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Light up the season with these Trail Runner picks for the special runner in your life. Keep the cold out, the light on, the tunes up, the chafe away, the feet cozy and the calories up this season with these excellent items we’re especially pumped about.
Weight: 1.4 ounces
Price: $4 for single packet on TheFeed.com or $43 for 12
Best Features: Easy to digest, not gooey, doesn’t need water to ingest, not flavored
Room for Improvement: Pricey, not flavored
Maurten Gel 100s are game changers. They are meant for fueling without bells and whistles. Just hitting the scene this year, the Gel 100 uses a technology that, according to Maurten, “enables a smooth transportation of the carbohydrates through the stomach to the intestine where the water, salt and carbohydrates are absorbed,” thus, not bogging down the stomach with digestion.
Using an 8:1 ratio of fructose to glucose, Maurten claims that their mix allows 100 grams of carbohydrates to be taken up per hour, as opposed to 90 grams per hour with traditional gels.
From an on-the-run perspective, the Gel 100s are a very welcome departure from gooey, sticky gels with intense flavors that need liquids to travel down the esophagus. They seem to work well and limit GI distress for most runners while other nutrition can be finicky on stomachs. Clear in color, the consistency is somewhere between a liquid and solid—almost like a non-gooey jelly. You can sort of bite off bits at a time and the rest will slide back down into the packet. Well suited for ultras because the runner won’t get sick of the flavor, they can be eaten before, during or after a workout because the uptake of sugars is quick and easy.
Hands down, everyone that runs should try this stuff.
—Sean Van Horn is a cyclist turned trail runner from Colorado. A manager of a local running shop, Sean spends way too much time thinking about feet and all things running. While pop tarts are his main jam, when it comes to race fuel he usually grabs a gel or a few chews to power him through the miles (and now Maurten 100s).
Material: 100% Nylon
Best features: Lightweight, durable
Room for Improvement: Not super cushiony (if that’s your thing)
Stance socks range in style from trendy crew lifestyle socks to functional, durable, no-show running socks. The running styles last well over 100 miles and the reinforced hot-spot areas fend off blisters and add a little more padding to your feet. The Lyon is a comfortable, low height with a heel tab to prevent your sock from sinking into your heel cup.
Compared to comparable brands they are a durable, minimal sock that doesn’t lose elasticity and stays relatively warm. They’re not overbuilt and they maintain a barely-there feel. A favorite feature is how thin they are while holding up to brutal runs. Stance socks are reasonably priced, even their wool running sock is $22.
The Lyon will work well for 50 milers, track workouts and gym cross-training sessions—perfect for a stocking stuffer or a crew thank-you gift.
—Tim Nooney placed third in the Grand Mesa 50 Miler and runs 80 miles per week, typically with a new piece of gear that Trail Runner makes him take along and review.
Weight: 0.6 oz
Best Features: Light, small, offline music play
Room for Improvement: Set up can be counterintuitive
The Mighty Vibe is a nifty, if niche, little item that allows you to take your Spotify playlist with you on the trails, while leaving your gigantic phone at home.
A little boxier than the iPod Shuffle, the Mighty Vibe is about half an ounce with a back that clips to clothing, hat or vest. The Mighty was the original version, but we recommend dishing out the extra cash for the Vibe, as it has longer battery life and better connectivity.
A Spotify premium account is required. Once the app has been downloaded, you’ll need to allow access to your Spotify account and then connect the Mighty Vibe with the app and with your headphones (it can be used with traditional or bluetooth headphones). Once connected, your Spotify playlists will appear in the app (Discover Weekly, Release Radar and any playlists that you’ve saved). At this point, select the playlists you want to sync to the Mighty Vibe. It can take several minutes if syncing several playlists at once. When downloading 10 playlists with over 350 songs, the sync took more than 15 minutes.
Once synced, press play on the Mighty Vibe and an über futuristic, wait-for-the-robot-revolution voice announces which playlist you’re on. You can then scroll through songs by pushing forward or back buttons or skip to the next playlist by pushing the menu button. Songs can be shuffled by holding the menu button for two seconds.
One quick note that may seem counterintuitive, is that while the Mighty Vibe is in play mode, it disconnects from your phone and app. So ensure you’ve completely set yourself up and are ready to jet before pressing play.
Then you’re ready to leave your phone and hit the trails.
The Mighty Vibe can store about 1,000 songs with 8GB of space. It’s water resistant and likely much more durable if dropped than your smartphone. When selected, the Mighty Vibe will automatically download updates to your playlists and podcasts.
Megan Janssen is the Associate Editor at Trail Runner Magazine.
Material: Membrane: Gore Windstopper, Palm: 60% nylon, 40% polyurethane, Back: 87% polyester, 13% elastane, Lining: polyester
Price: $60 (on sale for $45)
Best Features: Windproof, breathable, very warm
Room for Improvement: Pricey
GORE’s WINDSTOPPER Gloves are one of the season’s essential accessories. This glove was made for practically every activity, from cycling to Nordic skiing to cutting down Christmas trees, making it a staple in your winter wardrobe.
The WINDSTOPPER glove material is completely windproof while the polyester backhand and inside wicks away moisture. The grippy fingertips allow for easy mid-activity phone use. Though GORE advertises this glove for mid-temperature use (41-59 degrees), it performed well on runs and other activities in frigid temps as low as 10 degrees.
It’s also thin enough to be used as a base glove under a mitten if you’re in need of extra warmth. Overall, this is a fantastic glove. Additional colors and/or patterns would be very welcome.
—Katie Stookesberry, a road runner in winter and trail runner by summer, loves trashing her quads on downhills and will never pass up a good Negroni.
Weight: 2 ounces
Best Features: All natural, moisturizing, good price
Room for Improvement: Would be better in stick-form
Territory Run Co. is slowly but surely expanding their on-the-run gear, and their Anti Chafe Balm is a surprising but nice addition to their lineup of mostly running-inspired casual clothes. The balm is 100 percent natural, made of sunflower oil, cocoa butter, beeswax and castor oil—great news for those of us who take careful note of skincare ingredients. Thanks to castor oil’s makeup of ricinoleic acid, the balm has anti-bacterial properties. Be sure to test the product out on a small patch of skin first, though, as castor oil can cause skin irritations on some.
The texture of the balm feels more like an expensive, smooth moisturizer than an anti-chafe balm. It’s grainy at first, but immediately melts upon contact. You may wind up slathering the balm over your face and lips during a cold, windy run to protect your skin, ignoring the fact that it’s for anti chafing.
The balm is unscented and shouldn’t attract any unwanted bugs. Applied approximately thirty minutes before a three-hour long trail run, there were no problems with chafing in areas that would have otherwise had issues. Since the balm is not in stick form, expect to use your hands or another utensil to apply, which may prove either difficult or somewhat gross mid-way through a long run.
A concern is its potential ability to melt on a hot run or in a hot car. Though castor oil and beeswax have a high melting point, sunflower oil has a melting point within the realm of possibility on a mid-July day.
This is a great, all-natural product, and at a really nice price of $13 per 2 oz tin. Worst case, it’s at least a very portable moisturizer and skin protectant!
—Katie Stookesberry, a road runner in winter and trail runner by summer, loves trashing her quads on downhills, and will never pass up a good Negroni.
Weight: 1.9 ounces
Best Features: Lightweight, inexpensive, dimming ability, red night vision, waterproof, battery powered (2 AAA), adjustable angle position
Room for Improvement: Low beam distance (60 meters), 160 lumens, 1 LED bulb, no top strap (hard to adjust on the go)
The days are short and the Black Diamond Spot Lite 160 Headlamp is ideal for early morning or evening runs. Weighing a mere 1.9 ounces, this headlamp is extremely lightweight and hardly noticeable while wearing. However, adjusting the tightness or lamp angle on the go can be a bit awkward as there is no top strap, so the adjustment requires two hands.
Despite its simple design, the Spot Light has all the essential features including dimming, strobe and a red light mode. The headlamp performs in rainy conditions as well.
With 160 lumens and a beam distance of 60 meters the Diamond Spot Lite is not the best option for the darkest of nights. However, operating on only 2 AAA batteries there is no need for charging and the small size of this lamp allows it to be easily stowed in a pocket or pack making it a great emergency lamp, backup light or go-to for shorter runs in the dark when you’re close to home.
—Tara Richardson placed first in the 2018 Collegiate Peaks 25 miler and runs about 70 miles per week. The more uphill the better, she says! She works as an exercise physiologist for cardiac rehabilitation.