Summer Gear Heaven

The summer Outdoor Retailer show has been over for three months, so why am I writing about it now? For […]

By on October 24, 2009 | Comments

The summer Outdoor Retailer show has been over for three months, so why am I writing about it now? For starters, I still want to clue you in on the best gear on its way to market. While a few of the products mentioned below are available right now, most will be released in late winter/early spring 2010. I’d rather limit your gear lust to 3 months rather than 6! Second, I was just too busy this summer to write about the show (think, OR in Salt Late City on Friday evening, Seattle on Saturday morning, and Banff on Sunday), and it now fits in with this week’s theme of the iRunFar Summer Road Trip. Alright, enough with the lame excuses and on to the gear!

Top(o) Product

Without a doubt, the product that excited me most at Summer OR was National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated Explorer software. This software is based on National Geographic’s fantastic Trails Illustrated maps and follows up on the group’s Topo! software with which some readers may be familiar. I used Topo! to explore routes in the Appalachians not long after I started running ultras early in the decade. Topo! had great data, but was a pain in the butt to use, as you had to plot a point for every spot you wanted to follow along the trail.

Well, along comes Trails Illustrated Explorer with every trail and road pre-digitized. No more tedious point plotting. Just drag the cursor along an established route and Trails Illustrated Explorer does the rest. The Trails Illustrated Explorer series, which currently includes many iconic National Parks and some entire regions (i.e., the White Mountains, Colorado 14ers, and the Sierra Nevada), is addicting. The only thing more fun than planning a myriad of routes is trying them out!

[I’ve used the Sierra Nevada edition since I’ve returned to the Sierra Foothills and love it even more in practice than in theory. Not only is it great for learning the trails of Yosemite National Park, but helps me to easily explore new road routes from home.]

Trail Shoes
New Balance MT100New Balance MT100 – Summer OR brought the Anton Krupicka and Kyle Skaggs inspired MT100 one step closer to the market. Low profile and ultra light, these slipper-esque trail shoes are a minimalist’s dream. Enough so, that they are one of the most highly anticipated trail running shoes in a long while. The MT100 and their women’s counterpoint, the WT100, are already available. (Support iRF by using the following links to purchase the MT100 or WT100.)

[Be aware that the bright orange version of the MT100 you’ve seen in magazines (and see above) will not be available in the US… just various shades of drab gray for us.]

“Hybrid” Shoes – While Brooks might not be changing much about the Cascadia between versions 4 and 5, other companies are looking to give the Cascadia a run for its money.

Patagonia Footwear‘s first “running” offering, the Release, was more akin to a light hiker than a trail running shoe. Not so much with the forthcoming Tsali. A thin rock plate and lighter than usual EVA combine to make a 10 ounce shoe aimed at running to the trailhead as well as from it.

The North Face Single-TrackThe North Face’s outstanding gear and apparel were adopted by the outdoor community long ago. That’s not the case with TNF’s trail running shoes which have yet to catch on widely. The North Face hopes to change all that with the forthcoming Single-Track, a 11.5 oz (men’s 9) offering that should help update the company’s image.

[Aside from offering the Single-Track, TNF will be actively re-imaging its line of trail running shoes. First off, the classic Half Dome logo is being replaced with a swooshier logo. In addition, previous TNF trail shoe offerings will see name updates. For instance, the Arnuva will become the Sentinel and the Rucky Chucky will become the Devil’s Thumb.]

Salomon Reelax – An apres-running shoe, the Relax is a treat for your feet. It was just what my feet needed in the weeks after running the Leadville 100. Keep your eyes open for the Relax early next year.

Salomon RelaxJust like New Balance’s MT/WT 100,
the bright version of Salomon’s Relax (above) will not be found state-side

For the barefootin’ crowd, Virbam will be giving you two new options. First off, is the KSO Trek ($125) that makes the KSO more trail-worthy by adding a kangaroo leather upper and some light cleating to the tread. The Bikila, named after basefoot Olympic marathon champ Abebe Bikila, is designed for the roads with a padded ankle collar and reflective accents. The Bikila will be available for $100
in 2010.

My favorite accessory of Summer OR ’09 was Mountain Hardwear’s Seta strapless running gaiter. The gaiter should work with all running shoes, as it is not subject to proprietary attachment points as have some earlier running gaiters. I look forward to a readily available running gaiter with reflective details and extra velcro patches so that the gaiter can be worn with multiple pairs of shoes.

Mountain Hardwear Seta running gaiter
On the apparel front, it looks like Moeben’s arm sleeves (iRF review) will be seeing even more competition this summer as everyone and their mother comes out with arm warmers. Merrell will be taking the concept one step further than many others by pairing arm warmers with matching short-sleeve technical shirts as part of its Trail Mix collection. The men’s Dualtrek ($65) is a straight-forward sleeve/shirt pairing, while the women’s Longmont ($79) pairs a shrug with the top. Both tops have stash pockets and reflective details.

I didn’t notice any game changing lights at OR this year. That said, two companies made notable upgrades to their lighting lines.

Topping the lighting update list is Petzl’s overhaul of its Tikka/Zipka line with the introduction of the Tikka2, Zipka2, Tikkina2, and so on. All of these lights now throw way more light than their precedent model with no additional wear on the batteries. The Tikka Plus 2, Zipka Plus 2, and Tikka XP 2 now feature a battery indicator and an additional red light. The wee e-Lite (iRF review) gains a tiny whistle in the cord lock.

Since 2008, GoMotion has provided chest- and waist-mounted lighting options for trail runners. This summer GoMotion added 1 and 3-Watt Waist Light Kits. The company previously offered and continues to offer a LiteBelt waist pack; however, the new Waist Light Kits allows a trail runner to add an easy lighting option to her or his favorite running belt.

I correctly called the CamelBak Flow Meter’s ($30) introduction heading into summer OR. This small hydration tube attachment measures fluid consumption, tracks remaining reservoir supply, and monitors programmable hydration goals.

High in the sky pack maker Osprey is jumping into the hydration game with Osprey Hydraulics. Two packs – the Manta (20 liters cargo capacity) and the Raptor (6 liter cargo capacity) – are scheduled for mid-February 2010 release. Highlights of the series include a nozzle that magnetically clips to the sternum strap and a “LidLock” on the Raptor that will quickly attach a helmet to the pack.

[Disclaimer: We received free samples of the following products: National Georgraphic Trails Illustrated Explorer: Sierra Nevada; New Balance MT100; The North Face Single-Track; Salomon Relax; Petzl Tikka Plus 2, and GoMotion 1-Watt Waist Light Kit. In addition, affiliate links in this post help support]

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.