New shoe releases get a lot of hype at The Running Event, but there are always a number of other items that catch our eye over the course of the two-day showcase. Check out Part 1 of our review for the newest shoe releases, and read on for some cool hydration products, nutrition and more that we’re looking to test on the trail next year. Keep in mind that availability dates, MSRPs and spec info are subject to change between now and official product releases.
Best known for their super-lightweight running vests and waist belts, Naked will expand its product line in the spring to include a handheld product, somewhat unimaginatively called the Naked Handheld. It consists of a thin, soft, highly breathable mesh wrist sleeve with an attached whistle, and a stretch mesh pocket on the top that can accommodate a key or gel-sized item. A 500ml soft flask is included, and dual shock cord fasteners on the palm side hold the flask in place, keeping it compressed once you start drinking. The Handheld is made in specific right/left side styling to accommodate your preference and will retail for $30.
The preeminent name in flask and reservoir manufacturing introduces a new flip cap technology designed to make it easier to refill flasks at aid stations. The hinged top snaps open and locks down easily, with a slightly wider mouth than screw-top openings, and an easier mechanism to use when your fingers are sweaty or gloved. Flip tops will be standard with the January release of HydraPak UltraFlasks, which come in 500ml ($26) or 600ml ($28) options, and with two different drink valve options; a traditional valve if you’re using it as a handheld, and a straw top option if you’re using the flasks in your front vest pockets.
Lots of changes are on the way from Osprey, whose entire line of Duro (men’s) and Dyna (women’s) hydration vests undergo extensive updates. Every product in the line is Bluesign approved for their extensive use of recycled materials, and the women’s specific fit of the Dyna products have been tweaked to better accommodate a larger range of body sizes. Reservoir tubes are all insulated, and the reservoir itself has a sleeker side rail that reduces pressure points against the top of your back. The front harness systems have been redesigned with new rails and straps, and pocket positioning has been adjusted to be more ergonomically efficient. Duro and Dyna vests come in 1.5L, 6L or 15L cargo options, all of which have a 1.5L fluid reservoir.
A brand new product in the Duro/Dyna line is the LT vest, which is the minimalist’s fluid vest. Dual front pockets hold 360ml flasks (included), and the remainder of the vest consists of lightweight and breathable soft mesh. Small flank pockets provide a bit of cargo storage and distribute the load close to your center of gravity, but otherwise the vest leaves most of your back surface area open to ventilation. The LT vest will retail for $85.
Also making a move in the lightweight direction is Nathan, whose outstanding VaporAir (men’s) and VaporAiress (women’s) vests will welcome sleeker siblings to the family in February. The VaporAir Lite and VaporAiress Lite are about 30% lighter than their predecessors, thanks mainly to the use of a new airy mesh for the main harnesses and a thin moisture-wicking panel at center back. Fit is adjusted through Velcro attachment points on the rear torso, accommodating a large variety of sizes and also allowing for precise customization. These vests will come with a 1.4L fluid reservoir and can accommodate soft flasks in the front pockets. They will retail for $125.
Updates to Salomon’s hydration vests for 2022 are focused on improving the women’s-specific fit of their ADV Skin vest line. This is done primarily through revision of the reservoirs and pockets, moving away from Salomon’s long cylindrical flasks in favor of a more trapezoidal flask that rests more broadly and slightly more laterally on the torso, with straw flasks to allow drinking on the go. Pocket configuration on the front of the vest is also adjusted to accommodate the updated flask positioning, but the number of pockets and overall cargo capacity all remain the same. These updates will apply to the ADV Skin 5L, 8L and 12L vests beginning in February, and each of these vests will be offered in either a women’s or unisex fit. If you like the traditional flask design, those aren’t going away – they’re still standard on the unisex versions of each vest.
A popular waist belt in the UltrAspire lineup gets a solid upgrade next summer, as the Plexus 2.0 becomes more streamlined while also improving its functionality. It is a 4L low profile waist pack that has a number of storage options and comes with a UltraFlask 550 Hybrid bottle that lays horizontally across the back. The load balance of this pack has been improved and the drink compartment is now insulated for better thermoregulation. Gear can be stored in front or back zipper compartments, and the Plexus 2.0 still works as part of a component system with UltrAspire’s outstanding line of waist-mounted lights. It will be available in July with an MSRP of $75.
The most anticipated vest for next year might be the Bronco Race Vest, named after and designed by Jeff Browning as a lightweight, race-ready pack for his 100-mile efforts. It’s crazy light at just 5.6oz, with a 5L cargo capacity and options for hydration from a rear reservoir or dual front flasks/bottles (no fluid containers are included). Front harnesses have four stretch mesh pockets, and side “saddlebag” compartments keep other small items handy. The rear cargo compartment has an EVA foam ridge that stands up and makes it easy to reach into when running at pace, but lays flat when the compartment is empty. The entire load rides higher on the back than other UltrAspire packs, putting the cargo compartment contents within closer reach over the shoulder. Browning has done extensive testing and modifications of this vest throughout 2021, and it will come to market in July at an MSRP of $130.
In February, Kahtoola adds to its lineup of running gaiters with introduction of the RENAgaiter, which has the same low profile and light weight of the company’s INSTAgaiter Low model, but with more rugged construction that is built to withstand frequent exposure to rocky scree during high mountain runs. All Kahtoola gaiters have modified the adjustable TPU strap operation to be more symmetrical with three notch openings on the medial and lateral sides, and the RENAgaiter strengthens the standard attachment tab with full TPU construction and reinforced stitching to eliminate it as a point of potential weakness. The ripstop of the RENAgaiter has high abrasion resistance but still allows for air flow and ventilation. The RENAgaiter will be available in a Low style for $50 or a High version for $60.
It’s not the most innovative product offering, but the Planter Fascitis Kit from OS1st simplifies the process of recovery by combining three of the company’s most effective products for treating this stubborn condition. The kit combines one pair of performance foot sleeves, one pair of nighttime resting therapy sleeves and two pairs of plantar fasciitis socks, along with instructions on when to use each and a wash bag to keep them all together. Sometimes it can be hard to figure out the differences between similar products and which one to use at what time, so part of the value here is removing the guesswork from that process. The kit will retail for $99, which is slightly cheaper than buying all of the products separately.
The other big player in compression wear launches two new product lines next year. The 4.0 series products launch in February and update the 3.0 product line with increased padding on the footbed, improved ventilation and mildly increased graduated compression throughout the garments. The colorways are also revised with some cool dual-block versions that make it appear as if you’re wearing separate socks and sleeves. The 4.0 series will be offered in multiple heights from no-show compression socks to knee-high tall compression socks.
For hot conditions or for runners who find compression wear uncomfortably warm, CEP is debuting an Ultralight series that weighs 30% less than the existing 3.0 and upcoming 4.0 garments, and is built with polyamide fibers that create a cooling effect against the skin. The intent is to decrease the surface temperature of the skin slightly, just enough to increase your comfort level for long hot trail days. The Ultralight products will be available in the same size options as the upcoming 4.0 series.
A new product we’re interested to try in real-world scenarios is from this Canadian company. Their Energy Fruit Bars have a gumdrop-like texture (complete with sugary outer coating) for very easy chewing and are supposed to stay soft in cold weather while holding their shape in warm weather. Each bar has 100 calories, and all six flavors are made from real fruit with a few performance nutrients added. Our favorite in taste testing was the Blackcurrant with added caffeine, sodium, potassium and antioxidants –l it could be a nice alternative to gels or blocks on longer efforts.
It’s usually not a compliment to say a drink has a weak taste, except when you’re in the late stages of an ultra and anything sweet becomes a bit revolting. Skratch’s Superfuel Drink Mix has an almost imperceptible taste: enough to make you know you’re not drinking water, but minimal to be barely noticeable. However, it delivers high caloric density through Cluster Dextrin molecules that carry a high volume of glucose units in comparison to other complex carbohydrate molecules. One serving of this mix provides 400 calories in a steady energy release, along with all the sodium and electrolytes that need replacing, and the powder dissolves easily in water.
Yup… mashed potatoes in a bag! Sports Spuds are an Atlanta-based company packaging organic Idaho potatoes into a resealable twist top container that travels easily and has a nine-month shelf life before use. They come in three flavors: Plain with Celtic Sea Salt, White Cheddar or Sour Cream and Chives. Our group had a split decision on these; a couple of us found them bland, but others thought the mildly savory taste and smooth texture would work really well for self-supported outings when aid station potatoes aren’t available. Each container is 4.4oz and has 60-80 calories depending on the flavor.
The Running Event marked a couple of big announcements for GU Energy. First and foremost was the promotion of ultrarunner Magda Boulet to company president after her long tenure as VP; nobody has more credibility in the ultra community, and we wish Magda the best of luck in her new role. Magda is a previous Western States 100 champion and a member of the Western States board, so perhaps it’s not coincidental that GU’s new Roctane Salted Lime gel flavor being released in March 2022 is made in conjunction with the Western States Endurance Run Foundation, with proceeds going to support maintenance on the iconic trail. The flavor was made with warm conditions in mind and combines tangy lime with a salty aftertaste, sort of like licking the rim of your margarita glass.