Showing posts with label Running. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Running. Show all posts

Gear Closet: Altra King MT Trail Running Shoes Review

If you're in the market for a new pair of trail running shoes this spring, and you're looking for something lightweight and very comfortable, I have a suggestion for you. The new King MT from Altra pairs the company's trademark natural fit with a flashy new design and a grippy sole, to deliver an excellent new option for runners. Provided you don't mind a minimalistic approach to cushioning.

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Altra's products. In the past, I've tested the company's Superior 2.0, Lone Peak 3.0, and the innovative StashJack jacket, which has become a mainstay on spring runs. In each case, I came away impressed with the durability, quality, and design of each of those items, and in the case of the footwear, the fit and comfort level as well. Altra uses a more natural foot shape when developing their shoes, and as a result they feel much better on my feet. This translates to enjoying my workouts a lot more, as I stay much more comfortable over extended distances.

I am happy to say that the King MT holds true to form and feels fantastic on my feet too. The wider toe box on the front of shoe provides my toes with the space they need to splay out and move naturally while running. This helps maintain better footing when moving across uneven terrain and allows me to move more agilely as well. This leads to a great sense of confidence on the trail, allowing me to move faster too.

The King MT comes with a Vibram MegaGrip outsole that holds its traction nicely on a wide variety of surfaces. Add some 6mm lugs mix as well and you really have a shoe that was made for running in what would otherwise be awful conditions. I've taken these shoes on snow, mud, and silt and have been impressed with how secure I feel on all of those surfaces. The last thing you need out of a trail running shoe is a sole that won't grip the ground properly. You have nothing to worry about in that regard with the King MT.


Other nice features of these shoes include a wrap around rock plate and a synthetic upper, which protect the feet while out on the trail. The Altra EGO midsole helps to maintain that protection, while also keeping the shoe light and responsive too. The lacing system also includes a Velcro strap that helps to dial in a nice fit, and comes in handy for keeping the laces tied, especially when things get wet and sloppy. That has always been a pet-peeve of mine, but Altra solves it nicely with this shoe.

In terms of weight, the Altra King MT tips the scales at 10.2 ounces (28g), which makes them fairly light, but they don't quite fall into the minimalist category. Personally, I love that these shoes are comfortable without being bulky, although I wouldn't have minded a bit more cushioning for my longer runs. Altra rates these as a lightly cushioned shoe, and there were times where that was evident. As a larger runner, my legs sometimes take a pounding when I'm stretching the distances out, although on shorter runs (read: 6-8 miles) it wasn't as much of a concern. Still, this would be an almost perfect running shoe for me if it just had a bit more shock absorption.

As it stands, these are still an amazing pair of running shoes, and if you're not quite as bulky as I am (6'3"/200lbs), you'll probably find the level of cushioning is more to your liking. In terms of comfort, fit, traction, and design, the King MT delivers on all levels. And priced at $140, they're quite a bargain compared to some other trail running shoes on the market. If you need a lightweight option for your spring running, this is a shoe to have on your radar for sure.

Find out more at altrarunning.com.

Video: How Every Runner Feels Each Morning

Here's a video that most runners will be able to relate to. It's that resistance we all must overcome before we hit the road or trail where it feels so much better to just stay in bed or relaxed on the couch. Sometimes we need a bit of motivation to get out the door, although usually once that happens, it's all good. The clip captures that little voice inside all of our heads so very well, and urges us to fight that resistance. Get out there and run. You know you'll feel a lot better afterwards. This is motivation on those days when you just don't want to exercise.

Territory Run Co. - Fight the Resistance from Steven Mortinson on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Yaktrax Run Provides Traction on Snow and Ice

As an almost daily runner, I look forward to heading outside to get a workout in, no matter what the season is. In fact, while it is always nice to hit the road or trail in the warmer months, I also relish getting out in the winter, particularly because I know that most of my runner friends have retreated to the treadmill at the gym or in their homes. Heading out into the cold isn't all that difficult, you simply layer up and get moving, and before you know it you're plenty warm. But, the snow and ice can present an entirely different challenge, making an ordinary workout into a challenge just to stay on your feet. Thankfully, their are some lightweight, effective, and easy to use products that can help us overcome this issue as well, with the Yaktrax Run being one of the best I've personally used.

For those not familiar with Yaxtrax, the company makes a variety of product designed to help us stay on our feet in slick conditions. Their traction devices slip over your shoes, and secure themselves into place, providing a much better grip on a variety of wet and slick surfaces. Think of them as performing the same function as a set of crampons, without the long spikes.

As the name implies, the Run model was designed specifically with runners in mind. Made from high quality, durable rubber, the Yaktrax slide over your running shoes and lock into place using Velcro straps. Once properly installed, they stay in place and don't slide around or come loose, even after putting some serious miles on them. But when you no longer need them, they are also very easy to remove until the weather turns nasty again.

The Yaktrax Run provide improved grip on snow and ice thanks to the company's tried and true design. The back half of the product applies steel coils along the sole of the shoe that helps to keep runners from sliding as they plant their foot. But the front section of the Run have a more substantial rubber sole that includes tiny carbide spikes that can really dig into the ground for added stability. With these in place, you can set out on a run with confidence.


Unlike similar products from some of the competition, the Yaktrax Run is made to be anatomically correct for both the left and right foot. Because of this, you have to pay a little extra attention when putting them on, your you may find yourself frustrated and left wondering why they don't want to fit your shoes properly. But this design choice once agains aids in stability on slick surfaces, and makes them more efficient for use when running.

Other nice touches include reflective elements that help the runner to be more visible in low-light conditions, as well as a design that keeps snow and ice from collecting too much in the Run itself. Plus, even though these were designed with runners in mind, they will also fit over light hiking shoes if you want to use them for your walks as well.

Make no mistake, these are not a replacement for a true set of crampons, but then again, they aren't intended to be used in the same environment that a crampon would be needed. But, for runners who want to move more confidently on snow and ice in the winter, the Yaktrax Run is a good investment. I've been impressed with how well they perform and would certainly recommend them to anyone who hates to run inside during the cold months of the year. Adding a pair of these to your gear closet will remove yet one more excuse to do that.

Priced at $40, the Yaktrax Run are a bargain for those of us who run often. And when you consider how much they would save you on buying a decent treadmill, they are a cheap alternative indeed.

Video: Into Patagonia with Endurance Runner Dakota Jones

As most of you know, Patagonia is one massive, sweeping, and spectacular wilderness. It covers more than a million square kilometers of space, and yet is home to less than 2 million people. Recently, American mountain runner Dakota Jones visited that place in an effort to explore it for himself and meet a few of those people along the way. This video takes us with him as he goes into Patagonia and discovers all of the wonders that can be found there. This is an amazing short documentary that you should sit back and enjoy. It's well worth the watch.

Longest Running Streak in History Ends After 52 Years

Like me, I know a lot of Adventure Blog readers are regular runners. Not only is it a great way to stay in shape, it helps me to unwind and let go of some stress, while also being an excuse to get outside for an hour or so everyday. On average, I run six days a week, usually taking Sundays off for a rest. Probably the longest I've ever gone without a break is 35 days or so, as part of a fitness challenge. That's not a bad streak for an amateur. It also isn't anywhere close to the record set by Ron Hill, a former Olympic athlete from the U.K. who just saw his string of uninterrupted running days end this past weekend.

On Sunday, Hill took his first day off from running in 52 years, 39 days. The streak began back on Dec. 21, 1964 and continued through January 28, 2017. That's 19,032 days for those keeping track at home. Hill said that he went out for his usual run on Saturday, but after just 400 meters his heart began to hurt, and that he final 800 meters of his 1 mile jog, the situation got worse. So, he decided to hang up his running to determine what went wrong, saying "There was no other option but to stop. I owed that to my wife, family and friends, plus myself.”

Over the course of his very impressive streak – which is a world record by the way – Hill ran at least one mile each and every day. For more than 52 years, no matter how he was feeling, what the weather was like, or what other events were going on in his life, Ron went out for a run. It must have felt incredibly strong for him to not do that on Sunday.

Streak runners are quite proud of their impressive string of days that they run at least one mile, and American Mark Washburne tries to keep tabs on the longer streaks that are underway in various parts of the globe. Now that Hill's has come to an end, he says that the next longest streak belongs to Jon Sutherland, a 66 year old who lives in West Hills, California. His current streak sits at 17,417 days, which is about 47.5 years. He still has a long way to go to catch Hill, but at his age it could be done, provided he stays healthy and determined. Perhaps even more amazing, is that Washburne has averaged 11.2 miles per day over the course of those years.

I'll be thinking of both of these men when I set out on my run later today. Both are definitely impressive. I know that after my 30+ day streaks that my body was fatigued and ready for a break. I can't imagine going years without taking a rest day.

Gear Closet: Ledlenser NEO Headlamp for Runners

Fall is here and the long days of summer are completely behind us. Now, when I head out for my evening run I am typically greeted only by darkness. That means I need to use extra caution when running on busy roads and take steps to make myself more visible. Reflective clothing helps in that area, but to truly be seen – and see the path I'm running on – I often wear a headlamp as well. But, living in an area where the temperatures are still a bit on the warm side, a full-sized headlamp can be quite warm and burdensome on longer runs. Thankfully there are lightweight options available that have been designed specifically with runners in mind, such as the NEO from Ledlenser, which may have just become my favorite light for after-dark workout.

Weighing in at just 1.9 ounces (54 grams), the NEO is designed to be lightweight and comfortable to wear. When I took it out of the box, I was immediately struck by how thin the headband was, which helps to eliminate some of the heat generated by wearing it during an intense run. That same headband is still strong enough to hold it firmly in place however, as once I put it on the headlamp didn't move at all while I was exercising. That hasn't always been the case with similar lights that I've used in the past, and it can be frustrating to constantly have to adjust the fit while on the move. Thankfully, that isn't the case at all here however.

Despite its diminutive size, the NEO also manages to crank out plenty of light. On its brightest setting it throws off up to 90 lumens, which is fairly impressive considering how small the headlamp is over all. At that setting, the replaceable AAA batteries can last up to 10 hours, which isn't a bad burn-time either. I usually don't need that level of brightness on anything other than trails, so while running on city streets I set the lamp down to its lowest setting, which is a still-useful 20 lumens of light, which can be produces for up to 40 hours. The headlamp also has a flash mode, which I seldom use, and a red light on the battery pack that makes the wearer more visible with traffic approaching from behind as well.


In addition to its various illuminating modes, the NEO also protects its light at an ultra-wide 150º angle. I've seen some other reviews of the product online that criticized this aspect of the headlamp as they felt that it diffused the light too much, with the reviewer instead preferring to have a more narrower, and thus brighter, beam. Personally though, I like being able to see in a broader area when I'm running so that I can notice things approaching from the side. For instance, on a recent evening run on a very dark trail I was able to see a deer running alongside me about 10 meters ahead. If the angle of the light were a bit less, I probably wouldn't have noticed the animal at all, nor been able to adjust my running path to avoid wandering too close.

As you can probably tell, I'm pretty impressed with this headlamp. In fact, about the only thing I would have liked to have seen different would be replacing the standard AAA battery with a rechargeable power cell instead. Most of the other headlamps that I use today are rechargeable, and it is hard to beat that level of convenience. This is especially true if you run nearly every day, which means you'll go through the batteries on the NEO fairly often. Of course, I also understand that adding a rechargeable battery may have caused this headlamp to be bigger, which is a compromise I'm not sure I'd want to make. As it stands, the NEO is the perfect size for frequent runners to take with them on their evening outings.

When I'm selecting a headlamp to wear when I'm running I'm fairly particular about the features that I'm looking for, but the NEO checks all of the boxes. It is small, lightweight, and comfortable to wear. It is also plenty bright, has good battery life, and includes a red rear light for additional safety. Ledlenser has also imbued the light with a measure of water resistance, making it safe to use while running in the rain too. In short, it is pretty much everything that a runner could want out of a headlamp. And, priced at just $25, it is very affordable too. In fact, considering everything that it brings to the table, I find the NEO to be quite a steal at that price.

With the holidays coming around the corner, this would make a great stocking stuffer for the runner in your life. Find out more at Ledlenserusa.com.


Gear Closet: Altra StashJack Lightweight Running Jacket

Fall is here, which means cooler weather and unpredictable conditions that can make it much more challenging to know how to dress for our favorite outdoor activities. On some days you need a jacket, and on others you don't. And then of course there are those times when unexpected rain showers strike, making you wish you had brought a jacket with you even though you didn't think it was needed. That's exactly where the new StashJack from Altra comes in handy. It is a super lightweight option that has been so well designed that you won't ever have to decide whether or not you should bring it on your adventures.

A quick look at the technical specs for the StashJack provides some insights into why it is such a nice piece of kit. For example, it weighs just 3.3 ounces (93.5 grams), provides protection from both wind and rain, and it features a loose, tapered fit that gives your body room to move while taking part in fast-paced activities. It also includes some reflective highlights to help keep the wearer more visible in low conditions, and it is made with trimmed and flat locked seams that make it more comfortable to wear.

But, that is really just the beginning. Because what makes the StashJack so special is its ability to be stuffed into a tiny carrying pouch that comes complete with a built-in adjustable belt. This gives you the ability to wear the jacket around your waist until you truly need it, at which time it can be deployed in a matter of seconds without ever having the need to stop moving at all. The jacket even features an open back that is designed to wrap around your pack so you won't even have to remove it to put the jacket on.


This clever design comes our way from the team at Altra, a company focused on making excellent products for runners and hikers. Already this year I have reviewed both their Superior 2.0 trail running shoes and Lone Peak 3.0 hiking boots. In both cases, I came away very impressed with how comfortable and well made those products are. The StashJack doesn't disappoint in anyway either, only further increasing my confidence in Altra gear.

I've worn the StashJack on several runs this fall when I thought there was a chance of rain. On a couple of those occasions I managed to put in my milage before the bad weather set in, which normally would have annoyed me since I had brought a jacket along for no reason. But in this case, the StashJack attached securely to my waist, and because it is so lightweight, I pretty much forgot that it was even there. The included belt kept the jacket from bouncing around while I moved and it did nothing to impede my natural running movements.

On a couple of other occasions dark clouds did decide to open up and drop some rain on me while I ran. It was at those times that I was very happy to have this jacket along for the ride. I was able to quickly and easily pull it out of its stash pouch and put it on, taking just a few seconds to wrap myself in lightweight protection from the elements. This allowed me to happily continue with my workout without getting soaked to the bone.

It should be pointed out that the StashJack is made to be wind and water resistant, which means in more severe storms it can soak through, and heavy winds will still bring a chill to your body. But considering the fact that it weighs just 3.3 ounces, it performs quite well, even in those more demanding situations.

You don't have to be a runner to appreciate what the StashJack brings to the table. Hikers will certainly find this an appealing product as well. It's combination of convenience and svelte design make it a great choice for travel too, allowing you to wear it where ever you go, and instantly have a light jacket that you can pull on at a moments notice.

Priced at $130, the StashJack is more expensive than many will probably want to pay. But it is surprisingly durable for its size and packs in a high level of performance. If you're a daily runner (like me), you'll find this is a jacket you'll want to own. Having it in your gear closet for other occasions, like going on a day hike or traveling to a foreign city where rain is in the forecast, extends its value beyond just my regular workouts. Yes, it is possible to find a rain jacket at lower price, but you'll be hard pressed to find one that offers such versatility as well. For me, that makes the asking price well worth it.

Get one for yourself at Altra.com. And don't forget to grab one for the runner on your holiday shopping list too.

Gear Closet: JBL Reflect Mini BT Wireless Sport Headphones

In case you haven't heard, there is a new iPhone coming out this week. That's pretty much common knowledge considering how much press Apple gets. But what you might not have heard is that one of the design elements of the new smartphone that is getting the most attention is Apple's decision to drop the standard audio port. This has freed up some precious space inside the phone that Apple engineers can use to add more tech, but it also means that we can no longer simply plug in a standard set of headphones. Moving forward, the iPhone's lightning port will pull double duty for both charging and audio output, which means you'll need to either use a set of lightning earbuds, a lightning-to-3.5mm adapter (included in the box), or wireless headphones to listen to your music, podcasts, and audio books. While all of those are obviously viable solutions, Apple is making a hard push towards Bluetooth headphones, particularly since they are releasing their own unique entry into that market with the new AirPods and some updated wireless options from Beats.

I haven't had a chance to test out the AirPods yet, but I have been testing some other wireless headphones that are specifically designed for use by those of us who are fairly active. I actually made the switch to Bluetooth earbuds awhile ago, and I have to say that it is a niche shift. Not having to deal with cables while running or cycling is a major plus in my book, and I think that while some will continue to be reluctant to make the change, once you do, you'll never want to go back.

Recently I've been testing the new Reflect Mini BT sport headphones from JBL and have discovered a product that ticks all of the boxes in terms of what I'm looking for when it comes to earbuds. And while they may not be quite a fancy as Apple's AirPods in terms of design and technology, they still perform very well and cost a lot less.

The Reflect Mini use Bluetooth technology to connect wirelessly to your smartphone. There once was a time when that pairing process was a bit of hassle, but those days are long over at this point. It literally took just a few seconds to pair the two devices together, and after that when ever I turned on the headphones they would automatically connect with one another. That's the way all wireless audio devices should work, and that has pretty much been my experience with all of them for some time.


As with most wireless earbuds these days, the Reflect Mini comes with an inline remote that allows you to control volume, switch tracks, pause playback, and so on. It even has a built-in mic that gives you the ability to pick up incoming phone calls too. Those are fairly standard features at this point, but JBL has made them easy to use thanks to a remote that has large buttons and a simple, straight forward configuration.

I've tested wireless earbuds in the past, and one of the biggest challenges I've typically faced is finding the right sized rubber ear tips to fit into my ears properly. Some previous models I've tried out have come with as many as seven sets of those silicon inserts, and I'd usually have to mix and match to find the ones that worked best for me. The Reflect Mini ships with four ear tips – two sets of sports and two regular. But, this time out there was now fiddling to find the right fit. The ones that came preinstalled worked perfectly for me right out of the box, snapping into place and staying there while I ran. Obviously you may find that you'll have to play around with the tips a bit to find the ones that work for you, but I've never had fit this good before.

In terms of audio performance, I found these earbuds to be solid, but not overwhelming. Music sounds crips and clear, even at higher volumes, and there was even some solid bass mixed in, something you don't always find on smaller, sport-oriented earphones. The Reflect Minis probably aren't going to win any awards for their performance, but in terms of something that you want to wear out on a run or for a workout at the gym, they are definitely up to the challenge. I will note that some of the podcasts I listened to while wearing these headphones did sound a bit muddled at times, but that is probably more due to the quality of those recordings and less about the earbuds themselves. Music tracks, which have higher production values, sounded great, which is a better way to judge overall quality.

Battery life is the other element that always concerns me, as unlike standard earbuds you'll need to recharge your wireless models on a regular basis. JBL says that the battery is good for about 8 hours playback, although that number can vary depending on volume, audio source, and so on. In real-world testing, I found that I was getting closer to 6 hours of battery life, which for me translates to having to recharge after I've run with the earbuds four or five times. While I would like to get a bit more battery life out of the Reflect Mini, I've been mostly satisfied with their performance so far.

On that note, it doesn't seem that JBL has built-in an auto-off feature for the Reflect Mini, which means if you accidentally leave them on, you'll drain the battery somewhat even when they're not in use. When you're done working out, be sure to turn them off so they'll be charged for your next session.

Since these are earbuds designed for use while being active, they have been built to be sweat proof. That means that they can survive your wet hands pawing at the remote control or you working up a good sweat while running. That doesn't mean that they are water – or even rain – proof however, so keep that in mind when using them. I've had other wireless earbuds that were sweat proof in the past, and some would stop working if I used them on a run in the rain. I don't know if that will be the case here, as I haven't tried the Reflect Mini BT in the rain yet, but it is definitely something to keep in mind.

In terms of long term durability, we'll simply have to wait to see how well these earphones perform. Right now, they function very well, with great battery life, solid audio performance, and very few distortions or audio cut-outs while in use. But, some of the wireless earbuds I've used in the past haven't stood up to the test of time, wearing out after just a couple of months of use. Hopefully that won't be the case here, but only time will tell.

In terms of price, JBL has delivered a good product that performs very well, that won't make your wallet duck for cover. At just $99.95, the Refect Mini BT stacks up very well against the competition in terms of performance and value. Apple's new AirPods, which aren't specifically designed for use while exercising, cost $159, making them a bit pricer for those who are just entering the wireless earbud market.

Whether that's you, or if you're simply looking for a new pair of wireless earbuds, the JBL Reflect Mini BT is a good choice.


Gear Closet: Altra Superior 2.0 Trail Running Shoes

Find just the right pair of running shoes can be a bit like searching for the Holy Grail. Legends say that they exist, but actually finding it can be a challenge. As a daily runner, I tend to put a lot of wear and tear on my shoes, and since I am larger than most other runners I typically need footwear that is a bit more substantial than I'd sometimes like. This is especially true when it comes to trail shoes, where the lightweight models have tended to disappoint in the past. That isn't the case with Altra's Superior 2.0 however, as I have finally found a shoe that can provide plenty of comfort and support, while also leaning towards the more minimalist end of the spectrum.

Tipping the scales at just under 9 ounces, these shoes save weight by using a light upper while still maintaining a solid heel and sole. A lot of minimalist shoes cut corners in the amount of cushioning and support that they offer, but that isn't the case here. In fact, I've found that these shoes provide enough protection to my feet that I can use them on both the trail and the road, although they are definitely better suited to the former.

Durability doesn't seem to be an issue either, as after putting a decent amount of mileage on them, the Superior 2.0's look and feel like new. Then again, most of my running shoes tend to look nearly new, even after they've lost their ability to cushion my feet on a run. Still, having used these shoes for more than a month, the only indication that they've been run is the bits of dirt and grime they've picked up from the trail.

Altra has included some interesting design options into the Superior 2.0 that makes them well suited for my feet and running style. For instance, they have a wide toe box that actually gives your toes plenty of room inside to spread out when necessary. The result isn't just increased comfort, but also better stability on uneven terrain too. The difference is noticeable almost immediately, and since I started wearing them I've come to appreciate this approach to the shoe's design.


Underneath the shoe, the custom sole has canted lugs that grip a variety of surfaces – both wet and dry – very nicely. This helps to bring an added level of stability to the shoe as well, and I've found that they work just as well in mud and rain as they do on smooth surfaces and even dry pavement. The lugs aren't overly aggressive either, which I appreciate when transitioning from road to trail and back again.

Running in the excessive heat and humidity of summer my shoes tend to get soaked with sweat on a long run. Worse yet, they don't always dry as quickly as I'd like. But the Superior 2.0 is made with lightweight, breathable, and quick drying materials, which have allowed them to avoid getting too damp in the muggy conditions and dry out much more quickly too. As a result, I'm not putting my foot into a wet shoe and they aren't building up awful odors either.

Altra ships the Superior 2.0 with removable StoneGuard inserts that help protect your feet on sharp, rocky surfaces. Most of the time I didn't feel the need to use them, but they definitely come in handy when running a trail that features a lot of potential rock hazards. I like that the rock plate can be removed however, as much of the time it isn't needed at all.

As I've already mentioned, shoes that lean towards the minimalist realm don't always work the best for me. But the Superior 2.0 has been fantastic in every way. I've run 10+ miles in these shoes on more than one occasion, and they have taken everything I've thrown at them and performed well at every turn. In fact, I've been very impressed and surprised with how easy it has been to run in shoes that weigh so little. Typically in the past, anything more than about 3 miles in lightweight shoes leaves me longing for something with more support. Happily, that isn't the case here, and I look forward to even longer runs once the heat of the summer starts to subside.

If you're in the market for a new pair of trail shoes, and haven't given Altra a look yet, you really owe it to yourself to do so. They're doing some innovative things with their footwear, and I've really enjoyed getting to know the brand a lot better. I have another pair of their shoes in the wings waiting to be tested, and if they perform anywhere close to the level of the Superior 2.0, I'm going to be a happy guy.

Priced at $110 the Altra Superior 2.0 is a relative bargain in my mind. You'll be hard pressed to find a shoe that is this comfortable, durable, and easy to run for that price. Throw in the fact that they are also lightweight, quick drying, and highly breathable, and you have all the makings of a perfect running shoe. Check them out right here.

Video: Kilian Jornet Runs Alaska's Mt. Marathon

This video takes us to Seward, Alaska to witness one of the most unique races on the planet. Seward is home to Mt. Marathon, which is described as "one of the oldest, fastest, hardest, toughest… and shortest mountain races in the world." The race is held each July 4, and last year world-class runners Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg were on hand to take place in the event, bringing their own unique skills along with them. You'll get a first hand look at Seward, the race, and these great athletes below. It is something to behold.

On a side note, I was in Seward last year on the day of the race. To say it was an electric atmosphere would be an understatement. I enjoyed reliving it through this clip. I hope you like it oo.

Outside Presents the 2016 Summer Gear Buyers Guide

Just in case you still need some help selecting the best gear for your summer outdoor adventures, Outside magazine has released its 2016 Summer Buyers Guide, outlining 369 items that will keep you safe, comfortable, and happy while pursuing your favorite activities.

The Buyer's Guide is broken down into multiple categories, including Float, Hike, Bike, Run, Fitness, and Travel. Each of those listings is further divided into subcategories that include lists of great gear that is applicable to the activity. For instance, under hiking you'll find the best tents for 2016, as well as the best hiking shoes. Meanwhile, under the bike category you'll discover the best mountain bikes and accessories for a summer ride.

Naturally, with this many items to explore, it can take you quite a long time to sift through all of the options. But, if you're in the market for a new sleeping bag, kayak, camera, or other equipment, the experts at Outside can help you find exactly what you're looking for. There are some really great products to check out here, each of which has been curated by testers who have put these items through their paces over the past few months.

Check out the full list of items on the Outside Online website by clicking here.

Video:Further - Running the Length of Haiti

Last year, long distance runner Tassy Fils-Aime set off to run 240 miles (386 km) across the length of Haiti, something that had never been done before. Along the way, he faced numerous challenges of course, not the least of which was the daily distances he had to put in just to complete the run in a reasonably quick time. Fast forward to 2016, and Tassy and his team have now opened up the running challenge to the general public too. This video takes us along on that grueling event, and gives us a chance to see what it is like to travel across the Caribbean country on foot, interacting with the landscapes and locals along the way.

Ultarunner Attempting to Set Speed Record for U.S. Crossing on Foot

One of the toughest running challenges imaginable is currently underway, as British ultrarunner Robert Young (aka "The Marathon Man U.K.") is attempting to set a speed record for crossing the U.S. on foot. To do so, he'll have to run more than 60 miles per day – every day – for a month and a half.

Young set out from Huntington Beach, California last Saturday, and he hopes to wrap up the run in Times Square in New York City, sometime in June. Along the way, his route will take him through California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, covering approximately 3000 miles (4828 km) along the way. To reach his eventual destination he'll have run across deserts, over two mountain ranges (Rockies and Appalachian), the Great Plains, and various other environments.

As mentioned, Robert will need to cover about 60 miles per day if he hopes to establish a new record. The previous mark was set 36 years ago and stands at 46 days, 8 hours, and 36 minutes. That won't be easy of course, but the British runner has a reputation of being a phenom. Since he started running marathons in 2014, he has run more than 500 races of marathon length or longer, while setting two world records – one for most marathons run in a year and another for the longest distance run without sleeping.


You can track Robert's progress on his website, and as of now he is still in California but nearing the border with Arizona. Obviously he has a long way to go before he's done, but he's already making good progress and since it is early in the run, we can follow Young all the way across the U.S.

Of course, Robert is hoping to get the record, but he's also running to raise funds for three charities. Those include Dreams Come True, the Tyler Robinson Foundation, and the 100 Mile Club.The run is also being supported by SKINS, a company that makes compression apparel for athletes.

Good luck to Robert on this endeavor. It will be interesting to see if he can catch break the record that has stood for more than three and a half decades.

Gear Closet: Skins DNAmic Compression Shirt

With as much running and cycling as I do, I've become a convert to the benefits of compression. Not only do I feel like it helps me to perform better out on the road, but recover faster after my workouts as well. These benefits come from the fact that compression gear helps to stimulate the flow of blood to our muscles, while reducing lactic acids as well, bringing some excellent benefits along with it.

One of my favorite companies that provides compression gear for my workout is SKINS. In colder weather I frequently wear a pair of their tights, and during the warmer month I break out the SKINS shorts. Later, I'll even don a pair of recovery tights to help get my legs ready for the next workout the following day. Recently, I had a chance to check out the new DNAmic Compression Shirt as well, and true to form it delivers positive benefits too.

Like SKINS compression tights and shorts, this short sleeve shirt is designed to help stimulate the flow of oxygen to our muscles, helping to improve performance in the process. In particular, this shirt is meant to aid the muscles in our shoulders, chest, and core, providing more power and faster recovery post workout.


It is tough to quantify the "more power" part of that equation, but I can definitely attest to its ability to help speed recovery. After a workout with this shirt, I still felt the effects of a workout, with tired muscles and lots of lactic acid build-up. But the impact of those workouts diminishes much more quickly, and I feel less sore when I start my next exercise session as well.

One of the other benefits of wearing compression gear is that it prevents the muscles in your body from vibrating and moving around too much while moving. That helps to keep the wear and tear on those muscles to a minimum, which is a large part of where the post-workout soreness comes from. But since this shirt fits like, well, a second skin, there isn't much room for your muscles to move about much, which is part of the reason why it is so effective. But it can take a bit to get use to the fit of the shirt, which is tight, but not uncomfortably so.

The DNAmic shirt brings some other nice benefits to the table as well. For instance, it is made of fabrics that wick moisture away quickly and easily, keeping you dry and cool in the process. That can play a big role in staying comfortable while exercising too. On top of that, the shirt offers 50+ UPF protection from the sun too, which definitely comes in handy on those outdoor workouts.

If you're not already a convert to the compression movement, what are you waiting for? You'll find a lot of nice benefits from wearing this type of gear, both on your legs and upper body. This shirt is a also a great place to start, as it can be worn on its own or under other equipment and still get maximum performance. And at a pice of $89.99, it is also a reasonably priced product for how high quality it is. Yes, you'll find some options that cost less, but in my experience that apparel isn't nearly as durable or effective as the products that come from SKINS.

Find out more at SKINS.net.

Gear Closet: The Suunto Ambit3 Vertical Should Be Your Next Adventure Watch

I'm the kind of person who wears a watch with them where ever they go. My watch is one of the first things I put on in the morning, and one of the last I take off at night. Like any person who is a fan of watches, I have several in my collection ranging from casual to more formal depending on the situation. I especially depend on a watch when workout and travel, which is when having more than just the time on my wrist is very important to me. In the past, my watch of choice in those situations has always been the Ambit series from Suunto, as I've always found them to be rugged, dependable, and with plenty of great functionality. So when I got the chance to test out the new Ambit3 Vertical – a watch specifically designed for use in adventure sports in the mountains – I couldn't wait to see how it performed.

The Ambit series has been around for a number of years now, and over that period we've seen lots of updates to these watches, some subtle in nature, while others are more dramatic. If you're already an Ambit3 owner, the new Vertical still offers some nice refinements, but if you're coming from one of the older versions of this watch, you'll see some major changes that are certainly welcome. In my case, I made the leap from the original Ambit to the Ambit3, and was impressed with how far these timepieces have come.

The first thing I noticed about the Ambit3 Vertical was that it was physically more streamlined than past models. It is a bit thinner, and the GPS satellite receiver that was so prominent in the past is gone. This makes it look a lot more like just about any other rugged sports watch you might find on the market, where some wearers will definitely appreciate.

The next thing that stood out when using the Vert was how much snappier the operating system was as compared to my old watch. Everything responded much more quickly, and it was easy to jump in and out of the menus to find the options you are looking for, such as setting time, adjusting settings, or starting a workout. If you've never used an Ambit watch before, you might be a little confused at first, but it all starts to fall in place the more you use it. If you're an old pro with its interface, it'll all seem like second nature to you.


The Vertical comes with some nice additions that haven't necessarily been seen on the Ambit before. For instance, it now has GLONASS GPS support for use in other parts of the world and it has a built-in barometric pressure sensor for registering altitude. That has been seen in some past models, but not all, and for a watch designed to measure changing elevations during your workouts or alpine pursuits, it is a must. Suunto even added vibration alerts that are subtle but noticeable too.

As I've already mentioned – and as the name indicates – the Ambit3 Vertical is all about tracking the performance of workouts on hills and mountains. The watch now has the ability to route elevation profiles more accurately, while also putting data about your ascent/descent details more front and center as well. It can even track your distances covered in 3D, taking into account elevation changes along the way. That is something that trail runners will certainly love, as in the past your distances up or down were not accurately tracked.

Just like on past Ambit models, the Vertical has preset workout routines backed right in. So, when you're ready to start your running, cycling, or skiing routine (amongst others), you simply pick it from the list, and set off. The new elevation tracking system does a great job of knowing whether you're moving up or down, and incorporates that data into your post-workout summary as well. The route charts that it displays are surprisingly accurate, and the inclusion of altitude change will make this watch a favorite amongst outdoor athletes.

The Vertical comes with the ability to connect to variety of other devices, including a heart rate monitor that came with my test unit. Connecting the watch and the monitor was a simple affair, providing me with even more feedback about performance on my daily runs. You can even connect it to your smartphone via Suunto's Movescount app, which is a very nice companion to the Ambit3, giving you a new way to visual your workout data.

As a travel watch, the Ambit3 Vertical has some nice features too, not the least of which is its rugged construction. This is the kind of timepiece you can wear anywhere and not worry about it surviving. It also features dual timezones, alarms, and automatic time adjust based on timezone. It's ability to track your distances covered and routes can come in handy for navigation too.

I'm sure you can tell that I'm highly impressed with this new watch from Suunto. It offers some great refinements that make it a step up over most of the other watches in the Ambit3 line. But, that said, it is missing a few features that mountaineers might miss, including storm tracking and warnings, barometric pressure trends, a built-in thermometer, and sea level air pressure. If hose are important features for you, you'll have to upgrade to the Ambit3 Peak.

Additionally, battery life on the Vert has been reduced as well. Suunto says that it is capable of running for 14 days in watch mode alone, which is about half what you'll get out of the Peak. That run time will be reduced further when using the GPS functions during a workout. The watch will last about 15 hours when tracking a run for instance, which pings the satellite ever second. That number climbs to 100 hours while trekking though, which extends the tracking to one minute instead. Official numbers aside, I've actually found the battery life to be a bit longer than Suunto says, so while this may be a step backwards in terms of performance, it might not be as bad as you would expect.

Those minor quibbles aside, the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical is a fantastic watch for outdoor athletes. Not only does it look nicer than any Ambit that has come before it, its ability to track movement in 3D is a real revelation for those of us who run, bike, ski, or do just about any other outdoor activity. This feature brings improved accuracy as well, which a lot of people will appreciate.

Priced at $469 ($519 with the heart rate monitor), the Vert is no small investment. But considering everything it is capable of doing, it is definitely worth it for those of us who are serious about their workouts, tracking performance, and improving their conditioning. This is a watch built for adventure, and I would recommend it over just about anything else other than perhaps the Ambit3 Peak, depending on your personal needs.

The Ambit3 Vertical is available now. Visit Suunto.com for more info.

Gear Closet: Under Armour Bluetooth Wireless Earphones

One of the most popular running accessories amongst my friends in recent months has been wireless Bluetooth earphones. Most of us run with our smartphones these days, listening to music, audiobooks, and podcasts while we workout. But the cable that runs from our earbuds to our mobile device can be annoying at times, and often gets in the way. Wireless headphones eliminate this issue however, bringing a very high level of convenience, while also introducing some challenges of their own. 

Over the past couple of years, I've had the opportunity to test several different models of Bluetooth headsets designed specifically for runners. I've come to love the freedom that these types of headphones bring to the table, but have often found battery life to be a bit underwhelming. Recently, there has been a new entry into this increasingly crowded market, with Under Armour and JBL joining forces to release their own take on the wireless sports earbuds, and for the most part I'm very happy with the results. 

The first thing I noticed about the somewhat generically named Under Armour Headphones Wireless is the build quality. These earbuds feel incredibly solid in your hands, which seems fitting for a product that is meant to be used by frequent runners. We all know that we abuse our gear while out on the run, but these earphones are designed to shrug off the rigors of the road. Additionally, they are also water and sweat proof, keeping the tiny electronics inside safe from the elements. 

Paring these earphone with your mobile device vis Bluetooth is just as simple as you would expect, and takes only a few seconds to complete. Once the pairing process is done, the headphones will automatically connect to the audio device when it is turned on in the future, eliminating the need to repeat the process moving forward. The wireless connection between these earphones and my iPhone was strong, with very few distortions or dropouts. On two occasions (out of dozens of times using these earbuds) I actually had them disconnect from my phone, forcing me to turn them off and on again to re-establish the audio link. 

Unlike most other sports earbuds that I've tried, the Under Armour model only came with two sets of silicon covers that are meant to help find the perfect sizing for your ears. Competitors typically come with five or more, so I was somewhat dubious that they would fit correctly. The larger sizers were too large for my ears, but dropping down to the smaller covers did the trick nicely. Once twisted into place inside my ear, they molded to my personal contours and felt great. The fit was snug and comfortable, and exactly what you would expect from your earphones. 

That said, Under Armour and JBL offer a "guarantee" that these earbuds won't fall out no matter how vigorously you're moving. That hasn't exactly been the case for me, as I've had them bounce out on more than one occasion, and I routinely find myself adjusting the fit in my ear to keep them in place. Eventually I find just the right positioning, and they tend to stay in my ears at that point, but it can take a bit of fidgeting at times to make them work as advertised. Of course, everyone's ears vary in size and dimensions, so you may not find this to be a problem at all. 

These earphones are a bit larger than most other wireless models that I've tried, which some may find a bit distracting while out on a run. I equate that extra bulk to a larger battery, which extends the time between recharges out to 8 hours. That's better than most of the competition, and I've found that in real world testing, I could actually extend that battery life even further. Considering one of my least favorite things about using Bluetooth earbuds is having to recharge them all the time, this extended battery life came as a welcome addition. 

In terms of sound quality, the Under Amour headphones offer solid performance, particularly when compared to other wireless models. Vocals and music are clear and distinct, without just a touch of muddling at higher volume levels. Bass is at a minimum however, which is to be expected on earphones of this size. Wired earbuds still provide better all around performance in terms of audio quality, but most of us won't notice a huge difference, particularly while we're working out. 

As with most other headphones on the market these days, these earbuds have an inline remote that allows users to start and pause their music, adjust volume, power off and on, and pick-up phone calls using the built-in mic. Those features come in handy while out on a run, when using your smartphone directly isn't always convenient. 

With a price tag of $180, the Under Armor wireless headphones are definitely on the premium end of the spectrum. You will find other models that offer similar sound quality and battery performance for less money. You'll be hard pressed to find a set that are as durable and rugged however, which is an important thing to consider for runners. Some of those competitors won't survive nearly as long, which means you'll be plunking down more of your hard-earned cash once again. 

Overall, I really like these wireless earbuds. They are comfortable to wear, offer great battery life, and have good sound quality too. If you've been putting off taking the plunge into wireless audio for running, this is as good as any earbuds that I've tried so far. 

Outside Predicts the Trends of 2016

We sill have a couple more weeks to go before we drop the curtain on another year, but it is never too early to start looking ahead to 2016. With that in mind, Outside magazine has published an interesting article, in which the editors look into their crystal ball and make some bold predictions on the trends that will leave their mark next year.
Some of these predictions are fairly easy to make. For instance, Outside says Cuba will live up to the hype amongst travelers, and fitness trackers will continue to grow in popularity. Other items on the list are bit more of a stretch. I'm not sure that anyone will be able to run a marathon from their living room for example, and while bike-packing is on the rise, it won't supplant backpacking just yet. Outside also says that 2016 will be the year that private space travel finally comes into its own, but considering how long such a thing has been promised, I'll believe it when I see it.

Still, it is fun to take a peek over the horizon and think about the people, places, and things we'll be watching closely next year. The Olympics will take place in Rio, which will bring us a host of new athletes to admire, and there has definitely been a trend towards outdoor adventure showing up in popular media – including movies, books, and even virtual reality. All of those options will give us something to keep us occupied when we're not pursuing adventures of our own.

I won't go out on a limb and make too many predictions. I'll leave that to the experts at Outside. But I will say that I expect things to finally get back to normal on Everest after two seasons of disruptions. I also expect that there will be some bold new adventures to report on, many coming from sources we don't even know about yet, and I'm sure we'll see even better gear and equipment to get us through our personal explorations of the world around us. In short, 2016 will be like most other years. Lets all embrace it and make the most of it.

Gear Closet: JLab Epic Bluetooth Earbuds for Runners

As a runner who logs a lot of miles each week, my smartphone plays a vital role in keeping me going. Sure, it logs my mileage and keeps track of my pace, but more importantly it provides entertainment in the form of music and podcasts while I'm out on the road or trail. Without these audio files playing in my ear, I'm not sure I'd be able to stay as motivated as I do.

Of course, having a good set of earbuds is important too. They need provide good sound of course, but more importantly they should be comfortable to wear over extended periods of time without cables and cords getting in the way. That pretty much sums up what you'll get with the new Epic Bluetooth Earbuds from JLab, which managed to surprise me with how well they performed.

These aren't the first pair of Bluetooth earbuds for runners that I've tested. In fact, I've reviewed a couple on this blog in the past. I've always enjoyed the freedom that comes from not having a cable running to your audio device, as it keeps those wires out of the way, and avoids snagging them on branches or shrubs. But the one thing that I struggled with when using wireless earphones is that they need to be recharged frequently. That's not a big deal if you only use them a couple of times a week, but when you're running for over an hour every day, you'll have to recharge them often. That isn't the case with the Epic earbuds however, as they boast a battery life that is nearly 10 hours in length. Thats enough to easily get me through a week without having to recharge. It is also about twice the playback time of other models that I've tested, some of which are considerably more expensive.

I was also impressed with the audio quality from these earbuds. When I'm out for a run, I don't expect the greatest sound quality of course, but it is nice to be able to hear a full auditory range, particularly when listening to music. These earphones delivered solid mid- and high-range audio playback which was more than adequate for listening while working out. As you would expect, the bass levels aren't going to blow you away, but the low ranges could still be distinctly heard none the less. Volume levels were also quite high, and unlike some of the competition that I've tried out, there weren't many times when wireless connection distorted the sound either.


The Epic earbuds deliver in terms of comfort as well. The "memory wire" that wraps around your ear holds them in place nicely, and shapes itself to fit properly. As a result, you can put them on when you head out for a run, and trust that they are going to stay in place for your entire workout. JLab also includes a wide variety of sizes for the silicon tips that fit over the earphones as well, allowing you to find the ones that match the size of your ear canals. In my case, one of the earbuds fit like a glove right out of the box, while I've struggled to find the proper size for my other ear. This makes one of them sit a bit more loosely in my ear, although it has never popped out during the time that I tested it. This is more of a minor annoyance than anything else, and is also an issue with my ear and not necessarily the product itself.

An inline remote on the earbuds gives you control over what you're listening to, allowing you to adjust volume, skip tracks, and power the headphones on and off. That remote features large, easy to identify buttons that makes it a snap to operate these earbuds while on the move.

While listening to music or audio books is great while running, it is also essential that your earbuds don't isolate outside noise to the point that it becomes dangerous. The Epic earbuds recognize this, and allow in enough outside noise to keep you aware of your surroundings, but not so much as to prevent you from actually hearing what is being played in your ears. Using the inline remote for instance, I can turn the volume down and easily have a conversation with someone, without ever having to take the earphones off.

Pairing these earphones with your smartphone or mp3 player via Bluetooth is a snap. The entire process takes seconds, with audio clues provided by a voice built into the headphones themselves. That same voice alerts you to when the earbuds have been powered on or off, and when the battery is getting low. In the latter case, I would have actually preferred more notice of when that was happening, as I actually got caught out in the middle of a run when they did finally die.

As if all of this wasn't already impressive enough, the Epic earbuds are also have an IPX4 waterproof rating. I can attest to the fact that they hold up well in moisture, as during my testing I used them in very humid environments, while also running in the rain and sweating all over them. They held up great however, and never showed the slightest sign of having a problem. I think it is safe to say that short of taking them swimming or getting caught in a deluge, they'll survive around water just fine.

In addition to plenty of silicon ear tips, JLab ships these earbuds with several other accessories as well, including a USB charging cable, clips for adjusting the length of the cable, and a surprisingly nice case for carrying the earbuds and your smartphone. While that case isn't one that I would personally use while working out, it could come in handy for traveling.

As you can tell, I'm quite impressed with these Bluetooth earphones. They are comfortable to wear, sound great, and most importantly have excellent battery life for a product of this kind. If you've been searching for a set of wireless earbuds for your workouts, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with what JLab has to offer. They also make a great gift for the holidays for the runner on your list, and at a price tag of just $99.95 they are affordable too. In fact, that is about half the price of the previous model that I had been using, which only adds to how impressive the Epic earbuds truly are.

Video: What Happens When Kilian Jornet Meets Karl Egloff

Kilian Jornet is widely considered to be the best alpine runner in the world, setting all kinds of records on big mountains across the planet. On the other hand, Karl Egloff is the guy who is most often breaking those records. What happens when these two men meet? Why, they go for a run of course? Check it out in the video below.

Woman Completes Run Around U.S. Border

A 55-year old woman has completed an epic long-distance run this week when she reached her finish line in Ocean Shores, Washington. That's where Helene Nevelle ended her successful attempt to run around the entire parameter of the United States, covering an impressive 9715 miles (15,634 km) in the process.

According to Outside, the project was completed in stages over 330 nonconsecutive days that date back to the beginning of the run five years ago. The first stage of Helene's trek around the U.S. covered the distance between Ocean Beach, California and Atlantic Beach, Florida. From there, she ran from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Tijuana, Mexico, and from Marathon, Florida, to Portland, Maine. The final leg of the journey began in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada, and ended in Ocean Shores, covering some 3680 miles (5922 km). That last segment started in May and ended earlier this week, requiring four months and 12 days to finish according to Runner's World.

Nevelle first began running back in the 90's as she recovered from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She soon began covering longer distances, and has even run across the U.S. before, using her efforts to inspire others to become healthier. She frequently stopped at hospitals to visit with health care professionals and patients along the way as well. Nevelle herself is a nurse, and understands the challenges of the profession quite well.

On this final stage of the run, Helene learned that her cancer has returned, but she didn't allow that diagnosis to get int he way of her reaching her goal. Now that she has finished, she'll concentrate on her own health, and potentially writing a book about her experience. She also says she has been approached about a movie deal about the run as well. Hopefully she'll be back on the road to good health herself soon, as this story is certainly an inspiration to others.