If you’re new to these parts because you’ve recently subscribed to get in on all the great giveaways, I’d like to point out a couple of things …
1) Welcome! It’s great to have you on board. It will be even greater if you decide to stick around after the contest frenzy dies down in January - but that’s a bridge to cross when we get there, I suppose. I do periodic giveaways throughout the year, but they’re just another part of the ultrarunning / minimalist / outdoor adventure / family life collage that makes up this website. Please stick around for a while, and maybe you’ll find something you like. Also …
2) I do a lot of product reviews. Most are for this website, others are for FeedTheHabit.com , and the vast majority are focused on trail running gear. Yes, it’s a great gig, and gives me opportunities to test and try products that I wouldn’t normally think of purchasing. It also gives me a point of reference to highlight some of the items that really stand out for one reason or another, and make recommendations for your own gear decisions.
Accordingly, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite gear over the past year – products that I’ve used over and over again, long after the original review was published. On the list that follows, the first links take you to my original reviews, followed by links to purchase the product from various vendors (disclosure: some of them are affiliates ), along with a brief description of why I’m so crazy about each item.
I’ve divided the list into three sections - apparel, gear, and footwear – but since this is December and we’re in the middle of a contest frenzy, I’m also including a cool little giveaway at the end to make sure you make it to the bottom of the post. Sound good? OK then. Let’s get started!
GoLite Manitou shirt : Their Wildwood shirt got most of the press this year, but the slightly thicker, super-comfortable Manitou was my shirt of choice for foggy morning runs and day-long hikes. Retails for .
The North Face Apex ClimateBlock jacket : A perfect combination of style, comfort, safety, and protection from the elements, I use this for early mornings trail runs and after-work neighborhood runs. A bit pricey at $159 from Gear.com , but this may be the only jacket you need for cold-weather running.
Petzl Tikka XP2 headlamp : When I need something bright enough to run trails in the dark but small enough to fit in a waist pocket after sunrise, there’s no beating this lamp. New for this year, it’s compatible with a rechargeable battery pack, which I’m currently testing and will review in January. The headlamp is currently on sale for $44 from TravelCountry.com .
Nathan HPL 020 : The ultimate victor in my extensive hydration pack reviews last year, this one has proven its worth over and over again. Amazon sells them for an – this should be a new ultrarunner’s first investment.
New Balance MT101 : If you’re not quite ready to go completely minimalist, this is the next best option: lightweight, low to the ground, comfortable and durable. This would also be an ideal off-road race shoe, and sells for $75 from Endless.com .
Sanuk Boardroom sandal : OK, it’s not a running shoe … but remember how I’ve mentioned a few times that the VIVOBAREFOOT Oak is one of my favorite work shoes? The Boardroom is the other. It’s lightweight, flat, flexible and super comfortable – and stylish enough that your boss won’t look at you funny. $85 at Endless.com .
And now for our special surprise category …
Race nutrition: The clear favorite here is GU, which I started using as my sole fuel source in my ultras last spring. I used to have fairly frequent stomach distress during ultras, but this year it hasn’t been an issue at all. I will probably supplement this with real food during a 100-miler, but for 100K or less, all I need is a steady supply of GU – especially the Roctane formulations specifically designed for high-endurance activity – along with some fluids to keep rolling right along.
GU also shows its holiday spirit this time of year, with limited-release flavors that I described in this giveaway post from last year. They’re stepping up big for my website again this winter, and this is today’s secret giveaway prize: three winners will receive one box of each of GU’s holiday flavors, vanilla gingerbread (incredibly delicious, in my opinion) and mint chocolate. This will be a straight “one comment, one entry” system, so sign in below by 5PM PST on Friday, December 17th, and I’ll announce the winner later that night. Big thanks to GU for sponsoring this giveaway, and good luck to everyone!