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Top Ten Pieces of Gear 2010 – Part 2

Welcome back for part 2 of our Adventure Racing Gear Top Ten!  If you missed part 1, you can find it right here.  Below you’ll find numbers 6 through 10 (and a bonus #11).  Again, these are in no particular order.  Okay, on to the gear reviews – here we go!

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6. Golite Mesh Hat

Adventure Racing Review - Golite Mesh hat

I used to wear Outdoor Research’s Swift Cap as you may have read in our ABC’s of Gear part III.  While that is a quality cap, I’ve since switched to the Golite Mesh Cap, and I’ve never looked back.

It’s the most comfortable hat I’ve worn, it breathes really well, and it wicks moisture much better than the OR Swift.  It comes in white (which I prefer since it’s much cooler), black, and white and gold.  You can also get a Golite Visor if you so desire.  The hat weighs almost nothing, and it’s quite stretchy.  There is a coolmax liner to keep the sweat out of your eyes as well.

One other great feature is the dark underside of the bill.  This cuts out the glare you would find with other white caps (kind of like when football/baseball players put eyeblack under their eyes), making it perfect for paddling.  Oh, and yeah… This cap also keeps the sun out of your eyes.

Yes, the white cap can get pretty grimy.  I’ve thrown mine in the dishwasher with success, and when it gets really nasty, I just scrub it by hand in the sink using dish soap.  It has come out clean every time (with the exception of a small ketchup stain on the side when my nephew Eli accidentally mashed a hot dog into the side of my head – and even that can hardly be seen).

The Breakdown:

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Highly breathable
  • Wicking / Keeps sweat out of eyes
  • Looks great
  • Comfy
  • Blocks out glare with dark underside of the bill
  • Washes easily

Cons:

  • White can show dirt and grime more than other colors
  • Not-fully Nephew/Hotdog-proof (see above if you just skipped to the bullet points)

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7. Suunto Clipper Micro Compass

Adventure Racing Gear Review - Suunto Clipper Micro Compass

This little compass comes with its own band, but it also fits on most watch bands (which is how I wear it).  This is perfect for quick and easy navigation or for when you just need to get a general bearing. There is even an adjustable bezel if you want to take a more accurate bearing.  In fact, for all but the most difficult navigation, this is pretty much the only compass I use.

I recently forgot to take this with me to the 24 Hour Shawnee Extreme Rogaine, and I was so bummed!  For the first 12 hours, I kept looking down at my wrist only to find that it wasn’t there.  To be honest, I sort of felt naked without it.  It was a pain to keep grabbing my compass, holding it steady, and getting a general bearing.  It’s just so much quicker and easier with the Clipper Micro Compass.

I’ve never had any issues with this compass.  It’s durable, and it’s very affordable at only 11 bucks or so.  I hated that I left it at home for that last race, and I don’t plan on making that mistake again.

The Breakdown:

Pros:

  • Tiny and lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Accurate
  • Great for quick and dirty nav
  • Adjustable bezel allows for more accurate nav
  • Bezel and arrow glow in the dark
  • Comes with band or fits on watch band

Cons:

  • None that I’ve found

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8. Mountain FeedBag

Adventure Racing Gear Review - Mountain Feedbag

Okay, I know this one looks weird.  I had my doubts about it when I first saw it.  Won’t it get in the way?  Nope.  Won’t my bike be off-balance since it’s only on one side? Nope. Won’t everyone stop me and ask about it?  Maybe…

The Mountain Feedbag holds a ton of stuff – bars, gels, energy drinks, candy bars, bike tool, an extra water bottle, keys, cell phone, beer… The list goes on and on.  And the best part is you can access all of this without getting off of the bike.

Imagine actually answering the phone before it goes to voice mail while you’re still riding! Or imagine scarfing down a Clif Bar while passing your competitors as they stop to access their packs!  It’s all right in front of you and easily accessible since you can easily open and close the Feedbag with one hand.

It’s never gotten in the way on any ride I’ve ever done.  Not once has it hit my bike or a knee.  And I’ve never felt off-balance with this on my bike.  In fact, I don’t even notice it’s there until I need to get something out of it.  Pairing the Feedbag up with a Simple Strap (reviewed in Part 1) has been an amazing combo, and I’ll never go back to a saddle pouch.

For longer rides or races, this thing is a life saver.  Planning on doing Syllamo’s Revenge?  Get a FeedBag.  Love doing gravel road rides?  Get a FeedBag.  Tired of stopping to access your phone or food?  Get a FeedBag.  Seriously, just get one and thank me later.

The Breakdown:

Pros:

  • Holds an amazing amount of stuff
  • Completely accessible while riding
  • One-hand operation
  • Stays completely out of the way
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Looks a little odd

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9. e-Fuel Electrolyte Energy Drink

Adventure Racing Gear Review - e-Fuel Electrolyte Energy Drink

Okay, I’ve talked about e-Gel and e-Fuel for a long time now – basically in every race report I’ve written.  Why?  Because they work!  I truly believe that the e-Fuel saved my race at The Berryman Adventure this year.

The e-Gel is great, but I prefer the e-Fuel.  What’s the difference?  Well the e-Gel is a lot like other gels (only better in my opinion) while the e-Fuel is meant to be added to water.  It’s not a messy powder, though.  I always hated trying to mix powders in my water bottles during a race.  It’s a pain in the ass and way too messy.  The e-Fuel is a concentrated liquid in a pouch slightly larger than a gel pouch.  You simply rip the top off and pour it into your bottle.  No fuss, no muss.  Unlike messy powders, e-Fuel is perfect for carrying in your pack.  It’s quick, clean, and easy.  It mixes way better than powders do as well.

I honestly believe that e-Fuel works better than any other gel/drink I’ve tried.  My teammates agree.  Don’t believe us?  Go here and compare e-Fuel to other products for yourself.

The only thing we can’t figure out is why more people aren’t using it.  We haven’t seen anyone else at any adventure races using it.  In a way, it’s kind of been our secret weapon against cramps.  Maybe I shouldn’t be letting the cat out of the bag.  Oops… Too late.

On top of all of that, the good people at Crank Sports (the makers of e-Gel and e-Fuel) offer a great incentive program.  By joining their free “club” you get 10% of all purchases back to put towards future purchases.  Great deal, right?  Right.

The Breakdown:

Pros:

  • This stuff works!
  • Not a powder
  • Mixes easily, quickly, and cleanly
  • Tastes great – very light and refreshing
  • Great incentive program
  • Did I mention this stuff works?
  • Liquid concentrate in an easy to carry pouch
  • Comparable in price or cheaper than other products
  • Three flavors

Cons:

  • None I have found

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10. Mountainsmith Cyber II Camera Bag

Adventure Racing Gear Reviews - Mountainsmith Camera Bag

Team Virtus has been accused of taking too many photos during a race.  Maybe that’s true.  Could we be a little faster if we didn’t stop for some photos?  Sure.  But that’s not what we’re all about.  We do this for the fun and experience of it all.

Photos help us remember the highs as well as the lows.  Photos also help us tell our stories.  I’d say our race reports would be almost worthless without photos.  I mean let’s face it… Most of you just skim our reports and take a look at the photos, don’t you?

Since photos are such a big part of our team and our experiences, we try to take a camera on all rides and races.  But it’s not enough to just take it.  The camera must be easily accessible to capture those great moments.  So…  How do we carry the camera?  Well, if you’re Bob then you just carry your camera in a pocket and either lose it or break it.  Casey and I both use the Mountainsmith Cyber II Camera Bag.

This thing is nearly indestructible.  Mine still looks brand new after a year of abuse.  My camera fits perfectly in it, and the zipper and velcro closure keep my camera secure.  The best part of this camera bag is you can attach it to your shoulder strap.  It sits comfortably out of the way while still being easy to get into for those Kodak Moments.  It’s also a great everyday camera case – just take it off of your pack and throw it in your car, purse, suitcase, whatever.

The Breakdown:

Pros:

  • Very durable
  • Fits on a backpack strap for quick and easy access
  • Secure zipper and/or velcro flap closure
  • Inexpensive
  • Great for races or everyday use

Cons:

  • Not waterproof (use an aloksak bag for that)
  • May smell like BO after a hot race since it’s so close to your armpit (a quick wash and you’re good to go)

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Bonus – 11. The TRX Suspension Trainer

TRX Suspension Trainer Review

With cold weather approaching, now is a great time to build some strength and shed some fat.  One of the best ways to do that is with a TRX Suspension Trainer.  This thing is amazing!

It can be attached to almost anything, and you can do an almost infinite number of movements on this baby.  From strength to flexibility to conditioning to yoga moves, this thing can do it all.  And if you want to have the best core workout of your life, then you need to get one of these.  There is nothing better.  Seriously, it’s amazing.  To get a small idea of what you can do on the TRX, take a look at a video of me kicking my own ass on this thing (please don’t laugh).

Too many endurance athletes neglect strength training, in my humble opinion.  While I firmly believe in using free weights for all athletes, the TRX is a great first step.  It may seem expensive at first, but it’s literally a gym in a bag.  You can take it anywhere and do anything on it.  I love mine.

Check this out: If you’ve been on the fence, then now is the time to buy one.  If you order between November 24th through November 29th and use the code TRXMAS, you’ll get 25% off plus free shipping! Order between November 30th and December 12th and use the same code to get 20% off plus free shipping.  Use the same code between December 13th and December 16th to get 15% off and free shipping.

The Breakdown:

Pros:

  • Incredibly useful – unlimited number of movements can be done
  • Portable – take it anywhere and attach it to almost anything
  • Great for Conditioning
  • Great for Strength Training
  • Great for Core Training
  • Great for Flexibility Training
  • Indestructible (it can hold my fat ass)

Cons:

  • Somewhat expensive (but worth it)

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Well, that wraps up my top ten (or eleven) picks of the best adventure racing gear for 2010.  What did you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Have some top picks of your own that we should know about?  Post a comment!

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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 Mountain FeedBag 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.

 

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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