Best Trail Running Gear of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012

Well, crap. I managed to turn around an encyclopedic review of the best shoes of the Summer 2012 Outdoor Retail Show in a matter of days… and had intended to do the same on the gear side. Didn’t happen. The good news is that all of the following gear is that much closer to being available if it hasn’t already snuck onto store shelves. Here’s what caught my eye.

Packs and Hydration

Ultimate Direction Signature Series Anton Krupicka Race Vest - back

Krupicka Vest

Ultimate Direction Signature Series Pack (November 2012)

The cat is out of the bag on these. The range of three packs in the Ultimate Direction Signature Series line – Anton Krupicka Race Vest, Scott Jurek Ultra Vest, and Peter Bakwin Adventure Vest – were the wow-me non-shoe product of Summer OR. (Okay, so it was a the wow-me product of Hardrock, but I digress.) These are lightweight packs designed to meet Krupicka’s, Jurek’s, and Bakwin’s specific needs. In a word, they’re awesome. For more on each pack, check them out in the iRunFar Store… and reserve a vest from our next shipment before they sell out.


Petzl Ultra Rush and Ultra Rush Belt ($430 and $500, respectively – January 2013)

The Petzl Ultra Rush is an update to the already blinding Petzl Ultra. The two versions will provide for a head-mounted battery (probably not the best running option) or a tethered battery pack. Pushing up to 700 lumens (from a previous max of 350 lumens), you will NOT want to shine this in an aid station volunteer’s face! Check out Petzl’s 2013 lighting page for more info.

Petzl Ultra Vario Belt

Ultra Vario Belt

Petzl Ultra Vario and Ultra Vario Belt ($430 and $500, respectively – January 2013)

The Petzl Ultra Vario replaces the Ultra Wide. The beam settings are more variable than the Ultra Wide while also providing a longer straight beam that extends to 70 meters. Maximum brightness was increased from 300 to 450 lumens. Check out Petzl’s 2013 lighting page for more info.

Black Diamond Revolt ($60 – January 2013)

With the Revolt, Black Diamond enters the hybrid-lighting category with a headlamp that works with both traditional alkaline batteries or a USB-rechargable battery.


Montbell Tachyon Jacket ($109 – March 1 ,2013)

I’m a sucker for a light windshirt and greatly prefer a full-zip jacket over a half-zip anorak even at the cost of a few grams. This hood-less jacket weighs in at a svelte 1.6 ounces including a DWR application. Mesh underarm inserts are a nice touch.

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket

Ghost Whisperer Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded Jacket ($165 – February 2013)

Mountain Hardwear is also adding a more versatile option to go along with its minimally light Ghost Whisperer Anorak. The Ghost Whisperer Hooded Jacket gives you both a full zip and a hood. That combination adds range at both the warm and cold ends of the spectrum at the cost of only a few grams. The only thing I’d like to see added to this jacket (which is my go-to dry-weather jacket these days) is a minimal addition to secure my hood inside my jacket when I’m not using it.

Smartwool Running Apparel (Early 2013)

Although folks have long worn Smartwool’s socks and baselayers for running, Smartwool is devoting a line entirely to running with a full range of tops (tanks, crew, long-sleeve zip) and bottoms (shorts and, for the ladies, a skort and carpis).

Injinji 2.0

Injinji 2.0

Injinji Run Performance 2.0 ($12-17 – February 1, 2013 at REI, February 15 elsewhere)

The leading toesock gets a significant tech upgrade this winter with the Performance 2.0 line. Performance 2.0 adds an elastic archband, selected mesh areas for greater breathability, and a performance cuff with increased elasticity. That might not sound like much, but I liken it to the shift that Smartwool made years ago when it went from its original running socks to the PhD line. Put another way, the leading toesocks just became high performance running socks, as well. Be on the lookout for a full review in the coming weeks.

Bonus: Injinji is adding its first ever dedicated trail sock to its lineup with midweight fabric in the heel and metarsals, a look that stands up to dirt better, a much thicker cuff that won’t fall down, and a tenser mesh on top than the non-trail socks.


Born2Run Slant Board

B2R Slant Board

Born2Run Training System ($80 – Currently available)

If you’ve read iRunFar for a while, you know that we don’t focus on barefoot running, natural running, or whatever you want to call that branch of running. Heck, I never made it past chapter 2 of Born to Run. That said, from time-to-time I do mix in footwear products from whatever we’ call that category today to build strength, range of motion, etc. At summer OR, I met with a company called Born2Run, which gave me a Level 1 Strength Training System in addition to a pair of shoes. While I’ve never made it so far as the included DVD (uh, I’m writing this round-up four months later ’cause I’ve been busy), I do have the small wooden B2R Slant Board in my bedroom and jump on it from time to time to wake up my lower legs and find some balance. I’ll also applaud the company for providing a comprehensive program for developing strength, flexibility, balance, and associated traits to compliment or prepare on for natural running.

Call for Comments

You stoked for any of this gear?

There are 24 comments

  1. Martin Olesen

    The Ultimate Direction packs looks cool and a worthy alternative to the Salomon ones.

    Which of the alternatives would be reccommended for a race like UTMB with all the required stuff + any extra clothing one might want to bring, considering the way the weather has turned the last couple of years?

  2. Charlie M.

    As always, this is just gentle teasing…here goes:

    Ultimate Direction pack: Unless you are a waif, this pack looks like it might be best used as shoulder pads.

    Petzl Lighting: For $500 I might as well just take off one of my Car Lights and run with it strapped to my chest with duct tape.

    Injinji Trail Socks: Yes, lime green does look better getting dusty than the previous brown/tan model. Wha? (am I missing something here?)

    Born2Run Slant Board: You are not allowed to use that thing, since you poo-poo all things Barefoot/Minimalist. Cheating!

    Thanks again as always for the reviews…very informative, very helpful, but I just can't help myself re: trying to be funny. I know, I know, I pretty much failed in the attempt…peace out, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year Bryon!

    1. Injinji

      Charlie M. – A few notes to keep your teasing on point and thus make it more effective. You'll have to see to believe the look of the new colors, yarn pattern looks great even with a dirt veneer. Also- we do make a variety of colors aside from brown/tan in our current product line :)

      1. Charlie M.

        Thanks, I'm glad my teasing led to more info! I am a long-time wearer of Injinji, I am definitely looking forward to the new line. Awesome..

    2. boisean

      Whooo, I agree, $500 for a headlamp?? I don't know how they can sleep at night charging those prices, but I guess if there's enough 'gear freaks' out there with a lot of disposable income, they'll get it. I for one, and I'd assume thousands of others too, that most of us can't justify or afford that kind of expenditure, especially when it is completely unnecessary. Other lamps would work well enough for a fraction of the cost.

      1. Bryon Powell

        Boisean, despite its name, the lamp isn't particularly targeted toward runners, at least not here in the US. Just yesterdayt, Petzl's US Marketing Director told me "To be honest, you'd have to be moving pretty fast to necessitate such a bright light." Among things it'd be particularly useful for – ski touring in trees at night…. when you need a ton of light at a reasonable distance.

        Personally, I use the Tikka series lights for pretty much and night trail running. However, I do throw on my first generation Ultra for pacing (why not provide more light and spot markings at a greater distance). I also used it at night in the pouring rain during UTMB… in combination with my Salomon S-Lab 4 Soft Ground, I could bomb down muddy ski slopes that I'd never seen. It was awesome! :-)

  3. Fernando N. Baeza

    Thanks for the sweet overview Bryon! Looks like the Petzl Vario, er I mean car headlight!…ha! Looks especially neat! Im going to get it! Thanks for sharing!

    Fernando N. Baeza
    San Antonio, TX

  4. Dom

    This summer I got 3 pairs of the new performance Injinji socks to test out. I took them all through the Sierras and expected something to blow out somewhere on the sock due to all the scree filling my shoes and wet conditions in snow/streams on 8-10 hour mountain runs. No blisters, no holes, these are not your normal socks, they're definitely a proven piece of gear in my opinion.

  5. Chris P.

    I hope that the positive talk of the new Injinji socks is all true. I love their socks because they're the only thing that keep me from getting blisters on my toes during runs longer than 5 hours, but they've always been far less durable (by a full order of magnitude in some cases) than many of their competitors in the world of trail socks.

    1. Clark

      I'm with Chris here, I have many versions of the Injinji's in my gear bag, and they do a fine job of preventing to blisters (even when wet). However, the toes do wear too quickly. Case in point: I wore a brand new pair at Hardrock this summer, and they were great for ~ 95M or so, at which point I noticed the big toe on my left foot getting sore. I thought I had a rock in the shoe and pulled it off to empty = you guessed it, my toe had burned thru the sock. Fortunately it was near the finish and the resultant blister was minor.

      On the upside, those who know me know I'll be all over that lime green = matches my HRH getup ala 'my future's so bright, YOU gotta wear shades…' :)

  6. James Brennan

    Bryon, I'm a sucker for good marketing and ringing endorsements. Just picked up this Ghost Whisperer jacket. Will test it out in Colorado and see if 2 ounces can provide good protection. Nice sale on jackets. James

    1. Bryon Powell

      I wore the Ghost Whisperer both yesterday and today. Yesterday, it was 10-15F and all I wore under it was a light tech half-zip. I truly love this jacket.

      Ps. Thanks for supporting iRunFar!

  7. Buzz

    It is my observation that choice in the capacity of a pack is based more on personal preference than on the route or distance covered. Some people carry almost nothing while others look like they're on a week backpacking trip.

    The design parameter for Anton's Race Vest was simple: "I want the lightest pack possible that will still carry the required gear for UTMB". So we collected the gear list, stuffed it into an early prototype, and verified it does indeed work.

    Having said that, a well-known runner used a Signature Series prototype at this year's UTMB – and he chose Scott's Ultra Vest. That's because it only weighs 1.5 oz more while doubling the capacity to 9.2 liters.

    The Ultra Vest (and Adventure Vest) have a clever bellows design that allows the capacity to expand to remarkable volume without proportionally increasing the weight or profile.

  8. Ultrawolf

    I´m using a Lupine Piko X which costed pretty much the same. First I thought "####, that´s pretty much money, I won´t spend that" but if you ever used one you see the difference – and don´t care any more. $500 is a lot of money, given the fact you´re careful and don´t destroy the lamp you will have it for many years to come. How much do they charge for registration at the Trans Rockies ? I would always go for the lamp if I had to choose.

  9. Aaron

    I'm still waiting for a tin cloth pack made specifically for running. I can't be the only one out there who wants that. Maybe if I mention it often enough here and there the idea might become more mainstream and become an alternative to yet another line of imported synthetic packs. In the meantime I'm working on my own prototype made from cotton canvas which is a shameless copy of the Ultraspire Kinetic/Fastpack design.

  10. stoaked

    Best running headlamp for the money-power-burntime….. light n motion Solite 250. $150. lots of ultrarunners wearing this lamp for its versatility as you can use it as a handheld as well. Super bright at 250 lumens and holds enough charge at 120 lumens to get you through an entire night of running. Many collegiate XC ski teams are wearing this to ski at night.

  11. Injinji

    Chris/Clark: We have been listening, and the new 2.0 line that Bryon reviewed has been worked on to increase the durability-especially in the toe areas, and overall as well. We have had this product on many ultra-runners as we were tweaking it over the course of the last year. Just an additional note, the more trim you can keep your toenails (if you have them :)), the longer the toe pockets will last. The continued rubbing from the nails does shorten their lifespan-just the nature of the toesock beast.

  12. monoukotori

    Has anyone tried knuckle lights as a secondary source of light during night running? Or do most ultrarunners make do with one light source only? And does the Solite or Petzl Ultra put a set circle on the ground or is there a way to soften the edges of the light it casts (drives me nuts after awhile, as if I'm wearing goggles but I'm not). Any tips greatly appreciated.

  13. grae

    I'll play. Speaking from my perspective, for the $, # lumens and just plain well thought out usefullness/design, the Solite 250 is it. The clarity of light is of such a quality, you don't need a second lamp. Depth perception is excellent. I don't really have an issue with tunnel vision, pretty soft edges.It is in a league all it's own as far as I'm concerned for trail running. I've been through the typical string of purchases from the likes of Black Diamond, Petzel, Princeton Tech, etc. and frankly, they all suck. Weak beams,heavy batteries = terrible depth perception. My opinion is these lights may be marketed "for running", but they are better off being used by hikers and climbers that have the face of the rock and the rope right in front of their face. "motion" has a background in mtn. bike lighting, so they really get it. I'll have to admit I'm not in to the $500+ battery pack lighting and have not had experience with that as far as running goes, cuz that's way out there for running and I don't like the weight and cords and all that stuff when I run.. For what it's worth, when I used to wear the camping lights, I would wear one on my head and one around my waist. This is in 100 milers only.And still they did not equal the Solite.

  14. Andrew

    Wow…700 lumens!?

    Why? Are you flying a helicopter and need to track a stolen car from your head light?

    I have a Tikkina 2 and at 23 lumens I have run offroad through the night perfectly well with it.

  15. Vern Lovic

    Hi Bryon,

    I was looking at what’s out there the other day and then made a page, then a website about headlamp options in 2017. Can click my name to see it. Took about 100 hours to make, so it’s pretty comprehensive, especially for Petzl headlamps – my favorite brand for sure. Just to update anyone reading this – the Ultra Rush has 760 lumens now – and 4 levels – all manual still, no Reactive Lighting Tech. Two 18650 batteries are in the Accu 2 battery pack. The Ultra Rush is a bit heavy for ultra runners, but man does it give a beautiful beam of light for hours and hours. The other alternative at Petzl would be the Nao+ Plus – currently at 750 lumens and using the Reactive LIghting Tech – can go for some hours too. Much lighter. One 18650 battery. Anyway, hope you come check out the site. ( Cheers!

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