Thursday, June 8, 2017

Buff: Spring ’17 Review

I started reviewing the Buff last year and I have to say that testing their products is always fun and great. If you missed those reviews then you can still catch it on the links below:

The weather here in Northern California has been iffy for the past few weeks. I’m not a big fan of the heat so I do most of my runs and cycling early in the morning. It is strange how some mornings could be so cold but not the later part. Buff sent me few of their products to test out that could be used on cold and hot weather conditions. Let’s start with the most common tubular head gear that Buff is known for, the Lightweight ¾ Merino Wool.

Main Features
    100% eco-friendly Merino wool
    ¾ length
    Semi seamless
    Soft and comfortable
    Dries quickly and breathable
    Odor resistant
    One size fits all

The construction of this Merino wool is similar with the rest of the Buff tubular products except that this one is made out of wool (polyester is the other material). It’s quite contrary to the old thinking that wool is itchy and uncomfortable to use. The technology has greatly evolved and this is one comfortable tubular headgear that you should have especially on cold days. It helps preserve the warmth when it gets wet but it doesn’t hold the moisture as much as the polyester. I have both (polyester and wool) type of Buff and the difference is the amount of moisture and the cooling effect each provides. I was completely happy and satisfied with the polyester materials that I previously tested but the wool material provides much better cooling and warmth effect on both conditions.

 Main Features
    Provides UPF 40+ protection
    Moisture wicking, breathable and comfortable
    Flatflock seams
    Antimicrobial fabric for odor control
    Lightweight, packable and compressible
    Reflective materials during low visibility condition

Buff has created a new line up of gears for protection under the scorching heat of the sun. This apparel may not be “news” to some since most companies have already created quite similar product. However, those arm sleeves are for compression purposes and may not be suitable to wear during hot condition. This is where the Buff UV Arm Sleeves differ, the construction of the material is not that thick in comparison with other brands and not as compressive. The material used is more subtle and lighter but provides great defense against heat and cold breeze. Though it may not be that compressive, it still provides enough compression and still aids the arm from getting tired and prevent early stage of fatigue especially during long runs. You can practically wear this to fight the morning cold breeze and even leave it on comfortably all day for a UPF 40+ protection from the sun. You can also strip it down easily or have it all the way down to your wrist when you don’t feel like wearing it for a moment. And when it’s time you need it, just pull it up and you’ll get the protection you need.

I tested it many times on trails and even on my late afternoon cycling rides and I was really impressed. There’s no reason why you would leave your arms unprotected when you can have this.

Main Features
    100% Polyester microfiber
    Provides 95% UV protection
    Polygiene fabric treatment to control odor
    Moisture wicking, breathable and quick drying
    Lightweight thermal protection

In addition to the two gears on top is the CoolMax 1 Layer Hat. It provides great protection to my head especially on those early morning runs and bike rides by regulating certain amount of heat escaping thru my head. It’s basically like a beanie but on the slim slide. As the name implies, it’s one layer so it doesn’t have the thickness you’ll see on a regular beanie or skull cap which is notorious in trapping the heat and makes my head toasty. This 1 layer hat is so efficient in wicking the moisture out, plus it pulls away my sweat and perspiration faster than any cap in my possession. I also love the versatility of the hat that I can easily stash it into my pocket or crumpled it on my hand if I decided to take it off. It’s very lightweight yet it gives ample protection from cold wind and harmful UV of the sun.

My Verdict

I’ve been running and cycling for many years now and I have to say that proper gears (and apparels) do make a difference in performance. Buff is a brand that I was not familiar with when I started doing these endurance sports but I’m truly happy to know them not because of some athletes wearing it but by how great the quality of their products. I can honestly say that Buff is equally good and even better compared to some other known brands that could cost twice as much. Give these items a try and I hope that you’ll like them more than I do.

Thanks for reading and let me know how this works for you.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Nathan: Zephyr Fire 300 Hand Torch LED Light and LUX Strobe RX Review

Safety is something that we shouldn’t take lightly regardless of what we do especially while running. One of the reasons we get into an accident is because we are sometimes less visible to pedestrians and motorists. It's obvious that in order to avoid that is to make ourselves visible. 

Nathan is known for its awesome hydration system but they also have a great range of visibility products. As their motto goes, "See. Be Seen. Run Longer"Zephyr Fire 300 Hand Torch and LUX Strobe RX embodies what that motto is all about.

Let's take a closure look:

The Zephyr Fire 300 Hand Torch is a handheld lighting device that is engineered and designed for runners. It features a 24 degree downward projection that helps eliminate hand twisting during the run. The ergonomic design provides a natural hand position while running and giving you the optimum illumination for your path.

Nathan incorporated the "Y" pattern secure system that is fully adjustable and can accommodate most hand sizes. With this strap, you can now relax your hand. Truly beneficial especially on longer events and rainy conditions.

There are two main buttons: the top button controls the light intensity and if you continuously push it, this will cycle thru its five modes of lighting plus the rear LED light. The second button controls the warning siren in case of an emergency.

The Zephyr Fire 300 utilizes the micro USB when charging, it normally takes about 6-hrs to fully charge the unit. A red LED will light up to indicate charging and green light to indicate it is fully charge.

I have tested quite a few lighting systems from Nathan and this by far is my favorite. One of the great features of the Zephyr Fire 300 is the strap system that securely strap the unit to my hand. To cinch it down, a simple pull of the elastic strap is all it takes and it sits comfortably without creating any tension. The body of the unit is tapered where the top portion diameter is larger than the bottom. This feature with the addition of the finger grooves make this unit fully ergonomic. My fingers fall directly on the grooves and the rubberized material helps me to have a much better grip when needed.  

To activate the unit, all you need is hold the power button for a few seconds and it will initially fire up in low setting mode. Push the power button the first time and it will activate the rear LED light in strobe mode. Second push will give you the medium light mode, third push will give you the high intensity mode and the fourth will give you the strobe setting in high intensity mode. To power it down, hold it for 2-3 seconds.

The location of the warning siren falls exactly where the index finger is, which makes it easy to activate should you need it. It creates a very audible sound which I found very useful on oncoming cyclists and pedestrians. Activating the siren also activates the red LED strobe light. 

The 24 degree is perfect as it naturally illuminates my path and the dispersion of light covers enough area for me to see a wide range of areas in front of me. I have used the Zephyr Fire 300 many times during my early weekend runs and walks around the neighborhood late night with my wife and kids. 

In addition to the Zephyr Fire 300 Hand Torch is the LUX Strobe RX safety light that is also a micro USB rechargeable that provides a 270 degree of visibility with a choice of red, green or blue LEDs and lively strobe patterns that makes you visible even at 2,400ft.

It is very convenient to use as it easily clips in to your short, shirt or hydration gear. I normally put this at the back of my running shirt (and at the seat post while cycling) which helps me to be more visible to those people coming from behind. I love putting it on strobe setting which catches everybody's attention.

My Verdict
The Nathan Zephyr Fire 300 Hand Torch and LUX Strobe RX are very powerful and versatile lighting units that runners and any outdoor enthusiasts must have. Both of these units are rated weather resistant so you can use it even on wet and rainy condition. It allows you to see your path naturally and more importantly it allows you to be seen. These units will surely increase your visibility and presence with the rest of the people you around you. Don't put yourself and the people around you at risk, I cannot stress enough how important safety is. Enjoy the run...but be smart and be safe.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The North Face: Spring Collection ‘17 Review

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you probably heard of The North Face. This company has been in the business for more than five decades and has earned a lot of recognition and praises. Founded in 1966 by Douglas Tompkins and named for the coldest, most unforgiving side of a mountain. As the name of the company implies, you might think that it probably started somewhere in the high altitudes. Ironically, the company began on a beach. Yup, to be exact in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood with an altitude of 150 feet above sea level. The North Face started as a climbing equipment (mountaineering) retail store and later added outerwear to their product lines. It bears the quarter circle logo that evokes the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

The North Face is known for its high quality and undoubtedly outstanding reputation. This is the main reason why I kept on using their gears during trainings and racings. Their products are capable to withstand the most extreme conditions as tested by world class climbers, explorers, extreme skiers, Ultra marathoners and high altitude runners.

·   Dual layered running shorts with longer 10-inch compression liner.
·   Flight series performance running gear race day ready.
·   Inspired by ultra-runner athletes.
·   Athletic, fitted silhouette.
·   FlashDry fibers wick moisture and speed drying.
·   Low profile waistband with drawcord.
·   Ventilated, stitch free compressive liner can be cut to adjust length without unraveling.
·   Secure zip pocket.

The Warp Knit Dual Shorts is one of a kind shorts that will make you wish all shorts be like this. TNF really put their thoughts and thorough design to deliver such magnificent apparel. You may say that all shorts are created equal…well, not really. The Warp Knit Dual Shorts may look like the rest of the shorts but once you put it on, you’ll immediately feel the difference. It has a 10-inch compression liner built into the shorts (no biggy, right?), however, you can trim it down if you find it too long and you wouldn’t have to worry if it will unravel. The material has a soft feel to the skin and a perforated design patterns that allows the air to flow thru and keep you cool and dry. This also helps accelerate the removal of sweat and moisture from the legs, thanks to the FlashDry technology. It allows flexible mobility in every direction and what I like most about this compression is the stitch free design that eliminates the potential cause of unwanted chaffing or hot spots.

The outside material is pure lightweight and breathable. I have tested this many time on the trail and hot muggy afternoon road runs and I have to say that I was completely dry at the end of my run. The waist band has a good stretch and is supplemented with a flat drawcord for additional support and comfort. It has a three storage pockets located at the back with one of those pockets is zippered. I love the idea that TNF designed the pockets closer to the body (for a bounce free run) rather than a pocket style located down the legs. The pockets can hold gels, keys, card and some electrolyte tabs but not an oversized phone.

This shorts sell for $150 (ouch), I know that you could buy at least three shorts with that price but I truly believe in saying “you get what you paid for”. This short is worth every penny and I wouldn’t mind splurging my money on it. It’s a superb apparel that you should try.

·   Engineered knit short sleeves running tee regulates body temperature.
·   Flight series performance running gear race day ready.
·   Inspired by feedback from ultra-runner athletes.
·   Athletic, fitted silhouette.
·   FlashDry fibers wick moisture and speed drying.
·   Engineered ventilation with stitch free construction.
·   Welded and tapered seams.

TNF didn’t stop with the Warp Knit Short, they also created a shirt that goes along with it, the Warp Knit Short Sleeves. Both of these gears do complement each other. The shirt is a fitted silhouette which is somewhat similar to a “semi-fit” that follows the contour of the body. The material is noticeably soft to the skin and has a stitch free construction that doesn’t cause irritation and chaffing. Similar to the compression liner of the Warp Knit Short, the shirt also has perforated design on high heat zones which helps in regulating the body temperature. The Warp Knit Short Sleeve Shirt utilizes the FlashDry technology fabrics that are engineered to accelerate the removal of moisture from the skin and speed up the evaporative process.  This enables you to stay drier, more comfortable and out performing longer in a wide range of weather conditions and environments. The FlashDry fabric doesn’t add weight or bulk and never washes or wears out.

One thing that I need to point out is please read the label carefully on both of these gears when washing. I would suggest that you put them is a mesh bag to prevent it from getting snag on something like velcro equipped gear.

·   Lightweight, breathable running singlet with moisture-wicking FlashDry fibers.
·   Athletic Fit.
·   Body mapped ventilation.
·   Stitch free construction on critical seams for zero distractions.
·   Reflective logo.

The idea of running naked may not be so enticing at all but running with Better Than Naked Singlet is. It’s still Spring but there are occasional days that the temperature is hitting the 90’s. I’m not a big fan of the heat but having the right gears is all it takes to beat it. TNF has this great tank top that is extremely lightweight and breathable…the BTN Singlet. Similar to the two gears on top, the BTN Singlet is also infused with FlashDry technology that enables the sweat to stay away from the skin so you to stay dry as much as possible. It has a body-mapped ventilation for better temperature regulation and stitch-free seams to prevent chafing. The material is soft and light that it doesn’t cling to the body. I love wearing my BTN Singlets during this hot and humid conditions as this allows the air to move freely in and out of my body. It has integrated reflectivity for increased visibility and safety. Best of all, there’s nothing greater than being cool and comfortable while the rest of the completion is struggling in the heat.

·   Lightweight, low profile running hat.
·   FlashDry fibers wick moistures and speed drying.
·   Tailored Fit.
·   Flexible Brim
·   Stretch elastic at back

If you’re a cyclist you might feel at home wearing this type of hat. It does look like and feel like a cycling cap except that it’s deeper and has a longer brim. The Pop Up Running Hat is a unisex cap that is ultra-lightweight and weighs merely nothing. It is low profile that is “tailored fit” so it wraps around the form of your head. It has a very flexible brim (not flimsy) that you can pop up to give you a better sight distance and pops it down to give you the shade you need. Unlike the traditional cap that has some bulk to it, this hat is very minimalist that you can easily store to your backpack or crumpled in your hand. You don’t have to worry about ruining its shape coz it retains its shape. The entire circumference is stretch elastic including the back closure (not Velcro or snap back).

It’s made of100% polyester material that is highly breathable and is rated UPF 30.

My Verdict

There isn’t much question if The North Face is one of the best companies in the sports industry today… because they are! I cannot argue on that. The gears that I have tested exceeded my expectations and I’m really happy with it. Well, this shouldn’t be a surprise at all, their gears are tested and proven by well-known athletes around the world so that they can perform in high level.

The North Face stands behind their products and they offer a lifetime warranty against defects in material and workmanship. So, check their website or retail stores near you and let me know what you think.