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Mar
26
james wilie
ALTRA OLYMPUS SHOE REVIEW
Gear Reviews, Shoes
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The Altra Olympus is another entrant into the 2014 “maximal” shoes, that is, lots of cushioning with a minimal offset (for Altra shoes, it is a zero offset).  Altra trail running shoes are categorized by Maximum cushioning (Olympus); Moderate cushioning (Lone Peak 1.5); and Light cushioning (The Superior 1.5).  All are zero drop.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Altra suggests to go up half a size from your normal running shoe size.  For me, the 9.5 size worked perfectly. There is plenty of room in the toebox. The Olympus came in at 11.70 oz (332 g) (Size 9.5). For comparison, the Hoka Stinson Evo comes in at 11.25 oz (319 g) (Size 9).  Some additional comparisons to the Hoka:

Altra Olympus (Men’s Size 9.5)

  • Stack Height: 36 mm
  • Offset: 0 mm
  • Heel Width: 94 mm
  • Midfoot Width: 120 mm
  • MSRP: $130
  • Gender Specific
Hoka Stinson Evo (Men’s Size 9)

  • Midfoot: 26 mm & Heel: 32 mm
  • Offset: 6 mm
  • Heel Width: 108 mm
  • Midfoot Width: 120 mm
  • MSRP: $160

The feeling on the foot is very cushioned compared to the Hoka (which is slightly stiffer).

I like how the tongue does not have any extra material near the top.

view tongue

The upper is well constructed and durable.

view 3

You will also notice the gaiter trap on the heel (Velcro connection) to keep any shoe gaiter in place (nice touch).

view heel

Altra recommends a unique lacing system to avoid “lace creep”.  The lacing up top is similar to how I laced my wrestling shoes and my running shoes when I need them to be secure.

lacing

See additional pictures of the Olympus below.

view 1

 

view 2

 

view toe view outsole

TRAIL TESTING

No worries about any rocks or obstacles.  The cushioned midsole eats them up without compromising stability.  The Olympus felt more stable (less ankle rolling) versus the Hoka.  They performed okay when wet (there is a lot of material in the upper).  The traction is sufficient on most terrain except in the muddiest conditions.  They held up to downhills, uphills, rocky terrain, scree, and roads.  Performance wise (and cushioning), I am impressed with the Olympus.

After 40 miles, I did notice on the midsole “paint” coming off, that is, sections of the midsole are painted versus having the midsole EVA molded to the color.  Although cosmetic, this could be improved by not painting the midsole. The flaking paint makes the shoe appear “cheap”.

paint flakes

Weight Table

weight table

Tech Specs

  • Stack: 36 mm
  • Offset: 0 mm
  • Gusseted tongue
  • Neutral  Shoe
  • No Rock Plate (well cushioned)
  • Midsole – EVA
  • Upper – Synthetic
  • Made In – China
  • Women’ Version  

CONCLUSION

The Altra Olympus is a maximal cushioned shoe without sacrificing a minimal drop (zero to be exact). It eats up obstacles on the trails with plenty of room in the toe box in a very comfortable package.  Watch out Hoka!  One thing I would change (although cosmetic) is to not paint the midsole.

Mar
19
james wilie
ULTIMATE DIRECTION PB ADVENTURE VEST 2.0 REVIEW
Gear Reviews, Hydration
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Wow! A very nice update from the 1.0 version.  You will immediately notice the new color/branding and logo change on the PB Adventure Vest 2.0. The brand redesign has moved away from its signature red logo to a simpler UD design with the navigational north arrow integrated into the design (a nice clean look).

ud logo

Back to the 2.0 upgrades:

(1)    Beefed-up the bungee cords

(2)   Side adjustment straps (hidden in both side velcro pockets)

strap inside pockets

(3)    Front zippered pockets are a little larger to provide easier access (plus more storage)

(4)    An added side access zipper and gear storage separator making accessing and securing a hydration bladder much easier

side view

(5)    Silnylon 66 (replacing the Cuben fiber) provides increased seam strength (still waterproof)

The 2.0 version weighs in at 17.20  oz and slightly heavier than the 1.0 version (12.75 oz).  With the added upgrades, the PB Vest 2.0 is more durable than the former version.

TRAIL TESTING

Plenty of storage along with the upgraded material and increased durability, the PB Vest is stable with two full 20 oz bottles up front while running.  You can use the new UD Body Bottle instead of the traditional hard plastic water bottles to safe some weight.  The UD Body Bottle weighs 1.10 oz (empty of course), but the fluid capacity is 14.2 oz.  They fit nicely in the front bottle pockets or side Velcro pockets.

front pockets w bottles  side pocket w bottle

The PB Vest 2.0 is durable and there is room to store lots of gear. I’ve packed it full of gear (e.g., trekking poles, lightweight stove, jacket, etc.).  It has a nice fit.  The Medium/Large size fit me well. I like the added side zippered opening to access a hydration bladder and the gear separator.  It is a nice touch to the new update.

side view

The PB Vest performed well on long training runs when needing more storage to carry my gear. I had no issues with chafing or unusual wear spots on my tech shirts. I like the attached whistle near the left front pocket.  In summary, a great fitting vest with ample  storage that will last.

TECH SPECS

  • Volume Capacity: 671 in3 / 11L
  • Fluid Capacity: 2 x 20 oz bottles / 2 x 591 mL (plus optional reservoir)
  • Weight: 17.20 oz. (22.70 oz. with empty bottles) (Size Medium/Large)
  • Height: 16 in. / 41 cm
  • Width: 9 in. / 23 cm
  • Depth: 4.5 in. / 11 cm
  • Attached Whistle included

Sizing (Unisex) – Chest Measurement

  • S/M: 23 – 36 in / 58 – 91 cm
  • M/L: 31 – 40 in / 79 – 102 cm
  • Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear
  • A vest full of gear will fit smaller

CONCLUSION

The Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 2.0 is a very nice update to the prior version.  I love the new UD branding and all the updated features to the Adventure Vest 2.0.  This is a must piece of gear for the long training runs and/or races when you need to care your essentials and like to have bottles upfront in hands reach.  You may want to try the new UD Body Bottles for easier storage and reduced weight.

Mar
11
james wilie
PATAGONIA APPAREL REVIEW
Apparel, Gear Reviews
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Great trail running apparel coming from Patagonia.  Let’s take a look at the following trail options from Patagonia.

Nine Trails Jacket

nine trails jacketThe Nine Trails Jacket is extremely light coming in at 4.10 oz (116 g).  The shell is treated with DWR and repels light precipitation.  It is the perfect layer to knock back a chilly morning without the bulk.  Again, at 4.10 oz, there is no bulk.  When not in use, it stows nicely into the rear pocket.  The sleeves cover the top of the hand and the cuff fits loosely, but not too loose.  The collar is lined nicely and covers the neck.  I love the fit, comfort, ultra-light weight, and versatility of the Nine Trails Jacket – don’t run without one.

 

Tec Specs

  • Full Zip
  • Number of Pockets: 1 small zippered back pocket
  • Shell: treated with DWR (durable water repellent) finish
  • Fabric: triple-ripstop 100% nylon, with breathable 91% all-recycled polyester/9% spandex stretch-woven fabric on shoulders and back
  • Fit: Slim
  • Weight: 4.10 oz (Men’s Small)
  • Stash jacket in the back pocket
  • Made in Vietnam

Outpacer Shirt

outpacer shirt 2The Outpacer Shirt feels very comfortable and light.  It comes in at 3.85 oz (109 g). It is not as light as the Go-Lite Wildwood (2.50 oz), but has a very nice next to the skin feel. It is extremely breathable and dries very quickly.  I am very impressed with the comfort and breathability.  You will also notice that the Outpacer does not have the annoying tags that you will see on most shirts – NO TAGS!  I did notice the shirt does wear easily. So be careful when wearing a hydration vest/pack or anything that may rub the fabric (e.g., heart rate monitor).  Overall, I love the next to skim comfort of the Outpacer Shirt with its breathable fabric.

Tec Specs

  • Tag free
  • Fabric: 5% recycled polyester/25% recycled nylon/10% spandex blend
  • 15-UPF sun protection
  • Fit: Slim
  • Weight: 3.85 oz (Men’s Small)
  • Made in Mexico

Nine Trails Shorts

nine trail shortsThe Nine Trails Shorts fit a bit snug in the hips.  The shorts loosened a bit after several runs/uses.  You may need to size up if you are a borderline between sizes.  The shorts worked well on the trails with plenty of storage in the 2 hip envelope pockets (one on each side) and the centered zippered back pocket (can store the Nine Trails Jacket).  For those who may be concerned with “shorty shorts”, the 8 inch inseam has the appropriate coverage for the modest trail runner.  The Nine’s are very breathable (mesh interior gusset and side panels) and quick drying.  A nice addition is the DWR treated outer that repels light precipitation.  The Nine Trail Shorts have plenty of storage, breathability, and conservative inseam length for the modest trail runner – but watch out for the tighter fit around the hips.

Tec Specs

  • Number of Pockets: 3 pockets (2 envelope pockets on hips and 1 center back pocket)
  • Shell: treated with DWR (durable water repellent) finish
  • Fabric:
    • Body: 3.5-oz 75-denier 91% all-recycled polyester/9% spandex with 4-way stretch
    • Gusset, panels and rear pocket: 3.2-oz 100% polyester Air Flow mesh.
    • Waistband: 5.6-oz 88% polyester/12% spandex.
    • Liner: 4-oz microdenier 100% polyester striped mesh with Polygiene® permanent odor control
  • Inseam: 8 inches
  • Side Split: None
  • Weight: 4.75 oz (Men’s Small)
  • Made in Vietnam

Strider Pro Shorts

strider pro shortsWow! The Strider Pro Shorts are awesome.  They fit very nicely. The waist rides nicely on the hips – not too high or too low, but just right.  The brief liner is normal size.  If you have noticed the trend in the brief liners of shorts, they are getting slimmer in the crotch area making for a “thong” liner versus brief liner – maybe okay for the ladies, but not necessarily for the guys.

Plenty of storage for the long trail runs.  The four envelope pockets on the hips stores all the nutritional needs you will need on the trails.  The large centered zippered back pocket stores larger items (e.g., Nine Trail Jacket).  The outer shell is treated with DWR and repels light precipitation.  What makes the Strider Pro very breathable (beside the fabric) is the mesh panels in the interior gusset and side panels.

You will notice the drawcord can be routed to the outside or inside – leaving the preference up to you (simple and nice touch).  The Strider Pro Shorts have been well thought out for the trail runner looking for a minimal feel while carrying the maximum load for those long trail runs.

Tec Specs

  • Number of Pockets: 5 pockets (4 envelope pockets on hips and 1 center back pocket)
  • Shell: treated with DWR (durable water repellent) finish
  • Fabric:
    • Body: 2.3-oz 50-denier 100% polyester (50% recycled) micro dobby with a DWR (durable water repellent finish).
    • Liner: 4-oz 100% polyester stripe mesh with Polygiene® permanent odor control.
    • Panels: 3.2-oz 100% polyester Air Flow mesh. Rear pocket: 4.28-oz 91% nylon/9% spandex
  • Fit: Regular
  • Inseam: 5 inches
  • Side Split: 2 inches
  • Weight: 4.10 oz (Men’s Small)
  • Made in Vietnam
Feb
26
james wilie
NEW BALANCE 980 FRESH FOAM SHOE REVIEW
Gear Reviews, Shoes
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If you have been searching the web and social media, 2014 is the trend for “maximal” shoes.  Although this category of shoes doesn’t have an official definition, but you can see that it is taking the learnings of the minimal trend (zero to low offset) with ample cushioning underneath.

New Balance’s Fresh Foam Shoe line hits the scene with the Road and Trail version.

What is “Fresh Foam”?  “…an innovative midsole created from a single piece of foam that provides a lower, more natural underfoot feel.” It is still EVA, but redesigned in a different way. You will notice the convex hexagon shape at the heel versus the concave shape near the midfoot area.  New Balance states that this affects the sponginess of the midsole material. For example, the convex patterned section occurs on the medial side, thus acting like a medial post while the concave section allows for more movement/cushion feel.

midsole

The 980 Road Shoe comes in at slightly above 9 oz.  The size is true, but I could have definitely gone a half size up without any issues.  It fits snug around the foot, but comfortably.

How does the Fresh Foam feel on the feet? Don’t expect it to feel a like a Hoka (e.g., Conquest – 4mm offset with 25mm/29mm).  It is a bit firmer than what I expected.  It has 4mm offset (12mm/16mm) [1].  Runner’s World measures the profile at 22.7 mm/29.3 mm [2].

The upper is extremely breathable with no-sew overlays and is very accommodating for most foot shapes. The tongue is thick. It is noticeable, but not a hindrance.

view1

view2

The outsole is constructed for full ground-contact with a great transition feel. You will notice the slight tapering near the heel.

view3

The 980 Trail Shoe (July 2014 Release) comes in around 10oz.  I sized up to a 9 ½ in the trail version. It felt better on my foot than the size 9.  The offset is at 4mm (12mm/16mm). I would assume the RW profile measurement would be similar to 23mm / 29mm [2]. It feels more cushioned than the road version and feels great on the feet (the midsole on the lateral side is all concave versus convex (See phots below).  The trail version doesn’t stray too far from the road version except for a more durable upper and a multi-directional outsole for traction.  The tongue is gusseted to keep out debris. There is no need for a rockplate with the ample cushioning.

view4

ROAD & TRAIL TESTING

The 980 Road Shoe has a smooth ride with the full-contact outsole. The cushioning good, but again don’t expect a Hoka-like feel.  I really like the feel of the upper/overlay which conformed to my feet with no issues during dry and wet conditions.  I put it through the paces on long, easy, tempo and interval runs.  I was surprised of the responsiveness of the 980 on the road.  The extra cushioning doesn’t sacrifice performance.  I really like the low offset in the sub-10 oz package.

The 980 Trail Shoe feels like more cushioning than the road version.  The lateral side of the midsole has a concaved construction thus allowing more movement/cushion feel. I was a bit skeptical about the traction, but it held up in muddy conditions.  There is great ventilation and drains fairly quick after a river crossing.  As in the road version, I really like the low offset in a 10.5 oz package.  The 980 Trail Shoe is a solid performer on the trails and is a welcome line of “maximal” shoes from New Balance.

TECH SPECS

980 Road Version

  • Weight – 9.15 oz (259 g) (Size 9)
  • Offset: 4mm (12mm/16mm)
  • Non-gusseted tongue
  • Neutral  Shoe
  • No Rock Plate
  • Midsole – EVA
  • Upper – Synthetic
  • Made In – China
  • Women’ Version
980 Trail Version

  • Weight – 10.55 oz (299 g) (Size 9.5)
  • Offset: 4mm (12mm/16mm)
  • Gusseted tongue
  • Neutral  Shoe
  • No Rock Plate (Well Cushioned)
  • Midsole – EVA
  • Upper – Synthetic
  • Made In – Vietnam
  • Women’ Version (July 2014 Release)

Weight Table

Weight Table

CONCLUSION

The New Balance 980 Fresh Foam Shoes are for the runner looking for a great cushioning shoe with a minimal offset (4mm) that does not sacrifice performance.  The trail version feels more cushioned than the road version. It’s not a Hoka or a racing flat, but can be used as an everyday trainer.  Your feet and legs will thank you.  The 980 is a great start and addition to the New Balance line of “maximal” shoes.

 

Footnote [1] New Balance states that due to variances created during the development and manufacturing processes, all references to stack height are approximate. 

Footnote [2] “Profile” is a measurement of a shoe’s stack height, accounting for its outsole rubber, midsole foam, and sockliner. To determine heel and forefoot thicknesses, we cut away the shoe’s upper material, then take readings with a digital contact sensor. These readings give Runner’s World the shoe’s “drop”. (Source)

Feb
17
james wilie
MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR PLASMIC JACKET REVIEW
Apparel, Gear Reviews
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front view

The Plasmic Jacket is sized appropriately and fits well (even with thinker underlayers).  The Plasmic comes in at 9.20 oz (261 g).  It is constructed of Aquaguard VISLON with Dry.Q EVAP technology for great wicking properties.  The Dry.Q EVAP fabric helps accelerate evaporation allowing breathability and comfort.

inside jacket

It is a full zippered jacket with hood.  The hood is adjustable with a single pull in the back.  The cuffs are Velcro adjustable and the hem drawcord allows for quick adjustments on the go.  There is no stuff sack, but you can use one of the pockets to stow the jacket.

packable

Overall, the Plasmic Jacket appears to be a great piece of gear to shed precipitation and perspiration.

TRAIL TEST

The Plasmic Jacket shed rain without any effort.  It protected me from the rainy elements even in the most torrential downpour.  I wore the Plasmic Jacket with either a long sleeve shirt, or a short sleeve shirt with arm warms.  In both cases, the jacket worked well to regulate perspiration.  On the most active hill climbs on the trails, I did wish for some venting under the arms.  The jacket is a standard fit so you won’t feel like it is too snug, but some may want a more articulated feel.

TECH SPECS

  • Full Zip
  • Number of Pockets: 2 zippered
  • Fabric: 100% Nylon (DRY.Q EVAP)
  • Fit: Standard
  • Weight: 9.2 oz (Men’s Small)
  • No carrying bag (but can use one of the pockets to use as a stuff sack)

CONCLUSION

Overall, the Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Jacket exceeded my expectations in handling the rainiest conditions and regulating perspiration during trail runs.  It’s a great piece of gear for 2014.

Feb
15
james wilie
ASICS GEL FUJI TRAINER 3
Gear Reviews, Shoes
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The Asics Gel Fuji Trainer 3 comes in at sub-10 oz (~9.70 oz).  The offset is at 8mm (10/18mm).  I would have preferred an offset at 4mm to 6mm.

Out of the box, it fit true to size.  Unlike the complaint of the Trainer 2 not having eyelets but rather a cloth lace eyelet, the Trainer 3 does contain eyelets for a more secure lockdown of the heel.

eyelet

There is ample room in the toe box and just the right amount of material in the upper.  Asics kept the same excellent traction on the outsole.

outsole 2

See other pictures of the Trainer 3 below.

side

top bottom

front back

inside toe

insole

TRAIL TEST

The Asics Gel Fuji Trainer 3 performed well on the first 20 miler.  It felt stable and comfortable on all types of trail terrain.  The outsole worked extremely well on the muddiest of terrain on both uphill and downhill testing.  I noticed the heel section of the outsole (square tread) didn’t shed mud as well as the other sections of the outsole.

When wet after river crossings, the shoe drained well.  It’s not the lightest of trail shoes, but is a solid trainer for the trails. I like the improvement to include the eyelets to secure the foot in the shoe.  There is a lace garage, but I didn’t use it.  I initially thought the thinner lacing could potentially be an issue with keeping the right amount of pressure on top of the foot.  I had no issues.

Overall, the Trainer 3 worked well for me, but would prefer the offset to be around 4mm to 6mm.

TECH SPECS

  • Weight – 9.70 oz (275 g) (Size 9)
  • Heel: 18 mm
  • Midfoot: 10mm
  • Offset: 8mm
  • Gusseted tongue
  • Neutral  Shoe
  • Rock Plate
  • Midsole – EVA
  • Upper – Synthetic
  • Made In – Indonesia
  • Women’s Version

Weight Table

weight table
CONCLUSION

The Asics Gel Fuji Trainer 3 is a great update from the Trainer 2 with the now included eyelets and new upper design for a better fit.  The traction is excellent in the muddiest conditions. A great update for 2014.