Best Trail Running Gear of Winter Outdoor Retailer 2017

This winter, I headed to both The Running Event in Orlando, Florida in December and the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City, Utah in January to check out the latest offerings in the trail running world and beyond. I’ve already written about the trail running shoe highlights from TRE and Winter OR. Well, now it’s time to share the other gear that caught my eye at those shows… and since I started writing, but never published this same article after Winter OR in 2016, I’ve added two still-relevant pieces from that article/show to this one. Why not?!

So read on to check out packs (from Nathan, Raidlight, Orange Mud, Naked, and RooSport), apparel (from The North Face, Salomon, Drymax, and Kora), lighting (from Petzl), eyewear (from Julbo and Abom), headwear (from Airhole and Icecap), nutrition (from GU), and GPS (from Suunto).

Packs

Nathan VaporHowe/VaporKrar 4L ($150 – Available Now)

The new gender-specific Nathan VaporHowe/VaporKrar 4L bring a more lightweight, more apparel-like fit to Nathan’s running-pack offerings. Without the pair of included 12-ounce ExoShot soft flasks, the packs weigh in at 6.4 ounces (181 grams). In addition to the main flask pockets (which hold up to 22-ounce bottles), there are three additional small stash pockets up front and two more on the sides. The main 4-liter rear-compartment extends halfway down the pack’s back, and is designed to fit up to a 1.5-liter bladder.

There are also 12-liter versions of the VaporHowe and VaporKrar ($180) that weigh in at 12 ounces (340 grams) with the included 1.8L Vapor hydration bladder. The 4L and 12L versions of both packs come in a range of sizes.

VaporHowe 4L

The VaporHowe 4L. Photo courtesy of Nathan.

Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 20L ($190 – Available Now)

I first saw a different volume pack in Raidlight’s LazerDry range at the Ultra-Trail Gobi Race a few years ago and was intrigued. Now, the Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 20L, a pack designed with the Marathon des Sables in mind. This roll-top pack made from water-resistant material weighs in at an incredibly light for its capacity 9.2 ounces (260 grams). The main rear compartment holds 20 liters of gear, there are two pole-stowage setups, a pair of 600-milliliter soft flasks with straws, and a dial-based side fit system. The only things I wish this pack had are a bit more front storage and a large rear mesh or cord-stash storage option.

Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 20L

The Raidlight Gilet Responsiv 20L.

Orange Mud Adventure Pack 20L ($145 – late May, early June 2017)

The Orange Mud Adventure Pack 20L is the brand’s foray into the fastpacking category. Unlike the company’s Hydraquiver pack on which you stow the waterbottle in a rear holster, this pack is designed for two soft flasks up front and accommodates either a 2-liter or a 3-liter bladder. My favorite aspect of the pack are the two ‘upside down’ pockets that sit atop the shoulders with front access.

Orange Mud Adventure Pack 20L

The Orange Mud Adventure Pack 20L.

Naked Running Band ($46 – Available Now)

The Naked Running Band is a waistband style ‘pack’ with a huge 3-liter capacity in its four sections and svelte 2.3 ounces. It also has a pair of external loops with which you could store a windjacket or a pair of trekking poles, an internal key hook, and race-bib attachments. It’s available in six non-adjustable sizes covering from 25 to 36 inches at the height (between the waist and the navel) where you’d prefer to wear the pack.

Naked Belt

A Naked Belt. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

RooSport Pockets ($20-$35 – Available Now)

Like to carry a few extra items than your apparel can handle, but don’t like wear a waistpack? Check out RooSport’s pockets that magnetically self-adhere over your waistband. A larger phone-sized pocket sits inside your waistband, while a smaller zipper pocket that can hold a couple gels or their equivalent sits on the outside.

RooSport

A RooSport pocket. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Apparel

The North Face Touji L/S ($80 – June 25, 2017)

The North Face Touji L/S is a really nice looking (in its simplicity) wool/poly-blend long-sleeve shirt. It’s got thumb-loop cuffs and, my favorite, a little headphone port in front of the collarbone.

The North Face Touji Long Sleeve

The North Face Touji Long Sleeve. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Salomon Elevate 3in1 Raincombi W ($175 – August 2017)

Salomon’s Elevate 3in1 Raincombi W is unlike any piece I’ve seen before in that it’s two outer-layer pieces sold together as a unit. Underneath there’s what I can only call the ‘Provo vest,’ an extra long, windproof vest that also offers a good bit of modesty. The overlay is a hooded water-resistant pullover that ends above the waist. At the least, Salomon gets some points for creativity.

Salomon Elevate 3in1 Raincombi

The Salomon Elevate 3in1 Raincombi. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Salomon Fast Wing Hybrid ($150 – August 2017)

While not cheap, the Salomon Fast Wing Hybrid M is more affordable than its $250 predecessor. This full-zip windjacket (with hood and chest pocket) tucks into its own waistband for quick stowage. It’s said to weigh in at 4.7 ounces (134 grams).

Fast Wing Hybrid M

The Fast Wing Hybrid M.

Drymax Stephanie and Sharman Socks ($13.50 & $31 – Available Now)

The new Drymax Stephanie Sock, designed for Stephanie Howe Violett, is a crew version of Drymax’s Hyperthin sock.

Built for Ian Sharman, the Drymax Sharman Sock is a 1/4 crew version of Drymax’s Maximum Protection Trail socks with the PTFE only underfoot, which lowers the price form $33 to $31 dollars.

Kora Apparel

While it’s been out for a little while, this was my first chance to check out Kora’s yak-wool apparel in person and was darn impressed. The fabric feels great and is reportedly 40% warmer than a corresponding weight-per-area Merino-wool fabric. The designs are simple and functional in a pleasing-to-the-eye manner. I’m keen to check out the Shola 230 Zip ($160), a long sleeve with a true half zip (at least) that should provide a great range of temperature control. [This piece is a carry-over from the 2016 Winter OR.]

Kora Shola 230 Zip

The Kora Shola 230 Zip.

Lighting

Petzl NAO+ ($199 – Available Now)

Since its launch, the Petzl NAO has been my go-to trail running headlamp. Now, the Petzl NAO+, the third iteration of the lamp, will increase the maximum light output by another 250 lumens to a stunning 750 lumens, all while retaining the same weight and form factor. The latest NAO will also feature bluetooth connectivity to allow for reprogramming on the run.

Petzl NAO+

Petzl NAO+. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Eyewear

Julbo Aerolite ($130-190 – Out Now)

The Julbo Aerolite is a lightweight, women’s-specific sunglass that’s new for 2017. It’s got an adjustable nose bridge, great breathability, and accepts an optical clip for prescription users.

Julbo Aerolite

The Julbo Aerolite. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Abom Goggles

From the take-this-idea-and-run-with-it department, there are Abom Goggles, which feature a small heating element to keep winter-sport googles fog free. I don’t know about you, but no amount of venting keeps my sunglasses fog free when I’m on a steep climb on a damp, cold day. I think it’d be interesting to see a much more streamlined version of this technology in a pair of sunglasses.

Abom Goggles

Abom Goggles. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Headwear

Airhole Airtube ($20 – September 16, 2017)

I guess Airtube has been around for a few years, but this is the first time I’ve noticed the Airtube and its kin in the company’s lineup. Looks like a nice option for improving breathing when cold temps warrant face coverage.

Airhole

A couple Airhole products. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Iced Cap 3.0 ($30 – Available Now)

Sure you can tuck some ice under your cap on a hot day, but it tends to fall out and isn’t the greatest option. A much better option is the two-layered drawstring-operated Iced Cap 3.0 that will distribute ice all around your head (not just on top). I can’t wait to try one this summer.

The Iced Cap 3.0

The Iced Cap 3.0. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Nutrition

GU Energy Gels – Ginger Ade (March 2017)

While I generally avoid including nutrition products in our OR roundups, I tried GU’s new Ginger Ade flavor and I really like it. How’s that for subjective! Truthfully, I think this expands the range of gel flavors out there, which is something for which we can all be thankful.

GU Ginger Ade

GU Ginger Ade (and Tutti Frutti Roctane). Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

GPS

Suunto Ambit3 Vertical ($469 $369/$519 $419 with HRM – On the Market)

The Suunto Ambit3 Vertical was included in my never-published Winter OR 2016 gear roundup. More than a year later, it remains my everyday GPS. From my viewpoint, the most important update for the Vertical is its form factor. Gone is the large antenna wing that extends below other Ambit3’s screens and the rear of the unit is flush unlike the protruding battery on the Ambit3 Peak. All in all, this means a more comfortable fit with a slight weight savings over the Ambit3 Sport (6 grams) and Peak (15 grams). There are also some new vert-centric features such as daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly vertical-gain tracking along with and in-run elevation-tracking graph. The price of Peak has dropped $100 (w/ or w/o HRM) since launch.

Suunto Ambit3 Vertical

The Suunto Ambit3 Vertical next to the Abmit3 Peak. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Call for Comments

What new gear has you psyched in 2017?

[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!]

There are 18 comments

  1. Bethany Patterson

    Those Julbo’s look amazing. Yippee for more women-specific glasses for those of us with small heads! And the ice cap sounds like a good option for those attempting Western States or Badwater.

    1. Bryon Powell

      A lot of guys deal with the issue of most sunglasses feeling or appearing too big. I know I’d try the Aerolite and, in fact, one of our male testers is trying them out. On the women’s side, Meghan’s liking them.

      While I’d prefer it to be 65F and sunny forever, I look forward to trying out the Iced Cap on a really hot day this summer.

  2. Adam L.

    In the VaporKrar line up there’s also the Waistpak which I didn’t see mentioned above. I have one sitting here, and it looks great but am yet to use it in anger.

  3. Sarah Lavender Smith

    Interesting — looks like both the new Raidlight and Orange Mud stage-racing packs are trying to copy Ultimate Direction’s fastpack, which I believe was the first to introduce the roll top (dry bag type of closure) and two sternum straps but no waist belt. As mentioned in the review, these packs would be better with optional front-carrying-capacity add-ons and stretchy mesh pockets on back. I wish they came with a handy front pouch (like those made by Amphipod) that could attach to the sternum or waist strap, to carry small things you need quick access to, such as the race booklet/map, camera etc.
    Thanks, Bryon, for a great roundup of items!

    -Sarah, UD Ambassador

  4. Brad Williams

    Hey Bryon, or anyone else for that matter, do you have any issues uploading the data from your Vertical via the phone app? I’m still using an Ambit 2R and it works fine but I’d love to be able to upload without using my computer. I’ve heard people have had issues with the Vertical in that regard.

    Thanks,
    Brad

    1. Bryon Powell

      I’m afraid I’ve not taken an in-person look at the modular belt since last July, so it’s hard to note any differences in the details. I’d guess that the Naked belt is taller than the Salomon belt by a good bit. I should see the Salomon belt next week and will try to remember to comment again.

  5. Karl Kamm

    Does anyone else find these items prohibitively overpriced? We should all push these companies to make products that are affordable. After all, running is pretty simple.

  6. Justin

    Hi. Can any owners of the Petzl Nao offer their opinions on the product? I’m thinking about sucking it up and buying one, but it hurts to spend that much on a headlamp, especially when there are decent ones at much lower price points. I have good eyes, and I’m used to running at night with much lesser lights, but why not make it easier on myself??

    1. EricAshleyNJ

      Hi Justin,
      I have the gen 1 Nao and a more recent Tikka RXP. My thoughts are as follows: the reactive lighting is a cute trick, but not actually that useful. I’ve taken to switching both headlamps to constant mode, particularly if there are cars around that I want to see me (their headlights will dim the headlamp immediately, making it ineffective for highlighting my presence). Second, the 750 lumens seems like a massive overkill. Even the gen 1 nao is a lot more light than I need, so I usually take the lighter weight tikka instead (even on technical trail). Personally, if I were buying a new lamp my wishlist would be A) easily switchable 250/100 lumen constant light B) longest possible battery life C) lowest weight.

      I’m sure there are plenty of other (valid!) opinions out there, but those are my two cents.

      1. Ben

        The Tikka RXP is all 99.9% of people need I believe. Buy a second, replaceable battery and you will be good to go all night.

    2. Scott

      I’ve hiked and run with the Black Diamond Spot for a few years on South/East trails (aka roots and rocks with the occasional stretch of dirt). It has 130 lumens and I’m just fine. I honestly don’t get why someone would want or need 750 lumens. Maybe for finding cairns at night?

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