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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You Might be an Ultrarunner if…

Most of us have heard the Jeff Foxworthy comedy routine, “You might be a redneck if…”.  I decided that our community needed a version of our own.  I would love to hear any more that you might have in the comments!

You might be an ultrarunner if…

  1. You have ever run out of Gerber baby food and given your infant a Clif food pouch instead.
  2. You have ever followed someone out of the bathroom after they didn’t wash their hands and immediately lined up behind them at the buffet without even questioning it.
  3. You have ever purchased your race kit from TJ MAXX.
  4. You have ever washed down a pancake and syrup burrito with a swig of pickle juice.
  5. You use more diaper rash ointment than a newborn baby.
  6. You have ever gone for a short training run only to end up in the next county.
  7. You have ever told your family to expect you at the finish line in 8 hours and it actually takes you 14.
  8. You get a bulk pallet discount on your gels.
  9. You refer to those gels as “nutrition.”
  10. You have ever debated whether or not a puddle of water is “drinkable.”
  11. You have ever asked people on Facebook to diagnose your ailments.
  12. You have had someone tell you that they “don’t even drive that far.”
  13. You have more wildlife friends than human ones.
  14. You have ever wondered to yourself if having Hobbit feet would make you a better runner.
  15. You have a tendency to take a nap or go to the bathroom without any concern for your current location or surroundings.
  16. Your have become hyper vigilant to random sounds around you.
  17. You have ever left your house wearing two socks and returned with only one.
  18. You have ever screamed in agony during what would otherwise be a relaxing shower.

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!

Arc’teryx Soleus Running Shorts (2016 Version)

If you recall, I did a review of the Arc’teryx Atom SL Jacket last December; a product that I was pretty impressed with.  Based on this experience, I decided to reach out to Arc’teryx to see if they had anything they wanted a review on ahead of the upcoming running season.  They sent me over their newest Soleus shorts, which they updated for for 2016.

DISCLAIMER: Arc’teryx provided me with the product for the purposes of this review.  As always, I do my best to maintain a non biased review for the benefit of my readers and the company itself.

Product Overview

I would describe the Soleus as a minimalist, light weight race short.  Everything about these shorts screams long and fast.  They have a couple of pretty slick features, outlined here and described in more detail further in the review.

  • Lightweight materials, (weighing in at 4.9 oz for the Medium)
  • Short length, with side splits for unobstructed movement
  • Built-in liner for a secure fit
  • 5-pockets for maximum storage to keep your hands free
  • SPF 50 for sun protection

     

Price: $89 here on Amazon

In Action

To start, here is a picture of me with the shorts on to give you a feel for the overall length.

I ran in these a few times, with the primary test being a 16 mile trail run.  I really loved these shorts, and will call out a few areas.

Liner

I don’t run in shorts with liners all that often; I generally opt for compression shorts beneath a regular pair of fitness shorts.  One of the first things I noticed about the liner is that it provided more than enough support while being WAY more breathable.  This kept sweat to a minimum, which I am sure contributed to the overall comfort and lack of chafing.  The liner didn’t have any rough seam spots either, so no weird rubbing was present during the run.

Pockets

The Soleus has three pockets on the back.  The left hip is a zipper pocket; the middle pocket is the widest one with a smaller entrance to keep things from falling out; the right hip pocket is smaller, ideal for gels.  I was worried about how these would feel (i.e., bounce) while running, which ended up being unwarranted for the most part.  I ran with my keys in the zipper pocket, a Clif food pouch in the middle, and a couple of gels in the right.  The bounce was there, but minimal to the point of being mostly unnoticeable.  I wouldn’t recommend carrying much more than that, but what I did pack into the pockets was more than enough storage to get me through my long run and from aid station to aid station on race day.  It was definitely nice having my hands free and being able to use a minimal hydration pack.  I didn’t really use the two front pockets.  They are pretty shallow and I kept stressing about things falling out.

Length

While not the shortest I have seen, I usually run in shorts that are a bit longer than these.  It took a little getting used to for me, but the length was a major factor in the breathability, non-chafing, and freedom of movement.  Each leg has  about a two-inch side split that makes movement more free flowing.  I almost felt like I wasn’t wearing any shorts (although thankfully for those around me I was).  So aside from getting used to a shorter short, I enjoyed the fit and found that it contributed to the overall performance.

Conclusion

Arc’teryx makes some of the the highest quality products in the space.  They use top materials and the finest construction.  Of course, you have to be willing to pay for a product of this quality.  While I believe the cost versus longevity more than justifies the $89 price tag of these shorts, I can also understand why it might be a large pill to swallow when it comes to buying a pair of shorts to do your 6ish mile training runs in.  For me, this is the perfect short for both long runs and on race day.  In fact, I am buying a second pair to make sure that I always have a pair available.  To summarize, here is a list of pro’s and con’s.

Pro’s

  • The liner provided enough support that it basically eliminated the need to wear a pair of compression shorts.  As it was more breathable too, it actually worked out better for me.
  • The back pockets were super handy.  While I was worried about bounce while running, I was able to put my keys in the zip pocket and my nutrition in the other two with no discomfort or fear of losing things.
  • No chafing.  With other shorts, I normally have problems with materials rubbing against my thighs and causing chafing after longer distances.  I feel like the combination of the liner, length, and split legs eliminated this problem for me.

Con’s

  • The two front pockets are shallow.  I was worried about putting anything in them for fear of stuff falling out.  As such, I found them to be pointless.  In the future, I would rather see them either make these pockets a little deeper or get rid of them all together.
  • They rode up a little.  I am not used to wearing shorter length shorts, so this may be normal.  It didn’t cause any problems, but will take some getting used to.

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!