With my pediatric-sized earlobs, I’ve had more luck carrying a boom box on my shoulder than getting iPhone-issued ear buds to stay in my ears, most especially while running. And the quality of sound is a whole other beast. To find a pair of high-performance buds that cater to the small-eared lot was a God send, because a six-mile run just isn’t the same without a little classic rock. The Yurbuds Inspire Limited Edition Headphones do just that, they inspire. Inspire you to run harder, faster, longer—just like those who take on the Ironman, the company that Yurbuds joined forces with to release this product to the public. The headphones come with five different shapes and sizes of silicone ear fittings to ensure an adjust-free fit (you can also choose between ambient aware and noise isolating). The twist lock technology is simple—place the buds into your ear and then twist and lock into place—but it works. Allowing also for a hands-free run, the tangle-free, sweat-resistant cord features a iWhatever-friendly control that allows you to switch songs, answer calls, and change the volume without ever having to touch your music-playing device. Yurbuds is so confident in their design that they’ve issued the buds with a lifetime warranty, and the option to send in a photo of the buds in your ears for a custom pair to be made and sent to you free of charge. There’s no denying that there’s something inherently cool about a boom box, but there is little that compares to finishing mile ten to a soundtrack of Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.”
Of the three big pushes coming from The North Face in the fall of 2013, we’re perhaps most excited about the brand’s new insulation innovations. ThermoBall ain’t the sequel to Skyfall; It’s a synthetic insulation made in concert with Primaloft, providing spherical patches of insulation designed to mimic the structure of down, trapping heat within small air pockets. This also makes it highly packable, and will insulate even when wet. The insulation on the ThermoBall Full-Zip Jacket ($199, pictured) is equivalent to that of a 600-fill down jacket of similar weight. ProDown—TNF’s proprietary water-resistant down—will also be introduced this fall, boasting products that will stay dry and full of loft for up to 100 minutes, and will be found in such products as the 950-fill Supernatural Jacket ($449). They’ll also introduce the new ZLoft tech, which uses Primaloft One synthetic insulation with a Z-baffle shape that maximizes warmth without adding much weight or bulk in hybrid, high-performance pieces like the Zephyrus Pro Hoodie ($299).
Another big initiative in 2013? Apparel and footwear for cold-weather running, including products that’ll make use of Gore Windstopper and proprietary tech like FlashDry and Thermo3D designs to create high-performance, gender-specific temp regulation for long-distance cold-weather runners. Products like the Feather Lite Storm Blocker Jacket ($200)—the lightest fully-waterproof, seam-sealed jacket they’ve made at just 10.5 ounces—were tested by TNF athletes on the trails of Mont Blanc, so they’ll work for you just fine.
They’ll also fill out a new line for the niche outdoor scene that prides themselves on braving the harshest cold-weather environments. The new Steep Series was tested by TNF athletes in the harsh world of Antarctica, and the 19 pieces in this new line will bring forth hardcore products with tech like the new Gore-Tex Pro waterproof/breathable fabric, water-resistant down, and other features that’ll keep you sheltered from the extremes.
We’ve been testing Gore Running apparel for the past six months. While the brand is a top-seller in the category in Europe, it has only recently been distributed in the United States. For Fall ’13, we are excited about their new Magnitude Outfit Systems for men (the Comp Shirt and Tights are pictured above). The performance line is designed for the long-distance runner. The tights have enough compression to shape and support the quads and calves, without restricting movement. We like the new vest and jacket with Windstopper laminate for cold-weather training, as well as the reflective and neon detailing for heightened visibility after dark, great ventilation, and smartly-positioned pockets.
www.salomon.com, 8.5 ounces
Of all the outdoor sports we cover, running generates the most brand-loyal gear-lovers. Such allegiance—born from literally thousands of footsteps—is understandable, and also informative. One loyal tester has been wearing Salomon shoes while trail running for years, for everything from casual weekend runs to mega-mile outings that make our quads ache with just the thought of it. So when he pronounced that the Salomon XT Wings 3 were his new go-to pair of trail runners, we took notice (and so should you). These burly kicks are far from the minimalist models; the shoes measure in with a 11.5-mm heel-to-toe drop, making these more SUV than sleek convertible, and that’s perfect if you’re prone to rough trails. Triple-density EVA foam in the midsole provides loads of cushion against the bruising terrain (protection that’s amplified by a TPU toe guard and mud guard), while the “Contragrip” outsole clings to all variety of trail, from roots, rocks, and packed dirt to snow and slippery mud. Our tester tore through the fall and winter season in his test pair with hardly a hitch in his step. The uppers are made of quick-drying, breathable mesh, and the thin lacing assures a tight fit without pressure points. We also love the “lace pocket” under the tongue, which secure the excess laces from flopping around. These aren’t fully waterproof; Salomon offers Gore-Tex in other trail runners. But when paired with a thick pair of merino wool socks, we found the XT Wings 3 to be versatile nearly year-round. Some may find the toe box a bit rough right out of the box; one newcomer to trail running found that he bruised part of his big toe after an inaugural outing—though he didn’t feel any discomfort mid-run. But after that first outing, the issue hasn’t been repeated.
www.deuter.com, one pound, three ounces
When you’re squeezing yourself through a narrow, ice-covered chute, the last thing you want is your pack or one of its appendages to get stuck—which was exactly what our tester was thinking while putting this pack through its paces on an icy day hike in Shenandoah National Park this winter. No such problem with Deuter’s Speed Lite 20, which seems to combine the design ingenuity of a BMW with the robust handling of an Audi (those German gear eggheads even managed to stitch illustrations for making distress signals to an airplane inside the pack). The sleek profile of this 20-liter pack includes a tapered design to allow for greater arm freedom while hiking, trail running, or ski touring; and the chest and hip belts are pared down to add to the pack’s minimalist aesthetic. Inside, the main chamber provides a surprising amount of room for spare layers, gloves, hats, lunch, even an extra pair of shoes. A cavernous top pocket swallows and protects more expensive items like your camera and phone, nestled close to the small of the wearer’s back rather than in an exposed area of the pack that might get knocked by branches or rocks. Two mesh side pockets easily house water bottles and snacks, while big, easy-to-grab fabric loops on all the zips make a mockery of those fiddly little metal zips found on other packs on the market. The pack itself feels refreshingly light, but the ripstop 210 nylon held up to significant abrasion tests, and the compression straps helped keep things truly svelte the tight squeezing that became a necessity during the test trials. They can also double to hold skis or hiking poles in a pinch. The U-shaped frame can also be removed for truly ultra-light outings, or when compression is essential.