Review: GORUCK GR1 Backpack

In looking for the best run commuting backpack, I stumbled upon GORUCK. Their GR1 is considered by many people to be the ultimate everyday backpack. So can the backpack that can do anything also run commute? Let’s find out…

Test Model

GORUCK GR1

Size: 20 inch

Carrying Capacity: 26L, 1,587 cu. in.

Cost: US $395

Backpack Details

So GORUCK is the brainchild of this former special forces veteran who is smiling like a maniac in every picture. Seriously, the energy on the GORUCK site is tangible.  He puts his dog, Monster, on like half the site! But, he is freaking adorable.

If you want to learn how to do web design, just look at www.goruck.com .  The design is brilliant, clean, crisp, it won me over.  If a purse company had a site with this kind of energy I would have bought one and would be trying to use it as a run commuting man bag.  It’s the ultimate salesman for Goruck!

These bags are meant for rucking.    Which is basically walking around with a heavy pack.  They sell weights to put in them from 10 lbs to 45 lbs (I have a 45 lb one that I have been playing with).  And, if that’s not enough, they also host GORUCK events which are basically SEAL Team/boot camp events. Think of them as team building events for badasses.

So for run commuting they are overbuilt in almost every way, stress points tested to over 400 lbs.  They also come with their “Scars Lifetime Guarantee” – basically if the bag breaks while using it, they will repair or replace it for free.  Forever bag? OK, I’m listening.

During the initial unboxing, I was a little underwhelmed. The bag is all 1000D Cordura – it is stiff and boxy, just like a brand new pair of Rainbow sandals are stiff flat boards that age into beauty and comfort like this…

I’m told the bag eventually molds to you, the plastic frame sheet conforms to your back and the straps shape to your shoulders. These are the beastly straps.

Thick and almost over padded, but surprisingly comfortable.  The pack feels like you are giving a koala a piggy back ride.  And if that doesn’t sound awesome to you then you are insane!

Here is one of the interesting things that is counter-intuitive to a running backpack.

The back has zero ventilation.  The koala will get your back a little sweaty.  But because it’s 1000D Cordura it doesn’t absorb the sweat, it just runs off.  So it’s weirdly comfortable. I’ve run to work several times with it already in the hot, humid, Charleston weather and it’s been fine.  All backpacks give me back sweat so it doesn’t bother me at all. Also the 1000D is basically rain proof. There are reviewers who do shower tests and the inside stays dry.

The bag opens up like a suitcase fully if you want.  It makes packing it super easy. I can fold my clothes big and flat like they are going in a drawer. In usually roll my clothes to fit in a regular bag. In fact a few days ago I got my free scrubs delivered to me at work and there was still enough room on the run home.  That’s my regular junk, my scrubs I wore that day, my towel and toiletries, 5 pair of scrubs and two scrub jackets! It’s the TARDIS of backpacks. It says 26 liters but it carries more. Magic!

The inside has zippered compartments.

The bag opens up like a suitcase fully if you want.  It makes packing it super easy. I can fold my clothes big and flat like they are going in a drawer. In usually roll my clothes to fit in a regular bag. In fact a few days ago I got my free scrubs delivered to me at work and there was still enough room on the run home.  That’s my regular junk, my scrubs I wore that day, my towel and toiletries, 5 pair of scrubs and two scrub jackets! It’s the TARDIS of backpacks. It says 26 liters but it carries more. Magic!

The inside has zippered compartments.

There is an elasticized pouch on the back of the bag which will hold 3 Nalgene bottles side by side perfectly.

There is an elasticized pouch on the back of the bag which will hold 3 Nalgene bottles side by side perfectly.

There is a section of MOLLE webbing at the top back inside of the bag that can be used for whatever you need. Look up MOLLE pouches and you will see how easy it is to customize this bag. There is MOLLE on the outside front and sides.

The back padding hides their “Bombproof” laptop carrier.

The back also has the removable frame sheet which you can take out to make a floppier bag or replace with a stiffer one. This is what makes it so comfortable. I can throw in soup cans for lunch and run without then smacking me in the kidneys for 5 miles.  It also helps the pack stay flat and flush against your back.

The outside slash pocket is a miss for me.  It’s way too deep and if the pack is full then it’s a tight squeeze to get things in and out.  And it’s deep, all the way down to the bottom.

That’s my own patch I put on it.  A runic compass, so I don’t get lost. I think it’s broke.

However, it contributes to the bags clean lines, so I’m torn. I would like a Jansport-style zippered pouch, but I love how flat the bag rides on your back. The koala hugs you close.

There is a saying in mountain biking “Strong, light, cheap. Pick two”.  So, basically if something is strong and light, it’s not cheap. If something is cheap and strong, it’s not light.  This phrase is attributed to the founder of Trek Bikes who further said that his main concern was that equipment should be strong and durable first. Then, try to make it as light as possible without making it weak. Cost is the last concern. As a run commuter, I get caught up in light gear. But, often times light is not durable.

The GORUCK GR1 excels at durable. Smash it, bash it, it’s 1000D Cordura! It’s overbuilt everywhere.

I mean just look at the stitching on the straps and handle.  Oh almost forgot there is a Velcro access for a hydration bladder.

So, the GR1 is a tank, but like a tank it’s heavy. GORUCK says it’s 3.2 pounds. For comparison, the Under Armour Storm backpack here is 1 pound 3 ounces and they both fit about the same amount of stuff.

It is strong as shit, but heavy AF.  And here is what could be the deal breaker; the price.  $395. That’s not a typo. But, they do offer 25% off for firefighters, police, teachers, students, EMS, military, veterans, and government employees.  You probably know someone that will qualify to make the bag $300. Still steep, but I gotta to tell ya, I haven’t looked back yet. I’m loving this thing. It’s the Cadillac of backpacks – over built and super comfortable. They have a 21L version called the Rucker that is pretty much the exact same pack without the laptop compartment and it’s $265 before the discount and $199 after discount, which is better. The Rucker has a thicker, stiffer non-removable frame sheet and has a little bit of difference inside.

http://news.goruck.com/gear-news/gr1-vs-rucker/

That’s an article comparing the two bags.

I really don’t know what to say. GORUCK’s site pumped me up and all the other reviews I read online convinced me to try it and the bag itself has made me fall in love with it. It shouldn’t make sense. It’s not feather-light but it makes up for it by being almost indestructible and just molds to your body like a nice pair of leather shoes. It’s just a soft, comfortable suitcase that you can run with.

They make other smaller bags, too, so check out their sizing and comparison pages to learn more.

https://www.goruck.com/rucksacks/compare-rucksacks/

https://www.goruck.com/ruck-sizing-guide/

Definitely check out their site. Seriously. It’s almost a cult, but I drank some of the Kool Aid (which is safer, since they drank Flavor Aid at Jonestown) and I’m a convert. I plan on getting a Rucker next.

Thanks for reading! Grabbing my GR1, ’cause I’m late for work and I gotta run…

By |2018-10-23T15:01:04+00:00October 16th, 2018|Categories: Gear|4 Comments

Review: Proviz REFLECT360 Running Backpack

Run commuting in the cold, dark days of winter can be challenging. If you keep normal hours, you often start and end the day in darkness. Footpaths are often not as well-lit, which make running on the road itself safer, but that renders you vulnerable to passing traffic who can’t see you. In an effort to make myself as visible as possible, I looked for the brightest backpack I could find, and strangely enough found it in the black backpack produced by ProViz Sports.

ProViz Sports are a UK-based company that specialise in highly reflective gear, using 100% CE EN 20471 certified reflective material to produce clothing and equipment designed to highlight users in low-light areas. They chiefly focus on cycling and cycling products, but recently produced a backpack tailored to running (and run commuters): the REFLECT360 Running Backpack.

Test Model

REFLECT360 Running Backpack

Size: Small

Carrying Capacity: 10L, 610 cu. in.

Cost: AUD $95/US $70

Add-on: None

Performance and Evaluation

It’s worth noting here that I travel light as my work clothes are on site, so I tend to go for bags 15L or smaller. As of writing I have covered over 100km with this pack, carrying my lunch, spare clothes, phone, stethoscope and important documents. The average weight for my setup is about 2 kg or 4 pounds.

I really liked the feel of this backpack. When packed well and adjusted correctly, the bag sat really snugly against my torso, and didn’t feel too loose or too tight. Despite the lack of external straps to tie down the main compartment, there was minimal bounce, which I think again throws back to the design of the backpack, which is quite compact. The back of the backpack is ventilated, and while there are no panels separating the backpack from your back, it is made of a firmer material which holds its shape quite well. I have had minimal issue with sweating or heating up so far.

The backpack has held up over sun, wind and rain, without getting too wet or soggy. It apparently can resist a 1500m water column so I guess you could go deep sea diving without wetting your belongings. But jokes aside, once it rained three times on route to work (that’s Melbourne weather for you!) and I arrived soaking wet with bone dry belongings.

The backpack has shoulder straps, waist straps and sternum straps. It has a central compartment, a smaller front compartment, two side pouches and two mesh side pockets. It did not come with a hydration bladder, although there is an option to insert one, which you have to buy separately (I did not).

The chief pulling point is the reflective fabric that covers most of the back of the backpack, several stripes across the front straps, and the stitching of the backpack itself –  something I didn’t even realise until I reviewed this article. I don’t claim to be an expert on reflective material, but it certainly does reflect the light from streetlights, car headlamps and even torches very well, even more so than the neon-colored fabrics that make some some other bags. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t reflect the glare of indoor lights or sunlight, which means that you won’t blind your fellow co-workers or other commuters, should you decide to take this pack out in the daylight. One amusing thing, though: I’ve also discovered that you can use the reflection of the ceiling lights on the fabric to turn on sensor-operated faucets from quite a distance, making this a useful party trick if you’re the sort of person to have parties in the bathroom.

Reflective material aside, the quality and design of the bag really impressed me. I’ve used several run packs over the 15 or so months, and it became clear very early on that this bag was designed with run commuters and cyclists in mind. For one thing, there is very little excess strappage. The loose ends of the waist straps are designed to be tucked into side pockets, and the sternum straps had very short loose ends, which did not bother me at all. The shoulder straps and waist straps are nice and wide. Another serious plus point for me were the zippers. The AquaGuard® zippers open and close smoothly without catching no matter how contorted the bag is, which makes it really easy to access stuff from the waist straps on the go.

I have a few minor issues with the bag. The mesh side pockets are quite shallow. They look like they’re designed to hold water bottles but I didn’t dare to put any in them, for fear of the bottles falling out during the run. They probably would hold small (150ml) water bottles, but I don’t think the standard 600ml drink bottles sit very well. I mainly used the mesh pockets to hold small items such as my headlamp. Secondly, there is no compression strap over the main compartment, which means that you have to really pack your bag well. Also, the waist strap pouches, while quite roomy, could not fit my gigantic iPhone 6+, but I don’t really hold this against the pack because I’ve never found one that could! Also, it only comes in black, but this doesn’t bother me.

What I carry on a typical day

What I Liked

Very visible

High-quality design

Water resistant

Breathable material

What I Didn’t Like

No tie down straps

Side pouches still can’t fit my ginormous phone

Minimal front access pouches

Shallow mesh side pockets

Summary

This is a decent run pack, with only minor issues that I think are more of preference than necessity, and would fit the run commuter with minimal luggage wanting to run at any time of the day, all year round. It definitely lives up to its claim of being visible, but also functions well as a backpack for people serious about getting to work on foot.

By |2018-08-20T13:39:05+00:00August 20th, 2018|Categories: Gear|0 Comments

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

Pack Hacks: How to Tame Excess Backpack Straps

Run or hike with a pack long enough and you may begin to notice tiny annoyances about your gear transporter that are enough to drive you crazy.

For example, your zippers may make jingling, tinkling noises with each step. The quiet, sloshing water in your bottle or hydration pack might start to sound like you’re camped next to a gushing waterfall. You may even get noticeably angry at your straps that keep swinging into your arms as you move.

Some backpacks come with pre-built solutions for all these issues, but many do not. What can you do to keep yourself sane while out on the run? We’re here with answers!

In our first Pack Hacks instructional post, we’re going to show you how to deal with excess backpack straps.

The Problem:
Excess Straps on Your Pack

The Solution:
Secure the Straps with Velcro Tape

Here’s How to Do It

Step 1

Purchase some Velcro Tape

Also known as “fastening tape,” velcro tape comes in a wide range of sizes and lengths and is suitable for many jobs in which things need to secured (wires, cables, yoga mats, rope, etc.).

For our example, we used a roll of 3/4″ tape.

Step 2

Cut a 5″ – 6″ Piece of Tape

The length may vary depending upon how much excess strap you have, but usually 5 – 6 inches (13 – 15 cm) will suffice.

Step 3

Place End of Tape Near End of Excess Strap

By placing the first part of the tape inside the roll of strap, you will be securing it from unrolling later on.

Step 4

Roll Excess Strap to Buckle

The roll doesn’t have to go all the way up to the buckle – it can finish near it.

Step 5

Wrap Tape Under and Around Strap and Secure

If you have too much tape leftover, trim the excess.

Done!

The Finished Product Should Look Like This

When done correctly, the straps should never come loose. If you need to expand the pack straps, simply unfasten, adjust, re-roll, and secure once more.

Use anywhere you have too much extra strap on your backpack

By |2018-09-19T11:36:52+00:00June 10th, 2017|Categories: Gear, General, How To|9 Comments

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.

Review: Deuter Speedlite 10

This small, light backpack is simple yet sturdy and is perfect for a certain type of runcommuter. It is about as basic as you can get in a pack designed specifically for running/sports. The Speedlite 10 is a great runcommuting pack for those who value durablity, quality, and simplicity, but more significantly, those who want a pack that they can forget about while running. This is one for runners who don’t want to access much whilst on the run.

Test Model

Deuter Speedlite 10

Size: One size fits all

Carrying Capacity: 10L, 610 cu. in.

Cost: US $50

Add-on: Dry-bag, 10L

Best for:

  • Runcommuters who don’t want to access phone/water whilst on the run

  • Runcommuters who carry small to medium loads

  • Runcommuters with longer torsos

Performance and Evaluation

The Speedlite 10 comes in a range of colours and has classic styling. If you choose the black version this a backpack that does not look too ‘sporty’ for the office. Whichever color-way you choose, you’ll notice that the Speedlite 10 is not floppy when not being worn. It has a soft foam-and-mesh back, and an internal, sewn-in bendy plastic wire running around the rim of the back panel. This frame is unobtrusive and not stiff – you can still bend the whole pack in half – but it holds the pack in a shape all of the time, meaning the pack doesn’t flop over in a sweaty heap when you put it down. This is a great quality in the pack. Many other small-size lightweight packs have no skeleton and as a result collapse like a badly-built sandcastle when not on your back. Several of the packs of similar load volume (see list below) are very floppy in this way. Floppiness is not a problem for trail-running or casual purposes, but some runcommuters don’t want their pack to be a puddle of sweaty fabric when they’re carrying it around. I runcommuted with a trail-racing ‘vest’ for a while, and it was great on the run but terrible to lug once off my back.

Performance

Performance is good, with little-to-no bounce when running with the pack. However, to prevent side-to-side sway I have to tighten the straps until they are basically too uncomfortable and have me ‘corseted in’ to the pack in a very stiff way. Personally, I prefer a tiny amount of sway to extremely tight straps, and that is the choice to be made for this pack, on medium to smaller-framed people. This brings me to another issue for performance: fit. Although the actual size of this pack is small in terms of how it looks, the positioning of the sternum strap would fit larger people best. This is because for smaller people who want to wear the pack up high the sternum strap may not slide up high enough to be comfortable.  See the photo above for the sternum strap at maximum height. It’s not a huge problem for me, but it might be for anyone smaller than me (particularly ladies, for whom the chest creates specific issues). I’m not small, either: 170cm, with a broad frame (though my torso length is small/medium, rather than medium/large). So, although the Deuter Speedlite 10 looks like it would suit a smaller person, with its compact size and clean lines, this is deceptive: it would fit best on larger/taller/size ‘L’ torso runcommuters.

Sometimes, it rains. We runcommuters 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.

There is the option of a small external rain-cover for instead. I did not try this method on the Deuter Speedlite 10, but I would guess that the rain cover would need to be super-small, and even then there might be problems getting the cover to stay on with the usual drawstring method used on rain-covers, because there isn’t much prominent edging for the rain cover to cling around, due to the pack’s compact design.

Key clip inside top stash pocket, on which are instructions for signalling airplanes for help!

 

 

What I Liked

Durability: high-quality materials and construction

Grab-handle for hanging pack on bathroom hooks

Lightweight, bendable ‘frame’ tube that gives a shape to the pack

 

Key hook inside…

….nicely-sized top pocket

 

Cool English/german instructions for signalling to aircraft for help if stranded on desert island! (the ink on these starts rubbing off pretty quickly though, so you’ll want to be marooned not too long after buying this pack…)

What I Didn’t Like

No pockets at all on shoulder straps/waistbelt

Shoulder straps a bit ‘harsh’ and may chafe neck on longer runs

When the main compartment is full the side mesh drink-bottle pockets are virtually unuseable for carrying drink bottles

 

Tiny anti-slide clips on waist belt don’t really work

 

Backpack Details

Front

The front of the pack has four light attachment points, one in each ‘corner’. It also has a small strip of silver reflective material in the lower quarter. There is no bungee cord or straps to cinch down the pack if it is fairly empty. However, this is not a problem, as the pack material keeps its shape well and doesn’t flop around or sag if there’s not much in the pack. If you had a single delicate item such as a camera in the main compartment it would bounce around, but in that scenario I don’t know whether an external bungee or compression straps would help, either.

Sides

The top zip opens the main compartment from halfway down each side of the pack. Below the zip on each side is a mesh pocket with elasticized top edge that keeps the pocket in close to the pack. These mesh pockets work fine when the pack is relatively empty. When the main compartment of the pack is full, however, it’s very difficult to get a drink bottle into the pocket. This means that if you want to carry water to drink while runcommuting it has to be either a very small bottle (like 150ml) or you’ll need to use a hand-held. This could also be annoying if you are using the pack during the day and just want to have somewhere to put your full-size water bottle.

Main Compartment and Top Access Pouch

There are no compression straps on either the front or sides of the pack, but this is not really a problem, as the pack is not very deep, and this –combined with the fairly stiff fabric – means that even when the main compartment is entirely empty there is no swinging or flopping or dragging.

For its compact size, this pack holds a fair bit of stuff — enough for many runcommuters. It will take a pair of size US9.5 (women’s, US8 men’s) shoes, and a full set of pants or skirt, underwear and shirt. It won’t have room left for a jacket, however. Without the shoes, the main compartment will fit the pants/skirt, underwear, shirt and lightweight jacket.

I have used this pack in hot conditions, with my work clothes loaded in the main compartment with no plastic or other dry-bag covering. Despite my ladylike perspiration, the clothes remained dry and fresh. This is due, I think, to the thick-ish mesh back panel and the water-resistant inner coating of the main compartment. Together, these features kept sweat from soaking through. However, my longest run in these conditions was one hour, so people running longer or who are more serious sweaters (though I am not a lightweight!), may find moisture transfer occurs. A dry-sack to contain your clothes before you put the whole sack into the main compartment will also serve the function of compressing your clothes to prevent rumpling and load-bounce. (As a related point: the Deuter Speedlite 10 is too small for the iamrunbox clothes organizer).

Back, Shoulder Straps and Waist Strap

For me, the main down-sides to this pack are related to the straps. The shoulder straps have a little bit of mesh on the underside, but are not actually padded, and the material they are made from, while robust and durable, is quite stiff and harsh. Several times I have ended up with chafing on the sides of my neck from the straps, after runs of over an hour. However, this was always when I was wearing collarless, thin running t-shirts as my only layer. I think this would not be an issue for people wearing jackets/second layers/rain shells etc. I suspect, also, that the chafing is related to the size of the straps/positioning of the sternum strap on me specifically.

The waist strap also has an annoying problem.  While the waist strap itself is basic but comfortably unobtrusive, there are two little plastic holders, or ‘strap wranglers’, on the waist belt, one either side of the main clip. These are supposed to keep the extra waist-strap lengths from flying around, unfortunately, on my pack they don’t really work. As I run they quickly either slide along the waist strap right up to clip, making them useless. Or, the excess strap ‘jumps’ out of them, again making them redundant. If you look at the photo on the right, above, you can see how the strap-wrangler has slid almost up to the belt clip on the left. On the right is an example of the extra strap simply falling completely out of the strap-wrangler and dangling to its heart’s content.

       This is not a pack for the technology-attached. There are no pockets on the front straps of this pack, so forget about checking your phone whilst on the run.

This pack would be perfect for runcommuting if you don’t want to drink, eat or text whilst on the run.

Hydration System

The Deuter Speedlite 10 does not come with a hydration bladder, so if you want to use one it would need to be bought separately. I said, above, that this is a great pack for those who don’t want to drink on the run. This claim could be modified to: this is a great pack for runcommuters who don’t want to drink on the run, or, for runcommuters who think they might like to dabble in trail running as well. You certainly can drink on the run without taking off the Speedlite 10, as it has a hydration tube opening at the top edge (right hand side only). Inside the pack is a dedicated pocket in which to put your hydration pouch. However, when I put a full 1.5L bladder into the pack there was no longer room for a runcommuter’s clothes + shoes combo. But on a trail run there’s no need for clothes storage room, and the pack is a great size for the trailrunning necessities: food/gels, rain jacket, space-blanket, hat, map, etc.

Comparative Packs

Additional Pictures

By |2018-10-12T15:40:59+00:00October 12th, 2016|Categories: Gear, General|3 Comments

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+00:00August 30th, 2016|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

Review: Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0

While not technically a backpack, the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0 has all the features you would expect on a pack, and a whole lot more. It’s great for the run commuter who doesn’t carry much with them to work, and is perfect if you also want something light and comfortable for carrying gear and water on long road/trail runs.

Test Model

UD PB Adventure Vest 3.0

Size: Large

Carrying Capacity: 16L, 977 cu. in.

Cost: US $169.95

Add-on: UD 20oz. Water Bottle

Performance and Evaluation

I tested the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0 during 35 miles of run commuting. 

I was worried the Large might be a little big at first, but after adjusting the numerous straps (hidden and otherwise) it felt secure and form-fitting. With a water bottle added in the shoulder strap pocket, it was even more snug. I don’t normally run with water, though, so for most test runs I left the bottle out.

This thing is extremely lightweight – if you put it on while empty, you almost don’t even notice you are wearing it. The reason for that is the almost completely see-thru material from which most of the vest is made. Not only is thin…some of it’s compartments are waterproof, too! Or are they?

I was skeptical, so I ran a test. I placed several folded-up paper towels inside each of the small pockets on the shoulder straps, and then placed a rolled up pair of pants and shirt in the main compartment. All three pouches are made from “SilNylon/66: Silicone-Impregnated 30D nylon with a polyurethane face” which “creates a permanently waterproof fabric.” I was hoping to test it while running in a heavy downpour, but the rains never came. So I did the next best thing I could of…

Waterproof Testing

Result – Everything got wet

The water most likely seeped in through the zippers and not the material, but, still…lesson learned.

Wrap everything you need to stay dry in something waterproof (plastic grocery bag, drybag) before packing it into the vest.

—————————

For most runs, here is what I carried: 

  • A set of work-appropriate clothing, rolled up and placed in a plastic bag (not garment carrier compatible) 

  • Small lunch

  • Cell phones, wallet, work ID

  • Clif bar, and a couple of gels

  • Packable rainjacket

  • Sunglasses

That was a lot to carry in this vest. My regular run commuting pack is a 24L and I usually pack it almost entirely full. The UD PB Adventure Vest’s carrying capacity is only 16L, and while it does have additional external pockets and compartments to stash gear, I had to leave some things out that I would normally carry – namely, my sizeable lunch. However, that is often leftovers in glass containers and race vests aren’t meant to carry that in the first place.  A simple sandwich, with crackers and fruit fit fine.

On the run, the full vest ran extremely well. It felt really good to not have to wear a tightly-fastened waist strap, and the two sternum straps served very well as overall stabilizers of the pack’s load. One thing I noticed that is different than running with a traditional running pack – the weight of the pack is carried quite differently. On a standard pack (waist strap, sternum strap(s), frame or no frame) the full weight of the backpack is pulled against your back and becomes an extension of your body, rather than a bouncy, separate accessory. The UD vest’s weight is carried down lower on your body and pulls at your shoulders, straightening up your back slightly. It was a nice change and similar to how other waist-strapless hydration packs like the Nathan HPL-020 carries it’s weight.

Side view, showing water bottle in shoulder strap pocket

Back of the vest, showing elastic cord lockdown on sides of pack

Front of vest with water bottle

What I Liked

An abundance of run-accessible pouches

Comfortable and carries weight differently than a backpack

Extremely lightweight

Hydration system compatible and accepts additional water bottle

Double sternum straps

What I Didn’t Like

Low carrying capacity

Not waterproof

High cost

Backpack Details

Back

The back of the vest consists of two large, stretchable pouches, with the tops being held together with the blue elastic cord shown in the picture. These pockets are of decent size and can hold a jacket or hat and gloves with ease. The criss-crossed elastic cord area is excellent for holding wet clothing or shed layers.

Once the main compartment of the vest is loaded, the blue cord can be cinched tightly and then connects to a loop at the top of the pack to ensure the contents remain contained. For additional security, the elastic cord may be stretched to the sides and snapped in to gray cord fasteners on the sides and top of the vest (8 in total; 3 per side, 2 on top). These function very similarly to external compression straps found in good running packs.

On the left side of the main compartment is another zippered pouch. Like the main compartment, it is not run accessible, so store things here you won’t need until you are done running.It contains a key clip and (in addition to keys) can hold a wallet and a couple of other small items.

At the bottom of the pack are two reflective, non-stretchable loops. I think these are for carrying an ice axe, so yeah – not really useful for run commuting. 

Elastic cord hooks for extra compression

 Keys and valuables pouch

Main Compartment

The main compartment of the vest is made entirely of water-resistant material, and is closed with a zipper that runs up one side and across the top. It won’t hold much, as it is quite small by normal run commuter pack standards. I fit my clothing in there, but not much else. 

You can easily secure the contents in order to keep things from bouncing by using the elaborate elastic tie-down system.

 Almost full with a pair of pants and a shirt

Sides

The sides of the Adventure Vest are the defining characteristic of vest-style packs. Each side of the vest forms one unbroken loop from the waist all the way to the top of the shoulder. In a backpack the shoulder straps have thinner straps that connect to the bottom of the pack and can be shortened and lengthened to tighten the bag to your shoulder area. With the vest you put your arms through each loop and buckle the sternum straps at the front.

On each side of the vest at hip level, there are large zippered pouches, made of the same soft, stretchy material found on the front of the pack. These are great for storing hats, gloves, sunglasses, etc. Softer things would probably work best though, as this area presses directly against you hips.

Behind each large pouch is a small piece of velcro that, when opened, reveals an adjustable strap that tightens the vest to your waist. It took me a while to realize that this important feature was here, so be sure to make note of it’s location if you plan on buying one.

In front of the large pouches are smaller ones that are ideal for energy bars, gels, a wallet, or other small items that need to be accessed quickly and easily.

 Left side of the vest

Right side of the vest

Shoulder Straps

Working our way up from the bottom on the right side, you will find a pouch that holds a water bottle. It can hold anything really, but was designed to hold a bottle and includes a cinch strap at the top to hold the bottle in place. On the outside of this pouch, you’ll find another small, stretchy pouch that is good for holding one or two gels or a Clif bar.

At the top of the shoulder strap on both the left and right sides, is a narrow, long, zippered pouch that (like the previous pouch) will hold a couple of gels or an energy bar.

On the left side shoulder strap, you will see a large, stretchy, open-top pocket that will hold a hat and/or gloves, camera case, or similar-sized items. Above this is a pouch similar in size and location as the water bottle holder, but zippered on two sides. This is great for a large smartphone, sunglasses, or additional clothing, such as a t-shirt. It will also fit another water bottle!

Sternum Straps

The UD PB Adventure Vest has two sternum straps attached to long, sliding rails allowing for a wide range of adjustment. The straps themselves are thin and unpadded, and connect using small buckles. There are no excess strap holders, so to keep them from flopping around, try securing them with small pieces of Velcro tape.

 Closeup of sternum straps

Zippered pouch on left side holds an additional water bottle

Hydration Pouch

The Adventure Vest does not come with a bladder, but will accommodate most bladders with capacities up to 70 oz. (2L).

The hydration pocket can be found within the zipper located at the top of the vest. Inside is a velcro strap that holds the bladder and keeps it from slipping down and bunching up. The drinking hose can be routed out either the top left or top right side through holes that bring it out and down the shoulder straps. The hose can also be passed underneath the narrow, white, zippered pouches in the shoulder straps to keep the end of the drinking tube from bouncing around while running.

Additional Pictures

Disclaimer

Ultimate Direction provided us with the PB Adventure Vest 3.0 for review, however this did not influence my opinion regarding this product. The thoughts and pictures contained in this review are my own.

Run Commuting Tights Fit to Face a Canadian Winter

If you run commute year-round above the 49th parallel, you most likely have a variety of thermal tights. Up until this year, finding a pair that performed well below -20°C/-4°F proved to be tricky (at least for me) unless I was ready to spend lots of money. However, Mountain Equipment Co-op came out with a great new set of tights this year that solves my dilemma: the MEC Flyer Tight.

Source: Mountain Equipment Co-op

The front panel is made of wind-blocking nylon, polyester, spandex, and blended with polyurethane. The back is slightly different, composed of nylon and spandex, with a soft-brushed fleece interior.

Having now used these for the past 2 weeks, I am extremely pleased with the way they keep me warm, even in the coldest weather (-22°C/-8°F). Despite being thicker than most thermal tights, they did not impede my range of motion. That said, the idea behind these tights (front and back panel made of different materials) is not new, but their price make them a real steal: $82 CAD (about $58 USD).

In the same category: Sugoi Firewall 180 Zap tights, $209 CAD ($148 USD)

Modified Running Gloves

A friend, with whom I often run commute, owns a pair of Nike running gloves, which also have a mitt cover for colder days. I have been trying to get a pair of these for many years and just recently found a similar product at MEC. Reviews were not good for the product though, but they were at a discount, so I went for them. I quickly found out why: the mitt cover seams let go after the second day.

I could have taken them back to MEC for a refund, but I decided to go another way: I went to my local shoe repair shop. For a minimal cost, they readily fixed them, and they will be good for many run commuting years to come.

My local shoe repair shop, Cordonnerie Chez Gerry.

Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie

For the past 10 years, I swore by soft shell jackets for winter running. However, last fall was very mild, so I kept my Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie around longer than usual, which led to trying it out in cold temperatures. With the proper base and mid-layers, it turned out to be a very good fit, even in temperatures as cold as -20°C/-4°F. Not only does it work well, but it is half the weight of my soft shell.

Source: www.salomon.com

Review: Osprey Rev 24

We’ve had our eyes on the Osprey Rev since we first heard about it in 2013, and I finally broke down and bought one to try it out. Though it falls under Osprey’s cycling category on their website, it is intended for trail runners and endurance athletes whose running needs include easy access to storage space and ample hydration.

Test Model

Osprey Rev 24

Size: Small/Medium

Carrying Capacity: 22L, 1,343 cu. in.

Cost: US $130

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

Performance and Evaluation

I  ran over 100 miles with the Osprey Rev 24, carrying my clothing in the IAMRUNBOX garment carrier or the Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter, lunch, rain jacket, hat, and an occasional book. The average weight for the entire setup was 7.0 pounds.

On the run, it felt great! The Rev’s fit is snug and secure against the torso when properly adjusted. I was a little concerned that the thin shoulder straps might rub, but aside from a little discomfort against my clavicle once or twice (which stopped after I readjusted the straps), it was comfortable, light, and chafe-free. The shoulder straps run close to the sternum, and then veer off towards the hips at the bottom. This provided my arms with a lot more freedom of movement than I’ve found in other packs.

Another initial worry I had was that there are no external compression straps on the sides. There is, however, a cinch strap/buckle at the top of the pack, and it pulls together the zippered areas at the top of the pack. It did not appear that it would do much for bounce though. The pack itself is made of thin material, making it floppy, and I thought the lack of compression straps would have made it overly bouncy while running. Surprisingly, it runs extremely well with very little bounce. I think that having a garment carrier inside helped the pack hold its shape and minimize up and down bouncing, and the waist/sternum straps eliminate any potential side-to-side movement.

When it comes to having items and storage at the ready, the Rev dominates its field of competitors. I loved having quick, on-the-run access to a hat, wallet, gels/bars, rain jacket, camera, and headlamp. In addition, the flip-down phone holster on the shoulder strap was great for checking emails/texts while waiting at long traffic signals. On one or two occasions, though, I found that the clear vinyl inside of the pocket fogs up, most likely due to the sweat emanating from my torso.

I don’t run with a hydration system unless I’m going long (10 miles+) so I only tried it out for one commute. I like the entire setup of the system, and found it runs extremely well. The quick-disconnect hose allows the bladder to go in and out of the pack with ease, and is ideal for trail races when you want to spend as little time as possible at aid stations. Though it is designed to reduce movement and noise, I still found I needed to burp the bladder before running to reduce sloshing

One thing missing from the Rev is a rain cover. I run commute year-round in whatever weather is occurring when I step out the door, so a rain cover is a necessity (and additional purchase).