Review: Deuter Futura 22 Backpack

All of us down here at The Run Commuter’s Atlanta, GA headquarters decided it was time to get some new packs to test out, so over the next few months, we’ll have some in-depth insight and detailed field test results from a handful of running backpacks. First up, the Deuter Futura 22.

Performance and Evaluation

Blinkie lights will fit in between the zippers on the top and bottom of the pack.

I ran approximately 50 miles with the Deuter during rainstorms, extreme cold weather, and mild-to-warm days over several weeks.

When I first put the pack on, I immediately noticed how much more comfortable it was than the Osprey Manta 20. That was entirely a result of the thick padding within both the shoulder and waist straps, as well as a small patch of cushioning that rests between your shoulder blades.

The lower portion of the frame felt like two fists gently pushing into my kidneys. It was strange, and normally something you’d experience in an external-frame hiking backpack.

The break-in period for the pack ranged from 10 – 15 miles. What happened during that time was two-fold – One, the straps loosened slightly from their stiff out-of-the-box feel; and two, the waist strap cushioning softened. These two things together allowed the pack to adjust and fit the individual shape of my body much better than it had when brand new, leading to a more comfortable run (Note: this is normal for all packs, with some variability in the length of time it takes.) The “two-fists-pushing-into-my-kidneys” feel gradually lessened, with a bit more use, changing from slightly uncomfortable to unnoticeable.

The rain cover is tucked away in the standard location at the base of the pack and stays on without using a plastic toggle spring like Osprey rain covers, which tend to drift in between your back and the pack while moving, creating some discomfort. I used the rain cover during my first test run with the Futura. It deployed and went on quickly, and kept the pack, and the items inside, secure and dry.

I experienced absolutely no hot spots or abrasion areas. None. Some days I used the pack while wearing full winter gear, with several layers between my body and the pack; some days it was just a single tech shirt. No chafing, whatsoever.

There are no attachments for lights on the back of the pack, but I found that blinking lights could be added in between the dual zippers on the top and bottom of the pack.

In addition, the hiking poles attachment (seen on the left side of the pack) works quite well for carrying a long-handled umbrella to or from work.

Overall, the Deuter Futura 22 is a great pack for run commuting and I would put it in a tie for first place with the Osprey Manta 20, followed closely by the Osprey Stratos 24.

What I Liked

Volume: Very roomy; enough space for work clothes, lunch, and a winter jacket

Strap Padding: Very thick and comfortable

Bottom Pouch with main compartment access

Raincover is effective and does not use a plastic toggle spring

What I Didn’t Like

No pouches on waist strap

Cannot access side pouches while running

No blinkie/light attachments on back of pack (I use Amphipod Vizlets in between the dual zippers for low-light conditions)

It should be noted that these certainly wouldn’t keep me from purchasing this pack.

Let’s Get Down to Details

 Volume

22 Liters

Weight

2.5 pounds

Material

60% polyester

40% nylon

Color

Papaya/Stone

Price

Buy It Now

Amazon.com

Front

The front of the Deuter Futura 22 includes a large, fold-down zippered accessories pouch at the top, and a rounded, dual-zippered compartment at the bottom. Inside the accessories compartment are several standard mesh pouches and key clips for keeping your small items organized and in-place while moving.

The front of the Futura 22 includes two compartments and four small areas of reflective material.

The accessories pouch is large and will easily hold all of your personal items, like cell phone, wallet, and keys.

Sides

Both sides of the pack feature elastic-topped pouches which are crossed over by the packs lower set of external compression straps. Each pouch is partially-covered by reflective material that wraps around to the front of the pack.

Each side includes an elastic pouch and both a lower and upper set of external compression straps.

Main Compartment

The main compartment, while very basic, is extremely roomy. It easily fits my Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter, winter jacket, lunch, and extra running gear, with space to spare. The Futura is hydration compatible, and includes a hydration sleeve and velcro attachment (shown below,) as well as a tube slot at the top of the pack.

The spacious main compartment, with hydration sleeve and attachment

Bottom Compartment

The bottom compartment, open.

The bottom compartment is not a normal feature of run commuting packs. Standard packs generally have a large main compartment and one or two smaller accessories pouches near the top.

Inside view, showing the zippered access to the bottom of the main compartment.

Back/Suspension

The Deuter Futura 22’s suspension system.

Deuter’s breathable suspension system, called AirComfort, is very similar in concept to the AirSpeed frames that Osprey manufactures. The one noticeable difference is that the Futura’s wire frame forms an “X,” whereas Osprey’s lightwire frame forms a rectangle. This gives the Futura a little more malleability at the sides, allowing it to contour to your shape a little better than the Osprey.

Rain Cover

In my opinion, a rain cover should be a feature on any pack you use for run commuting. If you get caught in a rainstorm, you only have to stop for a few seconds to unzip and cover your pack, keeping nay electronics and dress clothing dry and out of the weather. Deuter even added a reflective logo to the cover, so when it is on and covering up the pack’s standard reflective fabric areas, you still have a little extra something to keep you visible to drivers.

The Futura’s rain cover is found at the very bottom of the pack.

The rain cover on the pack.

By | March 3rd, 2015|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , , , , |6 Comments

The New Run Commuters – February 2015

This month we’re featuring Tom Fischer, a firefighter in St. Louis, Missouri. Even though he has an unusual work schedule and did not have all the latest and best running gear in the beginning, Tom decided to start run commuting anyway. And, he’s sticking with it. He makes a great point about a great target audience for run commuting, too. Fire, EMS, and police usually have many facilities available at their workplace already (showers, laundry) that could make them the perfect jobs for which to run commute.

As always, if you are interested in being featured on The New Run Commuters, fill out and submit the form at the end of the post.

Runner Basics

Name: Tom Fischer
Age: 35
City/State: St. Louis, MO
Profession/Employer: Firefighter/Paramedic for the Kirkwood Fire Dept.
Number of years running: 6
# of races you participate in a year: 0
Do you prefer road or trail? Trails are better for the knees. Humans weren’t designed to run on concrete.

Run Commuting Gear

Backpack: REI Stoke 9 backpack. I recently switched over from using a cheap drawstring-type bag. I would use a black cord to make my own sternum strap to keep it from swinging.
Shoes: My Trusty old Asics (GT-2130). I plan to get minimalist shoes to mimic barefoot.
Clothing: Sweat pants with hooded sweatshirt. Knit gloves (it’s really cold outside.)
Outerwear: Same as clothing
Headgear: Knit cap
Lights: None
Hydration: None. I drink 2 cups of water as soon as I wake up.

Tom Fischer

On Run Commuting

Why did you decide to start run commuting?

My New Year’s resolution this year was to run more. Lately, I’ve only been running on the treadmill at work (with socks only; I don’t like shoes). I figured that if I convinced myself to run to work, I would then be forced to run again to get home, and I was right, because I like going home. This, plus the treadmill seems to be a good fit for now.

How often do you run commute?

I only go to work 5 times per month (I work 48 hours straight and then have 96 hours off). I just started, but I plan to run commute every day that the temperature isn’t too uncomfortable. The coldest I’ve ran to work was 13 degrees F. I’m going to call that my limit until I get more appropriate clothing.

How far is your commute?

2.9 miles

Do you pack or buy a lunch?

Both. I work a 48-hour shift, so I pack oatmeal for breakfast and something healthy for the first day’s lunch. While at work, I go to the grocery store and get the rest of the food that I need.

What do you like most about run commuting?

I get to work totally awake instead of stumbling in half asleep and I feel great the rest of the day.

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

Not a soul.

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

By driving my fantastic Jeep Liberty, of course.

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

Just start doing it while you’re thinking of doing it…with the gear that you already have. There’s plenty of time to research and acquire better equipment later, but your desire to try it won’t last forever. Get started now, so that you gain experience and make it a habit.

Anything more about you that would like to include?

Your coworkers might think you’re crazy. Mine already thought that, but now some think I’m even crazier. I would encourage other firefighters, EMS, police, etc. to take advantage of the convenient facilities that exist at your work places (showers, laundry, lockers, pantries). Take full advantage of them by running to work. One’s own health is important enough to run more, but if you may need to drag a victim or another firefighter out of a house fire, or chase a suspect for a further distance than you would prefer, then it becomes imperative to run more (and lift more, as well). It takes me 10 minutes to drive to work or 25 to run to work, so for just an extra 15-minute investment per day, I get almost 3 miles of running in.

And lastly, because PE class doesn’t teach this, never land on your heels. Humans were designed to run, but only with a front or mid-foot strike. Landing on your heels is the best way to become an elliptical machine user, because you will lose your ability to run. You have to build up your distance slowly though, because your calves will ache as you switch to landing on the balls of your feet.

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The New Run Commuters – January 2015

In our first edition of The New Run Commuters for 2015, we meet Kate Livett from Sydney, Australia. Kate is a recent and die-hard convert to run commuting and though her job contracts and office locations often change, she’s determined to make the run to or from work no matter the circumstances. Rock on, Kate!

If you are interested in being featured in The New Run Commuters, simply fill out the form at the bottom of the post and we’ll get started on your profile. We look forward to hearing your stories! 

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Runner Basics

image

New Run Commuter Kate Livett

  • Name: Kate Livett
  • Age: 36
  • Hometown: Sydney, Australia
  • Profession/Employer: Academic (English Literature), various universities around Sydney (currently UNSW)
  • Number of years running: 7 years
  • Number of races per year: None. I went in a couple of road races and was not a huge fan of the crowds, but I’m planning to do some trail ultras in 2015.
  • Do you prefer road or trail? Trails are my passion (Whenever I can I run on trails.) I’m very lucky to live 40 minutes’ drive from a massive national park of native forest with very technical, rocky and rootsy singletrack, loads of mini-waterfalls, giant goannas, echidnas, kangaroos, poisonous snakes (!), unspoiled coastline and generally all-round amazing natural beauty. I try to run in the national park at least once a week. Running in the city, I enjoy looking at people’s gardens and meeting cats and dogs or watching birds in trees, etc., but I hate the aggressive drivers in Sydney, and constantly having to be ‘on my guard’ against crazy cars.

Gear

  • Backpack: I have several…*ahem*. Depending on weather and load, I switch between the Deuter SpeedLite 10, Osprey Stratos 24, Salomon Advanced Skin Set 12 (2013 version) on the road, and Ultimate Direction Wasp and Nathan Intensity for trails. For me, backpacks are as important to get right as shoes.
  • Shoes: Altra Torin for road, Altra Superior and Lone Peak 1.5 for trails, Inov-8 Trailroc 235 for super-technical trails and hills (though,they are too narrow and give me blisters), and flip-flops with shoelaces around the heels for homemade huaraches when it’s hot (see photo). I love zero-drop and wide toeboxes.
  • Clothing: I try to buy from brands that respect at least one of the following ethical criteria: vegan/environmentally sustainable/workers’ rights. This is very limiting; for example, I won’t buy Salomon or Nathan from now on. I know, I know, I have packs by both those brands. They’re awesome packs, too. But, I made the decision to try to “buy ethically” just after I got the Advanced Skin Set and starting sometime is better than never, right? I am hoping they will get some specific policies on ethical issues soon, so I can buy their stuff again! I just bought a long-sleeved Patagonia capilene tee with UPF50+ sun protection. It’s made of 60% recycled plastic bottles. I’ve worn it twice in 90 minute runs in 30-degrees Celsius, and it’s totally awesome — cool and light and protective. Moving Comfort bras. Basic running shorts.
  • Outerwear: Puma PE windbreaker jacket for trail and when I’m not commuting. For run commuting in winter a huge yellow neon cycling windbreaker, which i wear with my pack underneath. It makes me look pretty silly, but ‘safety first’…
  • Headgear: I always wear a cap and Polaroid sunglasses.
  • Lighting: Two bicycle froglights on my pack and reflective clothing.
  • Hydration: None in winter. In summer, I will drink up to a litre of water on the exact same run. I recently bought two Ultimate Direction soft-flasks (see them in the front pockets of my pack in the photo). They’re pricey, but i cannot recommend them highly enough — best investment ever, for trail and road. You don’t have to run with half-empty or empty bottles all the time. They are much better suited to the female anatomy as well.

General Questions

Why did you decide to start run commuting?

I have been obsessed with running since I took it up in my late 20s. Since that time I’ve been employed all over the place at different things, often working from home. I didn’t know there was such a thing as ‘run commuting’, and always did my running before/after work. Looking back, even if I had heard about it, I’m pretty sure I would have thought it was impossible for me to run commute, as I lacked general ‘running knowledge’ and wouldn’t have felt confident running with a backpack, timing my meals etc.

Last year, though, (having accumulated 6 years’ running experience) I got a contract to work regular 9-5 hours in the Sydney CBD, and about a month before I started, I stumbled on The Run Commuter website. The universe aligned, and I decided I wasn’t going to let my running be sacrificed to employment! I read every post on this site and successfully run commuted for that whole 6 months. I’m about to start another contract with regular hours. My New Year’s Resolution is to embrace the changing GPS coordinates of my employment, and to adapt to run commuting wherever the location of my latest workplace. I’m lucky that my partner is very supportive of my run commuting and doesn’t mind if dinner time is delayed a bit because I’m run commuting home.

image_1

Mishi, checking out Kate’s homemade running sandals

How often do you run commute?

Usually four days a week either to or from (mostly to). I would love to do both ways every day, but it would kill me!

How far is your run commute?

Last year’s 6-month stint was 12-14 km one way, depending on the route. The job I’m just about to start is almost the identical distance.

Do you pack or buy a lunch?

I try to pack a sandwich and apple. I admire the runners profiled on this site who run with frozen soup, strawberries, etc.! I’m not sure I’d be successful with that…

What do you like most about run commuting?

Chris Van Dyke, one of the first run commuters profiled on this site, says it best when he says: “How often can you straight up trade something you hate for something you love?” Similarly to Chris, I have loved swapping the peak hour public transport experience (cranky sardines in a slow-moving can…) for exercise and personal room to breathe, and I feel physically and mentally invigorated all day after running to work. When I’m run commuting i’m actually excited to go to work. Like most things in life, once you’ve done it the better way it’s hard to go back. Now I get cranky with myself if I don’t get to run commute because I’ve slept in.

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

Runners, no. Quite a few of my colleagues bicycle commute.

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

Train and then bus (unfortunately). Sometimes drive, but parking is impossible and the aggression of other drivers stresses me out.

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

If you’re lucky enough to have showers at work, before you start run commuting try to ascertain what the unofficial “shower schedule” is — if you’re going to be rocking up at the same time each morning you don’t want to find that the shower is “pre-booked” every 15 minutes until lunchtime.

Specifically for the ladies — backpacks are generally made for men’s bodies. It can be discouraging trying to find one that doesn’t bounce, look stupid or feel wrong. Spend extra time researching this key piece of gear, and possibly spend extra cash on it, too. I’ve found it’s worth spending more at the beginning for a superior product– you will save money in the long run by not giving up run commuting due to an uncomfortable pack. (Happily, this logic also justifies my backpack fetish…) At least you’re not shelling out as much as you would for a sport like cycling/golf/triathlon. Also, don’t forget clean socks.

Anything else that you would like to include?

I know some people are put off trying a run commute by the thought that other commuters driving or walking past are ‘judging’ them or staring. But, if you feel self-conscious, just remind yourself: “They are probably very jealous that I am enjoying my commute and they are not.” The other confidence booster I like is the haughty self-question-and-answer: “Are THEY running 12 km to work? No, they aren’t!”

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2015 – The Year of The Run Commute

What better way to kick off the new year than to start run commuting? For those who are thinking about it, check out our Beginner posts below. Already a run commuter? Great! Maybe your new year’s resolution could be to run commute more frequently this year? Let’s make 2015 the Year of the Run Commute

Need some inspiration? Read profiles of new run commuters here.

Part 1: Mentality

Part 2: Route Planning

Part 3: Gear and Transporting it to the Office

Part 4: What to Wear

Part 5: From Sweaty to Office-Ready

Have more questions?

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The New Run Commuters – April 2014

In this month’s TNRC feature, we profile M. Suzette from Atlanta, GA, and Presh from Washington D.C. Loving the city life and rich history of D.C., Presh talks about packing light and that familiar, sinking feeling of being passed by a runner while sitting in traffic. M. Suzette, a nurse at a children’s hospital here in Atlanta, talks about choosing run commuting over the lure of wine and long shuttle bus rides. She is also TRC’s newest contributor, so stay tuned for more on M. Suzette and her tips, tricks, and stories about running to work!

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Runner Basics

  • Name: M. Suzette Birdling
    New Run Commuter M. Suzette - Before and After

    New Run Commuter M. Suzette – Before and After

  • Age: 35
  • City/State: Atlanta, GA
  • Profession/Employer: Registered nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
  • Number of years running: 5
  • # of races you participate in a year: I pay for 1 or 2 (Peachtree and one other), but I race myself every time I go out.
  • Do you prefer road or trail? I have to have a preference? I love them both! Sometimes I want to feel like a wild animal running and jumping over obstacles through the woods, and sometimes I prefer the urban wilderness, dodging cars and navigating uneven pavement.

Run Commuting Gear

M. Suzette's backpack contents

M. Suzette’s backpack contents

  • Backpack: Camelbak Mule without the bladder. 
  • Shoes: I alternate between a pair of Saucony Ride 5 and Brooks Ravenna 4
  • Clothing: Shorts, tech fabric shirt, knee socks and a lightweight pullover if it’s below 30 degrees, shorties and no pullover if it’s warmer. Occasionally if the weather is different than I anticipated, I will run home in all or part of my uniform.
  • Outerwear: I wear a Nike Run pullover hoodie for warmth. It has lots of reflective patches which is a bonus. I’ve been lucky and not had rain any day that I planned to run commute, so I actually don’t have any rain gear. I’m not sure yet how I’ll handle rain.
  • Headgear: None. I fix my hair before I leave home, and headgear would mess it up! 
  • Lights: Err, none. I have reflective things on my pack and shorts and shoes though.
  • Hydration: It’s only 2.7 miles, I just drink when I get there.

On Run Commuting

Why did you decide to start run commuting?

A couple of months ago CHOA moved a lot of our parking over to Emory. We then take a shuttle bus to the hospital. It took my 2.7 mile/ 15 min car commute to over 35 minutes. I thought about riding my bike, but then I saw The Run Commuter website and knew I’d found a great solution to multiple problems. I am a single mother and I work long shifts. Most of my runs are while the kids are at school. And after getting up at the crack, working a 12+ hour shift on my feet all day, I know that if I go home to change for a run, I am going to pour myself a glass of wine instead and hope for more energy tomorrow.  Even though my commute isn’t very far, it takes less time to run there than to drive, and I am getting in some exercise on days when I otherwise wouldn’t. Plus, I’m finding it’s incredibly cathartic to change out of my scrubs, lace up my shoes and just run away after a particularly stressful day.

How often do you run commute?

2-3 days a week. I work 12-hr shifts and tend to work them all in a row. I drive in on the first day with a few changes of scrubs, running clothes and shoes, Luna and Lara bars, some fruit like oranges or apples, and all my cleaning-up stuff. I leave it all in my locker until the last shift of the week when I drive home with all the dirty laundry.

How far is your commute?

Arriving at the office

Arriving at the office

It’s 2.7 miles by the shortest route; somehow it feels all uphill both ways. I don’t really try to go fast on the way to work. I don’t want to be a sweat ball when I get there. I have very enthusiastic sweat glands.

Do you pack or buy a lunch?

I do both. I also bring my breakfast. Usually a pita sandwich of some kind, a piece of fruit and an Illy coffee drink (or 2) in a can.

What do you like most about run commuting?

I like the feeling that I have accomplished at least one good thing for myself in a day. When I get to work, everyone else is still sleepy and grumpy, but I’m sweaty and smiling. My face is bright, and I am awake! 

 

Drying clothes at work

Drying clothes at work

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

Nope, no one. I often run past a gentleman (going the opposite direction) who looks like he might be run-commuting. We just do the “Hey, Other Runner! God that hill sucks. No way, I’m not out of breath…” two-finger wave across Briarcliff Rd though. And the way the hospital greeters look at me when I walk in, like I’ve just stepped off a spaceship, suggests that not a lot of other people run commute there.

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

I just drive, park with the rest of the red-headed stepchildren, and ride das Bus.

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

Once you get yourself organized, it’s easier than you think. You’re not going to stink, and no one cares if your hair is perfect anyway. 

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 Runner Basics

  • Name: Presh (“Precious”)
Presh ready to run

New Run Commuter Presh

  • Age:  31
  • City/State: Washington, D.C.
  • Profession/Employer:  Regulatory Affairs, Georgetown University Medical Center
  • Number of years running:  8 years on and off
  • # of races you participate in a year: 0
  • Do you prefer road or trail?  I find road running the most stimulating.  I’ve given trails a shot, but I’m energized by the city, and people walking, riding bikes, shopping, etc.
  • Run Commuting Gear

    • Backpack: I converted a spacious Targus laptop bag with a snug chest belt.  Winter was brutal, so the bag made it tons easier to carry clothes, my coat and lunch in separate compartments.  To keep the load light, I keep a few pairs of pumps at the office.  For summer, I plan to upgrade to an Osprey.
    • Shoes: Champion Lattice runner
    • Clothing: Random long- and short-sleeve shirts, and my fave Aspire running tights.  Overall, I keep it pretty simple.
    • Outerwear: A light wool sweater to wick sweat, since I tend to warm up rather quickly.
    • Headgear: 180s fleece ear warmers on really cold days; otherwise nothing.
    • Lights: None
    • Hydration: None

    On Run Commuting

    Logan Circle in the morning

    Logan Circle in the morning

    Why did you decide to start run commuting?   

    Last fall, I started running to work for a handful of reasons.  Using public transit, I might spend two hours round-trip just sitting, which is awful.  Add to that anxiety from the heavy AM and PM rush and delays caused by bad driving and motorcades. Lastly, it made sense to integrate my workout into the early part of my day, instead of wasting more time at the gym later.

    How often do you run commute?

    So far, four times a week, but eventually I’d like to run all morning and evening commutes.

    How far is your commute?

    The total distance from home to the office is 6.5 miles, but I run 3.6 miles from home to Georgetown’s shuttle stop in Dupont Circle in the morning, or vice versa in the evening.  

    Do you pack or buy a lunch?

    I pack – helps me save cash and eat a lot healthier.  On non-running days, I replenish my office calorie stash with staples like oatmeal, fruit and nuts.

    What do you like most about run commuting?

    Freedom to enjoy the beauty of Washington, DC at a leisurely pace!  The city has so many architectural jewels off the beaten path of the Mall; it’s hard not to drool during my runs.  Also, every run is a mid-week victory, even when I finish feeling battered by the day.  Not only am I clearing four 5Ks a week but do so with almost zero emissions compared to driving.  And since exercise is built into my day, I no longer have the luxury of finding excuses not to workout.

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

    Dupont - Autumn

    Dupont – Autumn

    No, but here and there I spot a few other run commuters along my route, which is always encouraging.

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

    As an urban dweller, I prefer to leave the car (and the road rage) parked at home, so I take Metrobus.  Unfortunately, the hour-long haul makes me a bit stir crazy.  Every time a runner zooms past the bus, I inwardly cringe and wish I’d brought my running shoes and backpack.

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

    If you’re on the fence, just go for it.  The distance between home and work is probably feasible, so it’s worth it to run, especially if you’re constantly getting stuck in traffic and then park yourself at a desk all day.  Plus, all your friends will envy your strong legs, and you’ll also feel awesome when your doctor applauds you for a low resting heart rate.

    Anything else that you would like to include?

    Protect your back and hips: invest in a good backpack and pack light!

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    Are you interested in being featured in an upcoming The New Run Commuters feature? If so, please let us know by filling out the form below.

    (Note: “New” can be anywhere from a week to a year.)

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    By | April 17th, 2014|Categories: General, News, People|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

    Transporting Food in Your Backpack

    No matter how you get yourself to work every morning, you have two main options when it comes to lunch – Bring it or buy it. If you are a run commuter and choose to bring your lunch, the unique circumstances of your transportation method will require a little additional planning and packing to ensure everything survives the trip without incident.  And trust me – you don’t want an “incident” to happen in your pack  all over your work clothes. No one wants to smell like soup all day. No one.

    A note before we begin: Empty space is your worst enemy. That holds true for both within your food container and around it in your backpack. Empty space allows things to move around, bounce, and rub against other things. The elimination of said space is your goal in packing your lunch (and your pack, as well.)

    Now, with that being said, here are the most common, commercially-available food transport options for the run commuter.

    Hard Plastic Containers

    Reusables containers and a disposable container

    Reusable containers and a disposable container

    Best Foods: Sandwiches, solid leftovers

    Worst Foods: Cookies, crackers, chips

    Pros: Cheap, lightweight, microwaveable

    Cons: Destroys food that is packed improperly, microwaving plastic

    Notes: When buying either type of this container, make sure to only get those that have tight-fitting lids.

    Glass Containers

    Dem beans...

    Dem beans…

    Best Foods: Liquidy leftovers (e.g., chili)

    Worst Foods: Cookies, crackers, chips

    Pros: Microwaveable, plastic-alternative, long lifespan

    Cons: Heavy, destroys food that is packed improperly, can break if dropped

    Notes: Pack foods tightly into these containers! The hard surface will destroy foods that can bounce around inside.

    Stainless Steel Containers

    Stainless Steel Containers

    Stainless Steel Containers

    Best Foods: Leftovers, sandwiches

    Worst Foods: Cookies, crackers, chips

    Pros: Lightweight, durable, plastic-alternative, shiny

    Cons: Medium-weight, destroys food that is packed improperly, not for use in dishwashers

    Summary: The best lightweight plastic-alternative.

    Reusable, Resealable Cloth Bags

    Reusable Bags

    Reusable Bags

    Best Foods: Sandwiches, cookies, crackers, chips, fruit slices

    Worst Foods: Soup, leftovers

    Pros: Reusable, lightweight, plastic-alternative

    Cons: Not airtight/watertight (may leak), hand wash only

    Notes: These are a great environmentally-friendly alternative to the plastic bag.

     

    Plastic Baggies

    Plastic-Bag

    Best Foods: Sandwiches, trail mix, crackers, cookies, chips, pretzels

    Worst Foods: Soup, stews, heavy leftovers

    Pros: Lightweight, semi-durable, air/space can be removed

    Cons: Rubbing inside your pack can create holes in bag, short lifespan

    Notes: These are your best defense against travelling food’s worst enemy – empty space. With these bags, you can push the air out and seal them, leaving virtually no space left inside for things to bounce around.

    Aluminum Foil

    Tin foil

    Best Foods: Pizza, sandwiches, breads

    Worst Foods: Anything liquidy

    Pros: Lightweight, shape-able

    Cons: Tears easily, short lifespan, not microwaveable, leaks, not airtight/watertight

    Notes: This is the best thing to use for carrying a couple of pieces of cold pizza or a slice or two of grandma’s banana bread.

     

    The Thermos® or “Vacuum-Insulated Food Jar”

    Soup ThermosBest Foods: Soups, stews, chili, oatmeal, lentils, beans

    Worst Foods: Anything dry and/or crispy

    Pros: Keeps food warm or cold for long periods of time, durable, leak-proof, long-lifespan

    Cons: More expensive container on our list, not microwaveable 

    Notes: Ideal for liquidy lunches, however, cannot be used in microwave, so food should either be heated in the morning before putting it into the food jar, or the food jar contents should be emptied into a microwave-safe container and reheated at lunchtime.

    Plastic Wrap

    Standard plastic or “cling” wrap wraps wraps well.

    Standard plastic or “cling” wrap – works great for sandwich wraps.

    Best Foods: Wraps, breads, sandwiches, hot dogs in buns, pizza

    Worst Foods: Any foods that have a lot of liquid in them

    Pros: Wraps foods tightly and securely (even more so if you add a piece of tape), inexpensive

    Cons: Flimsy, easily punctures

    Summary: Plastic wrap is great for wrapping oddly-shaped items.

    Combinations

    My preferred way to transport food these days is by combining several types of container into one unit.

    Open container with crackers, granola bar, and sandwich and  closed container, with little empty space inside.

    Open container with crackers, granola bar, and sandwich and closed container, with little empty space inside.

    In this instance, I used the packaging that the crackers came in by rolling it down, and securing it with a clip (a rubber band works, too). The granola bar was left in the wrapper it came in, and the sandwich was simply wrapped in paper towel. All three items were then placed inside a long, flat, reuseable plastic container and placed inside my backpack, with the crackers at the bottom. Remember – your containers will pack more securely lying flat against your back, so place them inside strategically, with the idea that the contents will slide downward.

    Additional Food Transport Tips

    • Use the food’s packaging to your advantage
    • Some fruits, like apples and bananas, transport fine without a container
    • Wrap sandwiches in paper towel before placing them inside a container, it keeps your container clean and you have a napkin for lunch
    • Soft berries, such as raspberries and blueberries, don’t travel well
    • Eliminate empty space around your food and inside your pack
    • If your pack has them, utilize the external compression straps to further secure your contents
    • Pre-packaged food, like frozen meals or dry noodle packages, can be carried as is
    By | November 8th, 2013|Categories: General, How To|Tags: , , , , |1 Comment

    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 | June 18th, 2013|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , , , , , |12 Comments

    On everyone’s minds

    Two weeks ago, I got three comments while running home from work. It’s not unusual: friends passing might hail hello; would-be wits and jerks in general offer more inflammatory fare, often from a passing car’s window. One of the comments that day came from an addled homeless lady sitting spread-eagle in the middle of the sidewalk outside a warehouse down my street: “Did you just get off a fire engine?” she squawked. No, ma’am, I assure you: I did not. I am to firemen what Steve Rogers, pre-Super Soldier Serum, is to Captain America.

    The other two comments were the same, hurled heartily from speeding vehicles on North Avenue, a east-west artery of rolling hills, several lanes, and one speed: fast. It was while I was huffing up said hills that the aforementioned comments came, both of them, “Go, Boston!”

    Scrotum graffiti is an eyesore, but hearts are welcome.

    Scrotum graffiti is an eyesore, but hearts are welcome.

    Then I spied this on a viaduct not much further on that passes over North Avenue, and pulled up short to consider. That structure carries on its shoulders the BeltLine Eastside Trail, a spiffed-up rail-trail that is Atlanta’s shiny new thing, universally adored by the city’s yuppies (and, for some reason, parents who think such a busy multi-use trail is an ideal environment for their kids to learn to bicycle). On one side of the viaduct, Murder Kroger, a grocery store that perfectly ties together all qualities and characters of North Avenue’s parallel thoroughfare, Ponce de Leon Avenue. On the other side, the Masquerade, a music venue-nee-cotton mill outside which suburban teens, greasers, Nth generation punks, emo kids, goths, and Hall queue to see their favorite bands.

    One side of the viaduct has a colorful, well-crafted mural touting the BeltLine. This side, though, is a scratch pad for aspiring taggers, their handles like Crass, Squeak, Squeal, Queequeg, and Hall — seldom, if ever, seen again — snippets of bad teen poetry and the proclamations of self-fancied philosophers. Quite the contrast.

    But the area is changing; North Avenue is changing. Developments like Ponce City Market, Historic 4th Ward Park, and the BeltLine are gradually, inexorably altering the areas in which they are situated. I saw Tuesday morning bags of trash piled high along that side of the viaduct that formerly served as taggers’ collective scratch pad. Weeds were pulled. Dirt was swept away. And the wall was painted that Eastern Bloc gray-blue color that is rolled over all permutations of “Queequeg was here,” and denotes that graffiti was there.

    IMG_7519

    Except this. The entire length of the wall: gray-blue, then, bam: preserved with painstaking care, “Boston On My Mind” remained. And I hope it remains there for a long, long while. Community immersion is a benefit of run commuting, and running in general. Similarly, the marathon has been called the most democratic of sporting events, as it offers the least barrier between spectators and athletes, a minimum separation between those who cheer and those cheered on — including the former’s entrance to that athletic endeavor.

    Perhaps drivers that day spied this, inspiring them to call, “Go, Boston!” as I huffed over those hills, rather than something derogatory or deflating, or nothing at all. I enjoy when strangers shout encouragement. I enjoy that they engaged me, as a member of the neighborhood, as a fellow citizen and person, despite the odds that we will never know one another or even again cross paths.

    Perhaps passersby of all kinds, everyone, will take note, keep those barriers down, and keep the literal and figurative Boston on their minds and in their hearts.

    By | May 1st, 2013|Categories: General, News|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

    Mike: family man, marathon man

    DeKalb Avenue is off my typical run commute route, but the morning was foggy and DeKalb offers a wonderful view of the skyline’s sentinels huddled in their wooly blankets. It also allowed me to meet Mike, another run commuter!

    run commuter

    Two miles out, two miles home daily = 20 miles during the work week.

    I spied Mike’s florescent orange shirt from several blocks back and hot-heeled it after him, grabbing for my camera. I caught him at Georgia State University’s campus, and we huffed out a bit of exchange over the next two blocks.

    Mike shared that he started run commuting about two or three months ago, while training for the March 17, 2013, Georgia Marathon. His kids’ needs and schedules sometimes precludes longer runs prior to or following work, so he began running two miles to the train station in the morning, and two miles home from it after work. That round-trip train ride also affords Mike 45 minutes in which to read, to his delight. Mike’s family lately scaled back to being a one-car family; this multi-modal run commute helps make that easier. It is something with which Josh’s family has experience, having gone from one car to being car-free (eventually going back to one car, after Ben joined their family). But that is how Josh came to run commuting, too.

    Running light -- and bright! -- though a hip or waist strap would reduce bag sway.

    Running light — and bright! — though a hip or waist strap would reduce bag sway.

    Mike and I had about as many minutes as blocks in which to speak before our paths parted, so I neglected to advise him about improvising a waist strap. As you can see, above, his backpack lacks that feature; I could see from blocks away that it changed his form significantly, and swayed visibly back and forth. Many options to allay this: a bungee cord, preferably one of the flat kind; some string; a web belt, of the Army surplus type; an old bike tire: limitless options.

    Mike, if you read this and would like to add anything, or more likely, if I botched some info, comment or contact us! The question we all have: what was your time in the marathon??

    By | April 30th, 2013|Categories: General, News|Tags: , , , , , |2 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 | April 29th, 2013|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , , , |0 Comments
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