Ulitmate Direction Jurek Endure

Summary:

Back in the 90’s I remember when bumbags came into fashion. They never really seemed to hang around possibly due to the lack of fashion in wearing one despite being a good way of carrying a minimal amount of gear! I normally would prefer to wear a pack, solely from a personal comfort point of view, but since I won this belt, I decided to give it a go. I found it relatively comfortable easy to clip in place and run with, as for racing, I’m not entirely sold, the water bottles bounced around a bit and I had to keep tightening the waist band to get it to sit comfortably. I tried carrying a jacket in the bungy stash area and it bounced right out almost straight away! The best thing about this belt was probably the padded zip pocket just big enough to fit a cellphone in it.

Brand: Ultimate Direction
Where to get in NZ: mostly online, Wiggle.co.nz, Fuelme, Gearshop
Typical Retail price: $60

Function: 2/5

My guess given the small load capacity this is designed for taking a light load over a short distance, perfect for that 2-3hour run. The belt features two drink bottles, a bungy stash pocket, a small mesh pocket and a padded secondary pocket.

The two drink bottles look to have been improved on the latest model of this belt. I can see why too, the nozzles on these bottles are a random small size that is non-standard. The plastic material is quite soft also and already I can see a few teeth marks. The nozzle was also quite stiff to pull on and I found the bottle difficult to drink from. To get any descent flow out of it required squeezing the bottle, which is nicely shaped to fit the belt, but actually quite difficult to hold in your hand. Also because there is two bottles, you probably need to drink from both at regular intervals rather than drinking from one first and then working your way onto the other. The weight in the bottles can make a bit of a difference on how the belt sits around your waist.

The bungy stash pocket was not very good for holding a jacket. I tried folding my OR Helium into it when I didnt need it, but this lasted all of about 10 strides before it bounced so much that I gave up and pulled it out. Im not sure what else clothing-wise you could stash in there that wouldn’t effect your running?

The mesh pocket situated in behind the stash bungy panel was big enough to fit a couple of Gels in and worked relatively well. The only thing to watch out for here is the sharp corners on some brands of gels poking through the mesh and causing all sorts of trouble on the wearer.

Probably the most useful part of this belt is the padded pocket. Its just big enough to fit a cellphone in and it carries well when worn on the belt. The padding protects the wearer and provides some resistance from sweat getting near the cellphone and destroying it!

Comfort: 3/5

The belt was mostly pretty comfortable to run with. I few issues with it I found was that it rode up a bit from your hips to your waist and as a result the waist band needed tightening every now and then. As I mentioned eairlier the mesh pocket is backed with more mesh, a tighter weave, but if you do have sharp edged gels they can poke into you body if you are not careful. The shaped bottles work really well for comfort while running, you can hardly feel that they are there at all. The padded pocket also works really well comfort-wise and the burden of carrying a heavy cellphone around your waist is hardly noticeable at all.

Durability: 5/5

The belt consisted of a lot of lightweight mesh, but also very strong mesh. This belt has not got much a thrashing, but never the less it is still almost as good as new after a good few runs. Due to the lightweight nature of the construction wear and tear is not as bigger issue as a heavier pack. The bottles do let the belt down in the durablity stakes, as mentioned above after only a couple of uses the bottle nozzle is already showing up teeth marks. The plastic used on this part of the bottle is quite soft but also a bit stiff which may have contributed to the nozzle damage. The belt retaining clips look a little flimsy, and probably after a bit of use I would expect these bits to probably fail first.

Appearance: 3/5

I’m not sure that running belts or bumbags will ever be able to be considered looking good!?! But the use of grey white and red, probably at a level that is just enough to not draw too much attention to the belt. Having two bottles placed either side of a central pocket/stash panel give the look of the belt a good balance and it not too outrageous. I didn’t feel too out of place wearing it out in the hills so for a running belt with drink bottles it doesn’t look all that bad.

Cost: 4/5

The belt comes with two drink bottles and enough room to stash a bit of food and your phone (so you can take that photo to upload to instagram) its not too bad in the scheme of things. It is a durable and functional belt with some good features and I think reasonably priced at $60. The latest version of this belt looks to have ironed out a few of the issues I have mentioned here so you might even be getting better value for money in that version!

Overall Rating:

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Macpac Escapade 150

Summary:

For adventure racing often a small lightweight sleeping bag is required. As with any adventure racing gear it needs to be as lightweight as possible. I chose to get a Macpac Escapade 150 as my go to sleeping bag for expedition races. It is lightweight, packs down small and provides some warmth. Its not quite as good as some of the more expesive lightweight sleeping bag options in terms of warmth but it good value for lost cost. Sleeping in Adventure races is always  bit problematic, its more of a case of sleep where you can, so for stopping in a hut its pretty much perfect, but sleeping out in the open its a little bit on the cold side for most times of the year in NZ. The Macpac Escpade 150 offers a lot cost, 600loft down bag that will do the job…just!

Brand: Macpac
Where to get in NZ: Macpac, Various other Outdoor Stores
Typical Retail price: $229.99

Weight: 540g

Function: 3/5

In an adventure race, sleeping is a valuable commodity so when you stop to sleep you want it to be efficient. This sleeping bag is small and lightweight the two most important factors in its design. The bag can be packed down pretty small and fits into a pack of any size easily, perfect for staying in huts, and summer tenting in hot climates. One good feature of this bag is the stuff sack sewn into the side of the bag. Very handy when racing as a small bag like that can go missing very easily! Funnily enough it can be quite hard to find sometimes when you are in a tired state trying to pack it away in the dark.

It has one zip (keeping the weight down), a dome to lock the zip in place and a bungy to tighten the top of the bag and keep the warm air in. Unfortunately the lack of a hood means that you can only really tighten the bag around your shoulders leaving your head exposed. The zip can be completely undone and can be used as a quilt if you so desire, handy for traveling but probably not really a function that is very useful in an adventure race.

 The pertex outer allows the bag to be breathable, but also keeps the dampness out. The benefit of having a dry bag, means that it will stay lightweight too when packed back down. The cut of the bag is square, it could be improved for racing if it was a mummy shape which would likely reduce the weight and improve the warmth a bit too.

Comfort: 2/5

This sleeping bag has a loft rating of 600, a comfort rating of 16°C and a survival rating of 13°C. So its best suited to hut type travel, and not really adventure racing at all. When I have slept out in the open I have needed to wear a down jacket inside the bag to make sure I didn’t get too cold during sleep. Using the combination of a synthetic down jacket with the sleeping bag does increase the versatility of your options.

As far as comfort within the bag itself, it does have a lot of space inside due to the square cut. Having a lot of space inside allows you to toss and turn without getting too tangled. The downside is of course that there is a big gap between the your body and the sides of the bag, allowing for cold air to gather and reducing the overall warmth of the bag.

The bag has good breath-ability and with the pertex outer, even with a bit of condensation on the outside the bag you will remain dry inside.

Durability: 4/5

This bag has been pulled out and packed down a number of times, washed another couple of times and it still going strong. It is now starting to lose a few feathers, which may just be a function of age. The pertex outer has been fairly durable when used out in the open and within a tent. The zip is of good quality

Appearance: 3/5

There is not a whole lot to say about the appearance of a sleeping bag. The color is relatively plain and doesn’t cause any fuss, it just looks like any old sleeping bag. The shape is a little bit different, but again the design has gone for function over making a statement on looks.

Cost: 4/5

For a 600 loft down, lightweight sleeping bag the cost is pretty good at $229. For a similar weight mummy bag, with a better temperature rating you can expect to pay in the $6-800 range. So for a versatile and cheaper option for racing with this bag will work well at doing an alright job. If you are a warm sleeper, you can probably justify spending a little bit more for better comfort, and a better night/hours sleep

Overall Rating:

Asics DS Trainer 21

Summary:

The easiest way to learn to run faster is to run on a solid surface and this means you need to train on the road. When I first started running I ran in the Asics GT2000 series shoes, then as my running evolved I found that DS trainers were better suited to me. As a lightweight runner, I was suited to a lightweight shoe and managed to get just as much durability out of them as the old GT series of shoes I was running in. Since then I haven’t looked back and these are now my third pair of DS Trainers.

The DS trainer is a lightweight training shoe, built for speed. They are comfortable for pounding the pavement and best of all feel fast when you start running in them. The lightweight construction does mean that they do not last quite as long as a regular running shoe, however the construction is still solid and I have had a good amount of use out of them. In particular the heal cup is always very sturdy in Asics shoes. An area of improvement in the version 21 is the flex point in the toe box, which I found always used to “hole” at this point in my previous Asics shoes. The DS trainer is a specialist training shoe and as a result you will have to go to a specialist running shop to pick them up. And… as with any specialist piece of equipment you will end up paying up at the top end of the price range at around $250-$300 NZD but it is good value for money if you want to train hard and fast.

Brand: Asics
Where to get in NZ: Shoe Clinic, Front Runner, various other specialist running shops
Typical Retail price: $250-4300

Function: 5/5

The DS trainer 21 is the ideal shoe for running training on the roads. It is lightweight fast and responsive, and most importantly it makes you feel fast too!  Designed as a road shoe specifically for training, they have a bit more cushioning than its cousin the DS racer, and are a lot more hard wearing. I have mostly used these shoes on the roads, and flat grassy areas for intervals training. They have a good amount of grip for these surfaces and even can handle a little bit of off road. Unfortunately, and they are not designed for this, they are a little bit lacking in grip for mud and the durability of the tread suffers a little bit on gravel surfaces.

They are mainly a training shoe but I have used them for racing too, particularly in instances where I haven’t spent enough time on hard surfaces beforehand to pull out the racers. I have seen some runners using these as ‘racing’ shoes to, just to give them a little more support. I have found them to be the ultimate training shoe for me, and since these ones are coming close to the end of their life, the next edition is currently being broken in my running shoe garage!

Comfort: 4/5

I will admit that my feet have grown into Asics shoes, and I am aware that not everybody has the same shaped feet, but when I put these shoes on, they fit like a glove every-time. They are a very comfortable shoe for training in on the roads. On gravel, the sole is soft enough that you can feel the stones under your foot, but again they are not designed for this type of terrain. They also seem to have a habit of making quite a bit of ‘slapping’ noise when I run down the road!

One drawback from the fit of these shoes is the tongue. Every-time I put my foot into them, the edge of the tongue rolls over and folds on top of my foot creating extra pressure, and a sore spot. I do have the shoe laces quite tight, and I have tried setting the tongue up properly before putting my foot in but still this does not help! The design of the tongue definitely could be improved, at the moment it is too wide, and where it attaches, the stitch point is quite narrow. The wide tongue with the narrow stitch allows for considerable movement of the tongue within the shoe.

Durability: 3/5

I am up to around 400km on this pair of DS trainers and they are pretty much at the end of their life now. This is about on par with most of my other shoes. Previous Asics I have owned the upper has worn – particularly at the bend point at the edge of the toe box – but this pair of shoes are showing no such signs of wear in this place. The inside of the heal cup has suffered the most amount of damage and the upper material has worn through on both shoes. Following the trend of previous versions of the shoes the heal cup is made of a bit more solid plastic and has held its shape well, and thats possibly why the heal in the inner side has worn so significantly. The tread pattern features the lightweight raised bumps that have proven to be not so robust on other Asics shoes I had had. These bumps have worn out rather than rubbed off on this pair so Asics have put in some work t make the tread stronger. The mid sole has suffered a little bit from a hard life and now the shoes are starting to ‘banana’ a bit!

Appearance: 5/5

When these shoes came out at the end of 2015 begining of 2016, the bright almost fluro yellow was all the rage. Because they are high end training shoes its important that they look good, and look fast and certainly this is the case. The bright orange works well with the bight yellow and is complemented with the black laces. As I have said before, they look and feel fast when you put them on and that is probably the most important feature for a top end racing/training shoe!

Cost: 4/5

As these are a specific high end training shoe they are a little bit harder to get your hands on them. You will have to go to a specific sport shoe store to pick them up and often you have to ask for them too. Because of the extra service from the shoe store you are probably going to end up paying a bit more as a result. But you will get the best shoe for you! For a new pair and the latest model you can expect to pay between $250 to $300 for these shoes. As this DS trainer 21 is now obsoleted by 22 you can probably pick up the ‘last years’ model for quite a bit cheaper. Not much has changed, mostly just the colour scheme and hopefully the tongue!

Overall Rating:

Inov8 X-Talon 225

Summary:

In my search of the perfect replacement of the Roclite 243, I tested out the X-Talon 225. I have a pair of the original X-Talon 212 as well as the lightweight version the X-Talon 180, and although they are now retired they do come out every now and then for the odd jog around. The desgin of the the X-Talon is best suited to off-trail running and in particular in the mud. As result they are a polpular choice of shoe for orienteers! I remember 1 event looking around in the start box and seeing 15 out of the top 20 elites wearing them!  The 225 version is a little more refined, a little heavier and I thought it may be a good shoe for trail races. That was partially the case and I found them best suited to grassy or muddy trails rather than hardpacked trails, probably because of the aggresive tread pattern. This is a good shoe for shorter races, the lightweight sole doesnt handle too long of a race but it was a perfect shoe for racing around in the wet muddy hills this winter.

Brand: Inov8
Where to get in NZ: Various Outdoor Stores, see https://inov-8.co.nz/pages/stockists
Typical Retail price: $200

Function: 3/5

I got these shoes for the Luxmore Grunt, as a potential replacement for the Roclite 243. The thread pattern is slightly less aggressive than the original 212 but still has some big knobbles on it which give good grip in the mud. Unfortunately for the specific purpose of the Luxmore Grunt, which was largely on hard packed gravel they didn’t quite cut it. I had quite sore feet afterwards, with the thread creating pressure points in a few places on the sole.

It is probably already emerging that the thread pattern of these shoes is an important feature… So when I travelled to china with these shoes, I had a tough few lessons as I thought it was going to be largely off trail and turned out to mostly be on roads. The pattern which makes them so good for mud and wet grass is not so good on slipperly and well polished rock stairs, in fact it was almost like being on ice skates! Then a flat trail run turned out to be a half marathon on a road surface, the ultimate test! They had good grip on this surface, but cushioning was very minimal and although they were mostly comfortable I again had some sore spots on the soles of my feet from the thread.

Alas, I finally found the optimum terrain for these shoes this winter, and it turns out they are great for soft muddy and wet ground. The grip is perfect for these conditions and were perfect for running around the damp winter trails. Perfect for off road travel, and for park orienteering, probably not in the forest as they can be a bit slipperly on logs and rocks, but great for that sprint around the park.

Comfort: 4/5

The X-Talon 225 is built as a racing shoe and as such comes in the precision fit. I like this fit as it seems to fit me well, but everyone I talk too has a differing opinion on how there shoes fit to them! For the perfect terrain these shoes are great, super comfortable with the perfect grip. For terrain that is not as ideal as they could be they are not too bad. I was able to run a half marathon on the road in them with minimal damage to my feet, however on hard ground the stud like features of the thread do create pressure points on the sole of your foot.

Durability: 4/5

As far a X-Talon shoes go these are the most robust version I have owned. The toe box has good covered protection and again the heal has a good solid base for anchoring your foot in place. The mesh upper does connect directly to the sole which on other Inov8 shoes tends to be a weak point. So far the upper mesh material has been fairly strong and has shown minimal signs of wear. Again Inov8 has used the plastic overmoulded reinforcing around the laces, but this time they have got it right, or at least better and more durable. The thread pattern has also lasted well, now worn down a bit but still very function in the mud.

Appearance: 5/5

These shoes arrived in a combination of red and black, which look good together. The colour scheme is simple and subtle, the ultimate combination for a racing shoe. They look and feel fast when you put them on and that is probably the most important feature for a racing shoe! The contour type stylisation of the heel material is again subtle but a nice touch to fit in with the off road racing feel. Going on looks alone these are one of my favorite looking Inov8 shoes.

Cost: 4/5

For a specific racing shoe you can always expect to pay a little bit more. These are a little bit higher priced than you will get a Inov8 training shoe, coming in around $200. Compare this to a pair of racing flats for the road this actually seems pretty reasonable for what you get. Inov8 have also done some work to make this shoe a bit more robust, so there is a bit of a weigh increase as well, but I think you will get a longer life out of these X-Talons when compared to previous versions. I think these increases in the function and durability justify the cost being up around the $200 mark.

Overall Rating:

Silva Race S Jet Spectra

Brand: Silva
Where to get in NZ:  www.mapsport.co.nz, http://www.grassyknoll.co.nz, www.compasspoint-online.co.uk
Typical Retail price: ~ $150

Summary

The Silva Race S Jet Spectra is the ultimate tool for orienteers and adventure racers. It is a simple compass for making quick and accurate bearings if you know what you are doing. Because these are premium tools for navigation they can be delicate and they can be expensive. Surprisingly for such a small tool they are packed with all sorts of features, almost everything you might need in the middle of a race to get you where you want to go fast! I have had 5 of these over the years and have been pretty happy with how they have lasted and how they have performed.

Function: 5/5

The main function of a thumb compass is to allow you to hold a map and a compass in the same hand at the same time. This allows you to take accurate bearings and keeps you in contact with the map the whole time. This is very important for orienteering, maybe less so for Adventure racing, but with the development of navigation in adventure racing the thumb compass is also making a good showing. In adventure racing of course some preparation of the maps to offset magnetic north is often required if you want to use one.

To use a thumb compass and take a bearing its really easy, almost easier than with a base plate, effectively you are just eliminating one of the steps, turning the housing, the most complex one! On the map you line up the centre line of the compass with the leg you wish to travel, then without twisting your wrist turn your whole body so that the needle points to North on the map, then follow the centre line of the compass.The Spectra System is a Silva innovation to allow even quicker bearings. The idea behind the system is that you take the bearing, look down at the colour bar, and memorize it. Say it is: 2 dot yellow, then that’s all I need to remember each time I look down at the map.

This compass comes in two versions, the Left and Right hand version. Convention usually dictates you use the left hand for holding the compass. It is also important to get the right compass for the right magnetic zone, as the needles are balanced differently depending on your angle in the world relative to magnetic north!

The latest version of the Jet Spectra is allows you to place you thumb directly onto the map, the previous version did not. This is supposed to allow for ease of “thumbing” the map. I am unsure if it really makes a difference as I tend to use the tip anyway. Maybe having your thumb directly on the map gives you a better grip.

The compass also comes with some measuring bars, I don’t tend to use these much in orienteering as I go on “feel” more than anything when it comes to distance… could be my downfall sometimes too. On the odd occasion I may use them, but often the bars are not quite right for the scale you are after. In adventure racing, the maps tend to have a grid on them making the bars somewhat redundant, but without grid, they can be very useful!

Comfort: 4/5

The compass is attached to your thumb via and elastic strap. Its a very basic strap, with just a short length of strap required to tighten to ft comfortably to your wrist. I have to admit that I am slightly different from most people who use these compasses and I hold it in my right hand. General convention is that you are taught with using your left hand, keeping your right hand free for more complex tasks like punching controls etc. As a result of this I use a specifically designed right hand compass, and to make sure that it fits comfortably the first thing I have had to do on all of them is to turn the strap around so that the doubled up stitching does not rub on my thumb so much that it annoys me! Downsides of carrying a compass on your thumb comes about in longer distance racing where you can get cramp from holding it and your map together for long durations. However the biggest drawback comes in the cold weather, the strap attached to your thumb reduces the circulation and your thumb can get very cold as a result.

Durability: 3/5

The jet spectra is made of a tough clear plastic, however there is only so many falls it can handle onto rocky ground. They will often break and leak the liquid from the compass housing, usually slowly if its just cracked or rapidly if there is a fatal breach! I have own 5 of these compasses and have broken only one of them myself. Others however have had much worse luck than me and have managed to break several as a result of falls.

The major flaw with the design of the Jet Spectra 6 was the thumb strap buckle. I have had 4 buckles break as a result of damage to the plastic, the problem being that it is made of a semi crystalline and brittle plastic, which does not allow for any give under impact loading or rough handling. In the end I replaced my straps with similar straps which are actually for sport ident sticks. The latest version the Race S Jet Spectra this compass has made significant improvements to the thumb strap and made the buckle out of a more ductile plastic.

Temperature or altitude variation can create a bubble in these compasses. Bubbles are bad because they can push the needle around, and push you off your bearing. Often its a sign that there is a leak in the capsule at lower levels! Keep an eye out for them as sometimes they can disappear altogether when returning to normal conditions.

Appearance: 2/5

The latest incarnation of this compass comes with the brightly coloured spectra system around the perimeter of the housing. The majority of the compass itself is clear, so that for functional reasons you can see the map underneath. It would be fair to say that the overriding design philosophy is definitely function over appearance. However its general looks make it look like a complex tool for a pretty specific job!

Cost: 3/5

Because this compass is very specific for the job at hand you will find that the cost is pretty high compared with a standard compass. The benefits of having this tool I think justify the cost. With this system you get a stable and accurate bearing which in the long run is bound to save you time. So if you are serious about navigating, whether it be adventure racing or orienteering this is the ultimate tool.

Overall Rating:

Adidas Terrex Swift R GTX

Brand: Adidas
Where to get in NZ: http://www.wiggle.co.nz
Typical Retail price: $140

Summary

I got these shoes specifically for the World Rogaine Champs in Alice Springs in 2016. The terrain for the World Champs was covered in a large amount of Spinifex grass, a relatively tough spiky plant found across the Australian outback.  The specific requirement of this shoe was to have no mesh upper which would allow for the needle sharp points of spinifex penetrating the shoe. This is a difficult task in itself and many of the suitable shoes for this type of race pride themselves in their breath-ability…. Breath-ability = mesh! In the absence of mesh the next go to material is Gore-tex. Gore-tex just happens to be quite a tough material and did the job in keeping the spikes out.  Besides the spiky grass to contend with the terrain was quite dry and rocky also so I needed a shoe with a solid base so that my feet would not get too sore over the course of 24  hours on my feet.

After a good thrashing around the race course, I felt these shoes provided good value for money and served their purpose well. They did a great job at protecting my feet from spinifex and kept my feet dry and comfortable for many hours of racing. Their bulky shape and fit meant that they did feel a bit heavy and slow and as a result I would recommend them for longer slower type racing. Definitely not the shoe to set a 5 km PB in the park but perfect for a longer race such as a 24 hour Rogaine in wet terrain.

Function: 4/5

The Gore-tex outer did exactly as expected and kept the water out of my shoes. This was good for the terrain that we were running around in as the ground as hard and wet soft feet could have really taken a hammering in these conditions. On the other hand I’m not sure that this was ideal in the desert as my feet did get quite hot! Gore-tex is supposedly breathable but over a prolonged period of time exposed to a large amount of sweat, the toe bend point showed signs of saturation. I was able to fully test the waterproof-ness out at the end of the race, and sure enough they kept the water out….until my whole foot was submerged and then they acted like a gumboot. The water did not drain out very quickly at all.

The main reason I was after these shoes was keep the Spinifex out and they did a pretty good job at that, they prevented all but about 2 or 3 spikes to my feet. In comparison my legs, protected by gaiters (or so I thought…) took a hammering from the Spinifex and I was left to pick the spines out for months afterwards. I was pretty happy I didn’t have to do the same for my feet!

The stiff sole of the shoe provided good support for my feet across the hard ground and many rough rocks. After a considerable amount of wear I only took them back out for one more trip back home in the NZ winter. Here they did a great job keeping my feet warm and dry in the snow. The only downside was the tread pattern and sole construction was a little slippery in the mud and on the muddy trails

The shoe laces consisted of a thin cord with a toggle type closing and a system for holding the lace end in place so you wouldn’t trip over! One downside of this lace system was the length, it seemed to be very long and when doing the laces up tight the length of leftover lace was too long to capture properly in the lace system.

Comfort: 4/5

These shoes were quite large and bulky, compared with the lighter weight shoes I am a bit more accustomed to racing in. I found just going for a causal run around the block a little bit difficult, the bulki-ness made me feel a bit slow and gumby-ish. The sole was quite a lot wider than the shoe which gives you better support but as a result you do lose a bit of control over them. When the inevitable walking sections of a 24 hour Rogaine kicked in they came into their own. Walking in them was quite comfortable.

The Gore-tex in the heat was not so comfortable, especially in the heat of the day where my feet got quite hot and sweaty as a result. The hard ground can be quite damaging to feet over a long period of time and these shoes did help the pain to an extent, they were not entirely perfect on preventing sore tired feet. During the night, they were great at keeping my feet warm and perfect in the snow.

One feature of the tongue is that there is a fold to prevent water getting in, with the shoes done up tight the fold did create a bit of pressure point. The tongue did not cover the top lace hole either which seemed a bit silly as water could get through here too. The lace and lace hole also came in direct contact with my feet causing another little hot spot.

Durability: 5/5

24 hours on hard and quite abrasive rocks was a really good test of the durability of these shoes. The soles took a real hammering and the tread remained fairly well intact compared to my team mates Hoka’s which were completely wrecked! Although the majority of the tread pattern remained it had worn down a bit. The one piece moulded sole is great for durability in comparison to a composite sole where the tread “dobbs” can quite easily get ripped of.

The Gore-tex upper also survived really well, after being subjected to many needle pokes and movement across rough terrain they remained waterproof and good enough for future use. The upper provided good protection from the rocks, and the moulded over toe cap saved my feet many time I accidentally kicked a hard rock.

The lacing system kept the shoes fitting tightly (how I like them) for the entire 24 hours and were untouched until the end of the rogaine. This was not a great test for the endurance life of doing and undoing the laces up tight but a good test of them being in one position for a long time.

 Appearance: 3/5

This version of Terrex came out in two colour variants, Black and Orange and Black. I chose the bright orange version over the black option, mainly because I thought it would be much more exciting to have bright orange shoes. I thought the orange, black and white worked quite well together and drew a few comments as they were quite noticeable. The black version would probably a bit more subtle and less “out there” I would think.

The general look of them was quite bulky, and chunky, also quite noticeable, maybe exacerbated by the colour scheme too. This gave the impression that they were big tough shoes for moving through extreme terrain. However the bulky look to them detracted a bit from the speediness, and they didn’t look like a fast shoe. What was worse was that when you put them on you didn’t feel fast in them, almost one of the most important factors!

The lacing system in contrast was quite sleek and compact looking! This didn’t quite fit with the tough look to the shoe, but was highly effective and made the shoes look a bit sleeker.

Cost: 5/5

I picked these shoes up online, so it was a bit of a stab in the dark to find a pair of shoes that were going to protect my feet from Spinifex! At this cost I thought it was worth the risk as I felt it was a good price for a solid looking shoe. What turned up was better than I expected and at under $150, I got a tough, waterproof shoe that was robust and fast hiking type travel. They were good value for money and lasted for a good duration. For about the price I would expect to pay for a pair of Inov8’s, the lifetime of this pair of Adidas Terrex shoes would equate to about double that of the Inov8’s

Overall Rating:

Osprey Talon 44 (2014)

Brand: Osprey
Where to get in NZ: Various Outdoor Stores, Bivouac Outdoor, Torpedo 7 and many more places: http://southernapproach.co.nz/brands/osprey/
Typical Retail price: $249.99

Summary

Osprey Packs supplied us (Team Osprey Packs) with the Talon 44 just in time for Chapter 3 of Godzone in Kaikoura. Since a hard introduction to life my pack has been put through its paces over a year of training and racing in the build up to Godzone Chapter 4 in Wanaka.

The Talon 44 is a pretty good all round pack for overnight trips, some basic adventure racing and some general exploring. If I was going into the mountains on a climbing mission  I would probably leave this one behind. Its ok but not ideal for cycling with either. But trekking, tramping or hiking it is a nice pack, full of features that make life easier. I also found it to fit well and was comfortable to use for prolonged periods of time.

 

Function: 5/5

For 44 litres you can fit a fair amount of stuff, such as a tent, sleeping bag, warm clothes, food and cooking gear but that is about it, so good for an overnight trip but almost a little too much space for an adventure race in good conditions! perfect in horrible conditions! The outside of the pack is shower proof but I wouldn’t hesitate to put my warm gear in a dry bag inside if it was going to rain or get wet in a river crossing. The bottom of the pack has some drain holes also to allow the water to drain out which are handy if it does fill up with water!

Big mesh pocket at the back is great for carry gear that you don’t want to pack away in the main bag, and there is plenty of room for expansion. The Ice axe loops I found a little bit long really which meant that my Ice Axe didn’t really fit very well to the pack. The point also rubbed against the fragile looking mesh pockets and I suspect after a few days in that position it would wear a hole through. Another feature missing from this pack which is on other Osprey ones was the “lid Lock” system so there wasn’t really a good place to put a helmet other than the stretchy back mesh pocket. And again there was nowhere good to put crampons (I stuck them in a bag inside the mesh pocket also).

The single action draw cord to close the top of the pack was a little difficult to figure out initially (not super intuitive) but once I had it down it was very effective in getting stuff in and out of the pack. There is an over the top restraining strap too which comes in handy if you are going to stuff the pack full of gear, or stick a jacket in there without going into the main pack. The closing straps come down over the top of an Ice Axe if it is fitted and you can either pass the strap around the back or over the top to hold further restrain the Axe.

Just like the most of the talon range, the bladder pocket is accessible externally and you don’t have to go hunting around in the main pocket to get your bladder out if you need to refill. Plus you don’t get you dry stuff inside wet!

The waist strap has some pockets but like most other Osprey Packs I have run around with they are a bit small for anything over 3-4hours and have a funny little opening at the end which I have found can wiggle open if you are not careful. The openings to the side mesh pockets are at the top and the front facing side they are no match to the Macpac Amp side pockets. It is difficult to reach into them while wearing the pack and due to the angle of the openings sometimes stuff can fall out particularly while on a bike.

The metal frame of the pack comes up quite high at the back of pack which is not a problem until you need to bike downhill and it interferes with the back of my helmet. This is not particularly help by wearing a road helmet on a mountain bike but the close proximity of the top of the pack sitting high enough to be comfortable while trekking.

NOTE: Magnetic bladder hose – DANGEROUS to compass’s the entire time I was Navigating throughout GODZone I had to take extreme care not to damage my compass with the strong magnet in the bladder hose (I removed the clip from the chest strap also).

I haven’t used the walking pole attachment system so I can’t really comment on how that works.

Comfort: 3/5

When I first put this pack on it just fitted nicely to my back. The pack comes in a Small/Med and Large frame, obviously due to my stature I went with the small/med. I had no problems wearing it comfort wise and it never felt like a chore to swing it over my shoulder and onto my back. I wore this pack for hours on end for days on end with no rubbing, chafing or comfort issues. Sure I had sore shoulders after hours with it on but that’s to be expected. The best thing about Osprey Packs in general is they are just so comfortable to wear.

There is enough setup adjustment that you can get this pack to work best for you when you want it too. A feature that is on most good packs but its definitely one that you want for those long hours carrying your gear around.

On the bike it was a different story however. The high frame at the back seemed to interfere with the back of my helmet which was not ideal going down steep technical downhill at 3am in complete whiteout and dark conditions. The additional weight on the bike seat also made things uncomfortable but that is just a fact of life in Adventure racing sadly. Also I learned in more ways than one that bid shorts are not ideal with a heavy pack like this… 1, you cant go to the toilet very easily; and 2, the shoulder straps of the bibs interfere with the pack shoulder straps resulting in an extra bit of unnecessary shoulder pain.

Durability: 4/5

Overall the pack is pretty robust. I have had it for over a year taken it on numerous trainings, and it has done two GODZone’s and the only damage is to the mesh pockets at the sides and the back. The mesh pockets is a tough one because they are so handy for stashing gear quickly but so easily damaged on sharp rocks, barbed wire fences and vegetation along with sharp gear that you might be carry such as Ice Axe and Crampons. I have been fairly careful with mine and it still has a bit of damage. In all other areas there seems to be no sign of wear other than some mud stains! One of my team mates had so much damage that his pack was replaced under the lifetime warranty of the pack.

Appearance: 3/5

The Talon 44 is the biggest in its range, styled with the same pastel colour range as the rest of the talon range. I always felt like the pack looked big an bulky but once on your back it didn’t seem to bad. The shape is fairly normal looking, but with stuff stashed deep in the mesh pockets the pack can look pretty extreme. The large top pocket that clips over the front of the pack does take a little of the good looks away when its not sitting quite right or when the main compartment is filled to the bring. In general, it looks like a mutlisport pack, with the design heavily tipped towards the function rather than style side of the ledger.

Cost: 5/5

The cost of the Talon 44 I felt was reasonably well priced. There is a lot of pack there for what you get, it has heaps of functional extra bits, like trekking pole loops, large mesh pockets etc for attaching all sorts of gear to the outside and the inside also. One feature you cannot go past for this kind of money though it the Lifetime Guarantee. Just like most products out of the USA you can take these packs back into the shop for any damage which they will either fix or replace and the only damage to my pack so far has been the mesh pockets!

Overall Rating:

Inov8 Roclite 295

Brand: Inov8
Where to get in NZ: Various Outdoor Stores, see https://inov-8.co.nz/pages/stockists
Typical Retail price: $140

Summary

The Roclite 295 is a good shoe for doing some basic off road, heavy trail and some minor off trail running. They are a good, reasonably durable all around shoe for a mixture of terrain. I wouldn’t use them for much longer than 4+ hours as they lacked the cushioning for that sort of duration of race. I didn’t like that they only came in the standard fit size, this meant I wasn’t as confident off trail as I would have been in the 243’s. They also lack the speedy look and feel that the 243’s had so they are not what I would see as a replacement for the 243’s but maybe a level back from a race shoe to a more general and training type shoe.

Function: 3/5

I got these shoes initially for a 12 hour Rogaine, having run in the Roclite 243’s religiously and with a bit more weight behind the 295’s I thought they might be a little bit more solid for spending more time on my feet . The 243’s were a little bit hard on the feet over the four hour mark, and as it turned out the 295’s didn’t perform much different to the 243’s. The bigger toe box area meant that the shoes were not as tight around my foot, which possibly made them feel a little flatter and harder?

These shoes have the standard Roclite tread pattern, exactly the same as the previous 243’s. I really like this sole for a mixture of trail and “route” type terrain, not quite a track but not quite full on off road. The lower profile of the studs allows for good traction in the mud but also good grip on wet rocks. With this tread pattern I have the confidence to know that 85% of the time I am not going to slip when I jump onto that rock in front of me.

Comfort: 3/5

These style of roclites only come in the standard fit size range. I prefer the precision fit as I like have a tight fitting shoes especially for off road running, but for a wider foot they probably fit quite nicely. The standard fit has a bit more room in the toe box so your foot can be a bit freer which is nice over a long distance. The sole is still quite low profile and I did start to get sore feet from the lack of support after around 8+ hours. I did another trail run in them over about 5-6 hours I thought they were pretty solid for that distance, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to run too much longer in them but was just comfortable for that length of time.

Durability: 2/5

This version of roclite 295 has a good durable lip above the sole connecting it to the upper of the shoe. In particular the toe box area is very robust and the sole has shown no signs of peeling away from the upper like previous shoes of its type. The heal area is again very sturdy and made of good material that has lasted the distance quite well. The downfall of the upper is that in an effort tot keep it light the mesh is not super tough, and again the plastic shoe lace straps are not enough to maintain the structure. I had a blow out at the inside on the right shoe between the rubber lip and the upper. The mesh tore and the plastic strap like material eventually also tore creating quite a large opening.

Appearance: 3/5

These shoes came out in NZ in mid 2016 in bright blue and yellow, looking quite similar to a pair of Hoka’s I have seen floating around about the same time. They have some good looking stylised contours on the black part of the shoes. I thought the combination of the colours with the style of shoe worked well together and made them stand out but also look good at the same time. The general shape and look to them doesn’t scream out “fast” however, the upper part of the sole is quite high and round when new and the general feel doesn’t make me feel fast in them either!

Cost: 4/5

The cost was about standard for an Off-road, trail type shoe, originally retailing at around $200. You can now pick up a pair for about $140 and in my opinion this is probably more what they are worth, they are not going to last forever due to their lightweight nature but if you are looking for that edge with speed and comfort over terrain than they are probably perfect.

Overall Rating:

Osprey Talon 11

Brand: Osprey Packs
Where to get: Bivouac, Torpedo 7, or many independent Outdoor retailers
Typical Retail price: $139.90 NZD
Equivalent women’s version: Tempest 9

Summary

The Talon 11 is a small pack designed multiuse day tramps, mountain biking and longer trail runs. It includes a number of features common across the entire Talon product range. I find it a good, well priced, small pack, best suited for up to 12hour races.

Function: 5/5

The hydration sleeve allows for external access for up to a 3 litre bladder, there is no specific attachment for a hose but plenty of tapes across the straps to thread it through. Note that the bladder is not included with the pack. The chest strap comes with an integrated whistle, which is very handy for those races where you need one.

The main pocket is quite narrow but big enough to fit a warm top, 2 x thermals, thermal pants, light weight waterproof pants and light weight waterproof jacket. There is one small external pocket, fitted with a key loop, which I find handy for putting gloves and a hat in. in addition to these main pockets there is a small internal scratch proof pocket just big enough for putting such things as a cell phone in. There are two external mesh pockets at either side that are big enough to slide a 750ml drink bottle into just, and ideally a 500ml bottle.      Access to the mesh side pockets is a bit limited, while wearing the pack, so it’s not ideal for getting stuff out in a hurry. I find the hip pockets are a little bit on the small side, however you can stuff a 200g pack of lollies into each one. Seems like common sense but If you leave them open stuff can quite easily fall out!

In addition to the pockets there is plenty of other places to stash your gear. The helmet attachment “lid-lock” is great for securely fitting a helmet on the back, however it is a little difficult to get anything out of the main zipper with a helmet attached. The tool loop is useful for strapping an Ice Axe on, its only draw-back is that it is quite large, if you have a skinny lightweight Ice axe which allows it to slop around a bit. The bungee stash attachment is big enough just to fit a mid-sized rain jacket securely or a set of crampons.

The straps are all highly adjustable as you would expect with any modern day pack. There is a shoulder strap pocket for putting a small item, such as a 200ml bottle in, but I have never used it to its full extent before. Also I have never tested the pole attachment.

Comfort: 4/5

One of the best features about osprey packs in general is that they are comfortable to wear for long durations. The downside of this is that the weight of the pack itself is proportionally quite heavy. The frame is also quite stiff and not very flexible, good with a full pack but does have its downsides when it comes to running with a half empty pack. The mesh covered foam back panel has a number of holes to give it good ventilation during hot days. In general, it is more comfortable to walk or ride with this pack than run. The low profile top of the pack does allow for clearance when riding a bike helmet too.

Durability: 5/5

Like all Osprey Packs it has a life-time guarantee and its American made so it’s built too last. I am up to around 400 hours of use with this pack and it’s still going strong with visibly next to no signs of wear. The mesh pockets on this variant of osprey pack are cut quite close to the pack and I have not had any issues with fences or gorse/matagouari etc ripping them apart as has been the case with some of the other Osprey Packs I’ve had

Appearance: 3/5

It is a very tidy looking pack, with a sleek and low profile on your back. For the wide range of attachment points it still looks tidy even with stuff stashed all over the place! With the quite rounded shape you could even say it looks a bit like a tortoise shell. It does look a little bit on the ordinary side however, with the muted colour tones it sort of blends into the background, perfect for flying under the radar. I have a small pack and it does make it looks like I am carrying a lot of gear when I wear it.  It comes in a range of 4 colours, Blue, Orange, black and green. There is also no reflective-ness on the back of the pack at all, not so good if you are riding on the road at night or if you lose your team mate after dark in a race!

Cost: 5/5

For a small day pack, with a multitude of attachment points it is priced at the lower end of the scale. Considering its intended use case and up to 12 hours or adventure racing I have found that it is well priced for the comfort and durability it provides. Similar small day packs vary from around $120 to $300NZD

Overall Rating:

Talon Graph

Inov8 Trailroc 245

Brand: Inov8
Where to get: Bivouac, Torpedo 7, Shoe Clinc, 
Frontrunner, and many other outdoor store
Typical Retail price: $154 NZD

Summary

The TrailRoc 245 is a designed as a trail training shoe with a bit more room to move.  It is lightweight for a training shoe, reasonably durable and still performs well in a variety of conditions. I have found this shoe to be best suited to 2-3 hour training runs. Note: You can still buy the trailroc line of Inov8’s but this range has not been continued in 2016, the most similar shoe I could compare it to would be the terraclaw range.

Function: 4/5

Designed as a training shoe, this is exactly what I used it for. It has a bit more cushioning than the Roclites and quite a unique tread pattern.  It is light weight with lots of grip. They are not great for the road, and your feet take a bit of a pounding on the pavement. They seem to repel mud and remain grippy on slippery trails, even when clogged a bit.

Comfort: 2/5

These shoes have quite a big toe box, i.e. lots of space for your toes. A bigger toe box is something that has been touted as great for training as opposed to racing where you want a nice tight fit. I remain sceptical however, and I didn’t like the wide toe box. There were great for trails, but off track they were not ideal, largely due to the wide toes! the thin soles mean that on hard ground there is a bit of load not absorbed by the shock of impact.

Durability: 3/5

The low profile soles on these shoes are joined with a light mesh side and upper, which saves on weight but can wear quite easily. Ironically with the wide toe box this is exactly where the shoes start to wear. The plastic lace reinforcing is a particular weak point again, common among certain types of Inov8 shoes.

Appearance: 3/5

I quite like the combination of blue and yellow on these shoes, they seem to go well together. However, the overall look of the shoe I find looks a little strange. They are quite square and don’t look all that racy, which isn’t bad for a training shoe.

Cost: 5/5

As far as shoes go this are middle range price wise. Inov8 shoes are not known for being super robust so are generally priced accordingly.  At around $150 they are a good training shoe.

Overall Rating:

trailroc245