Best Trail Running Gear of Summer Outdoor Retailer 2016
Twice a year, I head up to Salt Lake City, Utah for the Outdoor Retailer show to check out the latest offerings in the trail running world and beyond. Back in August, I wrote about the trail running shoe highlights from this summer’s Outdoor Retailer. Now, I’m back to share some of my other favorites from Summer OR 2016 when it comes to hydration products (from Camelbak, Gregory, Hydrapak/Katadyn, Osprey, Ultimate Direction, and Ultraspire), apparel (from adidas Outdoor, Columbia-Montrail, Dynafit, Koolgator, Outdoor Research, Patagonia, Salomon, The North Face), lighting (from Black Diamond, Petzl, and LED Lenser), and trekking poles (from Black Diamond, Leki, and Scott). Here goes!
Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest ($120 – Available Now at REI and Everywhere on January 1, 2017)
Camelbak will soon launch the Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest, the company’s first foray into a sized, closed-side vest design, which will come in small, medium, and large to accommodate chest sizes from 26 to 46 inches. The pack, which features 3D vented mesh, comes with a pair of newly launched Quick Stow Flasks ($20), a large-opening (to fit drink mix and ice cubes), lockable 500mL flask that uses a slightly thicker, less slippery film. There’s an alternate insulated Quick Stow Chill Flask ($28) and the option of a tube adaptor ($8) available. Back to the Ultra Pro Vest, it’s got two adjustable chest straps: one fixed and one elastic, one zip and two envelope front pockets along with two flask holsters, two large side stow pockets, and a rear pocket that’s made for a 1.5-liter bladder, but that can fit up to a 2-liter bladder. It’s also got a large rear pass-through pocket.
Camelbak also just updated its reservoir design with the new Crux Reservoir, a baffled reservoir with a nice arm on the threaded opening to make opening easier as well as 20% increased flow. The reservoir will be available in 1.5-liter, 2-liter, 3-liter, and 3-liter lumbar versions at between $30 and $38.
Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15, 25, 35 & 45 ($120, $165, $185, and $200 – February 15, 2017)
With the success that Ultimate Direction has seen with the Fastpack 20 and Fastpack 30, the brand is expanding the line to four models, nominally: the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15, 25, 35, and 45. While there are updates in the Fastpack 25 and 35, it’s the new models at either end of the range that I find most interesting.
I’ve previously used the Peter Bakwin Adventure Vest 3.0 for outings that require significant equipment, such as the Ultra-Trail Gobi Race, but that pack was really pushed to its limit as soon as you threw in a three-season sleeping bag. Enter the Fastpack 15, which actually has 19 liters of storage capacity. It’s got a roll-down top, but also features a central rear-pocket zipper for easy access. There are no side hip pockets while the front-pocket setup is similar to the Fastpack 20. A lighter water-resistant fabric is used across the updated Fastpack line with the Fastpack 15 weighing in at 17.5 ounces (500 grams). I think this would be at great overnight adventure pack (two to three nights for a minimalist in good weather), a multi-day race pack, or a hearty commuter pack.
Now, the Fastpack 45 is a bit larger than I can really call a running pack. In the past, I’ve grunted out some ‘running’ with a 33-liter pack, but that was really slow going. So, with that in mind, I’d see the Fastpack 45 as a transfer of UD’s Fastpack platform to the hiking community. Nothing wrong with brining a well-fitting, reasonably lightweight option to that crowd! Ultimate Direction rates the storage at 46.8-liter in the pack’s 26.6 ounces (755 grams). The pack features a third, thicker non-removable waist strap, where the Fastpack 35 includes a similar third waist strap that’s removable.
Osprey Duro and Dyna Series Vests ($90-140)
Osprey is launching an entirely new line of running packs and accessories. There are three new vest pack pairs, the Osprey Duro (men’s) and Dyna (women’s) 1.5 ($90), 6 ($110), and 15 ($140). Even the smallest option, the 1.5, has solid front storage, two rear pockets, and two large rear side pockets. The 1.5 and 6 both come with 1.5-liter reservoirs, while the 15 comes with a 2.5-liter reservoir with the bite valve magnetically attaching to the chest strap of all these packs.
The lineup also includes a single-bottle waistpack, the Duro/Dyna Solo ($40), a pair of 250-mL handhelds with a zip and a stash pocket in the Duro/Dyna Handheld ($30), and Hydraulics Soft Flasks in 250-milliliter ($20) and 500-milliliter ($22.50) versions. The soft flasks come with both a standard bite valve and an extension hose.
UltrAspire Alpha 3.0 ($125 – January 1, 2017)
Why change a good thing (too much)? Indeed! The UltrAspire Alpha 3.0 remains largely the same as its predecessor, but it does replace the large rear stow pocket/bladder compartment with a top-zippered rear mesh compartment that allows for more security and more storage capacity (from 4.45 liters to 5.75 liters). It now comes with two Ultra Flasks rather than a 2-liter bladder. The side stow pockets are now one centimeter taller for slightly more capacity.
Katadyn BeFree ($40 – On Market)
I first learned of the Katadyn BeFree when a friend brought one for Meghan before Hardrock. It was an instant ‘I want’ piece of gear. The concept is simple, it’s a 600-milliliter Hydrapak soft flask with a Katadyn microfilter situated beneath the nozzle. Need safe water out on your run? Dunk the reservoir to fill it, put on the lid, squeeze, and suck. The ability to squeeze the soft flask makes it much easier to drink from than other hard-bodied filter bottles.
Gregory 3D Hydro Reservoir ($34-36 – March 2017)
While the hydration bladder is pretty well developed at this point, there are are little tweaks that can make a difference for particular users. With Gregory’s 3D Hydro Reservoir that’d be the company’s material and shape choice which give the bladder a self-supporting three dimensional shape. Along with a wide opening and a built-in hook on the bottom end, this should allow for reasonably quick drying for frequent hydration bladder users who prefer screw-off lid access. The 3D Hydro Reservoir will come in two- and three-liter options.
Outdoor Research Gauge Tee ($59 – March 2017)
The Outdoor Research Gauge Tee is the first athletic shirt to feature the new Polartec Delta fabric, which places hydrophobic fibers against your skin to reduce cling and associated chaffing with hydrophillic fibers on the outer surface to prolong the skin’s natural-evaporative cooling. The Gauge Tee itself features Merrow stitching, a type of flat seam that bolsters stretch through the garment.
Salomon S-Lab Modular Apparel (February 2017)
You could think of a running bottom as the combination of a liner, an outer cover, and a set of pockets. Salomon did that then separated the three constituent parts with its Salomon S-Lab Modular Apparel. For example, on the women’s side there are liner options of a brief, support half tight, or Exo half tight. Move one layer out and you’ve got the options of a 3-inch-inseam short, a 6-inch-inseam short, or a skirt. You can use those two layers together and, at your option, add a third with the S-Lab Modular Belt ($50), which is basically a ring of pockets around your entire waist. Personally, I look forward to using the Modular Belt on its own for extra storage capacity in races and on longer training runs.
Columbia/Montrail Apparel (Spring 2017)
Rather than highlight a particular piece, this is just a heads up that Montrail is now a ‘sub-brand’ of Columbia and that along with the rebranding, Columbia/Montrail will be launching a line of trail-running-specific apparel, including shirts, shorts, and both a wind and a rain jacket. This apparel will feature some of Columbia’s branded technologies such at the Titan Ultra Half Zip, a $70 long-sleeve, half-zip shirt featuring Columbia’s cooling Omni-FREEZE ZERO technology.
The North Face Better Than Naked Jacket ($120 – January 25, 2017)
While the names stay the same, The North Face continually updates its entire Better Than Naked line. That includes The North Face Better Than Naked Jacket, which is the brand’s lightest wind- and water-resistant jacket. In particular, I was drawn to this iteration’s dual side vents for breathability and the really large rear zip pocket.
adidas Outdoor Agravic Alpha Shield Hoodie ($159 – February 1, 2017)
This winter there are some nice additions to the ‘hybrid-jacket’ category, with most featuring Polartec Alpha lightweight, synthetic insulation. One of these is the adidas Outdoor Agravic Alpha Shield Hoodie, a 6.3-ounce (180g) wind jacket featuring premium Pertex Quantum face fabric, a hood, and two front hand pockets.
Patagonia Nano Air Light Hybrid Jacket ($200 – January 1, 2017)
If you like fancy puffys, maybe you’ve checked out Patagonia’s Nano Air. Well, the Patagonia Nano Air Light Hybrid Jacket is the brand’s forthcoming endurance-sport insulation piece. The Hybrid version replaces the original’s 60-gram-per-square-meter insulation and replaces it with lighter and less heat-retaining 40g/m2 insulation while switching away from puffy construction to a 3D waffle-knit fabric on the sides and rear. The slim-fitting 10-ounce jacket features thumbholes.
Dynafit Elevation Polartex Alpha Jacket ($200 – March 1, 2017)
The Dynafit Elevation Polartex Alpha Jacket is another of the new hybrid jackets, with this one skewing toward the colder climes (or elevations). That’s because it uses 60g/m2 Polartec Alpha, which should keep an active athlete plenty warm in most conditions. It’s also got a tightly tapered hood, thumbholes, and a pair of generously large, zipped hand pockets.
Salomon S-Lab Speed Bob ($50 – February 2017)
Sometimes a photo is truly worth a thousand words. Such is the case with the Salomon S-Lab Speed Bob hat.
Koolgator Cooling Neck Wraps ($10 – Available Forever)
Every once in a while I run into something that’s long been on the market, but had not previously caught my eye. Such is the case with the Koolgator Cooling Neck Wraps. Basically, you soak these crystal-containing reusable neck wraps, which continue to cool you through the day via evaporation. Seems like it’d be nice for long runs in dry climates.
Black Diamond Icon ($100 – Released October 1, 2016)
If I’m correct, Black Diamond has more or less revamped its full line of running headlamps in the past year, unifying a rectangular look, increasing lumens by about 25% in each model, and added a ‘gas-gauge’ light to most models. Included in that revamp is the flagship Black Diamond Icon, which can now throw 500 lumens for up to 3 hours on its four AA batteries or optional $50 rechargeable Li-ion battery pack. The batteries are rear mounted by default, but can be thrown in a pack or elsewhere via an included extension cable. It’s got a breadth of lighting options with spot, flood, and combined patterns to go along with red, green, and blue night-vision options. With AA batteries, the Icon weights 8.1 ounces (230 grams).
With the improvements to the middle-of-the-range options, I’d honestly be tempted by the BD Storm ($49) and Spot ($39) as both everyday casual run options as well as go-tos for weight-sensitive races and adventures. The Storm throws up to 250 lumens on its 4 AAA batteries to weigh in at 3.9 ounces, while the Spot can cast up to 200 lumens with 3 AAA batteries and a mere 3.1 ounces in total.
Petzl e+LITE ($30 – January 2017)
At the tiny end of the spectrum is the Petzl e+LITE. I used the original version of the e+LITE that maxed out at 16 lumens when I ran the Marathon des Sables back in 2009. Since then, there’ve been small tweaks to this classic as well as an increase to a 26-lumen maximum. Well, there’ll be an even bigger jump in performance to 50 lumens for 2017. For a comparison, when the e+LITE first launched in 2008, my go-to trail running headlamp was the Petzl Tikka Plus, at a blazing 35-lumen maximum!
At a similar cost, there are certainly better 3-ounce options for everyday trail running than the e+LITE these days. That said, there’s absolutely no reason not to have the one-ounce e+LITE in your pack if there’s a remote chance you’ll be caught out after dark or simply to have in your pack at all times. While I’d need to test an updated e+LITE in person, I’d certainly consider it as my choice for some racing and fastpacking situations. There’s an integrated lightweight whistle for safety… and compulsory-gear situations.
No, Petzl didn’t concentrate on the e+LITE to the detriment of its other classic models. The Tikka, Takkina, and Zipka all received roughly a doubling of their lumen output in the past few months. For example, the updated Tikka now cranks out double the light at 200 lumens (from 100) for a mere $30. The Classic models also get a sleeker housing and at least some of them get a phosphorescent reflector to make them easier to find in the dark.
The Classic line and the Actik now feature what Petzl calls the ‘Hybrid Concept,’ which is the option to use either AAA batteries or the $30 Accu Core, a micro-USB-charged LI-ion battery pack.
Scott RC Poles ($155 – February 15, 2017)
The ‘fixed-length’ Scott RC poles with come in four sizes: 110, 120, 130, and 140 centimeters. However, Scott’s sliding-grip system allows the S-Lite Strap to travel over the 25-centimeter-long grip, allowing on-the-fly customization. The stated weight for each carbon pole is ‘approximately’ 150 grams, which is 5.3 ounces.
Alongside the RC pole is the RC 3-Part pole ($155), a 3-part collapsable carbon pole that will come in the same four lengths. The weight will come in around 6 ounces (~170 grams) per pole.
Leki Micro RCM ($200 – February 1, 2017)
The Leki Micro RCM will be the brand’s lightest collapsable trekking pole to date. The pole will come in 5-centimeter increments from 115 to 135 centimeters and weigh in at 5.9 ounces (168 grams) per pole for the 120-centimeter length. To lighten the poles, Leki’s removed its trademark Shark Trigger grip for a simpler strap format and opted for a carbon rather than a steel ferrule.
There’s also the fixed-length Leki Vertical K ($150), which weighs in at a scant 4.9 ounces (140 grams) each.
Black Diamond Helio Fixed Length Carbon ($299 – February 15, 2017)
So, the Black Diamond Helio Fixed Length Carbon poles are going to come with some sticker shock. So did inflation-molded carbon-frame bikes when they came out. Well, these poles are handcrafted with the same method as those bikes and done so in very limited quantities. They’ll come in four sizes: 115, 120, 125, and 135 centimeters and weigh in at 4.5-ounces (128 grams) per pole.
Call for Comments
- Which of the above products are you most excited about?
- What other new trail running products (other than shoes) have you seen or learned of that you’re excited about?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand that produces gear in one of the above categories, please share that relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]