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Gear to Destinkify: Towels and Cloths for your Post-Run Commute Cleanup

“I could NEVER run to work. There is no shower in my building! What am I supposed to do to get clean and not stink?!?!?”

We hear this a lot; usually when talking with someone who is thinking about starting to run commute, or while engaging others in discussions on the web. And, yes – some people do have legitimate reasons where a shower is absolutely necessary post-run (long hair, for instance). But for those whose offices lack a shower, you can still be a well-groomed employee without smelling offensive. 

Stephanie has told us how she packs her clothes for the commute; Kyle wrote about cleaning up in Part 5 of our Getting Started series; and, Anna – in our latest edition of  The New Run Commuters - showed how she dries her running gear after arriving at the office. Over the next few months, we’ll highlight a few pieces of gear, as well as common, everyday supplies that will help you look, and smell, your best at work. First up – towels and cloths.

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One of the more important items to have for a no-shower cleanup (besides baby wipes) is a towel. I use two – one that I get wet for cleaning, and one for drying off. To help you get yourself as clean as you can after a run, here are a few I’ve tried in the past few months and what I though of them.

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Norwex Body Cloth

We were contacted by a Norwex representative who happened upon our site, and she said she was going to send us something she thought would be a great fit for run commuters who cleaned up without a shower.  Several days later we received a Norwex Body Cloth, and we tested it out over the course of a several weeks at the office.

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First Impression:

The cloth is small – about 12″ x 12″ – and is made of a blend of 70% polyester and 30% polyamide. Like most microfiber towels and cloths, it’s a little “sticky,” in that it catches on any slight imperfections it finds; dry skin, for example. It is also impregnated with silver, which is supposed to inhibit bacterial growth. The test cloth is green, but it comes in five other colors.

First use:

I arrived at the office and cooled down as I normally do. I used baby wipes over most of my body, put on antiperspirant, got dressed, and headed to the restroom. Per the instructions, I wet the Norwex towel down thoroughly, and wrung it out. As I cleaned off my head and face, I noticed two things about the towel – It was extremely refreshing and it smelled really good. After cleaning up, I felt just a little cleaner than I normally do if I just use wipes. It is probably due to the fact that the baby wipes I use leave a moisturizing film on my skin after each use, and was removed by the wipe-down with the towel. Back in my office, I hung the towel up and by lunchtime it was dry.

For the next several weeks, I used this over and over, bringing it home after a few days and washing it. The towels are sold in a pack of three, which should get you through a full work week. At the end of the week, take them home, wash them, and you are ready to go for another week.

Conclusion:

This is a great piece of gear for run commuting. It functions extremely well as a wet cleaning cloth. It cleans the skin very thoroughly, rinses easily, dries fast, and can be used for quite some time before washing. The cloth doesn’t stink. You don’t stink. The world is good.

Divatex Sport Towel

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First Impression:

The largest of the the three towels, the Divatex Sport Towel is 24″ x 47″ in size and, like the Norwex microfiber cloths, extremely soft. It is made from 80% poly/20% nylon, and is thin – about half as thick as the Norwex or Coleman towels.

First Use:

After cooling off, wiping down, and getting partially dressed (pants, shoes, undershirt), I grabbed the Divatex and headed to the bathroom. In this version of the cleanup, I used the water from the sink to wet the skin on my head, neck, and face, then scrubbed with soap and rinsed, using the towel to dry off. I repeated the same with my arms and chest (a wash/body cloth, like the previously mentioned Norwex, works best here) Drying off with the Sport Towel was quick and comfortable. The material is soft against the skin, and absorbs water much better than a standard cotton towel. Once finished, I returned to my office, finished dressing, and hung the towel up to dry.

It didn’t pick up any offensive smells during the testing week and could probably have been used unwashed for two weeks, however, I recommend washing it with your running clothes once a week.

Conclusion:

This is a solid piece of gear. It’s a great, lightweight drying-off towel and can go for extended periods of time without washing. And, don’t be fooled by it’s small size compared to a regular bath towel – it will completely dry you off after a shower.

Coleman Camp Towel

I purchased this several years ago while researching camping, backpacking, and traveling gear that could also be used for run commuting. It was very inexpensive and looked like it would fit the bill for the post-run cleanup.

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First Impression:

Made from “non-woven polyester,” the Coleman Camp Towel has a completely different feel to it than the microfiber towels. It’s rough, scratchy, and very lightweight. But look how easy it is to spot in that smashing yellow color! It measures in at 20″ x 27″.

First (and last) Use:

I repeated the same procedure I had with the Divatex Sport Towel and the first thing I noticed was that it is scratchy as hell – just downright uncomfortable against the skin. It’s hard to describe it’s absorbency. It’s hard, because I could not tell if it soaked water up, or merely pushed it off me, similar to that thing you do when you turn the shower off in the morning and realize there isn’t a towel within 50 feet of you – just brush off as much as you can and hope it is good enough.

On the upside, the thing dries more quickly than any towel I’ve ever used. That might be due to the fact that it never really gets wet though (just a hunch).

Conclusion:

No. Don’t use it on yourself. Don’t use it on others. Don’t give it as a gift. Leave it in it’s natural habitat: the camping section of a WalMart store.

skora base, skora shoes, run commuter, running to work, natural running form, runreal

Review: SKORA Form Running Shoes

While the post-Born to Run minimal running shoe fad began to slow a couple of years after it took the running world by surprise (seemingly overnight), some companies have prevailed as leaders in the industry, remaining solid performers while other styles and designs came and went. SKORA, a Portland-based shoe manufacturer, is one that has continued to thrive.

In a market once dominated by giants like Nike, Reebok, New Balance, and Asics, the demand for minimal, barefoot, and natural running footwear created new niches allowing smaller running shoe companies, like SKORA, to fill the void and provide an alternative to the clunky, heel-striking shoes that had been the standard for decades. 

Recently, we were sent some SKORA Forms to review. We put some miles on them under regular running conditions, and – of course – while run commuting. Here is what the tester thought of them.

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Speed-lacing with the SKORA Phase

The Great Unboxing – SKORA Shoes for the Run Commuters

Heads up runners and run commuters! 

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

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

The cushioning was minimal and firm, but comfortable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SKORA Forms

SKORA Forms

Hall with the SKORA Phase

Hall with the SKORA Phase

Kyle wearing the SKORA Base

Kyle wearing the SKORA Base

 

SKORA Form fresh out of the box

SKORA Form fresh out of the box

Kyle trying out the SKORA Base

Kyle trying out the SKORA Base

Speed-lacing with the SKORA Phase

Speed-lacing with the SKORA Phase

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

 

 

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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.

RIBZ Front Pack - Featured

Review: RIBZ Front Pack

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

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

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Initial Inspection

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

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

Test #1:  RIBZ Front Pack with Backpack

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

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

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

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

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

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

Test #2:  RIBZ Front Pack by Itself

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

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

Recommended for Run Commuting?

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