I don’t often find the time to commit to writing here on my blog. The thought of taking away from my time outdoors and how others do it is often hard to comprehend. However this one is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while. With this recent achilles injury, I now have more time spent indoors.
Not an in depth review, but a brief overview of some of the gear that I use most when running in the mountains.
I left a few items out including footwear, shorts, shirts, watch, nutrition, and such. If you’re interested in some of the other gear that I use, it can be found on my Trusted Gear & Nutrition page.
Gear like the Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell aren’t always needed here in my backyard of Tucson where it is dry and not always needed to protect from cold winds as a shell. Nor the Petzl Nao headlamp, which is dependent on how long and what time of the day I plan to be out wandering. Thus sometimes they are not carried. These would be the only two items. I have a philosophy of not limiting myself as well. So for example the Petzl Nao may be brought along if I head out later in the afternoon. This way even if it’s a quick 10+ miles in the mountains that was planned, I have the option to stay out there as long as I wish when the sun go’s down.
I will add that I only give honest analysis of gear that I use. On occasion I’ve been given some gear to try, but that doesn’t sway my thoughts. If I don’t trust and love what I am using….I don’t use it. Period. Any links to purchase these items are of no benefit to me.
In no particular order let’s begin…
There is so much trust from me that has been earned by Ultimate Direction over the years. Over the years I’ve used countless versions of current products, as well as continue to fall in love with new product releases. They’ve always surpassed what I expect in function and durability. I can’t state this enough. And every year they continue to improve earlier versions of products in ways that translate to an even better experiences. Currently I have on my gear shelf the SJ Essential Belt (no longer produced but can be found), Utility Belt, Ultra Vest 4.0, Fastpack 20 & 25, and many versions of their handhelds.
This vest has been my primary vest when running in the mountains. Although it began as a replacement for my Ultra Vest 4.0 that finally went down one day in the desert. (A little disclaimer here….that Ultra Vest 4.0 is the only gear from them that ever finally failed on me. But it was after much use, and I wasn’t disappointed when it did. It earned it….trust me.)
When I purchased the Halo Vest, it was going to be used in addition to a Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra Set 5. In the end, the Halo became the only one used. They have similarities, as well as some differences that are philosophy of design. I think Salomon S-Lab is a bit more focused on comfort combined with minimal weight, the Halo is more stripped down but highly adjustable. But being more adjustable also requires more tuning. It pays off. In the end, the 11 liter Halo feels as nimble as the 5 liter S-Lab. Surprising as the S-Lab 5 weighs a few ounces less. So with the Halo you’re getting more storage, but no less nimble than the S-Lab. This was unexpected.
The only issue that some would have is that none of the storage on the Halo has zippers. Utilizing the “power mesh” (I always think these titles are silly), it works. I’ve never had anything fall out. However if you have anything on the backside pockets and were standing on your hands, things could possibly come out. I utilize Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Sacks to contain smaller items. Which I’ve always done with vests anyways. Especially if I wished to keep some baselayers or any other gear dry. I will add that their is one front small pocket with velcro that I utilize to store electrolyte pills. But it’s the only such storage with closure. I will emphasize again however that nothing has ever fallen out of the Halo.
One criticism that I have would be that it is all black. I think some lighter color options would be optimal to deflect the sun during the summer. But honestly that wasn’t really a big issue as I expected it would be.
The day Ultimate Direction released the Utility Belt it was ordered. One of those products that you just know. And it may be one of the best and most utilized gear that I own. Not bad for almost $40.
After seeing different iterations of the “power mesh” used on their various products, I just knew this was a winner. But it was also in it’s simplicity. No zippers. No velcro. Nothing unnecessary. Just “utilitarian”. Appropriate that it would be called “Utility Belt”.
4 pockets. One in the front, each side, and the back. With two silicon straps in the back for trekking poles, or for stashing something light like an extra layer. I never utilize trekking poles, so I can’t honestly state the impact on bounce etc.
The front pocket is called a foldable pocket, but I don’t think that it is needs to be folded at all. I’ve never had anything ever fall out of these pockets even when stuffed like a thanksgiving turkey. Except for one thing. 500ml flask that is suppose to stay in. More on that next.
Your suppose to be able to carry one of UD’s Body Bottles (500ml soft flask). But I’d say about 25% of the time it would try to wiggle itself out. So I don’t do that anymore. Not a biggie. Although I do store extra flasks that are empty sometimes.
What do I usually carry in mine? That depends on whether I am utilizing it in addition to a vest or by itself. Even when using a vest, it’s a great way to carry things that you want to be able to grab quickly like nutrition. If I want to run without a vest, but wish to carry everything I need for an all day into the evening run…here is what I have stuffed:
- Garmin InReach Mini
- 8-10 Spring Energy Gels
- Petzl Nao Headlamp
- Phone (for those epic shots)
- Mini Sawyer Water Filter & Pouch
- And if needed a baselayer etc on the rear silicon straps
Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Sack
Thought it would be a good to skip over to the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Sack. As I’ve mentioned it a few times now.
Although I have mentioned the “Ultra-Sil Nano” version of their dry sack, there are some cheaper dry sacks from Sea to Summit that work just as well. Although the lineup is not expensive to begin with. Not when you consider that they are durable. As well as reusable. Yes ziploc bags are always an option, but eventually they aren’t as durable and will end up in the landfill quickly.
Typically I use the 1 liter for phones, electrolytes, and other small items. And a 2 liter for keeping baselayers and clothing in general dry.
Simple. And it works. Not much else to say on this piece of gear. It speaks for itself.
Mini Water Filtration System
The feeling of being able to anywhere you want in the mountains is unparalleled. Who wants to be limited? However you need water.
Whether running, fastpacking, or hiking. This is always carried with me.
It will filter up to 100,000 gallons. Often I joke that you will lose it long before you ever filter 100,000 gallons.
Portable, and it does exactly what it is suppose to. Filter water. If you are filtering water out of a lake in the city however, opt for one of their other portable water filter models that filter chemicals and such. But this one is more than adequate for adventures in the wilderness.
It includes a straw to attach if you wish to sip straight out of a stream. However I only use it to fill my hydration flasks.
Only issue that I’ve ever had with them is the pouches. The pouches aren’t the most durable. The hard plastic isn’t that flexible, and sometimes quickly lose integrity. A shame for an otherwise perfect product. When you purchase a filter, I recommend buying additional pouches. You can usually purchase them in a package of 3 for about $10.
Or go with Cnoc Outdoors Vecto. The Vecto allows you to also more easily scoop water to filter, and is more durable. They range from $11-22. Don’t take any offense Sawyer….but you have to work on those pouches.
Cheap at about $20
This is something that is not always brought along. Dependent on distance and time. Or whether I just want options.
The Petzl Nao came out a few years ago with 575 lumens, and has since moved on to the Nao+ with 750 lumens. In the end, this is more lumens than you would ever need. And battery life isn’t sustainable at such high lumens. Clever marketing will always try to sell you on more lumens.
Thus the “Reactik” tech. Damn these terms are silly. But whatever. It’s pretty simple. In short, it adjusts the output dependent on the lighting around you.
With the Nao/Nao+ you can program the amount of lumens as well based on different parameters that include for example the amount of battery life you want, amount of lumens, and how you wish the beam to blast. With the Nao, you can plug in to your computer to set that up. With the Nao+ you can do it on the fly with a phone app via bluetooth.
It utilizes it’s own in-house battery that you can charge via usb. I find that I can use it in Reactik mode and program it to run at about 375 lumens for about 12 hours. If you were to run in constant at it’s max, it would last about one hour. But nobody needs that much lumens to run.
Headlamps are subjective. There are so many good ones out there. This is just the one I use.,
I’ve owned sunglasses from so many brands over the years. Kaenon, Spy Optics, Zeal Optics, Bolle, Arnette, Oakley, and so on. Honestly I am not going to debate the merits of these brands. They all have their attributes.
Sunglasses are subjective as well in my opinion. All dependent on what you are looking for. To some degree. Do they protect your eyes? Do they stay on your face when you’re crushing that trail descent? Are they durable? Antireflective? Hydrophobic? Oleophobic? And the list go’s on.
The question for me was could I find a pair of sunglasses that protect my eyes, stay on my face when I’m crushing that trail descent, are durable, antireflective, hydrophobic, oleophobic, and last of all are just full of stoke. I don’t want to look like “tri-guy” as I’m thrashing the trails. And when I’m done with the trails, I don’t want to look like “tri-guy” either. Nor do I want to look Goodr (sorry…I had to.)
These are those glasses. The “S” meaning sport.
Even with the design that resembles the characteristics of a wayfarer design, they took these frames and built on that geometry with a different flare that is unique to them. Thus not looking like all the other clones out there that stick to close to the classic wayfarer design. If you are considering the Zombie S, maybe think about it a bit more. As I do savor the fact that not everyone will have these glasses on. In fact locally I’ve never seen them on anybody.
I’ve had zero durability issues with them on countless miles in the mountains. Zero.
They range between $120-220. I do recommend that you go with the polarized pro lenses. It will set you back, but well worth it.
If you are running well out of the confines of cel coverage in the mountains, why wouldn’t you carry the Garmin Inreach Mini?
It’s the smallest satellite communicator/tracker that they offer. And what isn’t small is the peace of mind. And unlike most satellite communicator/trackers, your communication is inbound and outbound. And not just via a series of preset messages.
What does peace of mind cost?
Currently $350 for the unit. Often on Ebay for cheaper used. But make sure that you purchase from a reliable seller, and make sure the imei# is clear. They are much like purchasing a used cel phone. If the imei# isn’t clean, you’ll get stuck with a device that you cannot use. This would only happen if someone was in the middle of a yearly subscription that wasn’t paid off. Or it was stolen.
There are monthly and yearly subscription options. You’ll know what works for you. Obviously the yearly one will save you money. And if you are out in the mountains as much as I am, it is worth it. Below is a list of subscription options that are sure to change. In fact they just recently got rid of the “Extreme” tier. But this will give you a rough idea. I personally use the Expedition one. The Expedition tier now has 2min tracking intervals that was offered only on the Extreme Tier. Although I rarely message with mine, the Expedition tier also allowed me not to have to worry about overages if I needed to message more frequently. Please check for most recent updates to pricing.
The Inreach Mini can bluetooth to your phone as well so that you can use the Earthmate App built for it. This allows you to use a bigger screen, and also allows you to message with your phone which is certainly easier than up, down, left, and right to type something. This will also allow notifications to your watch if it accepts notifications from your phone. from your Inreach. There are of course privacy features if you wish strangers not to track you. You go onto the web portal to make those changes. Creating a password that you can give to people. It’s very easy to change. I’ve also embedded the map onto my website. A convenient way to share where I am at if anyone wants to join or follow me. That embed can also have a password. Also if you plan a route via the web portal, it can be saved and then viewed via your earthmate app.
You can create additional users on yours if you’d like to share it with a friend.
If an emergency was to happen where you needed to call out for help, there is an SOS button protected by a cover so that you don’t accidentally push it. If you do push it, you can cancel it.
For $17.95 extra a year you can add coverage for up to $100,000 for search and rescue expenses. Small price to pay for something that could save you quite a bit in the end. And starting at $129.95 a year, there is coverage to get you evacuated to a hospital near your home.
This is a priceless device for all of us that wander the mountains well out of cel coverage. And small enough to carry even if you’re running without a vest. I store mine in my UD Utility Belt. I’ve also owned the larger version, but find it not to be practical.
Distance Wind Shell
There are a lot of well made lightweight packable jackets out there on the market. From the Outdoor Research Helium to the Patagonia Houdini that most are familiar with. Honestly I don’t think that you can go wrong with the ones I just mentioned. In fact I had a Patagonia Houdini for years. Til just recently…
I’m not going to get into all the countless technical terms for their various fabrics and so on. I will instead tell you why I bought this one over the others. The big one that they all like to use is weight. The Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell is actually the lightest of them all. But when we are talking about 10 grams difference, this is not a dealbreaker. And it shouldn’t be. Ounces yes. But not 10 grams. In fact with the BD’s claim of lightest, it is only 7 grams lighter than the Patagonia Houdini.
One detail that sold me was that it’s ability to work as an actual wind shell compared to the others in the same segment like the Patagonia for example. It’s all in the details. It’s actually not even groundbreaking. The zipper is flawed in jackets as wind can seep through them and enter. They placed for lack of better words (my words) a flap that go’s right behind the zipper. Just enough to block the wind that may permeate through the zipper. Simple design that works.
Another detail would be the elastic cuffs. Creating a cuff that is snug, but also making it easier to take the jacket off. Some of these packables don’t feature an elastic cuff. Easy to put jacket on over your watch. But when you need to take it off you find yourself struggling or debating about taking your watch off just to get out of the jacket. Also simple design that works.
There is just enough room to layer comfortably without the jacket being to snug. Thus allowing free movement. Some of these packables barely give you room to wear a baselayer without constriction of movement. That’s counterproductive in something that you’re using while active.
They all say that they are breathable. It actually is. But these jackets will never be as breathable as other layers we wear. Well…maybe one day.
I cannot make any claims of water resistance yet. Not many deluges here in Tucson, Arizona.
My hope is that you found something here that will enhance your adventures. I will continue to share with you my take.
If you find yourself in Tucson, AZ reach out and let’s hit the mountains. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
“For me the world is wierd because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable; my interest has been to convince you that you must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvelous world, in this marvelous desert, in this marvelous time. I want to convince you that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while, in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it.” Carlos Castaneda
Ima Wo Ikiru,