Top Ten Pieces of Gear for 2010 – Part 1

Adventure Racing Gear Reviews - Top Ten

First of all, we’re not exactly affluent.  I have about as much money as Paris Hilton has brains. So we pretty much can’t buy the newest and most expensive adventure racing gear that hits the market.  That being said, all of us here at Team Virtus Head Quarters are gear-nerds, gear-junkies, equipment-hoarders, incredibly sexy… whatever you want to call us.  We love new gadgets and equipment, but we must be selective in what we buy.  When it comes to making new purchases, we have a few criteria.

Our adventure racing gear should:

1. Be Affordable
2. Be Durable
3. Be Lightweight
4. Be Multipurpose

So, without further ado, here are the first five of my top ten picks of adventure racing gear that I’ve used over the last year or so (in no particular order):

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1. Princton Tec Remix Headlamp

Adventure Racing Gear Review - Princeton Tec Remix Headlamp

If you’ve read our series on the ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear, then you’re aware that I love the Princeton Tec Apex Headlamp.  For long races when I know I’ll be biking or navigating at night I’ve always opted for the Apex for its long battery life and brightness.  However, the Remix has started to become my new go-to headlamp.  It’s smaller, lighter, and cheaper than the Apex, and it provides plenty of light with great battery life.  If I know I’m going to be biking on single track at night, then I might still go with the Apex, but for everything else I’m taking the Remix.

The Remix has 3 smaller Ultrabright LED’s which provide a flood light that is perfect for most tasks, and it has 1 Maxbright LED for spot-lighting when you need to find that reflective checkpoint or see the trail a little better.  There is even a high and low setting for both light modes.  The three AAA batteries provide more than adequate battery life (I never had to change the batteries at The Berryman 36-Hour  Adventure Race). You can also get the Remix Pro which takes CR123 batteries.  I, however, prefer using AAA’s since they can be found virtually anywhere.

Another cool option for the Remix is choosing between white, red, and green smaller LED’s.  Red light will preserve night vision while green light is supposed to make map reading easier at night.  I went with the white LED’s since I use this baby for reading at night in bed, working in dark spaces, going on backpacking trips, and for family camping.

The Breakdown:

Pros:

  • Affordable at around $35
  • Very small and lightweight
  • Great battery life
  • Task Lighting as well as a spot light
  • High/Low outputs for both light modes
  • Smooth solid beam pattern with no dark spots or rings
  • White, Green, and Red options for the task light LED’s
  • AAA battery model or CR123 battery model
  • Level 1 waterproof rating
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Not as bright as other lamps such as the Apex

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2. Hennessy Hammock

Hennessy Hammock for Adventure RacingTired of the restless nights before a race as you’re listening to your teammates snoring (Bob), talking in their sleep (Casey), or farting (all of Team Virtus)?  Tired of trying to find a perfectly flat campsite?  Tired of laying on the hard, unforgiving ground?  Tired of taking forever to set up and take down your tent?  Tired of waking up in a pool of water? Enter the incredible Hennessy Hammock. Problems solved. Period.

After getting this hammock for Christmas last year, I’ve used it many times, and it never ceases to amaze me.  It doesn’t matter where you want to camp (as long as there are trees of course).  Rocky terrain? No problem. Hilly, uneven terrain?  That’s easy.  On a boat? This Hammock can do that too. Seriously, you can set this thing up almost anywhere.  No Trees?  As long as you have trekking poles or something similar, you can set it up on the ground if you must.  Worried about sleeping flat or on your side while in the hammock?  Lay down diagonally in the hammock, and it’s not a problem.

The attached netting keeps the bugs at bay.  The bottom entry design, while odd at first, is simply ingenious.  There is no way you’re ever gonna fall out of this thing like you might see on America’s Funniest Home Videos.  The set up is quick and easy with a little practice, and the take-down is even quicker – especially if you use the snake skins.  They are more than worth the extra twenty bucks – trust me on this one.

I don’t think I can go back to tent camping now that I have the Hennessy Hammock.  While I’ve never used it during a race, I’ve used it before and after several races.  I’ve even taken it family camping when we had too many people in our pop-up camper. This hammock is perfectly suited for backpacking and bike-packing trips as well.

Wherever I’ve taken my hammock, it always stirs up interest.  Once people check it out, they immediately want one.  I can’t speak highly enough of this hammock.  Get one, and you won’t be sorry.

The Breakdown:

Pros:

  • Lighter than most tents
  • More affordable than most tents
  • Easy to set up and take down (with a little practice)
  • Very comfortable
  • Can be set up nearly anywhere over nearly any terrain
  • Interesting conversation starter

Cons:

  • Some people may find it claustrophobic (though I find there is more than enough room)
  • Small learning curve on the set up (although videos on Youtube make it easier)
  • Only one person per hammock (unless you weigh half as much as I do)

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3. Buff Headwear

Adventure Racing Gear Review - Buff Headwear

This is another item that blows me away.  The Buff always looked cool to me, but it took me forever to actually get one.  I just thought it was kind of gimmicky.  Once I used a Buff, though, I knew I’d never go back to a measly old stocking cap.

This thing is surprisingly simple as a seamless tube of fabric, yet it is more useful than almost anything else I’ve seen.  You can wear it as a stocking cap, scarf, neck gaiter, balaclava, do-rag, headband (great for biking), hairband, pony-tail holder (not that my hair is long enough), wristband, and probably even more.

I can even think of a few more uses for it: a bandage, a sling, a napkin, a blindfold, a lens/glasses cleaner, a gag (I’m not sure why you would want to use it in this way, but hey – different strokes for different folks). I actually almost used it once as an impromptu chamois when I forgot my bike shorts for one race.  It probably would have worked, but fortunately, my taint held up without it.

The Original Buff is made of a polyester microfiber that is super comfortable, and it comes in lots of colors and designs.  It’s only around $20, so this is a no-brainer.  Seriously, go get one (or two) for yourself or for loved ones.  You can also get a Reflective Buff for more nighttime visibility for a couple more bucks.  Also, and this is the one I really want to get next, you can pick up a Merino Wool Buff for around $27-$30 (Honey, if you’re reading this, that was a hint – wink, wink).

I take my Buff pretty much everywhere I go, and I wouldn’t even consider racing without it (even in the summer because you never know).  It meets and exceeds all of our criteria: It’s affordable, durable, lightweight, and it just might have more uses than any other piece of gear that I carry.  Gimmicky? Nope. Simple? Yes.  Amazing?  Absolutely.

The Breakdown:

Pros:

  • Only 20-ish bucks
  • Weighs next to nothing
  • Highly wicking
  • Multipurpose is an understatement
  • Many colors and designs
  • Reflective and Wool options

Cons:

  • Um… I guess it could be easy to lose?  Other than that I haven’t found any.

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4. Simple Strap

Adventure Racing Gear - ByeKyle Simple Strap

The ByeKyle Simple Strap is appropriately named.  It is simply a velcro strap with a rubberized backing.  That’s it.  That’s all.  Simple, right?  Just because it’s simple, though, doesn’t meant it doesn’t work.

I’ve tried several Seat Packs, Saddle Pouches, or whatever you want to call them.  I’ve always been disappointed since they have always ended up torn at the seams, and they were always noisy and cumbersome to get into.  The Simple Strap has held up to some punishing abuse, and it’s incredibly easy to use (even in the cold with gloves on).

There are several ways to use the Simple Strap: Under the Saddle, on the seat post, holding on a light or camera, in-the-field repairkeeping your pants out of your chain, strapping your pump to the bike, as a beer koozie, and more.

Simple Straps are made in the USA (Now THAT is awesome!), they are nearly indestructible, they come in many colors (you can even get custom straps), and get this… They are only $6.99!!!  At that price, you should get several.  I need to order more since my brother (I’m looking at you, Zack!) still has one of mine.

Pros:

  • Really inexpensive
  • Indestructible
  • Holds gear securely
  • Easy to use – no fumbling and bumbling in a pack or pouch
  • Many, many uses

Cons:

  • Perhaps exposing your tube/CO2 inflator to mud and muck could be a problem (though I’ve never had an issue with this on any of my races)

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5. Hydropel Sports Ointment

Adventure Racing Gear Review - Hydropel Sports Ointment

I first heard of Hydropel when my brother and I volunteered as a support crew for Team Gerber Gear, led by two Navy Seals.  They used it, and they said that the Seals use it during “Hell Week.”  That alone should have been good enough for me.  However, there is a trick to using it that makes it even more effective.

While at the High Profile Adventure Camp, professional paddler Jeremy Rodgers (who referred to us, nicknamed the 6 lb Burrito Brothers, in his blog) gave an eye-opening lecture on foot care.  One of his best tips: Apply Hydropel to your feet and/or other blister-prone areas the night before your race.  The silicone-based Hydropel then has time to sort of bond with your skin making the protection even more potent and effective. Hydropel had always worked for me,  but after using Jeremy’s tip, I have yet to get a blister on my feet (knock on wood).

Hydropel is a little expensive (compared to petroleum jelly) at $20 per tube, but it is more than worth it since a little bit goes a long way.  And let’s face it… Your feet are your most important piece of gear when it comes to racing.  If you don’t take care of your feet, then your race is over.

The Breakdown:

Pros:

  • Superior product for blister free feet (especially when applied in advance)
  • Not as messy as other lubricants
  • No smell at all

Cons:

  • Somewhat expensive

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So that wraps up Part 1 of our Top Ten Pieces of Adventure Racing Gear.  I hope you liked the gear reviews, and if you did, be sure to check back in soon for part 2 (Now posted right here).  Have any pieces of gear you think should be on this list?  Leave a comment!  Seriously, we want to hear from YOU!

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Full Disclosure:  Most of the links in this post are our affiliate links where we will get a small percentage of the sales (excluding the Simple Strap link).  This doesn’t mean we don’t whole-heartedly believe in the products, because we certainly do.  If you don’t want to buy through these links, that’s cool with us, although we would certainly appreciate it.

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About Lukas Lamb

Husband to a wonderful wife, father to 4 incredible kids (3 daughters and 1 son), adventure racer, mountain biker, runner, lifter of weights, reader of books, and lover of life. He can be found on Google+

Posted on November 22, 2010, in Gear and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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