Product Review: DRINK maple

I don’t write many food and beverage reviews on my site, but if I run across something new or unique that might appeal to my audience, I don’t hesitate.  I recently got a case of maple water from the folks over at DRINK maple and thought I would give it a try and share my thoughts.  Maple water is not necessarily a new thing, but with the recent success of coconut water, the opportunity seems ripe for similar water alternatives.

I am primarily a water guy.  I will occasionally pick up a sports drink to mix it up, but water is my bread and butter (especially during and after physical activity).  While water serves the purpose for me on most days, sometimes I like to mix it up with something with a bit more flavor along with some added nutrients to aide the replenishment process.  I am not a huge fan of coconut water, mostly because of the taste, so I decided to take this opportunity to give maple water a try.  Let’s get into my thoughts!

Taste

I was most curious about this.  DRINK maple is very clear that their product is straight from the tree.  With that being said, I didn’t know if it would have an overly sappy taste or texture.  These were my preconceived notions, but honestly, having never tried maple water before I didn’t know what to expect.  All in all, I was pleasantly surprised.  What I liked most about it was that it had a very clean taste, similar to that of spring water.  In addition, it had a slight sugary taste with a hint of maple, but wasn’t overbearing at all.  It was just enough to provide me with the different taste that I was looking for without being over the top.

 

Pros

  • Organic and all natural.  This will resonate with a good number of people.  Many athletes are being extra sensitive these days about what we put into our bodies.  With trust and transparency also being an issue with many nutrition companies, people are looking toward more natural sources.  If you look at the side of the bottle, the DRINK maple product has one ingredient, Organic Maple Water…you can’t get more natural than that.
  • More than water.  Maple water is rich in many nutrients and electrolytes, primarily Potassium and Manganese.  We all know the benefits of potassium as an electrolyte to promote proper muscle performance (the reason so many of us eat bananas by the case).  Manganese is one that most people may not be as familiar with, but it contributes to healthy bone and connective tissue development.  It is hard to argue that both of these are super beneficial to runners and athletes.
  • DRINK maple as a company is in it more much more than money.  If you look at the side of their bottle, each bottle sold supplies 200 gallons of clean water to people in developing nations.  This is a product that you can make you feel good not just physically, but socially too.
  • Half the sugar of its main competing product, coconut water (more if you consider that many coconut water brands have started adding flavoring too), and tastes better too in my humble opinion.

Cons

  • It can be pricy at a cost of about $3 for a 12 oz. bottle, so that means this isn’t going to be for everyone.  With that being said, I think it all comes down to a matter of personal priorities.  The production process of extracting directly from a tree is both seasonal and costly, but if your priorities are to get your nutrients and hydration through natural sources and from a company that is socially responsible, then the cost is much more justifiable.
  • For those that are buying this as a way of being natural may be bothered that it comes in a plastic bottle (although recyclable).  Luckily, they have an 8 oz. size that comes in a paper carton, which is my preference.  Hopefully, they will package in a larger carton size in the future.

Who Should Try It?

Like I mentioned earlier, maple water may not be for everyone.  I would say that there are a number of people that may want to give it a try.  If you drink coconut water because you aren’t aware of alternatives, but can’t stand the taste, then you should try this.  If you are more like me and drink mostly water, but want an alternative option that is full of nutrients and electrolytes without added sugar and chemicals, you should also give it a try.  You also don’t have to drink it all day every day, so if you are a bit cash strapped, I think you can still gain benefits from having one or two a week.  In any case, I have become mildly addicted to it and think it is worth a try!

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Product Review: Katadyn BeFree Water Filter Soft Flask

I actually ran across the Katadyn BeFree while I was flipping through an issue of Runner’s World looking at one of their “favorite gear” articles and it caught my eye.  I am a recent convert to soft flasks, which I like to keep readily accessible in the front pouches of my vest.  I figured that one with a built in filter would be great for self supported runs where water sources aren’t always reliable.  I have carried a Life Straw before, and they are great, but the straw is only good when physically at a water source and their bottle models are rigid and don’t fit well in my pack.  This gives me a great option without having to carry any extra gear.

   

Overview

The flask itself is made by Hydrapak, so you know you are getting a solid bottle.  It is a 0.6L flask (20 oz), providing capacity in line with other soft flasks and rigid bottles on the market and perfect for the front pouch of most running packs.  It is going to cost you around $40, which means you are paying about $20 for the added benefit of the filter when you consider the price of similar soft flasks on the market.  The filter is certified for up to 1000 liters of water or about 1600 refills of the flask, so it will last most people for awhile.

In Use

On the trail,  I was quite satisfied, but there are a few things I would tweak to the overall experience.  The bottle itself was great.  Katadyn says that the flow out of the bottle is roughly one liter of water per minute, which is more than enough for a swig of water along the run.  I haven’t yet had any issues with a reduction in water flow and don’t imagine that I will as long as I keep the filter clean between uses.  In general, it is great not having to worry about running out of water.  I generally carry two soft flasks these days.  My usual practice is to empty the filter flask first and then fill up at the next water source, making sure I hang on to my non-filter flask mostly for backup.  Filling it up is super easy.  Just take the cap off, fill the flask, and put it back on.  It is recommended that you wipe off the flask after filling it, but since you are drinking through the cap, the risk of ingesting water that does not pass through the filter is still pretty low.

As for the experience, I would like to see if there is a way to use a straw top instead of the drink nozzle that is on it, that way, I can keep it in the front pouch of my pack and drink from it without having to take it out.  An alternative would be to try one of those soft flask holders (like Solomon has) to make it easier to carry in your hand (which I haven’t tried yet).

Pros

  • Super convenient with the filter built right into the bottle.  You can stop at any water source, take the cap off, fill the bottle, and you are good to go.
  • Easy to clean the filter if water flow becomes clogged.  In most cases, you can just shake it, but if all else fails, you can rinse/flush it in a clean water source.
  • Perfect size to fit conveniently in the front pouch of most packs.
  • Water flow was great.  A light squeeze and you can get a mouthful of water no problem.

Cons

  • The cap is a squirt top, which means you have to take it out and squeeze it to be effective.  I think you could offer a cap with a straw attachment and it would work just as well.  This would keep from having to take it out of the pocket.
  • The top of the soft flask near the cap is a bit more rigid than other Hydrapak flasks I have used and it is a bit more tricky to get stuffed down into the front pockets of my vest when full.

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XTAR Moon RC2 Rechargeable Light

As I have said many times before, one of the things that I enjoy most about reviewing products is running across unique items from lesser known companies within the trail and ultra space.  While the big names continue to bring us new, innovative products, I have had the best luck with companies that aren’t so entrenched in the space.  They often tend to think a little outside of the box.  The Moon RC2 rechargeable light from XTAR is one such item.  Let’s have a look!

Product Overview

The XTAR Moon RC2 is shaped like an egg and only a tad bit larger.  It comes with a clip on the back that is used to secure it in place.  It offers flood-mode lighting in 4 levels:

  • High: 120 lumens / 4.2 hour runtime
  • Medium: 60 lumens / 9 hour runtime
  • Low: 30 lumens / 16 hour runtime
  • Moonlight: 3 lumens / 120 hour runtime

It is waterproof and offers a built-in battery that is rechargeable using Micro USB and at 87.5 grams, it is not too bulky either.  You can get a basic idea of the shape and size from the photo of the Moon RC2 in my hand.  The light is controlled by a single button on the top of the light that allows you to toggle between the four different light modes.  Here is a link to their product page as well for more details:

Moon RC2 Product Page

     

The easiest place to get your hands on one is at Amazon, and at $20, it is a pretty solid deal!

$19.99 at Amazon.com (click to view)

In Action

As with all of the reviews I write about lighting products, I like to show images that give you some feel for the light coverage.  On the left, you will see an image of the light in HIGH mode and on the right, you will see the light in LOW mode.

     

The Moon RC2 does not offer a beam mode, but as you can see, it is capable of outputting a good amount of light.  I found it to be pretty ample for running, but I did find myself missing beam mode for those times when I wanted to focus on something in the distance.  What I liked most about it was the ability to clip it on to pretty much anywhere.  While running, I clipped it on to the waistband of my shorts.  It provided for a great light angle and didn’t slide around at all.  The clip is strong enough to hold it securely in place, whether you want to clip it on to your shorts, water bottle holster, or hydration pack.  This versatility may be the best thing about the Moon RC2.  In terms of battery life, it was on par with other lights that have similar lumen output, but the lack of a swappable battery does make it difficult to use as a primary light for all night runs.

Pro’s

  • Can clip it anywhere making it versatile for many types of use.
  • Light quality was good.
  • Simple to use interface and easy to recharge.
  • Battery life was on par with competing products with similar lumen output.

Con’s

  • No beam mode
  • No swappable battery

In general, while I am sure they could do some things to improve upon it, for the price and size/weight, the Moon RC2 will make a great backup light to keep around or to use for shorter distances in the dark.  Along with it’s versatile clip-on interface, I will find myself using it for many other purposes as well.  For example, it would be great as a secondary rear-racing light to put on my pack, camping, hiking, and even those times when you simply need a hands-free light.  Worth checking it out for sure!

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