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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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.

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!