Product Review: Orange Mud Endurance Pack

For their first few years of existence, the mantra at Orange Mud was centered around bottles over bladders.  The first four packs they released were bottle-based, with their signature “bottles on the back/jetpack” design.  So you can imagine my surprise when they said they were working on a bladder pack.  At the same time, it makes sense.  From a business growth perspective, there is a huge demographic that prefers bladders (particular for long, self-supported activities).  Besides, why shouldn’t the folks in the bladder camp get to enjoy the high-quality, well-thought-out designs from Orange Mud!?  With that said, I bring you my review of the Orange Mud Endurance Pack.

Product Overview

This is Orange Mud’s first foray into a non-bottle based pack, although it steals many of the same concepts of its bottle-based predecessors.  For example, it still has the signature shoulder and chest pockets that you get on both of the Orange Mud Vest Pack models.  It also uses the same breathable mesh.  Where it differs is on the back of the pack, where the bladder neatly hides away beneath the storage that is layered on top of it.  The result is a ton more storage room than we are used to seeing with Orange Mud packs.  Here are the specs from their site:

  • Pack Weight: – 270grams, 9.5oz.
  • Dimensions: 10″W x 13″ tall / Volume 6 liters.
  • Bladder: HydraPak 2L (70oz) elite, with quick disconnect and blaster valve.
  • Compartment 1: Bladder compartment
  • Compartment 2: Main cargo
  • Compartment 3: Zippered elastic pocket with secure key clip.
  • MUDX Technology: Trekking Pole Attachment Option.
  • Material details: Our stretch fabric is tough, abrasion resistant, & endurance designed.
  • Shoulder pocket storage: Phone, gel, nutrition, electrolyte and more, both sides.
  • Front chest pocket storage: 15oz/450ml soft flask capable.
  • Front adjustments: 2 elastic straps have multiple adjustment locations.

Price: $135/$150 (trekking pole model) at OrangeMud.com (click to visit)

Fit

This is probably the most form-fitting hydration pack in the Orange Mud line of products.  While I love the bottle system, the fluid shape of a bladder contributes to the packs ability to mold to the contour of your body for more “hug-like” feel.  Additionally, the pack itself is slightly longer from top to bottom, which increases the footprint on the body, but also enables a more snug and secure fit.

I have never really had much of a problem with bounce on any of the Orange Mud packs to be perfectly honest, and the Endurance Pack is no exception.  What I did find is that while the bottle-based packs did seem to take a bit longer to dial in the right fit, the Endurance pack was a lot easier right out of the gate.


Ride

The Wasatch mountains in Utah offer the best terrain for field testing because of the steep uphills and aggressive downhills; they just offer the right conditions for really testing out a products potential.  The most annoying thing to me about any pack is when it shifts a lot on a fast downhill.  I am happy to report that this passed with flying colors.  The very secure fit not only makes me happy on downhills, but it also allows the pack to disappear when wearing it.  What I mean is that it fits so close to the body that you forget you are even wearing it.  Despite that, it did not feel restrictive whatsoever!  The downside to the fit and larger footprint is the effects it has on breathability, especially on the back.  As good as the mesh is on the pack, it there is simply nowhere for heat to escape off the back of the body.  I definitely sweat more on my back than in Orange Mud bottle packs.

Conclusion

Overall, this is an unbelievable entrance into the bladder-based pack.  Minus a few nitpicky things, I think Orange Mud nailed it.  In fact, this pack has actually caused me great internal strife and conflict.  One the one hand, I hate bladders, but on the other hand, this pack is so comfortable that it makes it worth it.  I still struggle with this, but having choices is never a bad thing.  One complaint I have always heard about OM is price, yet this is pretty price comparable to similar bladder packs on the market.  I would recommend this pack to anyone that likes bladders over bottles or just needs a pack that can hold more water and other stuff.  I have used Nathan and Salomon bladder packs in the past and this more than holds its own against any of those that I have tried.  I likely will still race with one of the bottle-based vest packs, but this is definitely my new go-to for long distance, self-supported runs.

Pro’s:

  • Fit…in other words, like a glove.  I was always pleasantly satisfied with the minimal bounce of their bottle-based packs but this fits even better.  It literally does not move at all.
  • Plenty of storage! With the two front pockets, shoulder pockets, open back pocket, zip back pocket, and cinch cords, you can carry anything and everything in this pack.
  • Quality. Nothing about this pack says “cheap”.  The construction and sewing is all top notch from what I can tell.

Con’s:

  • Add on charge for the pole hooks.  Should be included.  I am not a fan of how they secure either as it makes me paranoid that they are going to become unhooked (I must add that this has been all paranoia so far since it has not actually happened to date).
  • Bladder size.  70 oz. is perfectly fine for me, especially since you can stash soft flasks up front, but some people do like a larger bladder reservoir and might have a problem fitting anything larger than the 2L in this pack.
  • Bigger footprint on the back is not as breathable as some other Orange Mud packs.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!

Product Review: IceMule Pro Cooler

My family loves to hike.  As a low maintenance trail runner, it is easy for me to stuff a few things in my pack and head out the door, but family hikes tend to require more planning (especially when it involves a six and eight year old).  We like to take our time and enjoy nature on our adventures, which comes with its own set of challenges.  We need to pack enough food and drinks for everyone for a long day outside.  I can’t tell you how many times we have thought to ourselves, “man, it would be great if we could have a real picnic” while reaching the half way point of our hike at one of the many remote alpine lakes in Utah.  This is a challenge because by the time you actually get there, your drinks are warm and your food is smushed and gross.  Well, I finally found a solution with the IceMule Pro Cooler.  Take a look!

Disclaimer: IceMule provided me with the Pro 20L for free for the purposes of this review (and perhaps after a little salivating on my part at Outdoor Retailer).  As always though, my objectives are to help you with your buying decision and help the company improve upon their products, so I will strive to be honest and unbiased.

Product Overview

The model I have been using is the 20L Pro model, which is a soft-sided, insulated cooler designed to be worn as a backpack.  I was interested in this model because it could be worn backpack style and I felt it offered the right balance between capacity and weight and would be perfect for my anticipated use.  Here are the specs from their site.

Dimensions & Capacity

  • 17″ tall, 14″ wide, 11″ deep (when closed)
  • Capacity = 18 cans plus ice
Features
  • TriFold DriTopTM System. Foolproof seal to keep ice in and air out.
  • MuleSkinETTM and MuleSkinEVTM. Tough 1000 denier Outer layer for exceptional strength and durability; heavy-duty inner layer 2X thicker than most soft coolers.
  • ComfortCarryIMPTM System. Reinforced back-straps and plus ventilated back pads provide ultimate comfort for long-range excursions.
  • PolarLayerTM Insulation. Keeps contents “IceMule Cold” for up to 24 hours.
  • IM AirValveTMAllows for insulation layer air removal so the cooler can roll up for storage in its stuff sack.

Price: $99.95 on Amazon.com (click to view)

Field Test

I have used it a few times so far, but I will focus my review on my recent trip spent hiking with my family in the hotter conditions of Southeastern Utah’s Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  Many of the trails in these parks are pretty exposed.  Knowing that we would be moving slow with my kids, I wanted to make sure we had enough cold drinks and some food for when we got hungry.  I figured this terrain would be the perfect test for the IceMule. Here is a picture of me wearing it near Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.

I was focused on reviewing it in two key categories, comfort and performance.

Comfort

This was perhaps my greatest concern before using it.  My initial thought was, “how could wearing a cooler on my back be comfortable?”  At the end of the day, I was beyond surprised at how comfortable it was. When loading it about 2/3 full, it weighed in at around 15lbs; a manageable weight for most grown ups.  The padding on the back and shoulder straps was so comfortable that I didn’t feel burdened with the weight and didn’t feel any awkward weight distribution at all.  When all was said and done, I never got sore shoulders or any sign of chafing.  In other words, it was pretty comfortable.  In addition, it was pretty breathable.  Sweat on by back was very minimal, despite being about 85 degrees Fahrenheit out.

Performance

Ultimately, the biggest test for me was how long it would keep the ice, otherwise, what would be the point of carrying a cooler up a mountain.  🙂  With a small 8 lb bag of ice, about 8 bottles/cans, and some food, the ice melted about half way over the course of 4 1/2 – 5 hours.  This included several times opening and closing the cooler along the hike.  I am sure with more ice, it would have kept even longer, although I felt the amount I used was typical of how I will use it.  While it didn’t seem like the ice would last anywhere close to a full day, it would have been good for 8+ hours in the heat of the day, which is likely perfect for most uses.  Additionally, I plan to test out other use cases to see what effects it has on ice longevity.

When done, it is easy to clean as well, just requiring a quick rinse and air drying.  It also has a air release valve so that you can release the air used for insulation for quick and compact storage when it is not in use.

Conclusion

One other nice thing about this pack that I haven’t mentioned yet are the rip cords on the back of the pack that is perfect for cinching down a jacket or two.  It is perfect if you are expecting it to be rainy or chilly and would like to pack accordingly without having to carry another bag.  I will say, I don’t believe there is anything else on the market that compares to the IceMule.  It fills a huge gap that I have had as it relates to hiking, particularly as a family.  I could see this having so many applications too, day trips to the park/zoo/etc., a day out on the boat or at the beach, you name it!  For $100, this is definitely worth picking up and keeping handy.

Pros:

  • Ice lasts more than long enough for a day full of activities.
  • Comfortable and breathable.
  • Plenty of room (with some to spare) for drinks and food for my family of four.
  • Easy to clean and store.

Cons:

  • In addition to the rip cords on the back, it would be great to build in some pockets or storage up front for quick access to essentials.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!

Product Review: Duckworth Vapor Tee

 

DW10301-14

Product Overview

For the past few days, I have been running in the Duckworth Vapor Tee, both indoors and outdoors, to fully test it out.  Duckworth is known for sourcing all of their wool from their very own ranch in Montana.  This gives them better control over the quality throughout the production lifecycle and allows them to produce a wool that is truly one of a kind.  The Vapor tee is a blend performance tee made of 38% wool, 50% recycled polyester, and 12% modal.  It is in their lightweight line of shirts and is meant as a summer wool shirt, although my experiences found that this would also be great (if not better) for Spring and Fall too.

Price: $60 at duckworthco.com

Looks

The neutral, earth tone colors keep the look simple and straight forward.  This resonates with me and most trail runners I know that typically prefer something a little less flashy.  Asides from running, it also makes for a great every day t-shirt as well.

Fit and Feel

I normally wear a medium shirt, so I got a medium in the Vapor tee as well.  It seemed to fit true to size on me.  As an average build runner, I did not find it to be too restrictive any of the key areas, such as the neck and shoulders; in fact, it felt comfortably loose all around.  If you have a more of a muscular build, it may fit a bit tighter in some areas, but the material is stretchy enough that I imagine it still wouldn’t feel too restrictive.  For most people, I would say that sizing up wouldn’t be necessary.

As for feel, this was one of the more comfortable wool-based shirts I have ever worn.  I always worry about wool being a little scratchy, particularly while I am running.  I also get concerned that it will start chaffing when it gets wet.  That was not my experience at all with this shirt…it felt great.  It seems to me that the blended composition of the shirt provides that softer feel without sacrificing the beneficial properties of the wool.

Performance

The wool itself has some key benefits, such as being anti-microbial as well as the natural warmth.  When blended with the polyester and modal fabrics, it also provides fast-wicking/ultra dry properties along with a cooling effect.  The end result is a shirt that does not get wet and heavy and can act in a warming or cooling manner to help keep your core temperature stable.

I purposely ran in it for several days in a row without washing it to test the advertised anti-microbial properties (willing to do whatever it takes to bring you a complete review).  I was curious, as a blended fabric shirt, if it would lose any of those benefits from the wool.  During this time, I wore it and stuffed it into a duffel bag in between runs to maximize the stink potential.  For the record, I would classify myself as an average sweater…not too wet, but not completely dry either.  After three runs across four days, I only had a very faint smell in the arm pit area, but other than that, it remained remarkably fresh.  I don’t imagine that most of us will reuse a shirt without washing it more than a couple times, but this is a great property nonetheless and certainly much better than other shirt materials that usually cause me to recoil from the resulting stench after a single run.

As far as temperature, I ran in it in temps ranging from 45 F to 80F.  In no instance did I feel particularly cold or hot.  At the start of my runs when it was cold, it kept me quite warm so that I wasn’t shivering.  Once I got going and my core temp increased, it didn’t make me overly hot in the least.  The other fabrics in the blend are said to produce a cooling effect when it gets wet from sweating.  While I can’t say that it produced any significant cooling effect, what I can say is that it didn’t add heat and did a great job at keeping my body temp stable, which is much more important to me.

Conclusion

While the price may scare many people away, you have to remember that you are getting probably the highest quality wool shirt on the market made from a tightly controlled population of Montana sheep and assembled here in the U.S.  In other words…top quality all around!  While I don’t envision running out and replacing my entire closet with these, I will likely grab one or two more and probably stash one in the back of my car for emergencies too.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!