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!

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Gear Review: Coast FL70/75 Headlamp

At the end of last year, I did a review on the HL27 headlamp from  Coast, a company that I ran across at the Outdoor Retailer Summer show.  This product, while not marketed toward the running community specifically, caught my eye because of its economical cost compared to similar products from other vendors in the market.  As it turns out, I was super impressed with that product.  Since then, Coast has released a couple new products that I had the opportunity to review, the FL70 and FL75.  These two are similar, but there are a couple differences.  I will review both together and call out the differences.

DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with Coast in any manner however, these headlamps were provided by Coast for the purposes of this review.

In The Box and Specs

In the box, you have the headlamp with 3 AAA batteries included.  The major design change with the FL70/75 is the combination of the lamp and batteries into a single unit (previous Coast models had a battery pack as a separate compartment on the back of the head — more about the advantages and disadvantages later in the review).  It also uses AAA batteries versus AA in other models.  The headlamp uses a single adjustable strap to hold it in place..  The lamp is a single LED center-mounted light, which tilts to adjust the aim of the light.  It includes a pretty simple interface, with an on/off button that allows you to quickly toggle the light output mode and a bezel on the lamp unit that allows you to transition between beam and flood mode.  Additionally, the FL75 as a second button that toggles on/off the low power red light mode.

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The $9 difference in price is likely to do with the added functionality of the red light in the HL75, because as you can see, they are nearly identical in specs otherwise.

Fit

The fit of this headlamp is actually quite nice.  Given the light weight of the lamp/battery box, the single strap is more than sufficient for holding it in place.  The box on the front has a relatively small footprint when compared with other products on the market.  Moving the batteries to the front allows Coast to bring a product to market for those that don’t like obstructions that rear battery packs can cause when carrying things on your back.

In Action

First, the back yard test.  I usually take this picture as a means of getting a general idea of the light output, range, and spread pattern.  The first three pictures below show the High, Medium, and Low lumen output settings.  I didn’t see a huge difference between High and Medium on spot beam mode to be honest, with only a bit of a drop off from Medium to Low (not very apparent in the pictures).  The next two pictures show the flood mode in Low mode, the first being 50% between spot and flood and the second being 100% flood.  You will see a large difference as you transition from spot to flood mode, with the light coverage favoring width over distance.  A lot of different views here to consider, but I found the sweet spot for me while running trails was about 40% spot / 60% flood on Medium mode.

 

Second, is the run test.  Winter is a great time to test headlamps…lots of darkness!  I mentioned my ideal sweet spot setting with this lamp, but found it to be a simple click of a button or twist of the bezel on the lamp to make on-the-fly changes.  It was really easy to do with gloves on too, which is not always the case with the smaller buttons on other products.  This allows you to extend battery life by quickly making qucik adjustments with changing outdoor lighting conditions.

A big trade off with this design versus past Coast models that I have reviewed is the dropoff in battery life.  For similar output and performance, the FL series offers less than half of the battery life as the previously reviewed HL series.  It also lacks a battery life indicator, so it is hard to tell when you are about to run out of light (although there is some dimming).

Overall Thoughts

Pros

  • Super light and compact with a small footprint.  It doesn’t feel bulky compared to “battery pack on the back” models do.
  • The light output button and flood-to-spot bezel offers full flexibility and control to the runner in regards to adjusting light output in real-time.
  • The strap is reflective!  This is a small detail, but still handy, particularly for light sources behind you that might not necessarily see your forward-facing beam.
  • Overall value.  For $50-60 depending on the model, this is solid headlamp.

Cons

  • Still would like to see Coast incorporate a battery life indicator on their lamps.
  • The dropoff in lumen output is significant from Low to Medium (53 to 230).  53 is a bit weak for the Low setting.  It would be more useful if it was somewhere around 80, which would allow me to operate almost exclusively in that mode.
  • Battery life at Medium and High is not really feasible for long periods of overnight running due to the drain on battery life.

Overall, the new FL series from Coast is solid as far as running headlamps go.  $50-60 for a max 405 lumen headlamp is a great deal.  They are price competitive to other comparable products and, in my opinion, the lamps on the Coast products may be the best on the market for light quality and output.  The battery life will be a challenge for some people on these, so the lamp is ideal for those races/runs where you only need it for a couple hours at the start or finish of your run or for use as a lightweight emergency backup.

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!