Product Review: Scatbelt

Jesse Carnes has spent a lot of miles on the trails, both on foot and bike. He is currently training for his first 100 mile footrace, IMTUF. You can read more about Jesse’s exploits here

It was one of those endless August evenings. You know the kind, where the sunlight tricks you into thinking it’s 4 o’clock when in reality it is closer to 7, and you’re out on the trail and there is really no reason to go home and eat dinner at a reasonable hour. That can wait. There is singletrack to attend to. And there we were, out on a run in our local recreation area, fully appreciating the long, winding descent we had earned after a tough uphill effort.

Here’s the thing about those winding descents: you can’t see all that far in front of you. You turn a corner and before you know it, you’re face to face with an angry mama bear. Well it just so happens that on this particular evening, that is exactly what was waiting for us around one of those corners, several feet off the trail, with two cubs close by.

I have never made a habit of carrying bear spray when I am going on short runs or rides close to town for a couple reasons. For one, there is usually a fairly steady stream of people, so generally the bears will be somewhat desensitized to human presence. In addition, the bears you might run into close to town are almost exclusively black bears, which are very rarely aggressive.

Mostly, though, I just don’t really like carrying bear spray, so in my mind I will justify not taking it however I can. I’d rather not carry anything in my hand when I’m running, and I’ll certainly avoid putting on a vest if I can get away with it. So what is to be done? That’s the problem the Scat Belt set out to solve.

Basically, this a belt that holds your bear spray so you don’t have to carry it. Simple enough. Of course, they do have two versions of the belt. The Griz (pictured above) includes a phone holster and a small accessory pocket. The Cub is the bare bones version that is designed to only carry bear spray.

In terms of overall comfort, this belt is not bad. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I stopped noticing that I was wearing it, but it doesn’t bounce and the straps are effectively contoured and cushioned to avoid any discomfort. The ease of access is awesome. I like the idea of having my bear spray attached to my waist without having to worry about it jostling around. Pulling the canister out quickly, which I was a little worried about when I first saw the velcro strap design, turned out to be very easy.

I’m not sure about the phone holster design. It uses an elastic velcro strap, and if you have a phone that is particularly tall, you have to pull the strap very tight to secure it. Under that pressure, I am skeptical about the durability of both the elastic and the velcro. With smaller phones (under 5 inches), this will not be an issue. Still, I would be interested to see a system that places the phone horizontally, opposite the bear spray, instead of vertically next to it.

At first, I was interested in the prospect of using this belt while backpacking. In the past, I have always let my bear spray dangle from my hip belt. If I could have my phone handy for photos and my bear spray secured but easily accessible, that would be great. The Scat Belt is advertised as “fitting comfortably under any backpack,” but unfortunately, there is no way I could get it to work with mine, as my hip belt very much gets in the way. Alas, it looks like I will have to stick with my current system (although maybe this is just the excuse I need to upgrade my embarrassingly old, heavy backpack).

Where I see myself using the Scat Belt a lot is for longer backcountry run/hike days, in combination with a vest or hydration pack. Since it can carry my bear spray and phone, it frees up two vest pockets for more nutrition and hydration, and it is by far the most comfortable way I have found to carry bear spray while still keeping it accessible. In my preparations for the IMTUF 100 in September, I see myself doing a lot of those types of days this summer.

Fortunately, we didn’t end up needing the bear spray that we weren’t carrying on that beautiful August evening. By the time the mama bear crashed out onto the trail to give us a good talkin’ to, we had already passed her by. She stood up for a moment, but then glared disapprovingly at us and ambled back into the bushes. Perhaps, though, I will try to make a habit of bringing my bear spray along more often, at least when I am running alone.

Product Review: Gels and Hydration Mixes

Jenna Lyons is an athlete that does it all. Runs, bikes, skis, you name it. She just graduated from law school and still finds time to represent Runner’s Edge as a RErun Ambassador. She recently tested a variety of gels and hydration mixes and shared her thoughts.

PRODUCT REVIEW: FRUITY GELS AND HYDRATION MIXES

To get in the mood, I recommend listening to this while you read this review:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqYxyd1iSNk

This month, I reviewed several nutrition products across a spectrum of several brands and flavors. All the products I tried were bright and fruity. In the words of Katy Perry, these gels will “give you something good to celebrate.” I sampled four products: (1) GU 25 th Anniversary Birthday Cake; (2) GU Tutti Frutti with Roctane; (3) Superieur Watermelon and Orange electrolyte drink mix; and (4) Skratch Labs passionfruit electrolyte drink mix.

GU 25 TH ANNIVERSARY BIRTHDAY CAKE GEL

As someone who is intimately familiar with Betty Crocker Rainbow Chip cake as my cake of choice for 25 years, I was excited to compare this gel to my favorite cake. Coincidentally, the very same year that I was born, Dr. Bill Vaughan concocted GU in his kitchen to help his daughter Laura get through the Wasatch 100 mile trail race. Since then, GU has helped many athletes get through their events. It’s not practical to carry Rainbow Chip cake in your running pack. But GU really stepped it up to celebrate their anniversary and made a delicious gel that tastes just like cake mix. They even made a special website and video about this gel: https://guenergy.com/25-years/. GU is a favorite nutrition choice for a lot of endurance athletes I know due to their wide variety of flavors. GU Energy Gels are easy to use, meaning it is easy to figure out exactly what you are eating because they contain exactly 100 calories, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 50 milligrams of sodium, and 40 milligrams of potassium. I’m generally not a fan of these sugary gels, to be honest. But this birthday cake gel tasted pretty darn good and didn’t have any adverse effects on my tummy. It was pretty fun to bring a birthday party out on the trail with me, too. 

GU TUTTI FRUTTI WITH ROCTANE

If you are in need of an extra boost during a long workout, I would highly suggest the GU with Roctane. Also, if you love Fruit Loops, the Tutti Frutti flavor is right on point. The GU Energy Gels with Roctane contain an extra ingredient called Ornithine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (OKG), which GU claims will “support recovery by blocking the catabolic effects of various hormones that cause muscle trauma.” Like the normal GU gels, the Roctane gels also contain 100 Calories, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 50 milligrams of sodium, and 40 milligrams of potassium. Again, not a fan of the sugary gels, but this one tasted good!

SUPERIEUR HYDRATION MIX

This hydration mix is my new favorite. Mostly because it has ZERO sugar and contains ingredients that I already eat and that I can support. Some of these ingredients include acerola berry extract, bamboo extract, stevia leaf extract, organic rice, pink Himalayan sea salt, and ionic sea minerals from the Great Salt Lake. Basically, Superieur is all about nutrition that is made from real food and contains real nutrients. As someone who doesn’t like to eat sugary products regularly, I will be drinking more of these electrolytes in the future on my journey to achieve perfect hydration. By the way, the watermelon flavor was AH-MAZING.

*Screenshot from http://superieurelectrolytes.com

SKRATCH LABS PASSIONFRUIT DRINK MIX

Skratch Labs contains slightly more sugar than the Superieur drink mix (which has none). In fact, the first ingredient is sugar. Skratch Labs’ philosophy, however, is that “in the context of an active lifestyle and more specifically during prolonged or very intense exercise, sugar can be critical to helping to maintain one's blood sugar, to keeping oneself fueled, and along with sodium can significantly improve the transport of water into the body.” (see https://www.skratchlabs.com/pages/faq). I have used Skratch products for years and I really enjoyed the new passion fruit flavor. It is definitely a tried and true and effective product, especially if it is very hot outside or if you tend to sweat a lot when you are exercising. Also, in case you were wondering, Skratch Labs drink mixes are certified Kosher (by The Scroll K – Vaad Hakashrus of Denver).

So there you have it. I would encourage you to try all these great products out and see what works for you!

Product Review: lululemon Metal Vent Tech SS

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 and connoisseur of technical short sleeve shirts, we asked Tim to review the lululemon Metal Vent Tech SS. You can follow more of Tim’s adventures here.

Reviewing the lululeman Metal Vent Tech Short Sleeved shirt has made me reflect a little on my wearing of t-shirts. I just love the feel of a good t-shirt, and it is always so difficult in the morning to pick the one I am going to wear that day. 

Back in 1978 I took my first date to the movie Grease. I asked the girl when making the arrangements if we should dress up, and she said yes. I was a little embarrassed when I picked her up and she came out of her house wearing a long, fancy white dress and I was wearing my best bell bottom jeans and my favorite t-shirt.   

This still happens today. My wife will invite me to a gathering and I am faced with the tough decision about which t-shirt to wear. Needless to say, they are all “free” t-shirts from various runs. But is the gathering one where I can wear a 5k shirt or marathon shirt, or is it one where I bust out the Bighorn 100 mile shirt (which I dropped out of, but I have no shame)?

All of this will change with the lululeman shirt. It is a shirt you can run in but also is so swank you can wear it to most Missoula gatherings. If you really want to test out the shirt’s advertised anti-stink technology, you can even go for a run and then go straight to your party. If you smell, don’t blame the shirt. 

The metal vent shirt is very sharp looking. It is so comfortable due in part to its “four-way stretch.” I have never worn a shirt with so much elasticity, which just adds to the luxury of the shirt. The sizing runs slightly larger than most-shirts. 

The one downside to the shirt is the price. Maybe it will last two times longer than a normal shirt and will make up for the cost, which is my hope. There is no logo on the shirt, so if it does last that long it will be excellent. I sometimes wonder if I should still be wearing a shirt that says “1996 Shack 10k.”

If you see me around town, there is a good chance I won’t be wearing my typical running garb. Feel free to come up and touch the shirt, or better yet, try one on at the Runner’s Edge and tell them Tim sent you.

Product Review: New Balance 880v8

Angie Partain is very involved in the Missoula Running Community as both a runner and frequent volunteer despite being a busy mom. As an RErun Ambassador we asked her to test out the New Balance 880 and give us her thoughts. You can follow her adventures at @jnapartain.

Until a few weeks ago, I’ve never tried on a pair of New Balance shoes. I’ve had a hard time settling into a running shoe for the last year or so. It seems whenever I find my favorite shoe a new model comes out, and changes just enough that I’m back to square one searching for my new fave. I’m sure some of you can relate to this. I think I kind of have persnickety feet, so I may never find the perfect shoe—but gosh darn it I keep trying and thanks to my friends at the Runner’s Edge I’ve found some pretty sweet options along the way!

Look

This is a great looking shoe! Over the last month I received a ton of compliments on their color and overall look. The understated color paired with touches of metallic silver and hot pink accents bring a fun change up from the bolder options out there. I wasn’t sure I was going to love the lighter color, but I am digging it…and call me weird, but my favorite part of the look of the 880s are the navy polka-dotty laces. The only downside to the color is they can start looking a bit dirty this time of year, though they wash up nicely with a quick wipe down. They also come in Black, “Blue Iris” (Lavender) and “Guava” (Coral). After having worn them for a few weeks, they are beginning to show signs of wear with creased mesh uppers as well as in the outer cushioning.

Fit

The 880s fit true to size with a 10mm drop and slightly wider + taller toe box. Their neutral sole is a bit more shoe than I’m used to in a road shoe. I felt a little taller in them, which means they must have a bit more cushioning than I’ve had with previous shoes. The cushioning is firm, but quite comfy—just not in a pillow-y soft way. My toes were happy for some extra room, but I found my forefoot slipping around quite a bit leaving them feeling a bit raw after longer runs. However, I found that when I locked my heal in place with a “runner’s tie” this was completely eliminated.

Ride

Worn on varied terrain—from the track to trail to road to sand to…bunch grassI felt stable and well supported (as much as possible when it comes to running on bunch grass—that stuff takes a toll!). But seriously, the 880s are a nicely versatile shoe. I was able to bust out some fast miles on the track feeling a spring in my step as well as tackle some uphill, rocky climbs (and descents) without wishing for more traction. On sand and bunch grass my ankles were stable enough to keep a decent pace. On longer runs as I began to fatigue I was aware that they felt a bit clunky, but I suppose that is the trade off for having a bit more cushion.

The 880s are moderately priced at $125. Overall, I really love this shoe and think it’s definitely worth taking out for a test drive to see how it does for you the next time you find yourself at the Runner’s Edge. Their knowledgeable staff will help you know if this is a good option for you and your running goals!

Happy Running!

-Angie

Product Review: Hydrapak Stash 750ml Soft Bottle

 

Jenna Lyons is an athlete that does it all. Runs, bikes, skis, you name it. She is currently in her last year of law school and still finds time to represent Runner’s Edge as a RErun Ambassador. She recently tested the Hydrapak Stash 750ml Soft Bottle and shared her thoughts.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

I reviewed the Hydrapak Stash flexible water bottle. It holds 25 fluid ounces of liquid and is designed for easy, convenient use on the trail. It features an easy grip ring and bail handle for easy carrying. The sides are flexible so that the bottle is comfortable to carry. The bottle is soft and squishy and reminds me of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGokmurmJic

THE BOTTLE

Let’s face it…runners and hikers aren’t known for their huge arm muscles, and the Stash accommodates that. The main asset of the Stash bottle is that it is 50% lighter than the traditional hard bottle. And once it is empty, it collapses down for easy storage in your pack or pocket. I carried in my hand on a run and put it in my jacket pocket once I was done…no more having to carry empty water bottles around! I also put it in my backpack in its collapsed mode, and then brought it to yoga and filled it up. And then collapsed it back down when I was done. It was perfect. I recently started learning to paraglide, and I cannot wait to use this bottle, as it will be available hanging off my pack on the hike up, and will collapse into nothing for the flight down. I could see it being great for kayaking, backpacking, or equestrian purposes as well.

ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY

You can sleep easy at night knowing Hydrapak really had the environment in mind when they designed this bottle. The bottle is BPA and PVC free.

DURABLE

The bottle has a Beyond Lifetime Guarantee. I am not sure what that means…maybe it means your kids can get a replacement after you die? Throughout the course of my research on this bottle, I learned that Hydrapak uses TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) to ensure that the bottle is flexible without sacrificing durability. They also use radiofrequency welding to ensure a waterproof seal, and they offer a 2 year no-leak warranty.

DOWNSIDES

I am not sure if this is the best bottle for running. It is definitely the best bottle for hiking or backpacking—or any other activity where you’re spending extended time outside and have a pack with you. While I used it for a run, it wasn’t optimal and I would prefer to use the harder I would highly recommend that anyone who enjoys moving efficiently in the mountains head down to Runner’s Edge to pick up a Stash bottle!

Product Review: Ultimate Direction FK Gaiters

Tim Mosbacher is a staple in the Missoula running community. He is currently trying to run a marathon in every state and will be hiking the Montana portion of the CDT this summer. As a RErun Ambassador, and because he’s spending a lot of time on his feet, we asked him to test the new Ultimate Direction FK Gaiters and share his thoughts. You can follow more of Tim’s adventures here.

I am planning a 1000-mile backpacking trip this summer, and Forrest from Runners Edge said gaiters are a must for this long trip.  Since that initial conversation, most of the thru-hikers I have conversed with have backed up Forrest’s statement.  One slight problem is that I have never worn gaiters running or hiking, only cross country skiing. 

My experience with cross country gaiters has been positive but sweaty.  Since they go up the leg so high, my lower legs tend to sweat – a lot.  I had feelings of trepidation upon getting the Ultimate Direction FK gaiters for that reason.  Boy, was I wrong.  I have worn the gaiters on quite a few runs and rarely am aware that I have them on.  I have worn them with different heights of socks (low crew and quarter), and with both heights I have no feeling of sweatiness even in 75+ degree runs on the beach.  Even with shoes not built for gaiters (no gaiter lace hook at the end of the laces), the FK lace hooks worked great with all of my shoes.

As with all gaiters, it takes some practice and some initial setup time.  The FK gaiter comes with a replaceable hypalon strap that slips below the shoes so the gaiter does not move up and down.  If it wears out, the replaceable strap retails for only $2 (mine have no visible wear after all of my test runs).  The strap is adjustable, but it is a little bit of a struggle make it secure.  I needed to adjust the strap to its lowest setting to fit my shoes. 

 The top is velcroed together and stayed secure during all my runs.  There is no debris coming through the front or back of these gaiters.  I did on one run, due to operator error, not affix the Velcro together evenly and had Velcro chaffing, which can dig a nice hole in your skin in no time.  Once I attached the sides correctly, it was no longer an issue.

If you are a person who routinely kicks their ankles or calves while trail running (leading to materials sifting down into your shoes), the Ultimate Direction FK gaiter would be a great purchase.  Head down to Runners Edge and tell them Tim sent you.