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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Product Review: Kaenon Hard Kore Sunglasses

I am a total junky when it comes to sunglasses, as is evident by the full rack of shades sitting on top of my dresser.  I especially love finding a good pair of sunglasses for trail running.  That is why I jumped at the opportunity to review the Kaenon Hard Kore glasses.  Let’s take a look.

DISCLAIMER: Kaenon provided this pair of sunglasses for the purposes of this review.  As such, I always strive to provide an unbiased review for the benefit of both my readers looking for honesty and the company looking to improve their products.

Overview

Kaenon, founded by a pair of sailors (and brothers), has its roots in water sports.  They started the company in 2001 to build a product that addressed some of the main limitations and issues with eyewear at the time.  The result was a company that has innovated and grown to include several product lines.  Today, I am reviewing a model in their Kore Performance line, the Hard Kore.  Here are a few key features to highlight:

  • All Kaenon models start with their proprietary SR-91 lens.  This is their bread and butter.  SR-91 not only received the highest optical resolution score that you can get, but was the first non-polycarbonate material to pass the high-mass impact ANSI Z.87.1.  In other words, they offer unsurpassed clarity and durability.
  • Polarized lens that eliminate glare while offering full broad spectrum UV protection.
  • Supports prescription lenses so you don’t have to sacrifice vision quality.

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Price: $175+ on Amazon (click to view)

Use

I actually got these at Outdoor Retailer back in August (shame on me for taking so long to review), so I have had several months to wear the Hard Kore and put them to the test.  I chose the copper lenses due to their better contrast on the trails and have not been disappointed at all with how they have performed.

Above all else, they provide excellent clarity, allowing me a great view of the trail in both sunny and shaded conditions.  The polarization also provided great protection against glare of any sort without distorting the clarity whatsoever.  I did have some minor fogging on one chilly and rainy run, but that seemed to be either a one-time occurrence or unique to the cold/wet weather combination.  Beyond that, the clarity was never compromised in any other instance over my three months of testing.

From a comfort perspective, the frame stems are a bit wider/taller than you will see on most products out there and there were some pluses and minuses to this design.  On the plus side, the added contact to the sides of the head aided to keep the glasses in place.  As a result, I never experienced any bouncing or slipping of the frames.  The way they hugged the sides of the head also made them extremely comfortable.  Most recently, I spent 10 hours running in the Grand Canyon and never felt the need to take them off.  These are definitely an all-day pair of sunglasses.  On the flipside, I found that the footprint of the frames did interfere with some hats, most noticeably trucker style hats.  I usually run in the Headsweats floppy hat style, which gave me no problems, but you should keep that in mind.

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Conclusion

There are a lot of sunglass options out there of all shapes, sizes, and price.  Kaenon definitely prices alongside other premium brands, such as Oakley and Rudy Project.  While they would probably price too high for most people when it comes to everyday wear (myself included), I have always been of the mindset that one should always invest in a great pair of optics when it comes to activewear.  Perhaps it’s because I tend to be clumsy on the trails, but I feel that one shouldn’t sacrifice quality when it comes to having crystal clear vision on the trails.  That being said, if you are looking to make a solid investment in your gear, you should definitely give a hard look at the Kaenon Hard Kore.  Here are my pro’s and con’s.

Pro’s:

  • Light weight – They are super light on the face, which keeps you from noticing that they are even there.
  • Stable – They don’t slip or bounce on your face, which is important, especially because of how annoying it can be when you have to constantly push sunglasses back up on your face.
  • Optics – Probably, the most important feature to any trail runner, I found the optical clarity to be fantastic.  I went with the copper lens color because that color provides the best contrast on dirt terrain.  These were probably the best quality copper lenses I have ever worn.

Con’s:

  • Frames – They do hug the head nicely, but they are stems are wide/tall.  I didn’t find this to be a problem without head wear, but since I run with a hat on 95% of the time, I found that they do get in the way with certain types of hats.
  • Fogged up slightly during one heavy rain day with cooler (mid 40’s) temperatures.  Did not experience this on days when it rained, but the temperatures were higher.

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Product Review: OOFOS Recovery Sandals

If you have ever run an ultra marathon or cheered someone on at the finish line, you are likely familiar with one common behavior that nearly everyone crossing the finish line exhibits – the overwhelming desire to take your shoes off almost immediately.  Speaking for myself, after 6+ hours of running on technical terrain, my feet are sore and want freedom from my shoes.  Therein lies the problem; you want to take them off, but you still need to take care of your already thrashed feet.  I used to wear standard sandals, but they didn’t really provide much in terms of comfort or support.  A friend of mine suggested I try OOFOS and when I did, I knew I found my answer.  Let’s take a look!

DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with OOFOS in any way at the time of writing this review.  OOFOS did provide me with this product with no expectation of a review.  I am writing this review under my own direction and will look to provide honest, unbiased feedback.

Product Overview

OOFOS starts with their proprietary foam, which they call OOfoam.  Whereas traditional foam (like what you would find in running shoes) is designed for responsiveness, OOfoam serves the opposite purpose; it absorbs shock…up to 37% more than traditional foam according to OOFOS.  In addition, there are few few other benefits that resonate with me:

  • Unlike most sandals/flip-flops, they have tremendous arch support.
  • The foam maintains its shape and cushion for the entire life of the sandal.
  • They are shower ready and machine washable.

They offer three main styles to pick from as you can see below.  They are the OOahh Sport slide style sandal, the OOriginal flip-flop style sandal, and the OOcloog closed toe clog.  I will look at each one below.

Price: $45-60 at oofos.com (but you can sometimes find deals on Amazon.com after a quick search)

Before I get into each model more closely, let’s look at the outsole and talk a little bit about my overall experience with them.  The tread is the same on each model so you know what you are going to get.  As a recovery sandal, traction is not really my primary measurement, but I have found them to handle more than adequately.  Personally, I am more concerned with durability, stability, and comfort.

  • In terms of durability, I have gone from wearing them as post-run recovery sandals to everyday casual footwear so, needless to say, I have put quite a few miles on them.  Every model I have tried seems to hold up quite well.  Aside from being dirty and maybe a little worn, they look just about the same as when I took them out of the box.  Depending on your use, I am sure you could get several years/500+ miles out of a pair.
  • As a cushiony recovery shoe, one concern for some would be stability; would they be squishy and wobbly?  The short answer is no.  I would say that they are squishy where it counts; I have never felt like was was going to roll an ankle or anything because of an unstable platform.
  • When it comes to comfort, this is what sold me.  Their OOfoam creates the most comfortable footwear I have ever stepped into.  They feel great post run and I even wear them when I am working at my standing desk or just walking around.

So let’s take a look at some pictures of the three models and a few specific thoughts:


OOriginal

If you like flip flops, this is the way to go.  That being said, I found there to be a bit too much foam on the post in between the toes which I was a bit uncomfortable for me.


OOcloog

The OOcloog is easy to take on and off, but I am not so sure that the clog look is back in style yet.  🙂  On the flip side, I still wear them frequently because the closed-toe design provides a little more protection.  Plus, no one wants to have to look at my gross runners feet.  I also noticed that there seems to be a bit more support in the arch versus the other two models.


OOahh

Really not much to say about this one other than this is my favorite model.  They have a good look and are easy to slide off and on.  Really a great fit overall!

If you want my true opinion, I think these need to be in the finish line bag of every ultra runner.  It is important to take care of your feet after a long race and I have yet to find anything better.  Beyond long distance running though, if you are someone that spends a lot of time on your feet or just has problems with sore feet in general, you should consider a pair of OOFOS too.  You will be thankful on those days when you want to give your feet a break.

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!