’t plastered to my scalp, yet not so tall that it looks absurd. Same with the brim: not a stub, as on bicycle caps (Krupicka’s current favorite, by the way), nor so long that it juts above your vision like the Star Destroyer in Star Wars’ opening scene, or that you feel you’re wearing a Goofy cap from Disney World. Even Beyonce looks a fool in a Goofy hat. You want to look good on your commute: you want to feel you look good, too.

The hat also wears well for hard-style poses amongst a trucker’s wasteland.

Here’s what really sealed it for me about the Shoreline: those long brims also obscure headlamp beams. That is important when you are run commuting in early or late hours, or running ultra distances. One shadow is enough to grab a toe and send you sprawling, leaving your flank scraped by Supermanning down a sidewalk, or your sternum marred by trail Braille.

The Shoreline cap is royal blue, with a mesh back and a foam front panel, sporting a flashy sherbet-hued logo: big, bold, and satisfying, like a glimpse of Atari, and absent the glaring day-glo safety colors so prevalent in active wear of late. So the cap is attractive, if unobtrusive.

You’ll notice it is choked with salt. As The Run Commuter founder (and my best friend) Josh can with a sneer of revulsion attest, my sweat is so salty that it appears I’ve been laboring the live-long day in the mines of Syracuse, New York, rather than enjoying an eight-mile run. It has honestly ruined cotton caps by destroying and warping the fabric. So far, the Shoreline’s foam has stood firm and shown no discoloration.

The logo is reminiscent of a mountain elevation profile, and wondered whether it was that of Mt. Tamalpais, located near Alpine Dam HQ in Marin County, California. Company founder Adam Melenkivitz clarified it is intended as the former (his daughter chimed it looked like their maps), and not actually Mt. Tamalpais. Rather, something with which anyone familiar with such profiles could identify.

He continued, “Specifically, the sharp end of the logo is how I imagined the climb from the Alpine Dam years ago … well prior to Strava. I always saw this as a winding, sharp climb in my mind. At the time, I had to work up to this ride, so ‘Alpine Dam’ was big goal for me. Alpine Dam for me wasn’t just the dam, or lake and the trails, but the entire experience of the loop.”

That’s a noble goal. It appeals to me, as certainly it will to others. It’s my Thunder Rock, or someone’s Iron Man, or another’s 15K. It might be your run commute.

The one detriment I’d note in the cap again comes back to sweat. Alpine Dam sent two models: the Shoreline, which I tested, and the BoFax, which my wife claimed. Hilary commented that she would like an integrated sweat-wicking band inside the BoFax. Neither model carried one, but it wasn’t much of an issue to me. The Shoreline did just fine, drawing sweat up into the cap’s body and brim.

One last thing I appreciate about the brand, which might be a deciding factor to some, is that Melenkivitz in his correspondence, and in Alpine Dam’s media, consistently references his kids. They are heavily involved in the products – selecting logo colors; doodling mountains on the patio; reviewing design ideas. Alpine Dam offers a few kids’ models, too. So though dirtbag runners seem to lean toward lone wolf branding, Alpine Dam might position itself across a variety of pursuits and social activities, as well as with active families.

That’s a rich market, neither too big, nor too small: just right.

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To see more of Alpine Dam’s products (currently with a 30% off code on the homepage!) visit their website.

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Disclaimer

Alpine Dam provided us with the trucker hats for review, however this did not influence my opinion regarding this product. The thoughts and pictures contained in this review are my own.

The New Run Commuters – March 2017

Runner’s World magazine (Oct 2016) recently gave Seattle the silver medal for number 2 best running city in America (behind San Fran). Aaron Mercer, our runcommuter for this month, is a Seattle resident who uses his runcommuting to make the most of what the city has to offer. He braves the state’s rainy, wet conditions to runcommute almost every day. Aaron is helping his work colleagues stay healthy, too.

A scientist at Novo Nordisk, Aaron is also the Wellness Committee chair and promotes running to other employees. Aaron says he enjoys exploring his city on his runcommutes. He manages to incorporate cafe-testing into these runs as well, taking advantage of Seattle’s abundance of coffee joints. An excellent idea for all runcommuters: the combination of running and coffee is a classic, and what better way to start (or end) the day…especially when it’s raining!

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Runner Basics

  • Name: Aaron Mercer

  • Age: 33

  • City/State: Seattle, WA

  • Profession/Employer: Research Scientist, Novo Nordisk

  • Number of years running: 17

  • Number of races you participate in a year: 4

  • Do you prefer road or trail? Trail, but I have learned to love the road again with all of my run commuting.

 

Run Commuting Gear

  • Backpack: Formerly an Osprey Manta AG 28, but I recently made the switch to the IAMRUNBOX Pro.

  • Shoes: Anything around 7 – 8 oz in weight from Brooks or Saucony. Their shoes fit my narrow feet better than most companies’.

  • Clothing: A mix of tech shirts and shorts, as well as race shirts. I never match, because run commuting is about form over fashion!

  • Outerwear: I have a few running jackets from Brooks, but I typically layer a short sleeve and long sleeve tech shirt because winters are pretty mild in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Headgear: I typically don’t wear a hat but I will wear sunglasses in the warm/sunny months.

  • Lights: Black Diamond Sprinter. It has good lumens for the dark and drizzly evening commutes in Seattle.

  • Hydration: I’ll hold a water bottle if I bring anything at all. I tend to only bring extra hydration for runs longer than 10 miles (16km), or when the temperatures get too warm outside (above 75F).

 

Aaron Mercer

Aaron’s runcommuting route.

Beer Run!! Aaron and his friend Pete ran 10 miles between 5 breweries. Did they follow it with a coffee run?

Aaron’s runcommute pack, in his home’s appropriately white, scandi interior. 

On Run Commuting

Why did you decide to start run commuting?

Evening traffic in Seattle can be atrociously slow, and my run commute many days is as fast or faster than most forms of transport. My office is next to Amazon’s ever-expanding campus in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, so traffic is almost always a grind. Runcommuting also gives me a chance to get in miles without cutting into my family time outside of work.

How often do you run commute?

2-4 days per week after work, but even on my “non-running” days I add in 2 miles of running between the most efficient bus lines to get home [editor’s note: we consider any combo of running+vehicular transport to be runcommuting! So, Aaron runcommutes more than he admits ;-)]

How far is your commute?

10.5 miles (16km) for the full run, and around 2 miles if I mix in bus commuting.

Do you pack or buy a lunch?

Either, depending on what leftovers I have at home, and how much volume I have available in my backpack. My go-to spot for eating out is a Vietnamese food truck called Xplosive that seems to live on the Amazon campus — their vermicelli bowl is my favorite way to get veggies/carbs/protein when I’m in a hurry. I’m also fortunate that my job provides catered lunch twice a week.

What do you like most about run commuting?

1. I enjoy the efficient use of my time, since I get my commute and exercise finished in one activity.

2. Runcommuting keeps me disciplined with my eating and sleep habits to keep up with the demands of 20-40 miles of running per week.

3. It gives me a chance to explore the city. Seattle has a lot of history and interesting neighborhoods, so runcommuting gives me a great opportunity to scout the area. It’s also a good excuse to try one of the dozens of independent coffee shops here.

What are the weather conditions like for your runcommute?

Temperatures are always fairly mild in Seattle, but there are many days with rain and slick pavement. True to the stereotypes it is cool, wet, and cloudy for most of the year. It’s good running weather even if footing can get a bit tricky.

Do you know of anyone else in your area that runs to work? 

No, but I do see other people running with backpacks in the city. I would assume that they are runcommuting as well. There are many, many people in my office and in Seattle who bike commute, however.

When not run commuting, how do you get to work?

If I’m not running, I will either car pool, or mix in 2 miles of running to get to-and-from express bus lines. Once Seattle finishes expanding its light rail network, I will be two blocks from one of the stations.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who was considering run commuting, what would it be?

Invest in decent gear, and monitor your shoes for wear and tear. It’s hard to keep up with runcommuting multiple days per week with busted gear or a busted body.

Anything else that you would like to include?

My PR for a slightly longer run commute (11.46 miles) was set in October with a time of 1:18:32 (6:52/mile pace). I strive to beat that pace every time I run home!

I chair the Wellness Committee for Novo Nordisk in Seattle. My role is to oversee the budget for sports and events, as well as organizing our office’s participation in the annual JDRF Beat the Bridge Race. I encourage all Seattleites to run the race, and to join Team Novo Nordisk if they would like some camaraderie!

Even runcommuters need a holiday…Aaron in Tucson.

Are you interested in being featured on The New Run Commuters? If so, fill out the form below and we’ll send you more details.

The New Run Commuters Submission Form

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Run Commuting Story Roundup – February 17, 2017

Here’s a quick roundup of interesting run commuting stories I found recently. I’ll try and do a similar post monthly if enough content can be found.

If you have written a post about run commuting on your blog, or have read a news article or post about run commuting that you want us to know about, send us an email and it may show up in a future Run Commuting Story Roundup.

 


 

Stories from the run commute: “I bring snowshoes on my Montreal route”

How 7 Busy Washingtonians Find Time to Train for Marathons

Cost Analysis of Run Commuting – Do I Save Money Jan 2-6

I Guess I’m Gonna Have To Run Commute Today

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Review: IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro

Finally – a backpack specifically made for run commuters!

The company that brought us our favorite garment carrier, IAMRUNBOX, released a series of run commuting backpacks after a very successful Kickstarter campaign, and we were extremely excited to get our hands on one recently. The IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro is a stylish and extremely practical backpack for everyday commuters who run with a change of clothes, a laptop, and a few personal items. Best of all, this pack won’t bounce! 

Test Model

IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro

Size: One size fit all

Carrying Capacity: 10L, 610 cu. in.

Cost: US $170

Performance and Evaluation

I logged approximately 40 miles with the IAMRUNBOX under a variety of conditions and temperatures. Unfortunately, I have yet to test it during a good rainstorm. I wore it a few times when there was a light sprinkle, but I didn’t feel that was a good test of the pack’s water resistant features.

While I expected it to feel a little awkward on the run, since the construction is markedly different than a standard pack, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it runs. The four foam pads that make contact with your back are comfortable and almost unnoticeable. Since the main compartment is rigid, there is no pack flop that you tend to get from a soft pack, so I expected loose items inside the pack to bounce around. However, that was not the case – everything remained firmly fixed.

The carrying capacity of the IAMRUNBOX works well for those run commuters who only run with their work clothes and a few personal items. I had trouble packing larger lunches and weekly supplies into it after packing clothing and accessories. It worked fine for a light lunch, like a sandwich and some mandarin oranges, for example, however larger bags of crackers/chips/crisps would get crushed when zipping the main compartment shut and deeper containers of leftovers were out of the question. This specific issue probably won’t affect a majority of run commuters, though, since most prefer to pack as minimal and light as possible.

One additional note regarding the pack’s volume; the back face of the pack is crisscrossed with an adjustable elastic cord. Since I tested the pack in the winter, I needed to carry a jacket with me for any out-of-office excursions. The cord system easily secured my jacket, and even retained additional room to carry more.

 

The laptop carrying feature works quite well. It’s a simple, two-strap holder that rides close to your back, but it does what it is designed to do. Smaller laptops or tablets may need additional padding around them to keep them from bouncing up and down in the pack.

The deep and wide zippered waist belt pouches are a fantastic feature. Most backpacks that have these usually tend towards smaller, stretchier styles that work for carrying, at most, a few gels, a thin beanie, or a pair of gloves. The IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro’s waist pockets, in contrast, can hold large smartphones, thick wool hats, sunglasses, and more. I normally carry my Nexus 6P (which is 6 ½” long and 3 ¼” wide) in the main compartment or in inaccessible side pouches of other packs, so it is awesome to have it right in front of me and be able to pull it out to take a picture or check a text message.

You notice the weight of the pack just forward of your shoulders and at the small of your back. I couldn’t identify any potential chafing locations – the fit and feel of everything was perfect.

Waist and sternum strap with whistle

Waist strap has openings on both sides to hide excess strap

What I Liked

Overall comfort and feel

Zippered clothing compartment

Laptop carrying feature

Large waistbelt pouches

Rigid structure of the pack

What I Didn’t Like

Limited carrying capacity

Velcro strap location

Cost

Backpack Details

Overall Construction

Both the pack and the zippers are made from weather/water-resistant materials. The exterior consists of a black nylon fabric with a polyurethane coating while the interior is lined with black velvet fabric.

Front

The front of the pack is mostly unremarkable, save for an elastic band system for holding larger, non-packable items like a jacket or a pair of shoes (an optional shoe bag is available, as well). For added visibility during low-light conditions, I add Amphipod flashing lights to the strings and strap.

The velcro strap pictured here functions as an additional hold-down for the large items on the front and can be rerouted to the back of the pack to secure the shoulder/waist straps together if you want to carry it by the carrying handle. If the strap is connected to the front of the pack however (as shown in the picture below), you must first disconnect it in order to open the pack, as it covers the zipper.

Sides

The sides do not include any additional storage or features.

Top and Bottom

The top and bottom of the pack include reflective strips. No additional features are present.

Main Compartment

When open, the right side of the pack is where you store your clothing. To hold all the clothing together, the Backpack Pro has a zippered, breathable cover, which makes it very easy to close the pack once everything is inside.  

The left side of the Backpack Pro is used for securely storing up to a 13.5″ laptop. It can also hold a tablet, a book, or a few magazines quite well, or any other items that you may need at work (small lunch, belt, packable raincoat, etc.).

Open and empty

Fully packed with a light lunch

Back and Waist Strap

The back of the IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro is rigid, with four palm-sized cushions strategically placed to allow the pack to rest comfortably against your back while walking or running. When the pack is on the body and cinched down, the cushions rest at the base of the scapulae and on both sides of the lower back.

The waist strap is wide and lightly-padded and a simple plastic buckle secures it to your waist. There is a large zippered pouch on each side that is big enough to hold large smartphones and plenty of additional gear (see notes at end of review regarding the metal zippers). A unique feature of the waist strap is that each side facing the buckle opens to reveal a pocket that can be used for storing excess straps. 

 

Four cushioned pads make for a comfortable ride

The waist strap pockets hold large phones and more

Suspension

Compared to most packs I’ve used, the shoulder straps on the Backpack Pro are wide, coming in right at 3 inches (7.62 cm) and there is very little narrowing of the straps along the length. There is some very thin padding on the inside of the straps, and I found it to be adequate for running with heavier weight.

The front of the right side strap features a reflective loop and a zippered, crescent-shaped pouch. The pouch holds a pair of gloves or a few gels when closed, or – when opened – a water bottle. This is a neat feature and works best with shorter bottles.

The left side strap includes a reflective loop, as well, and an elastic expandable top loading pouch that holds smaller smartphones (iPhone 5, etc.) securely.

Sternum Strap

There is one sternum strap on this pack. It is made of nylon and includes a piece of elastic that stretches an inch and a half that enables the strap to move when the wearer inhales and exhales. The sternum strap can be adjusted 9 inches vertically, so that it can placed in a comfortable location on the wearer’s chest.

Suspension system. Right strap opens to hold a small water bottle

Fully loaded with a winter jacket secured to the front with straps

Additional Notes

The metal zippers shown in this pre-production pack will be replaced with string pullers to avoid clanging sounds and the water-resistant zip will be upgraded to ensure softer opening.

Bottom Line

The IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro is a fantastic pack for run commuters; especially those that need to transport a laptop and keep their office clothing looking good.

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Disclaimer

IAMRUNBOX provided us with the IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro for review, however this did not influence my opinion regarding this product. The thoughts and pictures contained in this review are my own.

By | 2017-04-24T10:45:15+00:00 February 2nd, 2017|Categories: General|Tags: , , , , , , |4 Comments

The New Run Commuters – January 2017

Our first runcommuter profile for 2017 is Bon Crowder, who also heralds another first for TRC, as she is the only runcommuter featured on this site to hail from Texas. Bon is a teacher who runs to work every day of the week. Through her That’sMath startup company Bon is educating the youth. But she is also an example to her own children in her active lifestyle. Bon shows that it is possible to be a mom, a businesswoman, an educator and also maintain a daily fitness routine — by runcommuting. Keep up the brilliant work in 2017, Bon, and we look forward to seeing your giant chicken impression on Youtube sometime soon….!

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Runner Basics

  • Name: Bon Crowder

  • Age: 45

  • City/State: Houston, Texas

  • Profession/Employer: Educator & Founder, That’s Math LLC

  • Number of years running: 11

  • Number of races you participate in a year: 2 or 3

  • Do you prefer road or trail? Road – although trail is fun, when you’re in Houston it’s kinda dangerous to get too far off the beaten path. 

 

Bon Crowder

Run Commuting Gear

  • Backpack: Pink Osprey Tempest 20 (with the backpack “raincoat” thing for those not-so-dry days)

  • Shoes: Brooks Ghost

  • Clothing: Cheap spandex shorts and Duluth Trading Company No-Yank Tank

  • Outerwear: Nike warm stuff (that fuzzy-inside stuff that Nike makes)

  • Headgear: Cap most of the time, but when it’s cold I wear something over my ears 

  • Lights: Headlamp – some cheap kind but it seems to keep going, so I’m running with it #pardonthepun

  • Hydration: Water with lemon juice in a small Osprey reservoir

Runcommute arrival at the halls of learning!

Bon loves running in the rain.

When it gets cold in Texas…..

Bon running on her birthday….to the donut store!

On Run Commuting

Why did you decide to start run commuting?

I just couldn’t find time to run. It made me nuts. So I thought, “Well, dog-gone-it, I’ll just run TO WORK!”

Since the school I was teaching at was only 2.3 miles away, it seemed ideal!

How often do you run commute?

I try to run commute everyday. I don’t buy the parking pass for the garage, so if I don’t run, I’m stuck paying parking.

That’s less of a motivator for me and more of the ideal excuse when others want me to drive and I want to run!

How far is your commute?

Well, theoretically, it’s 17 miles, but I take the bus some of the way. On a good day, I get in about 2.8 miles before the bus and then about 0.9 miles after the bus.

Do you pack or buy a lunch?

I pack a lunch. It’s always challenging figuring out the volumes of food and clothing I can carry. If I need a blazer and fancy shoes that aren’t at the office, then it’s likely my lunch is a protein bar.

On casual Friday I can go with a giant salad!

What do you like most about run commuting?

I look cool. Okay, “look” may not be the word. But you definitely gain points with people when you tell them you run to work.

For different people, it’s different reasons. Some people like that I’m not driving so there’re lower car emissions. Some are impressed with my healthier lifestyle. And then some just look at me and think, “She’s out of her mind!”

Oh, and there’re the long races. I ran a half marathon once with no official training. Turns out 10-15 pounds + 2 x day runs in ALL weather really gets you ready for just about anything!

I’m also running the Houston Marathon this weekend. My first!

Do you know of anyone else in your area that runs to work? 

Sadly, no.

When not run commuting, how do you get to work?

I’m in Texas, so I have a car. My SUV or pickup truck gets me anywhere my feet can’t get me.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who was considering run commuting, what would it be?

Make a list. Laminate it. And check it off every morning. You DO NOT want to get half way to work and think, “Oh, crap, I forgot….”

Anything else that you would like to include?

I’m a mom, wife, math teacher, and founder of a startup. I also blog at MathFour.com and tweet at @MathFour.

And, I can do an amazing impression of a giant chicken…

Are you interested in being featured on The New Run Commuters? If so, fill out the form below and we’ll send you more details.

The New Run Commuters Submission Form

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Tell us a little about your run commute! (required)

By | 2017-01-12T09:48:29+00:00 January 12th, 2017|Categories: General, News, People|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

Review: Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20L

Is THIS the best run commuting pack…ever?

For some people, perhaps even many people, the answer is yes, the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 is the best run commuting pack ever.

Those who read my review of the OMM 20L will recall that I opened that review with a similar question, and a similar answer. There are reasons for this: firstly, I cannot deny that I enjoy using the question as a rhetorical device, but, secondly and in my defense, I have had the good fortune to test two outstanding run commuting packs this year, both of which are destined to become classics, in my opinion. Both the OMM Adventure Light 20 and the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 are brilliantly designed and made, and both function perfectly for the daily run commuter who totes medium to large loads of clothes/shoes/food.

 

The difference between these two packs is profound, however. The Ultimate Direction Fastpack is what is called a running ‘vest’ in the trail-running world. Right here on TRC Josh reviewed the smaller sibling of the UD Fastpack, the UD Peter Bakwin Signature Series Vest 3.0 (see review), so you may already be familiar with the new generation of running packs invented – and designed for – trail and adventure-running. My ‘Pack Off’ article comparing the relative merits and downsides of the two styles is coming to TRC soon!

The UD Fastpack 20 is across-between the traditional and the vest style. It is not a compromise, however. It is a fully functioning backpack with all the advantages (and possibly disadvantages) of no waist strap and double sternum straps on wide chest straps, instead.

Test Model

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20L

Size: Small/Medium

Carrying Capacity: 20L

Cost: US $105

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

Performance and Evaluation

For run commuters who have struggled with the combination of traditional backpacks and running, the UD Fastpack may be the answer. Say goodbye to the uncomfortable waist belt that pummels your stomach and bowels, and the (especially for women) awkward sternum strap that is never quite in the right position, and the shoulder straps that (again, especially for women) don’t sit comfortably on the torso. Embrace the freedom and comfort of the vest pack and run until you drop!

One of the recurring questions about backpacks is whether or not they can be tightened onto the runner sufficiently to prevent swaying and bouncing whilst running. Some people have suggested that the lack of a waist belt on vest-style and hybrid packs is responsible for a greater sway and bounce. Professional US ultra-runner Megan Hicks wrote a review of the UD Fastpack in which she says she wouldn’t use it in the Marathon des Sables, because it is less stable than traditional backpacks with a waist belt. However, Megan runs at an average of 10km an hour during the MdS, for an average of 6 hours a day. I run a lot slower, and for approximately 1 hour per run-commute leg. I have found the Fastpack to be just as stable as my traditional backpacks, with the same load (medium-full) and at the same speed. Perhaps, like Megan, those who run very fast with a very full pack will find the Fastpack sways more. Run commuters who fall into this category are lucky, and get the satisfaction of being fast to compensate for having to wear a traditional backpack! Seriously, though, unless the pack is very full — for example with everything you’d need for a three-day self-supported back-country camping trip — you’re unlikely to feel any difference in the movement between this pack and a waist belt/sternum strap pack.

Pros

Very comfortable, particularly for the internal (and external!) organs!

Multiple run-accessible storage areas

Very lightweight

Advanced hydration system

Double sternum straps

Not as ‘action sports’ as many other vest packs

Double sternum straps

Did I mention that it’s super comfy?!

Cons

Expensive

Slightly floppier, more sporty, less ‘office-y’ looking than many traditional backpacks

No rain cover

Sway/bounce may be very very slightly more evident than with a traditional backpack (though I did not experience this)

May be too large for smaller or thinner people

Chest and straps

This is where the action is on this pack. The vest-style flaps that come from the inner-back edge of the main compartment, over the shoulders and down the chest, are key to the comfort of the Fastpack 20. These flaps feature large pockets that can hold water bottles, smartphones or food, for easy access whilst on the run. Running horizontally between the two flaps are two chest straps, which can be adjusted vertically by sliding them up or down their rails, similar to the more limited adjustments that can be made to the single sternum strap usually found on a traditional backpack. Together, the two sternum straps on the vest pack secure the chest straps tighter or looser against the torso, and thereby cinch the pack more tightly or otherwise to the body.

The two sides of the chest have a different configuration of pockets. On the left is a water-bottle pocket with a pull-cord tightener, and underneath this is a smaller zip-up pocket that can easily hold a Clif bar and a credit card and car key. On the right is a pocket that is closed flat against the chest strap by a vertical zip. Opening the zip gives you room to stuff a water-bottle into that pocket, by virtue of a small expanding pleat. When the zip is closed the pocket still has an open top, and is the perfect shape and tightness to hold in a smartphone. Underneath this zipping pocket is a smaller pocket about the same size as the one at the bottom of the right chest strap. The one on the left is closed by a Velcro fold-over tab, however. This means you wouldn’t want to put anything precious in it, only cliff bars/food, as there are gaps where a key could potentially escape. All in all, the chest pockets are very well thought-out, and allow access to lots of food, water, phone and other necessities, whilst on the run.

 

Each sternum strap can also be tightened or loosened. Together with the strap that connects the bottom corner edges of the main compartment to the bottom corner edge of both vest flaps, this allows for further customization.  Playing around with different strap positions and tightness is worth it when you first get the pack, as the different configurations can change the feeling of wearing the pack a lot.

An example of the chest straps at three different positions can be seen in the photos below.

Sides

On either side is a large, mesh water-bottle pocket. It is not closed, but an elasticized rim keeps the bottles in. This elastic is not as tight as on some packs I have worn. Once I took out two full bottles in these pockets when there was nothing really in the main compartment, and the lack of padding from the main pack meant that there was more leeway for the bottles to agitate out of these mesh pockets. They didn’t actually fall out, but I was worried once or twice, and I had to keep checking… Otherwise, if the main compartment is at least half full, the water bottles feel pretty secure, even when running fast.

Main Compartment and Access Rolltop

The main compartment is like a sack, and it closes in the roll-top style, first being pressed shut with Velcro and then rolled over like rolling up a carpet, until it is tight against the pack. At this point each end of the roll is clipped in to a strap that comes up each side. The strap is then pulled tight, cinching the whole thing vertically while the roll secures it horizontally. This is a very effective closure method, though it does take a few more seconds to do than a single zip would (such as is found on the Osprey Stratos and Talon series, for example). The strap on each side that cinches down the roll does create the only annoyance I have experienced with this pack – the long, dangling excess lengths of each side strap can whip around as you run, sometimes even coming round and lashing you in the front (possibly as punishment for the evil thoughts I have about car drivers…). You can’t trim them off—as Josh shows you how to do here in the ‘Pack Hacks’ series—because the extra length is needed on occasions when you fill the pack to full capacity. (See photos) What you can do is thread the excess strap into one of the daisy-chain loops on the front of the pack, which keeps them out of the way.

The main compartment itself is huge and empty, awaiting your clothes and lunch. If you don’t put anything in the main compartment, but do fill the front pockets with heavy items (such as full water bottles), you may find the front pulls forward/down, which can cause pressure on the back of your neck. This is an unlikely situation to be running in, however. I did this once, just for the experiment to see what would happen, but in the normal run of things it’s not a configuration most run commuters will want to try. If you do, for some reason, want to carry tons of water but nothing much else, it’s better for the weight distribution to put the bottles in the side pockets of the main compartment, behind and under your arms. This scenario is not fool-proof either, however…(see comment in ‘Sides’, below).

Back

The back of the pack consists of a machine-knit fabric that is slightly thicker than t-shirt material, overlaying a nylon or other material than can just barely by glimpsed underneath.

There are no seams on this back panel, making it very smooth against the back. The whole back panel as well as the backing on both over-the-shoulder and down the chest vest flaps is a single piece of material. There are no seams or joins anywhere where the pack touches the wearer, except for where the yellow material meets the soft grey edging material. This trimming material is also soft. The pack did not cause any chafing on my back at all, ever.

Inside the main compartment of the pack is a Velcro-closed compartment that holds a foam pad cut into the shape of the back of the pack, and which gives the pack a firm, stable, back padding. This foam pad is smooth foam on the side that faces into the pack. On the side that sits against the wearer’s back, the foam pad has many little nipple-bumps all over it, for massage-style comfort. This pad can be taken out of the pack and used to sleep on etc when you’re doing a stage-race in the Sahara Desert, or when you get tired on the way home from work and want to take a quick nap in the park.

 

Hydration System

The Fastpack 20L does not come with a bladder or bottles, but hydration compatibility is one of its design priorities. There is a dedicated hydration bladder sleeve inside the main compartment. Immediately above this is a Velcro ‘hook’ for hanging the bladder from (so it doesn’t slump down into the sleeve). Above this, in the center of the top of the pack, underneath the grab-handle, is the hole for the bladder hose. There are two elastic/nylon strips on each vest flap near your clavicle bone for the hose to route through. Then there are two large mesh pockets on either side of the pack, as mentioned above, for water bottles. Finally (sort of), there is a pull-cord-closing bottle pocket on the left vest strap. If all this still didn’t give you enough storage for fluids, there is also the zip-closing pocket on the right vest strap, which can be opened wide enough to hold a 600ml bottle if necessary.

 

Above: An example of the amount of liquid you can carry in the UD Fastpack when simply using the designated pockets: 2L bladder, 3 x 750ml bottles, 1 x 420ml softflask. Of course, if you wanted to, you could also put a mini-keg in the main compartment….

Conclusion

So, how does the UD Fastpack 20L perform as a daily pack for run commuters? The answer is: extremely well…. For some, this will be the perfect run commute pack and, like the OMM 20L pack, the only pack they’ll need for both the daily run commute and the Marathon des Sables or the 4 Deserts adventure races!

Additional Pictures

By | 2016-12-21T12:47:00+00:00 December 21st, 2016|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , , , |7 Comments

The New Run Commuters – December 2016

Emphasizing TRC’s global reach, this month’s featured runcommuter is James Moore, from London, England. Like our profiled runcommuter from earlier in the year, Julien Delange, James uses runcommuting to train for ultra distance trail races. (Also like Julien–and TRC’s own contributor Nicholas Pedneault–James uses Hoka One One shoes). James says that runcommuting helps him leave work at a reasonable time; the knowledge that he’s going to run home gets him out the door of the office.

On days when he’s catching transport home, he finds it easier to get stuck at work for hours of overtime. An excellent point in favor of runcommuting! As the photos show, most of James’ runcommuting during the winter months is done in the dark. But he doesn’t need to wear a headlamp, as the London streets are so well lit. Our first British runcommuter, Georgia Halls, also mentioned London’s great lighting. Is this the same for you in your winter runcommute? Or are headlamps necessary? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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Runner Basics

  • Name: James Moore

  • Age: 27

  • City/State: London, England

  • Profession/Employer: Public Health Doctor

  • Number of years running: Ever since school but only properly for the last two years.

  • Number of races you participate in a year: 10-15 marathons and ultras (distances over marathon 42.195km) and multiple smaller parkruns of 5kms.

  • Do you prefer road or trail? Trail.

James Moore

Run Commuting Gear

  • Backpack: Salomon S-Lab Adv Skin 5 Set Hydration Backpack – Black, it’s the same vest I use for all my long runs and has just enough room to carry any clothes I need to take home.

  • Shoes: Hoka OneOne Clifton 2, and a generic Karrimor road shoe.

  • Clothing: I like to try and keep things simple and not overthink this. I do have a few essentials I always use and these tend to be the branded gear. Other than that I tend to wear generic shorts and usually a technical t-shirt from a previous marathon. Karrimor/Nike leggings, Underarmor or Nike warm base layer and CEP compression calf sleeves. These form the key parts of my kit alongside Karrimor sports socks. 

  • Outerwear: I have a few outer shells I rotate and my favorite is an Adidas black parkrun version. I wouldn’t usually use a waterproof as I can just as easily jump in the shower when I get home. I do always carry a light berghaus fleece in case I have to abort the run or it gets uncomfortably cold.

  • Headgear:  Either a lightweight or warm buff dependent on the weather. The run commutes tend to be slow pace so can get a little chilly.

  • Lights: I am lucky/unlucky in that my whole route is lit by street lamps so doesn’t require additional lighting.

  • Hydration: Salomon soft flasks with water or just a bottle of coke/water if I haven’t brought the flasks.

On Run Commuting

Why did you decide to start run commuting?

The main reason for me was efficiency. I wanted to add training into my week and a run commute seemed the easiest way to add miles without sacrificing so much of my spare time it became a burden. A few friends have trained for marathons and ultras in the past and the training really takes up their whole lives, by adding a run commute I can get 20 – 50 extra miles each week with a personal cost of an hour and a half. The fact that this also helps to reduce my personal carbon footprint is an additional bonus.

The other aspect is over the last five years, I’ve gone from a busy and hectic job as a hospital doctor to specializing in public health, a much more sedentary job role. Adding in a run commute ensures my health doesn’t suffer from a less active job.

How often do you run commute?

I’m gradually building up, but currently 2 – 4 times a week on my journey home. I would love to run in the mornings, but unfortunately running to work is simply not possible due to a lack of changing/showers at my current workplace.

How far is your commute?

10 miles is the shortest route if I run the whole way and is almost a straight line. I’m hoping to build this up over the winter by taking a more scenic route to allow me to not worry so much about weekend mileage and improve the training effect of the back-to-back run commutes.

Do you pack or buy a lunch?

I try and bring a packed lunch in most days, as I tend to do my run commute in the evenings which means I have the ability to bring in any food I want for lunch. Tending to go for a salad at lunch, I do sometimes end up with a stash of Tupperware containers in my locker.

What do you like most about run commuting?

The freedom of letting go after work allows you to unwind whilst adding some great training into otherwise wasted commuting time. So many people say they are too busy to train but my run commute takes me maybe 20 minutes longer than by transport and is leading to improved fitness, performance, and mental wellbeing and is infinitely more pleasurable than being packed like sardines in an underground carriage.

I find that sometimes when you are not run commuting you find yourself working later and later in the office, or you keep thinking about work on your journey. When running I have a set time to get out the door and as soon as I’ve started my mind is wandering off into the podcasts I listen to.

Do you know of anyone else in your area that runs to work? 

Being in London it sometimes seems as though everyone cycles or gets the underground, but once you are out on your feet you realise just how many people are out there run commuting. In my public health job, several colleagues also run commute and watching Strava it is clear that more and more people are using the run commute as part of their daily routine and training programme.

When not run commuting, how do you get to work?

When I’m not running, I have a short walk to a bus, a 20 minute bus ride, and then a further 20 minutes on the London underground. I try and ensure I take advantage of the days I don’t run by transporting lunch boxes or clothes home.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who was considering run commuting, what would it be?

The biggest problem for me is the planning of the run and working out the problems that you might come up against in running home. I’ve managed to get around this through a few simple changes. I always make sure I have a couple of plastic bags at work so I can wrap up any clothes I may need for the next day to stop them getting wet from rain or sweat. I keep a smart pair of shoes in the office and one at home so meetings the next day can’t prevent a run and I try and ensure I always have a warm ‘running’ layer at work so if I chose to wear something else the cold never stops me.

Anything else that you would like to include?

I regularly tweet and occasionally blog through @mooreultra on twitter and readers can ask further questions or may be interested in future articles and shared content through this.

Are you interested in being featured on The New Run Commuters? If so, fill out the form below and we’ll send you more details.

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Review: OMM Adventure Light 20 Backpack

The Best Run Commuting Backpack Ever?

OMM (standing for Original Mountain Marathon) is a brand well-known to UK and Euro trail runners, but it has yet to become popular in the US, which is a pity. I would go so far as to say this is a ‘best-kept secret’ of running packs. The OMM 20L may be the best run commuting backpack ever, and for those so inclined, it doubles as the best multi-day trail running pack ever, too! It is relatively cheap, hugely comfortable, robust, thoughtfully designed, and has tons of storage room.

For these reasons, no doubt, it has been the backpack of choice for the winners of some epic races: this year alone Eion Keith was wearing it when he won the notoriously grueling Spine Race in England – 268 miles non-stop over snowy English high country in mid-winter. Elspeth Luke wore it to run 1100k over Scottish mountains in record time. And it’s not just for cold-weather conditions: Aussie pro racer Samantha Gash wore it to run the 4 Deserts races across –as the name implies–four of the world’s serious deserts. Many athletes use this pack at the 6-days, 250km stage-race in the Moroccan desert, the Marathon des Sables.

So, how does such a hardcore pack work for everyday run commuters who just want to run an hour to work through suburban streets? Brilliantly, that’s how!

 

 

Test Model

OMM Adventure Light 20

Size: One size fits all

Carrying Capacity: 20L, 1220.5 cu. in.

Cost: US $70.19, GBP54, EU78.95

Add-on: Dry-bag, 20L

Best for:

  • Run commuters who carry larger loads on most run commutes

  • One backpack for both a daily run commute pack in the city and for epic runs/races such as the Marathon des Sables!

  • Run commuters with shorter torsos

Performance and Evaluation

Outstanding performance in a wide range of conditions. The OMM 20L is very comfortable, and performs brilliantly as a daily run commuting backpack when carrying medium to large loads. Also performs at the extreme level when used as an adventure racing pack on multi-day or stage races such as the Marathon des Sables. It says something about the versatility of this pack that many runners have used it in stage-races in the climates of both the Sahara Desert in temperatures up to 50C, and in the British winter in high mountain snow in temperatures that drop to -10C. Clearly, the OMM Adventure Light can handle extremes.  It will easily handle whatever you can throw at it on a daily run commute.

For those who often run commute with a very small load, such as a shirt and thin slacks, it is possible to cinch down the OMM Adventure Light 20 tightly by running a thin elastic cord through the eyelets on the front designed for that purpose. There is no cinching cord included for this purpose, however. The front buckle strap does pull the pack quite tightly together on a vertical axis, but not horizontally.

While this pack is certainly one of the least obtrusive full-size packs to use even when carrying a small load (ie. it is not ‘too much’ pack as others would be), I’d go for a smaller pack if you really aren’t going to carry much ever. A mostly-empty pack is just unnecessary now that there are so many smaller packs on the market which are designed to be comfortable with smaller loads. I have not tested the smaller OMM packs (13, 10 and 8Ls), but if their quality is similar to that of the Adventure Light, it would definitely be worth giving them a try.

Sometimes, it rains. We run commuters 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. Or, there is the option of a small, external rain-cover instead.  

As mentioned above, the main compartment and the waist-belt pockets of the OMM 20L are made from a very light material that appears to be water repellent. This makes sense, given that it is designed to be used in adventure/nature races, where rain and water are common. This material does work. A few times when I thought it wasn’t going to rain I didn’t bother to use a dry bag and got caught in brief showers. My clothes remained dry. However, in prolonged rain or heavy downpours, water would soak through onto the contents. 

 

 

 

What I Liked

Comfort

Lightness

Size

Pocket distribution/design

Thoughtful overall design

Price

 

 

What I Didn’t Like

The location of the closing clip for the main compartment

 

Backpack Details

Front

The closing clip for the main compartment is at the bottom edge of the front of the pack, vertically. This is unusual. It took me ages to get used to, and for weeks I kept trying to open the pack using the plastic buckle that is situated on the top lid of the pack, where the clip is found on most bags. I’m still not convinced the bottom edge is a great location for the opening clip.

Sides

On the lower half of each side of the main compartment is a mesh pocket with elasticized top edge. They are water-bottle pockets, and have been designed with great consideration for the needs of adventure runners, for whom hydration is essential.  The pockets are deep, each amply holding a 600mL bottle. This is true even when the main compartment of the pack is full. The other brilliant thing about their design is that they are angled slightly backwards, so that the top of the water bottle is tilted fractionally towards the direction you are facing. This makes it easier to pull the bottles out and put them back in, while running. The bottles don’t jump out of these pockets even when there isn’t much in the main compartment of the pack. Overall, excellent design and performance.

Main Compartment and Top Access Pouch

The main compartment is basically a cylindrical sack with a drawstring closure. Over this fits a hood that buckles down with a strap that runs vertically down the front of the backpack and clips to the lower quarter of the front of the pack (the ‘weird’ strap described above). The main compartment holds a LOT of stuff. You could easily get a medium-thickness winter coat in here along with shoes, clothes and lunch.  

As you can see in the photo above, there is a zipped pocket on the top of the hood that covers the main drawstring compartment of the pack. This zipped pocket is almost the same width across as the hood itself, so it can hold a wallet and phone, or even a small Tupperware container, easily.

Back, shoulder straps and waist belt

The padding on the OMM Adventure Light 20 is generous, light and comfortable. It is also positioned where you need it and not where you don’t. The back is kept firm and self-supporting by a removable foam pad that sits inside the main compartment in its own sleeve. This pad is so light, and helps keep the overall structure of the pack so comfortable, that after I tried running once with the pad removed I resolved never to do so again — it’s simply more of a gain to have the foam pad in there.

There are two identical pockets on either side of the waist belt. Both pockets close with zips. They are large enough to fit a smartphone, and there is some flexibility as the lower half of each pocket is made of a mesh that stretches slightly. I found these pockets to be very useful for carrying my phone, food snacks, and accessories like gloves, hat or headlamp.

 

Hydration System

The OMM Adventure Light  20 does not come with a hydration bladder or bottles. As discussed above, the side bottle pockets are perfectly designed and executed for their purpose. With both bottle pockets carrying 600ml — or 750ml at a pinch — bottles, this would give you 1.2L – 1.5L fluid. You could also remove the foam back pad from its dedicated sleeve and put your hydration pouch in there. There is no other pocket in the main compartment to hold a hydration bladder, and unless you had a completely full load it would slosh around a bit if in the main area.

Conclusion

A top-drawer backpack for adventure running AND run commuting!

Additional Pictures

Review: Hoka One One Huaka

About four years ago, in the midst of my transition from conventional running shoes to more minimalist ones, I was offered a quick glimpse of what I thought were the ugliest shoes ever made on this planet: the Hoka One One. I just could not picture myself run commuting in them without becoming the laughing stock of the Ottawa running community.

Then, in the past months, The Run Commuter published a few (serious) articles about using them for run commuting. At about the same time, I started having some troubling leg pains, which forced me to cut back on my run commuting habits (I also turned the big 4-0 around the same time). This was not a good thing, and I started looking for ways to be able to get back to a normal run commuting regime. I tried many things (physio, osteo, massage, sports medicine, etc), but none of them really solved my problems.

At the end of February of this year, being a bit despaired to see my weekly run commuting mileage go down in such dramatic fashion, I tried something bold: I bought a pair of Hoka One One Huaka. This turned out to be a very good decision.

Within days, I was able to run distances that I could only dream of running a few days before. My run commuter partner made lots of fun of my shoes, going as far as telling me, jokingly, to run a few feet in front of him to avoid him the embarrassment. I did not pay any attention to him: these shoes were getting me back on the roads and it felt great. To this day, running in my Huakas is still the same treat that it was the first time.

Hoka One One shoes are a great addition to the toolkit of serious run commuters that have entered the master zone. They are a great shoes to wear at the end of the week, when your legs are tired and the pain is uncomfortably increasing.

Running with a pair of Hoka One One is like running on soft packed ground all the time. Despite their thickness, the stability is OK, and weight is similar to any normal running shoes. Their only downside is that the increased volume of foam tends to wear off faster than in a normal pair of shoes. Despite that, I intend to keep a pair in my run commuting rotation at all times, even if I have to buy them more often than other shoes.

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:27+00:00 August 30th, 2016|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments
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