Product Review: Ultraspire 600 Lumen

Nate Bender is quickly becoming a local legend for mountain travel prowess. He trained all summer for an attempt at all 27 of Montana’s 12,000′ mountains only to be snowed out a few days before. Not one to complain, he quickly adjusted plans and drove down to Zion to attempt an FKT on the double-Zion traverse. All the while he tested out the UltrAspire 600 Lumen waistbelt. Follow more of his adventures @10peaksbeforelunch.

Put away the smoke masks and break out the puffy jackets, fall has come to Missoula. And if you go a little higher in the hills, you can find full-on winter. Some folks are already binge-watching TGR ski films and others just wish they could have a few more weeks of running in the high alpine, but whatever your views one thing is for certain — the changing weather means the days are getting shorter and having a good light for your pre-dawn and post-work runs is crucial.

I’ve always been solely a headlamp kind of guy, but I jumped at the chance to test out a waist light. For longer-duration efforts, I liked the idea of doubling up on light sources by adding a waist light in addition to a headlamp. Ultraspire claims that having the light beam come from waist height makes shadows from rocks and roots more pronounced and gives better depth perception. And with my ability to trip over anything and everything, this seemed like a great reason to carry a few extra ounces. Plus, I knew everyone would be jealous of my impressively glowing crotch area.

First impression — the Ultraspire Lumen 600 Waist Light is a serious piece of gear. The light itself feels solid and well-built, without feeling heavy, and the adjustable mesh waist belt (made out of the same materials Ultraspire makes their packs from) felt comfortable and well-thought-out, with two pockets for accessories and a wide belt to give the light some support and keep it from bouncing around too much.

HOW’D IT DO ON THE TRAILS?

I took the light out for several training runs around town and on Mount Sentinel, both with and without an additional headlamp. The big test, though, was using it on the Zion Double Traverse — 96 miles end-to-end-to-end through Zion National Park.

The light boasts four modes: low, medium, high, and a quickly blinking SOS mode (also known as, “for the love of god, car, I’m just trying to get home from the trailhead please don’t hit me.”) The low setting is adequate for hiking, or a slow jog on relatively open trails. The medium works well for a wide range of speeds and terrain, and the high is great for fast running on uneven terrain; it really puts out an impressive amount of light. You turn the light on and cycle through the modes with a single button. If you’re trying to cycle to a different mode while running fast through rocks this could be an issue as you’d have to cycle the light off as you clicked through to the mode you wanted, but other than a scenario like that this system is pretty foolproof. 

The light attaches to the waist belt with two flexible rubber rings which allow the light to swivel up and down. You can definitely angle the light too high, to the point that you start to see it in the bottom of your peripheral vision. But that puts the angle of the light so high I can’t think of any reason why it would ever need to be set like that. 

And full disclosure — in the interest of saving weight, I took the light off the waist belt for the Zion run and improvised a way to attach the light directly to the front of my running pack. Probably not what the designers had in mind, but it worked like a charm so I’d say it’s a positive that the light is versatile like this.

But on the runs I did with the light attached to the waist belt as it’s supposed to be I found the belt fit securely. I did have to keep tucking the excess tail ends of the adjustable part so they wouldn’t bounce around. If you’re on the smaller side like me you might consider trimming these down a bit.

 The light does bounce around, especially if you’re running quickly or descending a technical bit of trail, but it was never enough to feel distracting. It also became less noticeable if I paired the light with a headlamp, which I recommend for longer excursions. With just the waist belt, I found looking at something off to the side of the trail or in your pack took a bit of hip gymnastics, usually ending with me awkwardly crouching over my pack to get the light to shine at the right angle. Not the most glamorous, or efficient. An additional headlamp avoids all that, makes it much easier to see off to the side of the direction you’re going, and on some rockier trails the more lumens you can throw out the merrier.

The beam is also significantly wider than a standard headlamp’s, and I’d imagine this could be a good thing or bad thing depending on the person. Some people may like how the wider beam reduces the tunnel vision effect that a relatively narrow headlamp beam gives, while others may not really care to see what the bushes five feet on either side of the side of the trail look like.

The biggest downside I’ve found with the light so far came during the late stages of the Zion run, when the battery didn’t have enough charge to stay on the high setting and could only muster the medium brightness. At the beginning of the run I’d started in the dark and ran with the light on for a couple hours until daybreak. Then I completely forgot to tell my crew to charge it during the day. At about 1 in the morning I’d been on the move for over 20 hours, I was having trouble staying awake, and the light didn’t have enough power to stay on the high setting. It wasn’t a deal breaker — the medium beam still throws out a good amount of light — but I was fatigued enough that I was grasping at anything that would make the effort easier, and putting out more lumens seemed like a great way to keep myself more alert. So this tale isn’t really a gripe against the light so much as it is just something good to know; if you’re on a really long run or just happen to be more tired than usual, the medium beam may feel underwhelming in a way that it doesn’t on shorter outings.

WHAT CAN I FIT IN THE BELT?

The waist belt comes with two pockets; a smaller one in the front and a larger one in the back. Both open with these easy-to-pull red rubber tabs. They’re easy to grasp even with light gloves. The front pocket can fit an iPhone 5 comfortably. The back pocket can fit twelve energy gels (true) or 57 peanut M&Ms (I might’ve made that up). There are also two grippy elasticized loops on either side of the back pocket that you can slide a jacket or extra layer under, and they worked perfectly for me.

CHARGING THE LIGHT / BATTERY LIFE

The light charges with via a micro USB port, and the indicator light glows red when charging, green when charged. Simple & effective. I’ve never timed how long it takes to charge, but it it’s somewhere around a couple hours, depending on how drained the battery is. So plug it in, go grab a round or two at Charlie’s, and it’ll be charged long before you’re out on the trail the next morning regretting that second pitcher of DoubleHaul. 

PARTING THOUGHTS

Because I’d never used a waist light before I was skeptical at first, but the Ultraspire 600 Lumen waist light won me over. It’s light, but instead of being flimsy it feels well-built. The mesh belt fits securely and holds enough for just about anything short of a full day out on the trails. There are several features that feel well-thought-out, like the elastic loops for holding an extra layer, or the silicon rings that hold the light securely in place yet allow you to change the angle of the light with a simple twist.

It works well by itself for a number of running situations, and pairs well with a headlamp for those times where you want some additional lumens or the versatility a headlamp adds. In short, it’s well-made, versatile piece of gear. As long as you’re smarter than me and actually charge it when you’re supposed to, it’ll keep your adventures well-lit as we move deeper into fall and on towards winter.

SPECS

Check out Ultraspire’s spec sheet: 

http://ultraspire.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Lumen-600-Quick-Start-Guide.pdf

Product Review: Nathan ExoDraw Handheld

Rachel Brumfield can been seen racing anything from the Resolution Run to Eleven Miles to Paradise, but also likes to explore and recently spent some time in the mountains around Banff. You can follow her adventures on instagram @rachbrums. As a 2017/2018 RErun she tested the Nathan Exodraw Handheld water bottle and gave us her thoughts.

Confession: I hate carrying things when I run. I have resisted it for years, stuffing my pockets with snacks and planning long run routes around drinking fountains and friends’ homes. However, Missoula’s extensive trails have forced me to find a better hydration solution. There’s too much to explore to be limited by water stops!

My first hand-held water bottle was a Nathan ExoShot. I remember standing in Runner’s Edge trying to decide between the 12-oz Exoshot ($39.99) and the 18-oz ExoDraw ($49.99). The budget-conscious consumer in me eventually won out, and I ended up with the smaller version. Somehow, it was never enough water to justify carrying the bottle for a long run. Twelve ounces goes fast on a hot day!

The increased size is one of the factors that makes the ExoDraw my new favorite handheld hydration solutions. I’ll tell you about all the benefits, as well as a couple (very minor) “draw”-backs below. But first, the specs.

NATHAN EXODRAW SPECS

3.6oz   |    18 fl. oz. liquid capacity   |   BPA free plastic bottle   |   Neoprene sleeve

PROS

Liquid Carrying Capacity: The 4-oz upgrade from the ExoShot makes a surprising amount of difference. For me, it is the perfect size: holds enough water to merit carrying something while running, yet is small enough that it’s not obnoxious to hold.

Hot Tip: In order to get the full 18oz, remove the neoprene sleeve to fill the water bottle. Securely tighten the mouthpiece, then slide the bottle back into the sleeve. It takes a little shimmying, but you’ll get an extra 2 or 3-oz of water into the bottle.

Grip-Free Hand Strap: This is my absolute favorite feature. You don’t even have to think about carrying the ExoDraw! The strap slides over the hand, between the forefinger and thumb, and secures around the wrist. Essentially, you could not hold the bottle, and it would stay in your hand. It makes sense to grip it, but if you need your fingers to quickly tie your shoes or zip your jacket while running, you don’t lose your water.

Collapsibility: Unlike a hard-sided water bottle, as you drink from the ExoDraw, it shrinks. Once it’s empty, you’re not holding a useless 18-oz. container. What you’re holding is 3.6-oz – plus whatever you stashed in the pocket. The collapsibility also makes it easy to get every last drop – which really counts on a hot or steep run.

Stash Pocket: This handy water bottle not only serves as a hydration solution, it also has a spot for your gels, sports chews or keys! In testing, two packs of Clif Shot Blocks or keys/cards or a half pack of tissues tuck perfectly into the well-designed pocket.

CONS

Persnickety Cap: I’ve found the cap to be a little tricky for a couple reasons. First, if you don’t screw it on just right it can leak. Most people can probably nail this in the first attempt – for me it took a couple tries. Second, to drink from it, you must bite the mouthpiece (it does not have a cap). Again, that took me a few tries to figure out.

To be clear: when the cap is tightened correctly, this bottle does not leak at all – even when squeezed or jostled, which is amazing.

Not Suitable for All Distances: This is fairly obvious, but the ExoDraw has its limits. If you’re running longer trail runs or require lots of hydration/fuel, you may need to think about a hydration pack. (Or double ExoDraw? Never seen it done, but could work!)

Overall, the Nathan ExoDraw is a fantastic handheld bottle. Its collapsibility and grip-free hold make it an efficient item to add to your running ensemble. Even I think it’s worth carrying.

Product Review: Gel Comparisons

Jenna Lyons is part of the 2017/18 RErun Ambassador team. She recently completed Flagstaff Sky Run, which is the US Sky Running Championship race. This capped off a season of Sky Running for Jenna with finishes at the Kendall Mountain Run and the Rut Mountain Runs. You can follow all her adventures at @littleyoness. We asked Jenna to try out a variety of gel flavors and give us here take.

I was asked to review some gels for flavor and effectiveness this month.  Many athletes use gels for a boost of quick, easily digestible energy while they are cranking out miles during training or a race. Gels can be a good option to conveniently store nutrition in your pocket or pack while you are training. In the words of Neil Young, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away…” Gels are a good way to keep the energy going and keep you from fading. Or dying.

As always, make sure you try these all out before you decide to use them in a race. Everyone is different and has different nutritional needs and flavor/texture preferences. I usually eat natural foods (dried fruit, cookie, etc.) or Clif blocks when I am running. And, as always, make sure you are also hydrating when you are using these. Most people find that they need to wash these gels down with a hearty swish of water anyway.

I also learned from reading troll comments on Amazon that a lot of people eat these gels in their normal lives like they are candy. This is really weird and probably not a good idea. You could just buy some candy?

I’d like to also insert a little note about maltodextrin.  Whilethe FDA considers maltodextrinto be a safe additive to most processed foods, and most people can consume it in moderate amounts, it has a high glycemic index, and can cause spikes in your blood sugar (which I guess is what a lot of athletes are seeking when they eat gels anyway…).  It can be made from any starch, i.e. potato, corn, wheat, etc., and people can break out in a rash from ingesting maltodextrin if they are allergic to these things. I’m not a doctor, but what I gathered from most things I’ve read about maltodextrin is that it’s really not great to just sit around and it. And it’s the first ingredient in all these gels except for the Huma gels.

In general, all the gels are hard for me to open when my hands are cold. So I generally err on the side of biting them to open. What would be really cool is if the companies would make a little screw-on lid so you don’t have to eat the whole thing in one go (GU makes a refillable flask so you can buy gels in bulk and refill the thing). I find that the gels are a little much for me to have in one bite, and so I usually end up folding the top over and putting it back in my hand bottle for later. And I usually get gel all over my hands.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Hammer Raspberry

The Hammer raspberry tastes exactly like how you’d imagine raspberry gel would taste. Added bonus: Hammer products are Kosher and Vegan! (except the Nocciola flavor).

  • Hammer Chocolate

The Hammer chocolate tastes kind of like a mix between Jell-O chocolate pudding and Hershey’s syrup if you mixed them together. It was a little rich for me.

  • Hammer Espresso

Added caffeine! WOOHOO! While this doesn’t really taste like an espresso coffee drink at all, it does taste more like a VERY rich mocha. There’s more chocolate flavor than coffee. It’s intense. I’ve eaten these in the past when it was extremely hot outside, and it’s a little much. I would probably save this flavor for when it is cold outside, as it is rich and extremely filling.

  • GU Chocolate Outrage!

This tastes like a mixture between Jell-O chocolate pudding and Betty Crocker chocolate frosting. Which means it tastes delicious. It reminds me of Willie Wonka’s chocolate river.

  • Clif Mocha

Like the Hammer espresso flavor, this gel has more chocolate flavor than coffee flavor. Also very rich. I used to eat these when I fought fire on a Hotshot crew, and they are extremely effective at providing quick energy to get you through.

  • GU Tri-Berry

This gel tastes like some kind of berry crisp pie thing. It’s refreshing and sweet tasting. If you like sweetness, then this gel would be great for you. It’s more refreshing than the coffee/chocolate flavors, which I appreciate when it is hot out.

  • Huma Raspberry

This was BY FAR the best tasting gel I tried out of all gels I tasted. I used this gel on a 16 mile run, and ate half of it the first hour and the second half in the second hour. There is enough volume in the package to split it up like this depending on how many calories you are accustomed to eating while you are running. This gel has the best texture, and tastes just like raspberries… I was most impressed with the ingredients:

Ingredients:Raspberry Puree,Evaporated Cane Juice, Brown Rice Syrup, Filtered Water, ground chia seeds, sea salt, citric acid, natural caffeine. 

  • Clif Razz

This gel is delicious and sweet, and refreshing. It reminds me of raspberry gelato. But more gooey obviously.

In case you have ten minutes of free time, check out this crazy video of me tasting chocolate and coffee gels on a Friday night:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJUBsfHJ9hk&feature=youtu.be

Product Review: Body Glide vs. 2Toms

Tim Mosbacher is a staple in the Missoula running community. He is currently trying to run a marathon in every state and has experience with a variety of running products. As a RErun Ambassador we asked him to compare anti-chafe ointments and share his expert opinions. You can follow more of Tim’s adventures here.

I suffer from chafing. I suffer a lot if I forget to use preventive methods on runs 14 or more miles. When I ran in college, I just accepted chafing as one of the discomforts of running. Legs that hurt, burning lungs, bleeding nipples, and chafed inner thighs were all part of the “joy of running.”

As I have gotten older and wiser, and a have little bigger pocketbook, I have realized you can eliminate some of these “joys” without breaking the bank, and it can definitely make a run more enjoyable.  For the past month I have been comparing anti-chafing products from the Runner’s Edge.

I actually have used Body Glide for the past six years.  It is a product that works, and its name “Body Glide” is becoming synonymous with all anti-chafing products.  I use the product on my inner thighs.  The shorter the racing short, the more I will need to apply.  If I am wearing arm warmers with a singlet, I will also apply it to my arms and the side of my chest where the upper seams of the arm warmers rub.  Some men also use it on their nipples, but I have not had much luck with this method and prefer to use band aides.

There is a “feminine” or pink container version of Body Glide that contains some additional moisturizing balm.  In applying this balm, I have not noticed any additional benefits. Many of the women I have discussed the products with stated they usually use the blue or “masculine” version. Although the pink container does say “for her,” there truly is no difference between the his or her versions.

I have never had issues with residue after a run with Body Glide.  When a container is new, it is a little rough on the skin during application, similar to most underarm stick deodorants.

This month I have also been using 2Toms Sport Shield.  I immediately preferred the roll-on applicator.  The anti-chafing “liquid” rolls on fast and easy, with no applied pressure. I have started to use it instead of my old standby Body Glide.  2Toms has worked as well, including in rainfall, and is rapidly becoming my go-to product.  It does, on shorter runs, tend to have a moister feeling than the Body Glide.

Both products are excellent.  Stop in to the Runner’s Edge in Missoula, MT and purchase either one and tell them Tim sent you.

Product Review: New Balance In Transit 1/2 Zip

Angie Partain is very involved in the Missoula Running Community as both a runner and frequent volunteer despite being a busy mom. You can follow her adventures at @jnapartain. As a RErun Ambassador we asked her to review the New Balance In Transit 1/2 Zip and share her findings with us…

This month, The Runner’s Edge asked me to tryout the New Balance In Transit ½ Zip Pullover and share what I thought about it.

October is here and with it, the chill. Sometimes deciding just how much clothing you’re going to need for a run can be complicated. Shorts with a pullover? Capris with a tee? Tights with a tank…or the super cool shorts + tee + gloves look. (um, I’ve never done that…oh wait…) Sigh, I miss summer! An easy way to simplify these decisions is by updating your running wardrobe!  I always know what to wear when I have a cute new top…and the Runner’s Edge just got in a fresh batch of pretty running items!

About the New Balance In Transit ½ Zip:

Warmth and Comfort

This is a super soft light to mid weight pullover,  perfect for these chilly fall days. I thought it was a very functional weight…slightly thicker than a t-shirt, without feeling bulky. It wicks well, keeping you comfortable and dry. When fully zipped it hits mid neck, providing a small gaiter and should work well as a base layer and possibly even on its own as our temps begin to drop.  

Fit and Features

I felt it fit true to size. It hits a few inches below the waist and has a slight drop in the hem line.  The zipper hits just below the bust and is one of the 3 reflective points. Sleeves fit comfortably, and have a bit of extra length without being awkwardly long. The thumb holes make the glove/no glove dilemma a bit simpler this time of year and the large zippered pocket at the back hip holds an Iphone or a variety of snacks. The weave of the fabric is nice and tight and doesn’t seem apt to snag. The color is a heather teal, it has a slight sheen and impressive color technology. I’ve run in similar colors where sweat was very visible, but not with this one!  I even ran it under the sink…initially you could see the wet spot, but within a few seconds it was no longer visible. It also washed up great and held it’s shape without shrinkage

Sporty meets Feminine

This is such a fun blend of styles. The shirring at the bust and neck is very flattering and will add a little va to your voom! I love that this touch of girly dresses it up a bit while still looking sporty! It’s a really great cross-over and has already made it’s way into my everyday wardrobe.

If you’re looking for the right pullover, this is a great option. It comes in at $70, which for a running pullover is pretty affordable. If you’re looking for more of a hoodie, check out the orange hoodie in the same line as this one (also available at the Runner’s Edge)!

-Angie

Oofos Recovery Sandals: Foamy Goodness

Jesse Carnes is a RErun Ambassador for 2017/2018. He is an accomplished triathlete and trail runner and is running the Portland Marathon this weekend. Jesse has been in the endurance world for years and has used a variety of nutrition products over  so we asked him to give us a brief run down on differences in a few of the products on our shelves. You can follow Jesse’s adventures here.

So you just finished up a tough workout. Your muscles are aching and your joints are feeling a bit creaky. In this scenario, you also worked all day before said workout, and now you’re home and ready to relax. The problem is, you’re also really hungry. Dinner isn’t going to make itself, and if you ordered food every time you found yourself in this situation, you wouldn’t be able to afford new running shoes or race entry fees. But making dinner involves more time on your feet, and that sounds terrible!

Enter Oofos, the goofy-looking (yeah, I’ll definitely acknowledge that) recovery sandal with foam soles that are ludicrously thick (44mm under the arch) and supportive, and therefore super comfortable to stand on.

Earlier this summer, I saw a couple of the folks from Runner’s Edge wearing them, and it’s possible that I made fun of them. Because in case I didn’t mention it, they are pretty silly. Like clown shoes. Well, they talked me into giving them a try and fortunately, I have no shame and now I am able to wear them in public. I even walked to the grocery store in them the other day, although to be honest, they are better for standing than they are for walking any kind of distance.

Possible uses for Oofos:

  • Cooking! This is my favorite use, because if you’ve gotta be on your feet, you might as well have a couple inches of foam under your soles.
  • Going to work. This is only an option if you work somewhere where it makes sense to wear open-toed shoes. I don’t recommend them on a construction site. Likewise, I would not wear them to a business meeting. Somewhere in between, though, there is a sweet spot where they might be appropriate.
  • First thing in the morning after a race or hard workout. When your joints are all creaky and trying to get used to being vertical again after 8 hours of being horizontal, these things do make the transition much more pleasant.
  • Walking to the grocery store. As I mentioned, this is an okay use for them, but not where they really shine. Just don’t try to run in them. You’ll probably make a fool of yourself if you do.

There are several styles of Oofos, including a slide style (my preferred, pictured above), a flip-flop style (not for me, don’t like things between my toes), and a clog. The slide style is definitely the best if you are an old man (or one at heart) who likes to wear tall white cotton socks under his sandals. Or, if you’re going for maximum recovery potential and style points all at once, just wear your compression socks under your Oofos.

Can I definitively say, from a scientific standpoint, that the Oofos sandals help speed up the recovery process? I surely cannot, because I am not qualified to make such a statement. But can I say that they are really, really comfortable, and make me feel just a little bit more okay about spending time on my feet when I would rather be laying on the couch? Sure! And sometimes that’s all you need.