Posts

Product Review: New Balance Anticipate Half-zip

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! We have some awesome New Balance apparel so we asked Amelia to review the Anticipate Half-zip. See her thoughts below! You can also follow her adventures on instagram @cairncarto, as well as on facebook.

A good half-zip top is an essential piece in a winter running wardrobe, but not all half-zips are created equal. I’ve owned my fair share of versions where the sleeves weren’t long enough, or the zipper made an annoying clink through my entire run, or a scratchy seam on the back of my neck made it hard to focus on a run. This month I tried out the “Novelty Anticipate” half-zip from New Balance, which is one of the best running shirts I’ve ever worn.

The first thing I noticed about this top was how soft it is! The material feels amazing on your skin. And I think the stripes are pretty sharp. As someone who doesn’t always keep my running clothes separate from my everyday clothes I appreciate that this top looks and feels just as good with jeans as it does with running tights.

The fit is relaxed. It fits a little longer on me which I really like, to avoid cold drafts on my lower back this time of year. The sleeves have plenty of length and thumbholes to keep my wrists warm. It’s roomy but not bulky and fits under other layers comfortably. It’s a bonus that the material feels super soft when you use the sleeve to wipe your nose, and it dries fast so you don’t end up with a big soggy spot on your wrist (you know what I’m talking about).

Not only is the material really soft, it stays comfortable and manages temperature fluctuations really well. I’m a person who runs cold when I’m not running, and then heats up into a sweaty mess about fifteen minutes into every run, no matter what I wear. I’ve used this top layered over a tank top or layered under a wind shell and this last week I’ve even worn it layered under an insulated running jacket and it stays comfortable through it all.

Finally, this top has well thought out details that were obviously designed with runners in mind. There is some reflective accents for visibility during those inevitable runs in the dark. The zipper locks down and stays put. There are mesh panels that look stylish and help with temperature management and there is a small pocket that sits right on my hip that is big enough for a key or a gel.

This top would make a great gift for a runner on your list this holiday season, or for yourself to help motivate to get out on these frigid days. Happy Running!

,

Product Review: Craft Long Sleeve Base Layer

Craft Fuseknit Comfort Long Sleeve Base Layer

Lee Macholz is one of our 2018/2019 RErun ambassadors. She is a stud! After work and family time, she still manages to volunteer and/or run many events through Runners Edge and Run Wild Missoula. We asked her to review the Craft long sleeve and talk about the importance of baselayers in the winter. Here are her thoughts below…

Fit: The Craft Fuseknit Comfort Base Layer fits me very well. I have a long torso and long arms and many women’s shirts that fit me in the torso are too short in the sleeves. The trend in adding extra length to sleeves to include thumb holes and cover the hands has been hit-and-miss for me as most mean that the sleeves are comfortable but the holes are useless. This Craft base layer, however, is great in that I can comfortably wear it with my thumbs through the holes and cover part of my hands! I love this because my hands are perpetually cold. The body of the shirt is seamless and fits close to my body but is not skin-tight. It is very comfortable because there are no seams through the arms to have to twist to just the right place to avoid rubbing and chafing. This also means it is super comfortable layered under another shirt or close-fitting jacket. When layering, it almost feels like it disappears – no bunching or twisting or chafing. It is just long enough to tuck into my cold weather pants. My only complaint is that when worn
with tights and a running waist belt, the fabric is a little slick and the bottom hem rides up a little; but not any more than most other shirts. Also, I like that it does not have a hood attached.
Function: A good base layer is super important as we move through the unpredictability of fall weather and on to colder winter temperatures. A quality fabric is important because let’s face it, we’re a sweaty bunch of people! A base layer acts as insulation in the cold, helping to regulate your body temperature by wicking away moisture. Many people like wool base layers for their ability to keep you warm and dry but I am allergic to wool and so I rely on the magic of today’s performance fabrics. I like this Craft Fuseknit because it not only fits me well for a base layer but the fabric really works to move sweat away from my skin so that I don’t get wet and cold.
Performance: You can wear the Craft Fuseknit in a range of temperatures depending on your layering. As the weather started to cool down this fall, just the shirt on it’s own was good as long as the wind didn’t pick up. With a little wind and cooler temperatures, I added a wind-stopper jacket and it kept me warm but not too hot. As the winter temperatures start to drop, I plan to wear the Craft Fuseknit under a warmer running coat or a quarter-zip and I’m confident that it’ll be just right.
Bottom Line: Overall, I have been pretty impressed with the Craft brand. It is nice to have another brand choice for quality running gear. Craft seems to be a slightly lower price point than some of the other name running brands, which I appreciate. I have several Craft items and so far the quality has really held up to my active lifestyle between running, hiking, cross-training, and kids. If you are active through the fall, winter and spring in Montana, you definitely need a good base layer. I would recommend the Craft Fuseknit Comfort Long Sleeve!

,

Product Review: Darn Tough Socks

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! We began carrying the popular brand, Darn Tough, and we wanted Amelia to share her thoughts on the wool socks made in Vermont. You can also follow her adventures on instagram @cairncarto, as well as on facebook.

Darn Tough Vertex ¼ Sock Review

The week before every big race I do, I find my way down to Runner’s Edge and pick out a brand new pair of socks to wear on race day. I usually buy something I’ve worn before so I’m not trying something new on race day, but having new socks to put on gets me excited to run hard and feels like a nice gift to my feet for all the hard work they have put in leading up to race day.

I started to write that I’m not particularly picky about which socks I choose for my race-day present, but I realized that’s not true. I am pretty particular about my socks. I like them to be wool, or mostly wool, I like short no-show socks unless it’s brushy or snowy and then I like some of my ankle covered. I like my socks pretty thin, and I really dislike toe socks. Finally, I try to buy all my gear from companies with a conscience. All that means I was pretty excited to review both the light and ultra light version of the Darn Tough Vertex ¼ socks this month!

My first impression when I took the socks out of their packaging was that they were really soft and super cute. The days of a pack of 10 all-white cotton crew socks are long gone, and it takes some good design for socks to stand out on the wall in today’s market. These come in cheerful color options that I really like.

Darn Tough is a family owned business based in Vermont, close the where I grew up, and they still make all their socks at their mill in Northfield, Vermont. They offer a lifetime guarantee, on socks, and pride themselves on products that are built to last.

I have a confession to make: I love the idea behind Darn Tough but until recently I really didn’t like Darn Tough socks. They use a higher percentage of nylon than other wool sock brands which makes their socks much more durable, but it also makes some of their thicker hiking socks feel really thick and unbreathable. For years I’ve gotten a pair of their heavy-weight hiking socks every year for Christmas, and every time I wear them my shoes feel too tight and my feet end up a sweaty clammy mess.

In the last few years I’ve started coming around, and after trying these ¼ socks I’m a big fan. I’ve spent a lot of time running with wet feet lately and the ¼ sock height is perfect for cold, muddy, slushy conditions, and even when my feet are soaked they feel warm and comfortable. Another issue I’ve had with Darn Tough socks in the past is the ankle feeling too tight, but these feel soft and comfortable without being so loose they fall down. I didn’t have any issues with bunching or falling down or slipping or any other problems with the way they fit. Mostly I forgot I was even wearing them until I went to take them off and realized my feet were much wetter than I realized, which is a good sign I think. I’ve been known to get holes in the toes of my socks after just a few wears but these, like all Darn Toughs are built to last.

I highly recommend you try these out if you are looking for some new socks to add to your drawer. Especially if you haven’t always loved Darn Tough socks in the past. Thanks for reading!

, ,

Product Review: Cotopaxi Teca-Technical Windbreaker

Cory Soulliard is a Runner’s Edge Ambassador for the 2018/19 season. You can usually find him volunteering or running at almost all of our Runners Edge events! We asked him to review a jacket from a cool company, Cotopaxi, and his thoughts are below… You can follow his adventures with his pup on intagram @corysoulliard.

Fall is here. The mountains are dusted in snow, the mornings are frosty, and the views are amazing. It’s that great time of year when I want to be out on the trails as much as possible before they are covered in snow. A well timed run means I can still enjoy shorts and a t-shirt but heading back one of the the canyons in the bitterroot means I should not go without an extra layer. Do I take a layer for warmth? To stop the wind? To shelter me from the surprise
rain or snow? How about one that will take on all of those roles?

Quick notes:
Pros                                    Cons                                              Notes
– Light (4.6oz)                   – Pockets do not zipper                  – Bright, bold colors
– Packable                          – Elastic waist does not                  – Half-zip available
– Hood                                   cinch
– Collar protects neck
when zipped
– Vented back
– DWR finish
– Quiet

The Cotopaxi Teca jacket will only take up a little more space than a tennis ball and weighs a scant 4.6 oz so there are few reasons to bring it with you. I was able to shed the wind at the top of Trapper Peak and fend off a light rain around Lake Como while just wearing a light t-shirt underneath. Trapper was a classic fall trip that starts warm from the car but without some protection at the top there would be no way I could hang out and enjoy the view. My Teca jacket was basically nonexistent on the hike up but ready when I needed it at 10,157ft. The run around Lake Como started cool and damp so the jacket was in for a more thorough test.

The first thing I was noticing about the jacket was the noise. Many light jackets are more disruptive but I quickly realized that it was just the hood that I was hearing. The hood was not needed on this run so I tucked it in the collar and ran in almost silence. After a couple miles in 38 degree weather I started to heat up. There is an inch wide strip that runs the width of the back to ventilate while on the go and when I started overheating I just lowered the zipper a few inches to let some extra air in and ran on in comfort. Although the rain was minimal the DWR finish did keep me dry despite the efforts of all of the low hanging branches that were saving up their water for my passing. My legs and my socks did not remain so dry.

At 5’10” and roughly 140 lbs I decided on the men’s medium and I would say the fit is about right. The body is large enough I will be able to add a warm layer and wear this jacket through the winter but not so large that I feel like I am wearing a parachute. The sleeves are plenty long
so the elastic cuffs can actually meet my gloves. If needed the collar covers your neck when zipped up and the hood will wrap around your head to keep the heat in. My wife may have stolen the jacket for an early morning run and she approved of it. Although a size down would have been better fitting I get the impression that I might notice it missing again in the future.

Now I must be honest, I dress for function, not fashion. I would expect this Teca jacket to be worn by a stylish runner slipping through the crowds of NYC or on the cover of some running magazine instead of on minimally maintained trails. I don’t think I would have purchased the jacket because the 1990 style, bright, block coloring might be too bold for me. After wearing it a couple times I don’t feel as self-conscious as I expected. In fact on the dull grey days I think I like the addition of color to my world. As with all ultralight jackets I hope it can withstand the abuse on the trail. A recent run up Bear Creek Canyon did push the limits of the DWR as I was continually slapped with branches full of the previous night’s wet snow. Although I am not sure I stayed dry, I would say I was able to stay comfortable for the 2 hour adventure.

Anyone growing up in the late 80s-early 90s may feel right at home with the styling. Many companies tried their hand including The North Face seen here. If you miss the kangaroo pouch pocket be sure to check out the half-zip Teca. You will have plenty of room to bring along your sandwich, walkman, and a few slap bracelets for your friends.

,

Product Review: Smartwool Merino 150 Mammoth T-shirt

Sean Kiffe is a Runner’s Edge Ambassador for the 2018/19 season. He is very visible around town as he runs just about every Runner’s Edge race and Run Wild Missoula event each year. We asked him to review the Smartwool Mammoth T-shirt and talk about the benefits of wearing wool. You can also follow Sean’s adventures on instagram@seankiffe.

First Impression
At first glance the Smartwool Mobile Mammoth t-shirt appears to be just a shirt with a clever graphic. This of course appealed to my inner child, having dug countless holes in various backyards and parks hoping to unearth a wooly mammoth or dinosaur skeleton. Furthermore, what kid, or adult for that matter, would not be ecstatic about the idea of having their very own Mammoth that doubled as an enviro-friendly, Paleo-RV? Once on, the shirt easily ranked as one of the most comfortable t-shirts I own, if not the most. Any prejudice one has toward wool being itchy and skratchy is quickly dispelled by this garment. The shirt fabric is light and extremely soft to the touch. I slipped this on after a chilly fall run and was instantly comforted by the warm and bulk-less shirt.

Properties of wool
The use of wool in clothing fabric dates back as far as 10,000 B.C. Wool used to be the industry standard when it came to anything outdoors. The earliest explorers donned wool garments as they pioneered through the uncharted wildernesses of our world. From Shackelton in his heavy wool gabardine icebound in Antarctica, to Hillary on the summit of Everest, wool was the explorer´s choice. Of course, the traditional wool garments were heavy and bulky. The advent of modern synthetics in the 20th century removed wool from center stage providing the consumer with a bevy of choices. However, the wool products of today are neither bulky, nor heavy as refinements in textile production and technology have helped to produce some remarkable products.

Unlike other non-synthetic fibers used in clothing, wool harbors some unique properties. These set wool apart from cotton and other natural fiber.

➢ Wool is extremely good at wicking moisture. The unique physical structure of the fabric
allows it to hold warmth even when it is wet. The coil-like structure does not matt down
like cotton.
➢ Wool fabric is naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial (due to the lanolin found in it).
Therefore, it does not require the harsh chemical treatments that some modern fabrics
use.
➢ Wool is a renewable resource. In this age of petroleum based hi-tech fabrics, it's nice to
know that wool is sustainable and easy on the environment.
➢ Wool fabrics stand the test of time. While a wool garment might initially be a bit more
expensive, it´s durability and longevity pay off in the long run. Wool´s longevity far
outlasts that of cotton, silk and rayon.
➢ As an added bonus wool is naturally UV resistant and somewhat fire resistant.

(photo credit: Mia Kiffe)

Merino Wool
Smartwool uses Merino wool which is obtained from a specific breed of sheep. The Merino sheep were originally found in Spain but are now bred all over the world. Merino wool has a finer, softer feel to it, and it has been prized for its superior texture since the 1700´s. The tight crimp of Merino wool is what makes it so fine and supple. In the world of wool, the finer the crimp the pricier the wool, such as Cashmere. The fine nature of Merino does make it less durable than other wool types, but it makes up for that in comfort. Some companies are using

Merino/synthetic hybrid fabrics to increase the durability of their products. While it is possible that early Bronze age inhabitants might have used mammoth wool for warmth, I think it reasonable to assume that Merino wool is much more comfortable.

Overall
Smartwool has been around for 20+ years, most notably for their socks. From hiking, to skiing to running to everyday wear the Smartwool name has become synonymous with quality. Their shirts and other garments are no exception to this. The Mobile Mammoth T-shirt is light and refined. The soft weave of the Merino wool make it a comfortable choice for running, backpacking, kicking back at home, or getting a burger with friends after a day of adventure. Make no mistake, this is not your great grandpa´s WWII era, inch thick heavy wool garment. As a casual t-shirt this product rises above others. I look forward to exploring more of Smartwool´s range of products in the future. There definitely more to this company that just socks.

 

Product Review: Light Spur

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!