Best Trail Running Gear of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012

A look at the best trail running gear of the 2012 winter Outdoor Retailer show.

By on February 15, 2012 | Comments

Twice a year, every company that’d want its products in an REI shows up in Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer show. As usual, iRunFar was there to check out the latest and greatest. Here are the favorite GPS, headlamp, and winter running products that we saw. Check back tomorrow for info on our favorite shoes from the show.

From the Know-Why-You’re-So-Ridiculously-Tired Dept.

Suunto Ambit (March 2012 – $500 w/o HR belt, $550 with)
Suunto’s long made high-end technical watches and wrist-top devices for the outdoor adventurer. With the GPS-based Ambit, Suunto raises things to a whole new level. Suunto Ambit silverI’m honestly fumbling regarding where to start with this one, so I’m dropping some key features in bullet points:

  • The Ambit has a GPS, accelerometer, barometric altimeter, 3D compass, and, optionally, a heart rate monitor.
  • FusedSpeed is a feature that blends GPS and accelerometer data to provide more responsive pace and speed info. The barometer also improves the accuracy of the vertical speed.
  • Up to 50 HOURS of GPS tracking … when you take a point once a minute. Even with the GPS recording set at every second, the unit has an impressive 15 hour battery life.
  • Integration of Suunto’s real-time Training Effect and Recovery time tools.
  • A ridiculously resilient screen and band. I’m pretty sure it’s way more durable than your arm. It’s also water resistant to 100 meters. That should be enough for most of us!

Aside from the Ambit’s hallmark functions, the interface easily switches between different sports and their associated screen elements. This GPS running watch is fully integrated with, which also provides the Ambit with upgradeable software. The watch also changes from positive to negative screen and back (i.e., black text on white background or the reverse).

We’ll be reviewing the Ambit in full later. For now, check out the Suunto’s Ambit page for more.

For our current favorite GPS watches for running, check out our Best GPS running watch guide.

From the Light-Up-The-Night Dept.

Petzl Nao (July 2012 – $175)
Petzl NaoJust when you thought you’d seen everything in headlamps and that brighter, lighter, or longer were the only differentiating factors, along comes the Petzl Nao. At 355 lumens max, the dual-LED Nao (pronounced “now”) is brighter than the “Oh Sh!t!”-bright Petzl Ultra, but what will really wow you is its Reactive Lighting. Simply put, the Nao’s Reactive Lighting uses a sensor to automatically adjust brightness. Look up and out for the next trail blaze and you get the full lighthouse-power of the Nao. Point your head down at a map – or, more likely, in the face of your running companion – and the Nao dims to a much lower brightness. Start running again and the Nao returns to its original moderate brightness. The effect is so subtle that you really have to pay attention to it. As all of the outputs are reprogrammable through your computer, you can adjust the transition time between brightnesses to really highlight this effect.

While it’s awesome to have a headlamp that will automatically minimize the chances that your trail running buddy will donkey kick you for continuously blinding him with 355 lumens, Petzl primarily touts the Reactive Lighting feature for its battery saving capability. There are two pre-programmed constant (i.e., non-reactive) output settings, 315 and 88 lumens, that last 1 hour and 20 minutes and 8 hours, respectively. Of course, if you’ll be out running for longer in the dark, you can reprogram the Nao for longer durations. There are also a high and low setting in Reactive Lighting mode that Petzl claims last 4 hours and 40 minutes and approximately 8 hours respectively.

The Nao fits comfortably with good distribution of weight in the front and back. Speaking of weight, we weighed the Nao at 6.7 ounces (190 grams).

For more information, you can head on over to Petzl’s Nao page.

Black Diamond Polar-Icon (August 2012 – $90)
Black Diamond Polar IconFor the past few years, Black Diamond’s Roch Horton has been sharing a handful of headlamps that you’re likely to have never heard about. Generally, the few lucky enough to have a Roch-Horton-Special BD headlamp had one of BD’s latest headlamps with a separate, detachable battery pack that accepted rechargeable or off-the-shelf batteries. In essence, that meant you could use Black Diamond’s latest and great headlamp without concern for the unit’s battery life (if it was rechargable) and without the battery weight on your head.

With the Black Diamond Polar Icon, we can now all have a Roch Horton Special. The modified Icon headlamp takes 4 AA batteries and, with batteries, weighs in at a claimed 8.1 ounces (230 grams). The light will spout 200 lumens from its main LED while two white and two red 35-lumen, low-power LEDs will give you longer-lived lighting options. Black Diamond is touting the headlamp as an extreme cold weather option as you can stow the battery unit against your core thereby maintaining the batteries’ effectiveness in low temps. However, there are advantages for those of us who but rarely run in the dark in sub-zero F temps, namely the option for swapping out external battery packs while taking most of the headlamp’s weight off your head. This should be perfect for the next bandit night run in the Wasatch…

From the Snow-Will-Not-Break-My-Heart Dept.

Yaktrax Run (Fall 2012 – $40)
Yaktrax RunFor the past few years, the Yatrax Pro (review) have been my favorite all-around winter running traction device. The main issue with the Yaktrax Pro was durability and a much more minor issue was traction while running on pure ice. This autumn, Yaktrax will debut an even better product for our kind – the Yaktrax Run. With the Run, Yaktrax upped the durability of their rubber compound while replacing the forefoot coils with six spikes. The front spikes should provide killer grip on ice while the rear coils will kill it on packed snow. The forefoot spikes are embedded in two plates that can easily be removed should you want to run without them.

In medium, a pair of Yaktrax Run protos weigh in at 9.0 ounces as opposed to 5.0 ounces for the current Yaktrax Pro and 12.4 ounces for Kahtoola Micorspikes. Like the Pros, the Run have a velcro strap over the forefoot to ensure a secure fit. Unlike the Pro, the Run’s vecro strip has reflective highlights.

Note: Yaktrax is also working to increase the durability of its Yaktrax Pro model.

Call for Comments

  • Are you psyched about trying any of the above products later this year?
  • Looking to learn about any other product categories (other than shoes)?

Ps. Yes, the headings are a tribute to /. founder CmdrTaco. Yes, I am that kinda geek… and, yes, I’m okay with it.

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.