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!

Race Report: Skyline 50K 2016

The Skyline 50K (as well as marathon and half marathon) is a local race that takes place in the mountains East of Ogden, Utah.  Despite being just over an hour from my house, this was my first time running in this area.  I signed up for this one primarily as a tune up before my last race of the season in September, but with the weird season I have had, it also happened to be the first race since February that I have been completely healthy so it would also serve as true test of my health.  This race is tricky because, being in mid-August, it has the risk of getting quite hot.  As luck would have it though, we got a small break in the temperature as it was only expected to get into the upper 80’s.  This made for a great opportunity to have fun and enjoy the trails while also maybe pushing myself a little bit.  For the most part, I stuck with my strategy of running a consistently paced race without overtaxing my heart rate and ended up being only a couple of beats over my target average heart rate for the entire race (some of which may have been impacted by the bees – more on that later).

The race started from the Ben Lomand trailhead in Liberty, Utah immediately with a 3,000 foot climb over the first six miles.  I actually prefer this as it gives me a chance to warm up a bit without the pressure to start out in a sprint.  The grade of this first climb was pretty consistent all the way up, which meant it fairly runnable.  I ended up running 75% of this first climb to the aid station at the top without really extending outside of my heart rate threshold.  This race was full of unique challenges for me; the first was right around mile four.  While running through a particularly narrow, overgrown section of trail, I didn’t see a forward facing root sticking out of the ground which ended up skewering the upper on my shoe.  While it held together, I got to spend the next 27 miles with my toes sticking out of my shoe.  While this did force me to have to empty rocks out of my shoe more often, it didn’t seem to impact my running too much.


After topping off my water bottle, I began the first descent, which was six miles back downhill to the Ogden Divide.  This was a pretty runnable section of the course the whole way down, but was also the busiest section of the course in terms of hikers.  Still, it was pretty manageable.  At this point in the race, there were about four or five of us grouped together for the entire six miles.  Once down to this aid station, I filled my bottles back up again, got some fruit, and began the steepest (but last) climb of the course.  This is when my next personal challenge came in the form of multiple bee stings.  I haven’t been stung by a bee since elementary school when I got stung in the ear and it swelled completely shut making me look like an MMA fighter.  With this memory, I became somewhat concerned considering I now had three fresh bee stings.  I decided to hike slowly for the next 10-15 minutes to keep a close eye on my heart rate.  This probably ended up costing me a sub-6 hour finish time and one or two spots, but better safe than sorry I suppose.  After I was sure I was good to go, I got back to running all the way into the mile 16 aid station.  From here, the 50K runners have to do a 5 mile out and back to Lewis Peak.  This offered the best view on the course and is well worth the extra 5 miles over the marathon.  See for yourself:


After coming back through the same aid station once again, you jump back on the marathon course, which is a 6 mile downhill to the last aid station.  This downhill was fun, but it was finally starting to get hot as I dropped a bit in altitude.  While all of the aid stations were great, this last one I will never forget.  As I came in, they greeted me with two towels soaked in ice water for my head and neck, dipped my hat in ice water, and gave me two otter pops.  What a great feeling it was.  Special thanks to this aid station crew!

After leaving the last aid station, we had to run four miles along a pretty flat hiking/biking trail, including about a half mile along pavement into Eden, Utah to cross the finish line.  I crossed the line in 6:09:33 for 31 miles, 6K feet of elevation gain, and an 11th overall finish.  All said and done, I was happy with my day.  I felt relaxed most of the run and it helped me get a better feeling for where I was at in my preparation for next months race.  Mission accomplished!


I have to say, I was really happy with this race.  Everything from packet pickup to finish line activities was extremely well organized.  I don’t often run races more than once (with a few exceptions), but I could see running this one again.  If you are looking for a nice, runnable 50K with a local feel, I would definitely recommend this race.  Here are some of the key points!

Pro’s:

  • So many aid stations!  With one every 3-6 miles, I could travel light and not worry about water, even in the heat.
  • Gain is front loaded, which means you knock out all of the hills while the legs are fresher.  This actually helped me get my first ever negative split.
  • The course is clean, well-groomed, and super runnable.
  • Tons of raffle prizes from sponsors for the finishers, almost everyone got something this year.

Con’s

  • The last four miles of the course run along a pretty terrible trail along the shore of the Pineview Reservoir.  Unless you want to run road, this is really the only way to the finish line, so I guess it could be worse.  At the same time, the first 27 miles more than make up for it.

Thanks to my friends and family for their continued support.  Thank you to the crew and volunteers of the Skyline 50K for a superbly run event.  Lastly, thanks to all of my sponsors for enabling me with the best gear ever.  Please show your love and check out my “What I Use” page for discounts on everything that I use and trust!  Here is what I used.

  • Topo Athletic MT-2: My favorite shoe in training and on race day.
  • Injinji Trail 2.0 Mini-Crew: No blisters here.
  • Orange Mud Vest Pack 1: Light, with enough room for the water and food I need to get me from one aid station to the next on race day.
  • Headsweats Go Hat: If you wear hats on race day, there isn’t a better one out there.
  • RAD Roller and Rod: I always need to take care of the muscles after a great run.

Product Review: Coast HX5 Flashlight

While at Outdoor Retailer in early August, I stopped by to see my pals at Coast to check out their latest light products to see if they had anything new that may resonate with the trail running crowd.  I have reviewed, and generally raved, about a couple of their headlamps over the past year, but I have been wanting to try a handheld for the longest time and decided to focus my attention to those.  I ended up walking away from their booth with the HX5 handheld, which is the one I thought would best fit into what we do.

DISCLAIMER: Coast provided me with a HX5 for the purposes of this review, however, I will always strive to remain neutral in my reviews for the benefits of my readers as well as the company in the effort to improve and innovate their products.

Product Overview

coast_hx5_master

First off, the headlamp versus handheld argument is largely one of personal preference.  Proponents of handhelds say that having the light source originate closer to the ground provides better depth perception on the trail.  Of course, with a headlamp you can keep your hands free and not disrupt your arm motion.  Whatever your preference may be, the flexibility offered with the HX5 can provide a solution for everyone.  It is one of the smaller handhelds in their product line, but still offers the right amount of functionality.  Here are the specs:

Light Output / Distance / Runtime:

  • Alkaline: 130 lumens / 79m / 03:45 (hh:mm)
  • NiMH: 125 lumens / 77m / 01:15 (hh:mm)
  • Li Ion: 345 lumens / 130m / 00:45 (hh:mm)

Length:

  • 4 in (10.16 cm)

Weight:

  • 2.5oz (70 g)

Additional Key Features:

  • Two-way clip allows you to clip it to anything, such as the bill of your hat, pointing forward or backward.
  • Simple slide interface to transition between spot or flood mode (or anything in between).
  • Water resistant for use outside in inclement weather.
Price:
Performance
I found the 130 lumens to cast out enough light for most hiking and running situations, although it might be best suited during sunrise/sunset or when there is a brighter moon in the sky.  It is comparable in light output to some entry level running lamps, such as previous versions of the Black Diamond Spot.  I also found that the quality of the LED light was consistent with previous praises I have given to other Coast products.  In short, I was more than comfortable running on dark trails with this light as my primary source.
I did play around with spot versus flood modes and found that spot was more suitable while running whereas flood was better when I needed to stop and look around as it casts a wider light.  Here are a few samples of what the light output looked like:

Spot/Flood/Hybrid

Lastly, I wanted to see if I could realistically use it as a headlamp by clipping it to the bill of my hat.  I usually run with a hat on, but the bill of a hat tends to block light from a headlamp requiring me to either take off my hat or turn it backwards.  By clipping the HX5 onto the bill of my hat, it casts the light beyond the bill and thereby is unobstructed.  I also found that because there is not much weight to the light, it didn’t cause my hat to bounce or move while running.  I found it funny that although I started to test this as a handheld, I actually began using it more as a headlamp.  In fact, I have been using this exclusively for the past three weeks on all of my runs that I start in the early morning because it is so convenient to use and then take off mid run and stuff in my pack.

Conclusion

Pros:

  • Versatility to be used as a headlamp (by clipping to your hat) or as a handheld is a great feature.  As a trailrunner, this was probably the most important because it allows me to carry something light and with a small footprint on me as a backup and to use it in the matter that is most suitable for whatever my needs may be.
  • Variable beam control that allows you to transition between flood and spot mode, depending on what kind of light you need to cast out.  If you prefer something in between, the HX5 can do that too.
  • Only requires a single AA battery so you won’t be churning through tons of batteries if you run a lot at night.

Cons:

  • No variable light output controls…instead, it requires you to swap to a different battery type.  While I find 130 lumens to be sufficient for my intended use, if you like more light output, you will need to put either a NiMH or Li Ion battery in the light.  In doing so however, you also drastically reduce the run time.  And let’s be honest, with the weight, size, and price point of this flashlight, it is a fair trade off.
  • I found it comfortable to hold, but for those with bigger hands, it might feel a bit small.  I think they could add another half inch without increasing the weight and it would be perfect.

At a miminum, every trail runner that runs in the dark should give a serious look at picking one of these up 9at least as a backup light).  It is lighter and smaller than carrying a backup headlamp and can be used headlamp style or as a handheld.  Also, at half the cost of a headlamp with similar performance, it really is a no brainer.  Given the low cost, I would also consider this for road running where you typically have more ambient light and a more consistent terrain.

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!