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Round TWO of the ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear – Part 3

Well, we’re back with our newest installment in our series of adventure racing gear reviews and recommendations.  If you need to get caught up, you can go to Part 1 and Part 2.  Now, without further ado, here is part 3…

K is for Kinesio Tex Tape

Kinesio Tape for Blisters while Adventure Racing

Stop packing regular old Athletic Tape in your first aid kit.  Kinesio Tex Tape is FAR superior.  According to John Vonhof in his excellent and highly recommended book, Fixing Your Feet, “Athletic white tape is not well suited for taping feet because of its lack of quality adhesive.”  And if you’ve ever tried to use athletic tape on a sweaty foot during an adventure race, then you know it’s a lost cause.  Well, that’s not true with Kinesio Tape, which was actually designed for muscle taping.  A lot of physical therapists and athletic trainers use it.

This tape has a paper backing, so it can be measured and pre-cut before applying to the skin.  The paper backing also prevents the tape from sticking to itself or other items in your pack in hot weather.  It comes in 2″, 3″, and 4″ widths (although I use the 2″ variety), it stretches, it’s porous and breathable, it’s really smooth, and it sticks to your skin better than anything I’ve used.  The adhesive is heat-activated, so you should briskly rub the tape to generate some heat once it’s been applied.  This will ensure that the tape stays in place much, much longer.

Vonhoff, an accomplished ultra-runner himself who has been a medical volunteer at races such as Primal Quest, Raid the North Extreme AR, and the Western States 100, has this to say about Kinesio Tex Tape (also from his book Fixing Your Feet):

“Kinesio Tex tape is my tape of choice for 90% of my taping jobs… Kinesio Tex is thin, easily applied, and sticks exceptionally well.”

If it’s the go-to tape for a guy that has kept feet healthy at some of world’s toughest races, then why in the world would you take some crappy, worthless athletic tape on your next race?  Seriously, get some Kenesio Tex Tape, and you won’t be sorry.

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L is for Layers – Patagonia Regulator Layers

Layering Patagonia R1 and R2 for Adventure Racing

For any outdoor pursuit, you’re better off carrying LAYERS instead of carrying one heavy jacket.  That way you can add a layer when you’re too cold or shed a layer when you’re too warm, easily adjusting to the changing weather or your changing activity level.  During an adventure race, though, you want to carry as little as possible while being prepared for anything and everything.  That’s where the Patagonia Regulator (R) Series works better than anything I’ve tried before.

The R-1 is comparable to a 100-weight fleece, but it’s much lighter and much more compressible.  It has a “waffle-like” texture on the inside of the fabric that increases the insulation factor while minimizing bulk and weight.  It’s breathable, stretchy, and it wicks moisture like a champ.  It’s also durable.  I’ve had my R-1 for over 11 years.  I got it before my NOLS course back in 2000, and I literally wore it every single day while backpacking through the Rockies for 28 days straight.  It’s been with me ever since, and it’s still going strong.  It just might be my favorite piece of apparel for adventure racing.

The R-2 is comparable to a 200-weight fleece, but it is also much lighter and more compressible.  Instead of the “waffle” design, the R-2 is sort of furry.  This “fur” is called “variegated-fiber” fabric.  All I know is that it is wicked warm for it’s weight.  It’s REALLY breathable, so if it’s windy, a light wind-shell would be a good idea, but for adventure racing, the breathability is a good thing.  Plus, the R-2 just looks cool.  I’ve had many people come up to me to ask what kind of jacket it was, and a few of the braver ones have actually rubbed my sleeve to feel the “fur” (there are so many jokes there, but I’ll let you come up with your own).

Now, here comes the best part.  While the R-1 and the R-2 are amazing pieces on their own, which is how I often use them, the real magic happens when you wear them together.  The warmth-to-weight ratio of these two together just can’t be beat.  If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll notice my blue R-1 under my green R-2.  It’s a great combination.  You’ll also notice that I’m really happy since I’m about to stuff my face, but that’s beside the point.

Patagonia offers an R-3 and even an R-4, but I haven’t tried those out.  Honestly, I don’t think you’d ever need anything more than an R-1 and an R-2 for 90% or more of adventure races.

The only drawback to these layers is the price.  They aren’t cheap, but I truly believe they are worth every penny.  Check out the Patagonia R1 Jackets and the Patagonia R2 Jackets.  Expensive?  Yes.  Worth it?  Absolutely.

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M is for Map Case

Best Map Case for Adventure Racing

I don’t think I’ve ever done an adventure race where a map case was NOT on the mandatory gear list.  I’ve used the Large SealLine  Map Case for years, and it’s never let me down.  It has kept my maps dry and visible in some nasty weather.  I’ll even throw my camera in there when the rain comes down unexpectedly.

The Large Map Case is big enough for most maps if you fold them appropriately, but it’s small enough that it doesn’t become cumbersome.  I just throw a couple of small carabiners on the D-rings and tie some reflective cord (which makes it MUCH easier to find at a TA in the dark) to them, and then I throw the map case around my neck.

There really isn’t anything else I can say.  For 20 bucks, this map case is fantastic.  In fact, for longer races with lots of maps, it’s nice to have two map cases (like in the photo above).  So protect your maps (and camera!) at your next adventure race by picking up a map case right here.

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N is for New Insoles – Sole Softec Insoles

Sole Softec Insoles for Adveture Racing

If you don’t take care of your feet, your race is NOT going to go well.  Most shoes (yes, even expensive trail shoes) have pretty crappy insoles in them.  They break down quickly, they offer very little support, and they take forever to dry out.  But who really wants to shell out tons of cash for custom-made orthotics?  Not me.

Sole Softec Ultra Insoles are the in-between that you’ve been looking for.  You pop these guys in the oven for a little while, and then you stand on them to mold them to your feet.  It’s super-easy, and it’s effective.   For about 40 bucks or less, you can have “custom” insoles.

I’ve had mine for almost 2 years now, and they’re still in great shape.  In fact, I’ve trashed two pairs of trail shoes since I’ve had these, but I just keep moving these over to my next pair of shoes.  At first, I thought they were not soft enough, but after using them, I love them.  They provide the perfect amount of support, comfort, and cushion for long days on the trail.

If you have foot problems (I’m looking at you Bob Jenkins!), then you should try these out.  Do your feet a favor and pick up a new pair of insoles.

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O is for Orienteering Gadget – the i-gotU GPS Travel Logger

i-gotU GPS for Adventure RacingGPS devices are not allowed during an adventure race for obvious reasons… IF they have the ability to show you where to go or where you’ve been.  Basically, if your GPS device has a screen then it probably isn’t allowed.  But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see exactly where you traveled during your race?  Maybe you had trouble finding a certain CP.  Or maybe you made a wrong turn on the bike leg of your last adventure race.  Or maybe you gambled and decided to bushwhack when others took the trail.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have the ability to upload all of that onto your computer?

Well, it’s possible with the i-gotU GPS Travel Logger.  Just strap this little gadget to your shoulder strap, turn it on, and you’re good to go.  You can even drop a waypoint by pressing the button.  This is a nice feature for marking the CP’s on the course or for marking the location of a cool photo that you may have taken.

Scott, from Team Bushwhacker, is the one that actually turned us on to the i-gotU GPS device.  Big thanks to him.

We’ve only scratched the surface of what we’ll be able to do with this thing.  We’re planning some navigation practice sessions using this to see how well we did.  And we’ll use it to see how closely we followed our planned route at any future adventure races.  In short, this thing is going to make us better racers.  And it will be a lot of fun as well.

Pick up this handy orienteering GPS tracker to see where you traveled the next time you race.

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We’ve come to the end of Part 3 of our ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear Reviews ad Recommendations.  Be sure to check back in with us for Parts 4 and 5 in the near future.  And be sure to let us know what you think about all of this in the comments below.  Until next time, Peace OUT!

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Round TWO of the ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear – Part 2

Welcome back to all of you ravenous Virtusites!  If you missed our last post, you can go back to Part 1 of this series to get caught up.  You can also check out last year’s series for more adventure racing gear recommendations and reviews as well.  Now it’s time for part 2.  Enjoy, and let us know what you think.

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F is for Foosh Mints

Foosh Caffeinated Energy Mints

This was one of our best discoveries this year, and it’s one of our secret weapons (although it’s not so secret anymore, huh?).  You may have read about Team Virtus using Foosh Mints at several races, and you may have been wondering what the heck they are.  Well, I think they should be called Life Savers since they’ve saved me on more than one occasion, but I guess that name is probably trademarked.  When I ran out of them at the Berryman 36 Hour AR, the Sleep Monster nearly destroyed me, and it got ugly in a hurry

So let me enlighten you to the ways of Foosh.  These little mints are basically Altoids on Steroids.  Maybe they should be called SterAltoids, but I understand the “Foosh” name, too.  Each caffeinated mint is the equivalent of one cup of coffee, and you can feel the energy boost hit you in a hurry – FOOOOOOOSH!  Not only does the caffeine kick in quickly, but the taste and the icy-hot burn in your mouth really perk you up as well.  Delicous!

The mints come in handy little “blister packs” holding 6 mints in each sleeve.  They’re the perfect size for tucking into a pocket of your pack or jacket.  These things are mandatory gear for Team Virtus, especially on longer adventure races and rogaine races.  I love these things so much that I keep a pack in my drawer at work and in each mini-van (yes, I own two mini-vans… With four kids it was either that or a short bus).  If I need a little pick me up, I just pop a mint, and I’m good to go (with minty-fresh breath, I might add).

You can get 18 packs (108 mints) for 28 bucks and free shipping right here.  That comes out to roughly 26 cents per mint which is actually cheaper than a cup of coffee.  They’re a heck of a lot easier to carry in your pocket than coffee too.  I flat-out love these mints, and I think you will too.

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G is for Garmin 305 GPS Watch

Garmin Forerunner 305 for Adventure Race trainingAre you tired of driving your running/biking routes to see how far they are?  Are you tired of planning your route using online services?  Do you travel a lot and run/ride in different cities?   Then you, my friend, need a Garmin 305.

This thing will track your route, distance, speed/pace, elevation gain/loss, and heart rate.  You can customize the screens to display exactly what you want to see during your training (total time, lap time, heart rate, distance, pace, speed, calories, etc.).  If you wanna use it as a watch to track your indoor workouts, you can even turn the GPS off to conserve the battery.You can also upload your workouts and routes to help you keep track of your training or to share them with friends.

Making the Forerunner 305 even more useful, there is also a bike-mount kit (which I use and love) and a bike speed/cadence kit (which I haven’t used, but it looks pretty sweet) that will allow you to seriously dial in on your training.

Yes, it’s a bit clunky for a watch, but it’s not bad at all.  And yes, it’s a bit expensive, but the price has come down quite a bit recently.  And I really do believe that it is worth the price.  There are more expensive models like the waterproof 310XT (which Casey has and really likes) and the 405 (which Robby has and really likes).  If you don’t want or need the heart rate feature, you can save 30 bucks by getting the 205.  I think it’s worth the extra money for the heart rate monitor, though, since I use that feature all of the time for interval training.

In my opinion, you definitely get the most bang for your buck with the Garmin Forerunner 305.

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H is for Hydration Bladder – The Camelbak Omega Hydrotanium Bladder

Camelbak Omega Hydrotanium

Camelbak pretty much revolutionized the way we stay hydrated in our outdoor endeavors.  While many companies have caught up to and even surpassed Camelbak with regards to backpack design, they are still the leader when it comes to the hydration bladder.

There have been several improvements over the years, and the Omega Hydrotanium Reservoirs are simply the best.  They come in a wide range of sizes to fit any of your backpacks.  And even if your pack came with a different hydration bladder, then you’d be wise to switch to the Omega.  Why?  Just take a look at this video right here.

These bladders are seriously indestructible.  I’ve witnessed Bob crash or trip (several times) and land completely on his backpack with one of these Omega reservoirs inside.  The Omega was perfectly fine, and it has saved Bob from a few scrapes an bruises as well.

The wide-mouth opening with the easy-to-fill handle is a great feature.  The bite-valve with the shutoff switch is the best I’ve ever used.  And get this… There is a lifetime warranty on these babies!  You just can’t beat that.  I love these so much that I actually have two – one for my small pack, and one for my bigger pack.  I won’t use anything else.

You can pick a bladder ranging from 35 oz to 100 oz by going right here.

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I is for the Innovations Ultraflate Plus Tire Inlfator

Bike Tire Inflator

I don’t go on a ride without my CO2 inflator.  I always keep it tucked under my saddle with my Awesome Strap (reviewed in Part 1 of this series).

Yes, there are smaller inflators out there, but I really like this one.  There is a locking switch to make sure you don’t accidentally release the CO2.  It fits both Presta and Shrader valves easily. It’s durable, and it’s never let me down.  It’s also compatible with both threaded and non-threaded CO2 cartridges, making it easy to find new cartridges.  You can get the threaded cartridges or save some money and get the non-threaded variety at Walmart (which is what I do since I’m cheap).

The last thing you want to do in a race is waste time and energy by using a tiny hand pump, so be sure to grab the Ultraflate Inflator for your next ride or race.

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J is for Journal

Training Journals for Adventure Racing

My actual training journals from 2007 through 2011

This might seem like an odd pick for a list of Adventure Racing Gear Recommendations, but stay with me.  I’ve used journals to track my training and racing for the past several years, and they are invaluable.  I can look back to see when I was at my fattest (246 pounds on 1/2/07 – Yikes!) or when I was at my strongest (December of ’08 – I won’t put up my numbers since they’re pretty pathetic compared to most people).

I can also look back and see what I wrote about regarding the first ride I ever did with the one and only Robert L. Jenkins III on 1/3/09:

“Lots of fun, lots of tough uphills & very fast downhills.  I was slow.  Had beer afterwards at the winery.  Then ate a lot of pizza.”  Bikes, beer, and pizza – that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Or what I thought about our first race together on 2/7/09:

“Racing w/ Bob was great – Team Boats ‘N Hoes!!”

I can also look back and see how my training (or lack thereof) leading up to a race affected the outcome of the race.  For instance, a cracked rib on Thanksgiving in ’09 led to very little training and a 31st-place finish at the Castlewood 8-Hour Adventure Race.

I also learned that I tend to sabotage myself by slacking off with my training in the 6 weeks leading up to a big race.  I have no idea why I would completely drop the ball during the crucial month and a half before a race, but looking back through my journals allowed me to clearly see this pattern.  Realizing my weaknesses led to me refocusing my efforts in the weeks leading up to the 2010 Berryman Adventure 36-Hour Race, and that turned out with a VERY unexpected win in our division.

I know there are many online tools and apps that allow you to track and plan your training.  I guess I’m just old-fashioned.  I love being able to actually flip back through the pages and see what was going on with my training and my life – Like this entry from 1/15/09:

“Found out we’re HAVING A BOY today! Great news on my birthday.”

So you can do the online thing, and I think it can be a great way to do it.  Or you can rock it old-school style and pick up a journal at your local Walmart or office supply store, or you can go right here to get your training journal.  It’ll be the best buck or two you’ve ever spent.

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That wraps up Part 2 of our gear reviews and recommendations for adventure racing.  Let us know what you think, and stay tuned for Part 3! (Part 3 can be found right here.)

Round TWO of The ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear

Well, it’s that time of year again, boys and girls.  Time to dust off our aluminum poles, air our grievances, and perform feats of strength.  That’s right!  Festivus is right around the corner.  What’s that?  You don’t celebrate Festivus?  Well, that’s okay.  Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Boxing Day, to name a few, are some holidays coming up quickly as well.

So I thought it was time to update our ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear Reviews and Recommendations.  We still use most, if not all, of the gear we recommended in last year’s ABC’s, but we thought it was time to update the list with some of the other AR gear, clothing, and accessories that we use and love.  So, here is part one of this year’s series.  And if you have anything you’d like to recommend, let us know in the comments!

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A is for Awesome Strap

Awesome Strap Race Gear Review

I was fortunate enough to win an Awesome Strap (made by Backcountry Research) at the 2011 Dirty Kanza 200, and I have to say that this little guy is aptly named… Awesome.  I still love and use my Simple Straps (which actually made our gear-of-the-year list in 2010), but I really like the awesome strap for carrying a tube, CO2 cartridge, and an inflator under my saddle.

The Race Strap seems to hold everything in one bunch a little better, whereas I needed two Simple Straps to hold everything I need before I got this guy.  I’ve never had anything come lose using the Race Strap, and it never makes a sound or jiggles around at all.  The Race Strap is durable, it’s affordable at only 10 bucks, and it comes in all kinds of colors and designs (mine has a cow pattern, but you can get camo, argyle, chili peppers, flames, tie dye, and many more).

They offer a beefier version called the Hitch, and for a limited time, they are offering the “Whammer Deal” where you can get any 3 straps for just $24.  That sounds like a perfect idea for stocking stuffers… Especially if you have 3 sons that love to bike (Mom and Dad, are you reading this?  Hint, hint…).

Trust me.  You’ll make any cyclist or mountain biker in your life very happy for just 10 bucks (or 8 bucks if you go with the Whammer Deal).  How can you beat that?  Pick up a strap or three by clicking here.

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B is for Battery Charger – Lacrosse Technology Alpha Power Charger

Wait… What?!?!  A battery charger as a recommendation for adventure racers?!?!

Absolutely.  This thing has saved me some serious cash over the last couple of years.  If you train and/or race at night like we do, then you know you go through batteries like crazy.  This thing is waaaaaay better than any other charger that usually comes as part of a bundle with a digital camera or other electronics.

It has 4 modes: charge, discharge, refresh, and test.  It will charge AA batteries as well as AAA batteries.  You can charge between one and four batteries at a time in any configuration of AA/AAA batteries (see my recommendation below for batteries) unlike a lot of other chargers that make you charge batteries as pairs.

It is a bit pricey, but over the long haul you’re going to save money.  It has kept me running, riding, and paddling in the dark for the last two years, and it’s still going strong.  Plus, if you have a Wii (which eats through batteries pretty quickly) or children with tons of battery-powered gadgets like I do, then this thing will more than pay for itself within the first year.  Grab one right here.

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C is for Compass – The Suunto Arrow 6 Thumb Compass

Okay, I’m a convert.  I used to rely solely on my clip-on wrist compass, but I have since changed my ways.  Yes, I still use the wrist compass for my “dirty navigation” when all I need is to double-check my rough direction of travel, and it’s a great deal for $5.  However, when I’m doing more serious navigation (like during an orienteering meet or a rogaine section of an adventure race), my new go-to compass is the A6 Thumb Compass from Suunto.

Bob is actually the one to bring me to my senses after he spent some time with Scott Fredrickson of Team Bushwhacker while volunteering at Checkpoint Tracker Nationals this year.  If it’s good enough for the navigator of an elite team like Bushwhacker, then I figured I’d better see what using a thumb compass was all about.  I used this compass at a Rogaine Race a couple of weeks ago, and I fell in love with it.  I’ll be using it again at an O-meet this weekend, and I can guarantee you’ll see it on my thumb at any adventure races I’ll be doing in the future.

This little compass is suh-weet!  For me, the best part of the compass is how steady the needle is and how wickedly fast it settles when you’re moving.  This is crucial for navigating on the fly.  The A6 Compass stays attached to your thumb so you can always have it right where you need it while you’re holding the map.  The bezel even rotates to take a direct bearing if you really need to.  No, there are no numbers around the bezel, but I have never (literally – never) needed to know exactly how many degrees my bearing is while adventure racing.

It’s a little expensive compared to some other compasses, but you’ll be blown away by how quickly and steadily the needle finds north.  Once you try it, you’re going to love it.  I promise.  Go here to pick one up.

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D is for Duct Tape – Travel Rolls of Duct Tape

Duct Tape for Adventure Racing

Whether Duct Tape is on the mandatory gear list or not, you should always take some with you.  You don’t need to (or want to) take an entire roll of tape, though.  It’s too big, bulky, and heavy for adventure racing.  In the past, I used to make my own “race rolls” of duct tape by wrapping a few feet of the tape around a pencil and then breaking off the ends of the pencil.  You can also make a “flat race roll” by wrapping the tape around an old credit card or hotel key-card.

However, it’s a real pain in the butt to wrap your own rolls.  You have to be very careful to make sure no adhesive is exposed, and it’s really tedious.  Sure, you can save some money by rolling your own race rolls, but the convenience of these rolls more than makes up for the difference in price.  I think it’s definitely worth $6.50 for two 50″ rolls of duct tape.

We all know how useful Duct Tape is, so make sure you take some on your next race.  Throw a roll in your first aid kit, and keep the other roll in your gear box or foot-care kit.  You can thank me later.  Grab some race rolls of Duct Tape right here.

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E is for Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries

Eneloop Batteries for Adventure Racing

If you burn through batteries like I do, then do yourself a favor and pick up some Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries to go with the Lacrosse battery charger (mentioned above).  These are by far the best rechargeable batteries I’ve found.

I’ve tried the Duracell and Energizer rechargeables, and they are… Meh… okay.  They just don’t have as much juice as Eneloops, they don’t hold a charge as long as Eneloops, and they wear out a lot faster then Eneloops (The Eneloops can be recharged up to 1500 times vs. just “hundreds” for Duracell and Energizer rechargeables).

Compared to regular batteries, the Eneloops may seem expensive, but in the long run these rechargeable batteries are waaaaaaaaay cheaper.  You can get an 8-pack of AA’s for less than $2.50 per battery, and you can get and 8-pack of AAA’s for less than $2.40 per battery.  You can also buy them in 4-packs or 16-packs. Seriously, go get some.

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Well, that does it for part 1 of this series.  Have you used any of the above items?  Do you have any other gear recommendations for adventure racing?  Let us know in the comments section, and be sure to stay tuned for the next installment of gear reviews (Part 2 can be found here).  You can follow our blog on the right side of this page.  Or you can follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook to stay up to date with us.  Oh, and one more thing…

Have a happy, happy Festivus!

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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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