Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Review- The North Face Storm Stow Jacket

Review – The North Face Storm Stow Jacket

The North Face Storm Stow Jacket – this beauty is a super  lightweight and 100% waterproof specialist offering from TNF which is just so small when packed into its own sleeve with a super smart little draw cord concept and light and comfortable to wear all day if necessary.

It feels light when u pick it up and features a panel or two of bright colouring so you can be spotted out there without making you look like a beacon of light in the rainswept landscape.

The pack size of it and the 2 ply material making it so light weight means in disappears into ones running bag nicely and you don’t feel aggrieved at having to carry it as a matter of course “just in case” .

I have probably run around 200km in it so far over the last few weeks.

Its been tested on the Fellsman in awful weather and in a host of other mountain runs around Snowdonia recently and is seriously a great bit of kit-It doesn’t rustle, its got a near waterproof zip on it, has a great snug hood design that keeps in on your head even in the strongest winds and doesn’t restrict head movement and vision or hearing for that matter.

The jacket doesn’t flap and rattle in strong winds which means you can still hear what your mates are saying even when fully tucked up inside it, and it doesn’t suffer from that usual disorienting sensation you get when your hood is up.. I ran for hours with the hood up during the Fellsman and can attest to the comfort and waterproof nature of it for sure.

The drawstring elastic on the back of the hood is really easy to cinch up to adjust to whatever head covering you are wearing..

As it is so light however it will be interesting to see how long it lasts under heavy usage, but its worth the potential sacrifice of some durability for the portability of it. I will feed back on the jacket over the next few months but so far under lots of use ( loads of rubbish weather in N wales currently) it still looks and functions as new.

Very impressed so far and this bit of kit is going to accompany me through the season, used as a waterproof and just as a windproof layer out in the Alps for those long days out when weight and function is a premium and my legs need to be carrying as little as possible…

Verdict:- 9/10


Review – Hoka OneOne Rapanui 2S Fell running / Trail Shoe

Hoka OneOne Rapanui 2S trail shoe - light nimble and plush with great grip

I gave the Rapanui 2S a good testing when I headed out with Brian Wills, from Capel back to Llanberis over the Glyders, a real broad mix of terrain from bogs to tussocks then good rocky terrain across the tops of the glyders, onto rolling singletrack across Y Garn and Elidir, with a grass descent running onto hard packed slate chippings track descent through the Dinorwic quarries

First of all I must thank the Hoka Rep for providing me with these shoes to test out and also thanks to V12 for getting him over to the shop to check out the range of shoes. V12 are planning to have  a number of the shoes in stock, both mens and womens, technical trail fell running shoes and some more all rounder trail running shoes , and so I was keen to be able to test a pair of Rapanui 2S shoes out and give some feedback.

The shoes are something I would not ordinarily have considered as I prefer generally more minimalist shoes, but the fact that these were pure cushioning and still low heel to toe differential meant I was ken to try them out as theoretically they would be great for long distance stuff…

The actual super technical fell shoe that will be stocked by V12 will be the Karl Meltzer signature Speedgoat Shoe which is an amped up version with more stability on technical terain than the shoe I tested. It will be a lower profile upper and really dialed into the UK Technical fell running market… There is a Youtube video here to check them out….

So back to the review of the Rapanui 2S:-

Technical details first – the Rapanui has a 6mm heel to toe drop, which is comparable to the technical fell running / trail running shoes of Salomon ( Sense SG and Sense etc) and the Adidas Adizero Trail XT4. The low heel drop means that they are good on technical terrain and encourage a natural rolling running style. The overall shoe is of a neutral design but the amount of cushioning / padding in the shoe would compensate for a small amount of over pronation it seems.

Hoka One One Rapanui 2S - Big stack height but the heel to toe drop for these beauties is only 5mm meaning the shoes still feel natural to run in and are great in rough terrain. They feel dialled in and nimble whilst being super plush and are wicked for straight line descending on steep terrain - the heel to toe drop is similar to the Salomon Sense SG at 6mm. The uppers are lightweight and don't stretch in the wet, draining quickly on the run and maintaining support.

Hoka One One Rapanui 2S – Big stack height but the heel to toe drop for these beauties is only 5mm meaning the shoes still feel natural to run in and are great in rough terrain. They feel dialled in and nimble whilst being super plush and are wicked for straight line descending on steep terrain – the heel to toe drop is similar to the Salomon Sense SG at 6mm. The uppers are lightweight and don’t stretch in the wet, draining quickly on the run and maintaining support.

The front of the shoe has 29mmm of cushioning and the heel area has 35mm so the shoe is well cushioned up. These are what seem to be termed as maximalist shoes rather than minimalist, but are still designed with technical trail, fast movement and long distance in mind.

 

The weight of the shoes is still low and surprising (given that they look kind of big and heavy) – a pair of  size 8 – 43 European size comes in at 292g per shoe  – they feel very nimble/ agile and precise in use too and any weight issue is offset by the premium amounts of cushioning and the way ones feet feel great even after hours on the go….

The lacing system is god and the speed lacing system works very well, being secure and clog free during hours of bogs and mud on the recent Fellsman I completed ( 101km, 16hrs 48 minutes ) – the shoes remained securely fastened . There is an elastic strap halfway down the tongue where one can tuck the extra laces when they are cinched up, and this works well, especially if you fed the end all the way through this and back up to the top elastic right by the speed lace system.

Hoka One One Rapanui 2S - V12 will be stocking the Karl Meltzer Speedgoat Shoe which is an amped up lower profile upper version of this shoe which is even more tuned for the UK fell running market..

Close up of the speed lacing system on the Hoka One One Rapanui 2S. This seems to work well, and doesn’t slip during long runs, once tightened they stay put and seem to keep free of clogging mud on boggier ground. Simple but effective. On the new Karl Meltzer Signature shoes that will be ariving to V12, there are more eyelets for the laces and I would expect an even more dialed in fit with a slightly lower profile upper to really dial the shoe in to a UK style of fell running terrain. There are another pair of eyelets above where the laces go, that could be utilised. This would entail cutting the laces and re threading them through the eyelets but to be honest I found that this was not necessary.

If ou really want to lock yr heels into the shoe then there are an extra pair of eyelets that you could further thread the laces through after cutting then rethreading the speed system, but I felt this was unnecessary. Again a surprise as I usually like my feet truly locked in at the heel. The shoes fit well enough not to require any fiddling like this…

The soles feature a set of 6mm lugs well spaced out over the generally flat and wide profile sole with some indentations, the rationale being that this will shed mud and debris easily, avoid clogging on poor terrain and maintain grip. The spacing of the lugs also seems to allow the shoe to grip brilliantly on uneven rock surfaces too . The lugs seem to be hardwearing so far, on other shoes with similar lugs, I have seen more wear than that which I see on the shoes so far for equivalent amounts of use.

Being that these are a continental / US style shoe I was concerned that the grip on them may be substandard even with the lugs on, but I was definitely wrong about that. So far I can’t fault the grip in a wide range of terrain and technical situations – super steep wet grass descents and traverses, they definitely compare with the Salomon SG Sense series and the Adidas Adizero XT4 shoes which I rate highly for grip and have spent many a mile in on all sorts of terrain….

Hoka One One Rapanui 2S Review - Tread Pattern

Open Tread with great lugs on the Rapanui 2S, the lugs are brilliant on all the different terrain I have tested them on so far. I was very surprised at the good grip and seemingly hard wearing tread so far after probably 230km use in a few weeks.

The Speedgoat shoe that V12 will actually stocking has a more shaped sole with some cut outs along the front foot area and in the back heel, to give the shoe more adaptability on steep side traverses and really uneven ground, and I suspect this will be a really good – I did find on a couple of occasions, especially early on in a run, that on a steep side traverse the she felt a little unforgiving and slid around the foot, pushing into the ankle. However with use and further running this seemed to lessen and I didn’t notice it at all on the Fellsman, where my feet remained feeling great through bogs, tussocks, rocky and grassy trails and non trails….

My legs seem to have recovered better than I would have thought too and I have no where near the amount of Muscle soreness I would usually associate with a long run like the Fellsman.

 

So to summarise:-

I was originally skeptical but fascinated by the concept and after having doubts about the shoes I am pleased and surprised to report that I really like these Rapanui’s and am really looking forward to getting my hands on a pair of the Speedgoat 2015 shoes when V12 get them in – This years version of the Rapanui will be an amazing dialled in version of the shoe, ideal for UK fels and trails.

The ground feel is still good, the stability on technical terrain is great and the nimbleness and lightness is really a surprise to me. I really am liking these shoes, contrary to all my original ideas and I am looking forward to getting more miles out of them on a wide variety of terrain. The way they feel when descending is great and they climb well too.

I have some more races lined up for the summer – The Cadair Idris Race, the Courmayeur Gran Trail 90km ( 5400m ascent), Royal Ultra on Gran Paradiso Northern Italy ( 54km 400m ascent) and hey who knows, even the Paddy Buckley is still under consideration as I am beginning to feel stronger and confident currently… Non of these will be done in anywhere near winning times etc but hey its about having fun out there, and as such the Hoka OneOne’s are going to be a large part of those fun times I reckon. I would recommend giving them a go – it may well be a hugely positive surprise….

Oh and by the way V12 are also going to be stocking a more trail oriented version than a techincal fell shoe, more suitable for mixing it up on roads and trails, and also 2 womens versions of the shoes, which all look amazing….

Tryfan, Glyder Fach and Y Garn in the distance - Hoka One One Rapanui Tread view

Done about 250 plus km in these shoes now and although at first I was skeptical due to the thought of the thick cushioning, I’m well pleased with how they feel. I was concerned also that they may rub on my outer ankle on a long run but having completed the Fellsman last weekend in them (101km and 16hrs 48 minutes later) I can attest to my feet feeling great at the end and also the Delayed onset muscle fatigue pain that I expected has failed really to materialise again a positive result of the cushioning in the shoe. Living the Dream as ever………..

 

 

 


Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles 2015 Review

I completed the Fellsman this weekend ( 25th April) and was lucky enough to have got my hands on a pair of Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles – Ultra Light Fast Packing / Trail Running Poles that are made by a British Company.

The Camera got wet hence a bit of a bur in the midle - The Trail Blaze Poles were great

Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles at Fleet Moss Checkpoint on Felsman 2015 with Dunc and Dave. A wet windy cold day that included snow, turning to clear skies with frost later. The majority of the route is on boggy ground or tussocks, with minimal amounts of hard paths and trails..

I have previously had a pair of BD Ultra Distance Poles so it was going to be interesting to  test these Mountain King Trail Blaze ones out (I snapped my BD ones a few weeks back whilst scouting for the Fellsman event)

The poles are certainly minimalist. They have a small but comfortable cushioned hand grip with a non adjustable wrist loop, again comfortable on the wrist. A small cord runs through the centre of the 4 sections and when pulled hard out of the top of the poles allows the poles to slot together then locked in place by slipping the manufacturers pre fitted knot into the little groove at the top of the pole. The Poles come with 2 detachable baskets (screw fitting so don’t just try to rive them off), and also 2 rubber type covers for the carborundum/tungsten tips of the poles if you dont want to click on rocky terrain. Personally I leave the rubber tips of all the time but would be likely to use the baskets on the poles in winter or in the alps.

Trail Blaze Pole Mountain King 2015 Review

Metal tips showing detail of the screw fitting thread for the light weight but effective and sturdily attachable baskets in case you require them

The poles are made up as an aluminium centre overlaid with a wrap of carbon fibre, and I imagine that this is what has given them their strength without compromising on weight – especially at the joins between the sections on poles

120cm long - weight 250gms the pair - 40gm lighter than the BD Ultra Distance Poles at 120cm

Trail Blaze Poles folded up with velcro straps in view, tidy and compact and very light

The poles arrive with a small mesh bag to hold them in and they are both fitted with a small but ideally sized velcro loop to keep the poles under control when they are folded away and stashed on or in your bag.

Pull the cord whilst dangling the sections of the pole and they pull into place, and then clip the knot into the slot on the top of the handle for a light weight locked out pole.. Quick and easy. The handle is well cushioned and is not noticeably les comforrtabe when ts soaking wet (as it was for most of the Fellsman event)

Pull the cord whilst dangling the sections of the pole and they pull into place, and then clip the knot into the slot on the top of the handle for a light weight locked out pole.. Quick and easy. The handle is well cushioned and is not noticeably les comforrtabe when ts soaking wet (as it was for most of the Fellsman event)

At first glance look and feel very fragile, but after having used them a number of times and trapped them between rocks on trails or had them stuck in a bog and get unfeasibly pressured as I bent them over whilst stopping myself to extricate them, they seem to be robust enough to last – this has dispelled any worries about fragility.

Aluminium ferrule slots into carbon sleeve on each section of the poles - Mountain King Trail Blaze 2015 design change apparently

Aluminium ferrule slots into carbon sleeve on each section of the poles – Mountain King Trail Blaze 2015 design change apparently

The joins in the poles feature an aluminium ferrule one end and a carbon sleeve at the other side. As far as I understand it this is a part of the poles redesign since last years model, to improve strength without compromising on weight, and so far so good, no splits or cracks despite rather a lot of abuse in a short time…

I intend to use these poles plenty over the course of the summer, both here in Snowdonia and in the Alps. I plan on a number of longer runs hopefully including the Paddy Buckley Round here and some other Sky Races out in Northern Italy  and have loads of confidence in these poles.

They have proved themselves so far – lightweight, easy to fit together and quick, comfortable hand grip and an perfectly adequate wrist loop that is also comfortable. Very impressed and would recommend them for sure. Oh and by the way as far as lightness goes, they are 40gms lighter per pair for the 120cm length than the BD Ultra Distance Poles – Perfect…..

For future reference and if I would suggest any improvements that could be made then I would suggest a slightly less stretchy or a tighter fit for the centre cord, as a number of times the poles were pulled significantly apart when pulling them out of sticky turf terrain whilst running and this caused me to be a little concerned that they would pop apart.

I would also suggest that the padded section on the handle could be made another 4 cm longer to be really sweet when ones wrists are engaged into the loops and to give a bit more flexibility to hand position and comfort.

However both these issues are minor tweaks and should not put one off these amazing poles

VERDICT:- 9 /10 – EXCELLENT

 

 

 

 

 

 


Reviews and the Adidas Adizero XT 4 trail running shoes

I am well excited as when I get home at the end of this month I can now get my hands on a pair of the Adidas Adizero XT4 trail running shoes. They are in stock at the shop at last and I am well looking forward to running in them. I have seen them , felt them, bent them, poked them and so on…….great stuff!!! I think they will be brilliant – light, fast and cushioned, and from what Big Gaz says about them already on the page in the shop section, they sound really like my kind of shoe too.

I also plan to write a number of reviews in the next couple of weeks about some kit I have had for a long time now:

The Odlo Evolution Light L/S top and the Odlo Evolution Warm L/S top, that I have had since early in the year and my Odlo Gilet that I have been suing over the last month or so. All these are great  items of clothing and will be fully reviewed shortly

Its about time I reviewed my Black Diamond Ultra distance Z poles too. Its the first time I have got poles to use specifically for running and I am amazed at their lightness, robustness and ease of use. A full review soon …..

In the meantime heres a great sign I saw on holiday in S.A, with some handy advice :-

You never know!!

Great sign we spotted in Simons Town around Boulders Beach.........


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