Friday, January 27, 2017

Injinji: Trail Series Socks Review

How particular are you when it comes to socks? Do you have specific socks for each type of activities like cycling, running or hiking? I’m guessing the answer to that question is yes, simply because not all socks are created equal. I wish I have known this long time ago, I still remember back in a day that I could care less on what type of socks I would wear whenever I go out for a run. I’ll just grab whatever is available in my drawer and hit the road. I’m not sure why, maybe because I don’t have that much to choose from or maybe the distance that I was running was not that much (oh 3mi was the farthest I can run then๐Ÿ˜).

That is no longer the case, I pay close more attention on those small details. As a long-distance runner, our feet play a vital role. Socks (next to shoes) are essential piece of equipment that provide the second layer of protection to our feet and there’s no argument that we need to protect it.


I’m sure you’ve heard this company many times, Injinji. Creating socks is their bread and butter…their socks are synonymous to “toesocks”. So, what are toesocks? Unlike the traditional sock which just covers only the foot, the toesock acts like a compressed glove that protects not only the foot but every little piggies as well. The toesocks are left and right specific in that term and you cannot interchange them. I’m training for my first Ultra-marathon, the Salmon Falls 50K trail run and they sent me a pair to test out, the Spectrum Trail Midnight Crew and the Trail Midweight Mini-Crew.


Material
39% COOLMAX
39% COOLMAX
58% Nylon
58% Nylon
3% Lycra
3% Lycra


Features
·      Total foot utilization
·      Moisture management
·      Blister prevention
·      Mesh top lock
·      Arch support
·      Protective cushion
·      Double cuff*

Fit and Functionality
Both of these socks fit very well and are cut based on the industry standard. I haven’t had any problems with all the socks that I have tested from Injinji, so the sizing that you see on their label is cut true to standard size. If this is your first time wearing this kind of socks (each toe needs to be guided into its sleeve) it might feel a little bit strange, since all the toes will be in its own sleeve or sack. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it within minutes.

Injinji’s “Trail Series” socks are specifically develop to handle the uneven and unpredictable terrain of the trails and are built to handle the impact with a protective cushion. The Spectrum Trail socks are quite longer which rests just below the calf and it provides more protection to the skin. You could also feel a slight compression effect that you’ll definitely appreciate as it helps to minimize the jarring motion of the muscles during the run. People have different ways of expressing themselves and Injinji’s new look and graphics that they imprinted on their Spectrum socks will definitely catch somebody’s eyes. I have to agree on their claim, their design will not fade or distort when worn…it’s pretty cool though in my opinion.

I know that everybody is different and if you’re not fond of wearing longer socks then the Trail Mini-Crew is for you. It offers the same benefits and functionality of the Spectrum except that it is shorter in length. The mini-crew length rests just above the ankle, but fully covering and protecting the heel and it has a double elastic cuff to keep the dirt and debris from getting in.

I have tested these socks on my trail runs and open orchards close to where I leave and I have to agree on Injinji’s claim. If you’re looking for a true cushion socks that can handle the impact of trail running, then look no more! The five-toe sleeve design allows the toe splay naturally and align properly, enabling greater stability, balance and comfort. With each toe protected, there is no skin on skin friction which prevents blisters and hotspots.


My Verdict
Injinji’s “Trail Series” socks are by far one of the best socks that I have tested and own. The padding and the protective cushion at the bottom provides outstanding support from impact. I didn’t experience any hot spots, blisters or overheating during my test runs and never did I adjust them, it literally stayed in place and the breathability is next to none. If these socks can handle the impact of uneven terrain of the trails, imagine what it can do for you on paved surfaces. I tried it many times on road and I was even more impressed with it.


I am very pleased with Injinji’s Trail series socks! But don’t just take my word for it…you have to experience and feel the difference yourself. These socks are available at their website or at retail stores near you. The Spectrum sells for $17 and the Mini-Crew sells for $15, respectively. The price is very decent and reasonable, it’s a high performing sock that will serve you for extended period of time

Here’s a short video on why Injinji toesocks are better than traditional socks.


Give them a try and I’m sure that you’ll be more pleased than I am. Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any comments.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Arc’Teryx: Norvan Jacket Review

Have you ever heard of this brand Arc’Teryx? If not, no worries. I myself never heard of them until I got serious into running, not sure why though they’ve been around for almost three decades now. Arc’Teryx is a Canadian outdoor clothing company that was founded in 1989 by Dave Lane and Jeremy Guard in North Vancouver, British Columbia. It was formerly known as Rock Solid and changed its name to Arc’Teryx in 1991. They have wide varieties of products for activities like running, climbing, hiking, trekking, skiing and snowboarding.


So what’s up with the name and logo? Well, they took it from the earliest known bird, the Archaeopteryx. It’s the first reptile to take bold evolutionary leap by developing feathers for flight. This is to reflect the company’s vision of creating disruptive “evolutionary” innovation within the outdoor industry…whoa that’s deep. I’m sure they can explain it further so I’ll just leave it like that๐Ÿ˜€.

It’s been raining like crazy here in Northern California for several weeks now and since I’ve been training for my first Ultra-Marathon (50K) this coming February I couldn’t let a bad weather ruin my run. I still do my workouts outside despite this horrible condition and I heavily depend on my gears to get things done…having the right gears is a must! When I found out that Arc’Teryx got some gears for running, I immediately contacted them and I was really stoked when they let me test one of their best-selling apparels…the Norvan Jacket. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.


Materials
·      N20p 3L Gore-tex fabric
·      Gore C-knit backer technology

Features
·   Fully taped seams
·   Slim fit
·   Venturi style underarm vents
·   Fitted hood with elasticized brim
·   Elasticized cuffs and hem
·   Internal laminated zippered pocket
·   Water tight front zipper

Weight
·      7.5 ounces (215 grams)

Fit and Functionality
The Norvan Jacket is one of the lightest jackets in the Arc’Teryx line up that weighs approximately 7.5 ounces only. I know that it might sounds a lot in comparison with some other running jackets that I have tested in the past, but those jackets are water resistant and are good for light precipitations only, a heavy down pour will surely get you soaking wet. The Norvan is a waterproof and windproof yet breathable jacket designed to tackle heavy down pour and guaranteed to leave you dry and comfy.

I requested a medium size and it fits me well especially in the arm pit and shoulder areas. The cut of this jacket is a “Trim Fit” (slim fitting) with lower volume to reduce the bulk and it provides a lot of freedom of movement which is essential for any outdoor activities.

We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words and it is more justifying than describing it in writing. I guess it's better that way, right?

The zipper seam is laminated to keep the moisture and water from getting in. Unlike the traditional zipper handle with a short metal, this jacket is equipped with a decent length of string that you can easily pull even when wearing a thick glove. It has a full zipper that has an internal flap preventing the cold air from coming in. At the very top, is a zipper garage that hides the zipper and protects your neck and chin from unwanted rubbing.


This jacket has only one decent size pocket that is located inside the left chest where you can store small items like gels, credit card and cash. This could also hold a small electronic device if you like listening to music while you run, and there is a port where you can route those wires. Since this pocket is small, your smartphone will not fit into it (not unless you still own those flip phones).


The cuffs are tapered and semi-elastic which you can easily pull up for forearm venting.


The inside Gore C-knit material in close up view.


For venting and breathability, the underarm has a venturi style vents that pulls the air thru for continuous venting. I found this very effective in regulating my core temperature without pulling down the zipper.


The hood (along with the brim) may not have a pull string around it but it is deep enough to hug the entirety of my head and protect my eyes from the pouring rain. Actually, pulling the zipper all the way up will give you the added security to keep the hood in place and prevent it from being blown away by a wind (not unless it’s a very strong wind hitting you straight on the face). One notable aspect of the hood is that it doesn’t interfere with my peripheral vision which makes me aware of my surroundings.


Similar with all the jackets I have tested, the hem portion is extended much longer than the front which kept my bun from getting wet and accidental splash from my feet while running. You may notice that it doesn’t have a draw cord around it to keep it tight around the hips and prevent the cold air in getting in, but the slim fitting cut around that area is good enough to keep the cold air out.


For safety standpoint, this jacket offers a 360 degree of reflectivity that will make you visible during low light conditions. The reflective materials are located along the arms, back and their logo in front.



I have tested the Norvan Jacket during my 12-mle trail run at Hidden Falls Regional Park. The condition that day was very ideal (for the sake of testing the jacket though): Rain, cold air, strong wind, and a very slippery/ muddy terrain. At first, I was a little bit skeptical about the breathability of the jacket because of its waterproofness and wind blocking ability. This is the area where some manufacturers couldn’t get that perfect blend. Well, I was really surprised that the Norvan Jacket hit that sweet spot (no pun intended). The inside Gore C-knit backing material and the venting ports of the jacket kept my core temperature at bay. Though I must say that my body was not completely dry because of my own sweat (not from the pouring rain) never did I bother to zip down to ventilate even when I was pushing a hard pace. The Gore C-knit material even provided a nice feel to the skin and never felt clammy.

I was even more impressed with how the jacket handled the rain and cold wind; the rain just slid down and never penetrated the Gore-tex material and my skin never felt that cold air at all. You will be surprise that the Gore-tex material used by Arc’Teryx is really light but durable enough to withstand tearing and ripping which is the first thing we need to consider especially on the trails where twigs and branches can rip our first layer of protection. I also love the fact that the Gore-tex material didn’t create a lot of noise especially when the materials started rubbing each other while I was running. It may sound miniscule detail but I really appreciate anything that could make my run pleasant.

Arc’Teryx put a good design in creating the hood as it provided me the protection I needed from pouring rain and not impeding my peripheral vision.

Overall, the performance of this jacket was really impressive. We know for a fact that running is not easy and I’ll take anything that will make my run “fun and bearable”. One thing that you don’t want to happen during a race or even on training is to fix any discomfort that may come from your gears or apparels. I’m glad that I didn’t experience any of those from the Norvan Jacket. I definitely see myself wearing this a lot and this will always be my go to jacket when the weather is not cooperating.

My Verdict
There is no question that this gear is a stellar apparel that any runners or outdoor enthusiasts must have. I am very pleased with its performance and wished that I’ve known this product long time ago. It’s an excellent choice to have with you when Mother Nature seems to be on the gray side. The breathability and waterproofness of this jacket is something you’ll surely appreciate especially when going for a long distance or just enjoying the “me” time with nature.

With all the goods that I have mentioned, now it’s time to take the downside. Ok, this might raise some eyebrows, the Norvan Jacket sells for $349 which I found to be extremely high, it will definitely put a big dent in your wallet and probably a small talk with your better half. To be honest, this could be one of the most expensive jackets anybody could have. Is it worth the price? Well, that’s up for you to decide and how you push this gear to the limit. But one thing I can guarantee you is that you’ll get what you pay for…it’s a pure performance jacket that will never leave you hanging. If you are that type of person who spends most of the time being outside (regardless of the weather condition) then this is a must have gear. Why spend some money on cheap and inferior products which won’t provide protection and durability? Well, you get my point. Arc’Teryx is committed to deliver pure craftsmanship and performance so you can bring out the best in you and leave you completely satisfied at the end your activity. You can purchase it directly on their website or at retail stores near you.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post below.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Salomon: S-LAB Sense Ultra Set Review

I’ve been doing endurance activities for so many years now and I know the importance of hydration…oh trust me, I learned it the hard way๐Ÿ˜ž.  Fluids (whether it’s in purest form or with some added science to it) is the main fuel that keep our body in motion. Without it, we can only go for a certain distance before our bodies succumb to fatigue. Hydration is a must…but this leads to my next question: how do you carry or store that fluids? Well, I know everybody has their own opinion about it and it all boils down to what works best for you, it’s more of a preference, right? Sometimes finding the right hydration gear is frustrating and annoying, you really wouldn’t know how it works until you test it.

If you’ve been following my blog, you would probably notice that I’m a diehard Salomon guy. Salomon is in this business since 1947 and they are very popular to Ultra runners. I have tested a lot of their gears and apparels and I can honestly say that they’re one of the best and knows what quality means. You can read my previous review by clicking here.

They sent me one of their hydration vests to review, the S-LAB Sense Ultra Set. I was really stoked when I received this in the mail and the timing couldn’t be any better since this is the season for trail running and this is where I’m putting this baby to the test.


Materials
-       Elastic Power Mesh / 3D Mesh / Cocona 3D Mesh / 4-Way Stretch Mesh / 4-Way Stretch Woven Twill

Features
-       Weight
·      3.88 oz. / 110g (without bottles)
-       Capacity
·       183 in3 / 3 L
-       Size
·      2XS           XS/S               M/L                 XL__
<31”          31-38”             38-43”             43-46”
         *Measure in inches around fullest part of chest

Functionality
Race vests are becoming more popular this day due to their versatility in carrying fluids and other running essentials in one centralized location. They offer easy access to fluids whether it’s on the front or back by using bladders or bottles. One of the main benefits of a race vest is that it frees our hands, giving us the symmetrical balance and proper arm swing while running.

The Sense Ultra Set has a soft silky touch to the skin that can be worn over the shirt or directly over the skin without causing irritation and chafing. The inside material that touches the skin is a breathable mesh that creates an air channel helping dissipate sweat and moisture faster away from the body. One thing that you’ll surely appreciate is the stretchable material that hugs comfortably to the contour of the body. This creates a snug form fitting that helps eliminate anything inside the vest from bouncing.

To make things easy, let’s take a closer look on its features starting with the front.

The overall design is very clean and it offers a lot of storage for your running essentials.


Before we go further, Salomon utilized 2 x 500ml (17oz) collapsible Hydrapak soft flask that are BPA and PVC free. I like the idea of the soft flask since it collapses as it empties and eliminates the sloshing sound while you run compared with bottles.


There is a small zippered pouch on the right shoulder strap that could hold some electrolyte tabs and gels.


There are two soft hydration elastic pockets that is designed to fit the 500ml soft flask. The chest pockets maintain high stability, reduce bouncing and make quick access easy.


There are two decent size stretch pockets below the soft flasks that could fit gloves, hat and some sort like Buff headgear.


Located on each side of the vest are two zippered pockets that extend far enough to the back. It is stretchable and has enough room that I was able put my wallet, keys and Pixel XL phone without any problems.


On top of the left shoulder strap is a deep cargo pocket that offers additional storage for energy bars and gels.


When it comes to fitting, the soft twin link has three adjustable settings (hooks) to give you the snug fit. These are located along the sternum and below the rib cage.


Located on the left shoulder strap is safety whistle. Gotta have that whistle just in case of an emergency. Remember Titanic? Yup, you get the idea.


Going on the back side, there are two extra storage. The big pocket can hold some important stuff like map, food, light clothing, jacket and additional fluid if needed. Just below the big pocket is a “kangaroo pocket” that is smaller in size. It is made of a see thru mesh that can hold extra food that you can easily access without taking off the vest.


There is no doubt that this is a great product after testing it on my 12-mile trail run along Hidden Falls Regional Park. It performed very well and provided a highest level of comfort and enough storage room to carry my running essentials. The location of the pockets is ideal for easy access and does not interfere with my body and arm swing while running. One thing that I need to point out is the need to tighten the strap as the soft flask deflate in order to get a snug fit across the chest. You can easily adjust this while running and the lock mechanism hold it perfectly tight. This also helps to keep everything close to your body.


I heard that some runners are having some difficulties putting the soft flask back after a drink. I have to agree that it does, collapsible flask and tight fitting could be a bad combination. But after spending some time with it, I figured that it’s a lot easier to just drink from the flask without removing it from the vest. I know that it’s a little bit awkward since I have to bend my head down but the idea is to avoid those unnecessary stops.

My Verdict
I have used this vest many times and I am very pleased with it despite my initial trouble in putting the flask back but I still highly recommend this for any training and racing you would be doing. The S-LAB Sense Ultra Set is designed for fast runs (whether it be on road or trails), without needing to stop when accessing those fuels. It is the lightest vest I have tested so far, yet offers plenty of storage (10 pockets in total) to carry most of my running essentials that I normally couldn’t carry. It has a stretchable material that creates a snug fit in keeping anything inside the vest close to my body, eliminating any possible bounce.


The S-LAB Sense Ultra Set sells for $130 and it comes in two different colors, black and red. Yes, the price is a little bit on the high end but the quality is what makes this gear so great. Salomon stands behind their products and their number one priority is their customer’s satisfaction. If for any reason you are not completely satisfied, you can return the product within 30 days and get a full refund.

Thanks again for reading and if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post below.