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Amelia is one of our RE ambassadors for 2018/19. She is very active in the community and is one of the makers of the maps we all know and love, Cairn Cartography! As the days get shorter and a lot of us are running in the dark, we asked Amelia to review the Light Spur from Nathan. Her thoughts are below. You can also follow her adventures on instagram @cairncarto, as well as on facebook.

This month I reviewed the Nathan Light spur, which is a small, horseshoe-shaped light that fits onto the heel of a running shoe (or casual shoe) to provide visibility when running or biking at night. Mine has a red light that can cycle through several different settings to be either solid or blinky. Contrary to the irate customer who left a one-star review on Nathan’s website, you do not have to undo the eight tiny screws in the case to replace the battery, you just plug it in to a USB port using the cable that comes with it! I’ve only had to charge it once in the last month of use and according to the packaging the battery lasts for 12 hours on a full charge.

I went to college in Maine, which is one of those places so far east in its time zone that it should be in the next one, but no one wants a time difference running through New England, so people just deal. But it means in the fall and winter it gets dark ridiculously early, like sunset at 3:30pm early. It also snows a lot, and the town I lived in took the opposite approach that Missoula takes and did a great job plowing the streets, but almost nothing to keep sidewalks or bike paths clear.

All that is to say I spent a lot of time running on the slush-filled shoulder of dark streets hoping the cars speeding by saw me, but always half-ready to dive into the snowbank if they got too close. The track team gave us dorky reflective vests, but none of us used them, so most days my only reflectivity was the little bits sewn into random zippers and logos on my clothes, and a velcro strap made of that yellow reflective material that I would put around my ankle.

I wish I had the Nathan Light Spur back then! I try to avoid running in the dark as much as possible now, but this time of year, as days get noticeably shorter every week, spending some time making my way through dark streets is inevitable. I’ve used the light spur on early morning and evening runs and I’ve also been throwing it on whenever I find myself biking in the dark.

I was worried the light spur would pinch my heel weird, or that it wouldn’t stay on, but I’ve had no issues with it on any of my running shoes or on casual shoes. The little teeth that hold it in place do scratch up leather shoes a tiny bit, but not running shoes. I was also afraid I might kick the spur off, since I sometimes kick myself in the ankle while running, but I didn’t, and really I didn’t notice the spur at all while I was running.The other thing I didn’t notice- the light itself! I was afraid the red light moving in an out of my peripheral vision would drive me crazy, but the light stays behind me, visible to cars and other people but totally out of my circe of vision.

If you are one of those runners whose headlamps I see making their way through town during pre-dawn hours, I applaud you, and I highly recommend the Nathan Light Spur to increase visibility during dark runs!

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 test out the Nathan VaporKrar Waistbelt and share his thoughts. You can follow more of Tim’s adventures here.

One of the many reasons I like Run Wild Missoula training classes is that there are usually aid stations involved. Without aid provided, packs are a necessary evil. I hate carrying water and gels.  So when the classes end, I, like many people, create my routes based on where I can stop and get water.  So many loops will involve the River Front Trail due to the drinking fountains. Once they shut off in the fall, I am even more challenged. The Nathan VaporKrar WaistPak is going to change that.

I have owned a number of Nathan products in the past (two vests, water bottles, water belt, hipster belt). I hated carrying water bottles in my hand while running roads (I prefer it on the trails), and the water belts in the past had too much movement for me, even with the tiny bottles. Vests are the same as bottles: they work well on trails, but are uncomfortable when running on pavement. The VaporKrar has none of these inconveniences.

The VaporKrar is a combination Nathan Hipster with a water belt, albeit composed with a different material. It has a zippered front pocket large enough to carry a cell phone, two velcroed side pockets to carry gels, and a velcroed back pocket with a compression system that is made for an 18oz soft water flask or a light jacket. 

I love how the VaporKrar feels while I run. That is, I do not feel it even with 18oz of water. The compression system, which is made to tighten on both ends of the pocket, makes the pocket not move at all. The literature says that it provides a “bounce-free ride, even at Rob Krar’s speed.” Well I never ran at Rob Krar’s downhill speed, but I’m pretty sure I did some miles faster than what he can run up a 20% grade, and I can attest it was bounce-free!

The 18oz soft flask is designed to be used with the Exodraw Handle, which I have not tried. But I have heard from other trail runners that carrying soft flasks on long runs is a lot nicer than carrying hard bottles. Combined with the Waistpak, this seems like a great feature.

I have worn the VaporKrar on most of my runs the last month. It just doesn’t bounce on me, so even on shorter 10 mile runs I have worn it just in case I get thirsty. The one negative complaint I have is one that people would have with any compression system. It is pretty easy to remove the bottle even with some compression applied with the straps. To get the bottle back in is a little more difficult, and I have found that is easier to release all of the compression, insert the bottle, and then recompress. And all of that can pretty much happen only when you are stopped.

The pack has an elastic waist band. This makes it form fitting. I am not sure how long the elastic will last. It does tend to get twisted on removal. When it is empty it has a tendency to fold over (might just be my extra stomach muscles) but it is not noticeable while running.

I highly recommend the Nathan VaporKrar WaistPak. It is perfect for runs where you only need 18oz of water at a time. Stop into the Runner’s Edge and tell them Tim sent you.

Jesse Carnes is a RErun Ambassador for 2017/2018. He is a prolific racer and recently finished up a season that saw him complete the Butte 100 Mountain Bike Race, pace the Missoula Marathon, finish the Portland Marathon, and finish all three days of racing at the Rut Mountain Runs among a slew of other races. Jesse has been in the endurance world for years and continues to run outside no matter the weather. Here is one of Jesse’s tricks for battling the darkness. You can read more about Jesse’s adventures here

So there we all were, enjoying a nice fall. The leaves were making their lazy journey from their high perches down to the ground below, where we would put off raking them until the very last minute, under the guise of there being fewer left to fall after said raking was done, but really just because we are lazy and like to procrastinate. there was a nice coat of larch needles on all the trails around town, still just enough light in the mornings and evenings I didn’t yet have to ride my bike in the dark, at least not every day. A nice coat of snow covered everything just in time for the Elk Ramble 15k, and we all got to trudge around in the snowiest race of the year. We all thought it was winter then, but fall came back.

As November wore on, though, it wasn’t the cold or the snow that drove home the point that winter is quickly on its way. No, the real, consistent proof of that fact, the part that never changes from year to year depending on the current season’s weather patterns, is the darkness. Soon, it will just barely be light when I leave for work in the morning, and it has already been dark for a solid hour when I go home in the evening.

All this is to say, if I want to keep running through the winter, and I do, a good bit of it will be happening in the dark. And that brings me to my main point: lights!

I have always been a headlamp kind of guy in the past. They have the advantage of increasing the visibility of the runner while also allowing you to see that rock or curb quickly approaching. As a side note, they by no means guarantee that you won’t trip over that curb. It’s possible that a certain unnamed individual did a faceplant after tripping over a snow-covered curb doing intervals in the dark in Greenough Park last winter. It’s also possible that individual was me. Not saying one way or the other for sure.

Headlamps have their downfalls, though. The most obvious: vehicle drivers can’t see them from behind. Also, many people find them uncomfortable. This necessitates a search for other lighting options. The most recent one I tried out and am reviewing today is an arm band. Specifically, the Nathan Lightbender RX.

I had never used an arm band before, and my first thought was that I would prefer something that wrapped around the arm more snugly. The Lightbender essentially forms kind of a D-shaped loop, and, at least if you have little chicken arms like me, it fits fairly loosely, even when tightened down all the way. While I was worried this would bounce around an be obnoxious, it turned out to not be that big of a deal. It did work its way down to my elbow as I ran instead of staying up higher, but it was still comfortable and didn’t feel like it was flopping around all over the place.

The unique (and fun) feature of the Lightbender RX is that you can change the color of the light. There are three options (red, green, blue), so you can pick whichever one suits your mood that day, or you can really geek out and try to research which color is the most visible to passing motorists. The internet has less to say about this than I thought it might, but the overall consensus seems to be somewhere between green and yellow. Since yellow isn’t one of the choices, one might choose green. Then again, green means go, so perhaps red would instill more caution in drivers. Or, maybe you don’t want to blend with a sea of traffic lights, so you choose blue to stand out a bit more. As you may have gathered, there is no right or wrong choice, and that’s why there are three of them.

The method of changing the light color was not immediately intuitive for me, and the instructions didn’t help. They said to turn on the light, then double tap the power button, but what they really meant was, turn on the light and then hit the button again right after the light turns on. Maybe I’m crazy, but to me that means two different things. Anyway, I eventually figured it out and happily flipped my way through the color options.

One last factor with any kind of light that is worth paying attention to is battery life. Nathan advertised the battery life as 8 hours on steady mode or 16 hours flashing. I would definitely encourage any user to pay attention to how long it’s been since the light was last charged, because like fall turning to winter, waning battery power is a gradual process. If you’re not careful, before you know it, you’ll be in the dark.

-Jesse

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.

Tim Mosbacher is a RErun Ambassador for 2017/2018. We asked him to test out the Nathan Vapor Krar 12L hydration vest as a potential option for the Rut. You can read more of his reviews and stories from running here. 

Prior vest experience: The Nathan VaporKrar is my third running vest.  My first running vest was a Nathan HPL 020. The vest was a huge upgrade from the old hydration packs that were not designed for running. The HPL was a dream come true because the vest did not move all over my back during a run. The vest was light, but on 50+ mile self-supported runs, I struggled with the pack’s lack of room (3.6L). My second vest was an Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek (9.2L). This pack definitely had better pockets and more room than the Nathan HPL. I wore the Ultimate Direction during my one attempt at a 100-mile trail run and on a number of self-supported 50+ mile trail runs.

The Nathan HPL was so comfortable I could wear it shirtless. On the other hand, the Ultimate Direction Jurek rubbed my neck the entire run, which drove me crazy. When I first saw the VaporKrar I thought this vest could be the answer to my personal trail running issues. I needed a pack that did not rub, but had room for all my food and drink.

Fit: 

This vest fits like a glove. There is no rubbing and no uncomfortable spots. I even wore the vest with a racing singlet and had no rubbing.

Hydration:

I usually prefer not to use a hydration bladder. I tend to drink less water when I use one.  The weight on my back, the water sloshing, as well as the difficulty in filling the bladder has made me a big fan of hand held bottles. The VaporKrar pack eliminated the sloshing water. The unique shape of the hydration bladder as well as wave reducing material located midway make this bladder one I would use. The front pockets held my 17oz soft flasks and can even fit my 20oz hard bottles. The one modification I need to make is to trim about 4 to 6 inches off the bladder tubing.

Storage:

The description of the vest is an ultra-light racing vest, yet it comes with plenty of storage. I loved the flexible material of the pockets in the front.  On different days I would pack a phone, soft flasks, gels, and Clif Bloks in the front pockets.  I did struggle with the largest zippered pockets on the shoulders. These pockets are large enough for a phone, but since a phone does not bend with your body, it was a little uncomfortable as well as a struggle to put the phone back into the pocket without taking off the vest.  In addition, if I placed Clif Bloks in the pockets, they crinkled so much a few inches from my ears that I eventually removed them.  Nice pockets, but I just need to find the perfect item for them.

A large storage sleeve runs the length of the rear bottom of the pack. I used this to store quick items on the go and it was excellent. There are a total of three huge rear pockets. Only one has a zipper, while the other two are secured by a small piece of Velcro. This worries me a little since rain will easily go into the tops of the Velcro pockets. The pack also holds poles conveniently on the back, but one would need to take off the pack to insert the poles into the attached loops. The poles do not interfere with ones running form. There are no shock chords on the rear of the pack for additional exterior packing.

If the VaporKrar has too much storage, Nathan has a similar pack with no bladder that has only 4L of storage.

Overall I love the vest. It rides comfortably and does so no matter how much is stored in it.  It will be my go-to vest on short or long trail runs. This vest would be perfect for the Rut!

Rachel Brumfield works at the University of Montana Foundation, but spends a lot of her time in the running community. She has been seen racing anything from the Resolution Run to Eleven Miles to Paradise. As a 2017/2018 RErun she tested the Nathan Hipster Belt and gave us her thoughts.

Nathan Hipster Waist Belt: A true phone saver

I drop my phone a lot. So often, in fact, that my husband jokes that I’ve spent more replacing screen protectors than my phone itself.

Common scenarios include: running with phone in hand and accidentally flinging it on the sidewalk or hiking with phone in hand and dropping it on a rock.

Enter the Nathan Hipster Waist Belt. For the past couple of weeks, my main question has been: “Where was this all my life?!”

Not only does the belt solve my phone-dropping issues, but it serves as a handy place for everything I need on a run (except water). After testing it in a variety of different settings (running, biking, hiking, grocery shopping), I’ve picked five reasons it’s my new favorite little piece of gear.

  1. Fit: Snug without feeling too tight. I was a little nervous about the fit, as it is not adjustable like many running belts. You simply step into it and pull it up around your waist (like pants). I chose an extra small based on the dimensions on the tag, and it fit perfectly.
  2. Comfort: I forget I’m wearing it. Unlike most running belts I’ve tried, the Nathan Hipster does not move around while running (even downhill!). The feel is consistent whether the pockets are stuffed or mostly empty.
  3. Carrying Capacity: I was pleasantly surprised by the amount the waist belt could hold. I carried my iPhone 7, keys, credit card, Clif ShotBlocks and earbuds without any trouble. You could definitely fit more into it if you wanted.
  4. Look: The belt comes in a variety of colors to fit your style. My style is low-maintenance, so I chose black to make sure it would match anything. Paired with black shorts, the belt is barely noticeable – more like a wide waistband than a bulgy fanny pack. If you like more flair, you could select a brighter color.
  5. Security: The lack of zippers did make me wonder if I was going to lose a few items on the trail. But no matter how much running, jumping, or bending I did, nothing fell out. Those soft little pockets are magic.

At $26-$32, I would call the Nathan Hipster Waist Belt a good investment. It provides a solution for carrying anything you need on a run, looks great, isn’t bothersome to wear and could really be added to any pocket-less outfit. It’s easy to wash and could save you from any and all phone casualties.