In Part 1 we showed you a lot of the shoes and apparel we’ll be testing in the year ahead. This time we’re looking at hydration vests and accessories and one emerging new category that has grown exponentially over the past year.
HYDRATION VESTS & ACCESSORIES
UltrAspire has a July release targeted for a couple updates to existing models and one new model as part of the company’s modular component approach. The Momentum 2.0 improves the accessibility of the 6L pack’s rear flank water bottle positioning, using fluidic holsters that are larger than traditional bottle holsters. They make it easier to reposition the bottles after use, and include magnetic closures to secure the bottle in place once positioned. This pack, along with many others in the UltrAspire line, will use new super-thin UltrAcool Light Mesh that is highly breathable but also has strong durability. Another update to many UltrAspire packs is a revised shoulder pocket that expands to accommodate a large variety of cell phone sizes and secures with a single shock cord. The Momemtum 2.0 will retail for $90.
Another update we saw was the Astral 4.0, a 9L female-specific vest that uses a HerFit harness system angled around the chest to prevent restriction of movement and allow optimal ventilation. Improvements to this pack include the use of UltrAcool mesh, updated phone shoulder pocket, expandable mesh in the main compartment for added capacity, and the addition of Max O2 straps on the side. These are the same straps that UltrAspire has used on the sternum of all its packs for a few years. They’ve added them to the side in place of conventional straps which allows you to cinch down the fit without compromising expansion when breathing heavily. The Astral 4.0 will retail for $140.
UltrAspire continues to expand its lighting options in 2020 – in this case, by circling back to the category that most other companies start at. The Lumen 250 Sidekick compact rechargeable headlamp provides 250 lumens of brightness with a rotating zoom lens to alternate between flood or spot modes. A built-in motion sensor allows you to turn the light on and off by waving your hand in front of it, rather than fumbling with gloves and buttons. The Lumen 250 Sidekick weighs 2.6oz and will retail for $40.
As the name of the Sidekick implies, it is meant to be used as a complement to a higher-powered waist-mounted lamp, which UltrAspire has specialized in for years. To provide more options for lighting and hydration combinations, the new Ally is a front component piece that you can add to your favorite waist hydration pack, with an attachment point for the UltrAspire Lumen 400, 600 or 800 waist-mounted bulbs. It also has a stretchy mesh pocket behind the adapter that can carry a cell phone or other small objects. The Ally will retail for $30, with waist bulbs sold separately.
One of the coolest new innovations we saw in the hydration category is Amphipod’s Freeform handheld bottles. They combine a soft holster for your hand with a rigid plastic lever that easily clips the bottle in place to a vest pocket or waist band as needed. These bottles are sold individually for $25, and they are also the centerpiece of the new Freeform Vest that will be released in February 2020. The vest comes with two Freeform bottles and has capacity for a 2L reservoir in back. Two expandable zippered pockets provide small cargo access on the front, while a full-length rear zipper compartment stows your larger items. The Freeform vest will retail for $165.
The Orange Mud hydration vest lineup is remaining largely unchanged in 2020, with a couple of notable exceptions. All hydration vests will be available in the company’s distinctive colorways – all-white or coyote brown, in addition to the traditional black. All of the packs will have a redesigned strap configuration in 2020. The front straps will be like conventional backpack straps, while side straps will be anchored with stretch elastic loops. This design is intended to keep the front straps stable, but still allow expansion of the vest with your rib cage.
One significant update to an Orange Mud product is the new Transition Wrap Extreme, which adds waterproofing to the previous towel-like design of previous models. A thin, flexible TPU layer provides the water barrier, but all of the functionality remains the same. It can still be wrapped around your waist as a changing shield, then zipped at the hood to fit over your car seat. Another huge improvement to the product is the elimination of plastic packaging. Instead, the Transition Wrap Extreme will come with a ripstop stuff sack that can be reused and happens to be the perfect size for use as a drop bag. It will be available in February 2020 at an MSRP of $50.
CamelBak has been somewhat stagnant in the run category in recent years, but they’re looking to rectify that with the new Zephyr pack that was developed and wear tested with YiOu Wang this fall – she also wore it during her recent win at The North Face 50-Mile Championship in Marin County. This gender-specific pack uses body mapping technology to adjust the surface area and positioning of the straps on men’s and women’s models. For both genders, the Zephyr holds 7L of cargo and comes with two 500ml flasks, with capacity for a 1.5L reservoir in the back. There are large storage pockets on the front and sides, in addition to flask storage as well as a waterproof phone pocket. The Zephyr will be available in spring 2020 at an MSRP of $150.
Another new CamelBak product is described as the “do everything” pack – its official name is the Octane 25. The intent is to provide large cargo capacity in a well-organized format, with secure load management to allow for full running. It can be used for run commuting, fastpacking or adventure racing, and a large helmet-compatible mesh pouch makes it suitable for bike commuting as well. Load management straps on the main compartment help cinch down variable-sized cargo, and a waist strap with sweat resistant pockets stabilizes the pack on your torso. The Octane 25 comes with a 2L Crux reservoir, with plenty of room for flask storage as needed. It will be available in spring 2020 for $145.
Nathan is generally holding tight in the hydration pack category for 2020, with color modifications to existing model series. Their area of interest to many trail runners next year is the K9 series, which will launch in fall 2020. By the company’s estimates (which sound correct to us), up to one third of trail runners have dogs as regular training partners, and many of them encounter challenging situations regarding management or safety of their furry companions.
The K9 series consists of three products. The one that goes on Rover is the K9 Dog Harness, made from a thin, breathable mesh that has 360 degrees of reflectivity for safety and two points of attachment. A traditional clip is on the top back of the harness, but there is another “teaching point” clip on the center of the dog’s chest, intended to train your partner to run in a straight line. The idea goes like this: if a dog is clipped at its chest and tries to strain against the leash, it will turn them sideways and make them slow down or adjust their gait. After a period of time, your dog will learn to match your pace and run alongside you to avoid getting twisted around. Nathan’s K9 Dog Harness retails for $45.
The human partner has the option of the K9 Waistbelt ($45) or K9 Waistpack ($60), both of which come with a dual-clipped leash. The front of these packs have a guide line attachment point at your waist, so the leash can travel from side to side along with your dog. The difference between the two packs is an extra storage compartment on the Waistpack that can accommodate a phone.
A new category we’re covering this year is CBD products which seem to be growing exponentially – by our count, there were more than 15 different companies offering CBD-based products at The Running Event. For this section, we’re adding a disclaimer that none of our editorial team have advanced training in cannabis science, and we’re not qualified to speak to the specific potency, purity, or effectiveness of one brand over others. What follows are simply the products that caught our attention for one reason or another.
Floyd’s of Leadville
The brand with the best name recognition is Floyd’s of Leadville, founded by former Tour de France cyclist Floyd Landis. The company is distinctive in offering full-spectrum products (containing small amounts of THC) as well as THC-free isolates. The color of the label tells you whether THC is present, with white labels being THC-free. Among a full range of administration methods – chewables, drink mixes, tinctures, balms, creams, and even a peanut butter chocolate CBD recovery bar – we were most impressed by the Gem Gels, which have the consistency of energy chews but deliver a small amount of CBD (10 to 50mg, depending on the product). These come in four fruit flavors, which are sold in small packs for $2 or $3 each.
While the majority of CBD products target recovery after workouts, there is application for pre-activity use as well. The Muscle MX Activate Balm combines essential oils and CBD in a beeswax medium to help stimulate blood flow and provide pain relief during activity. The great aspect of this product is that you apply it like a deodorant stick, avoiding messy application with your fingers. Activate CBD Balm comes in two sizes: the mini stick is $15, and a 2.5oz stick is $40.
In similar fashion as Muscle MX, Omax Health’s Cryofreeze CBD Roll-On is applied like a deodorant product, but delivers CBD in a more fluid-like medium rather than a firmer balm. It also has a relatively high (8.5%) menthol concentration, so you can think of this product as a supercharged Icy Hot that provides the added performance benefits of CBD. This Roll-On comes in a 3oz stick for $35.
This Boulder, CO-based company was created by Jon Robichaud, who was also a founder of Skratch Labs nutrition. Their most noteworthy product is a 2.0oz Recovery Shot, intended for use after an all-out effort like a race or full day event. Each shot contains 22mg of CBD and provides the anti-inflammatory equivalent of four over-the-counter ibuprofen. It contains a number of root extracts, but the predominant taste profile is a combination of tart cherry juice and turmeric and we were pleasantly surprised by the taste. The Recovery Shot has an MSRP of $6 per 2oz bottle.
Another Colorado-based company (as you’d imagine, Colorado currently has a predominance of CBD companies), Hemp Daddy’s uses USDA Certified Organic hemp as its source material. Their primary product focus is on CBD Tincture Oils for daily use, which are available in three different strengths ranging from 10mg to 30mg of CBD per serving. The regular oils are flavorless but are also available in mint flavor. Prices for these tinctures vary based on CBD strength and bottle size, ranging from $50 to $179.
Myaderm enters the CBD space from a pharmacy background, and its primary product for runners is CBD Sport Cream, which contains menthol, camphor and eucalyptus oil, along with CBD. It is available in a pump container and also sold in drop-bag-friendly single packs that are equivalent to 3 pumps. The regular Sport Cream contains 1200mg of CBD per 1.7oz container, and also comes in a double strength version with 2400mg in the same size container. The regular version retails for $50 and Double Strength Sport Cream sells for $80.
Based in Steamboat Springs, CO, Venga distinguishes itself by developing water-soluble, ingestible CBD products, which pass through your gut more effectively. The company claims that CBD is delivered to your system up to 5x more efficiently than comparable doses of other CBD products. Their key products for ultrarunners are Ultra Gels, a daily supplement of 25mg soft gels, and Aid Station Gummies, which provide 20mg each to help fight inflammation and decrease pain during hard activity. Venga’s Ultra Gels come in a 30-day dose for $99, and Aid Station Gummies come in a 15-serving container for $45.
One item from Venga that we greatly appreciate is their Endurance Athlete’s Guide to CBD, a 60-page compendium available as a free download on the company’s website (with email registration). As CBD products become more widely available and well-established moving forward, it is important for athletes to educate themselves on the most appropriate uses of this resource that has tremendous potential for both performance and recovery.