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Orienteering Gear Test

Posted by Stephen Regenold Oct 27, 2007

I ran three orienteering races last weekend as part of the Big Blues Ramble orienteering meet outside Chicago, a nationally-ranked A-Meet that attracted backwoods sprinters from around the nation. Collectively, I ran about 20 kilometers of courses, including two long runs and a sprint.


But in orienteering -- a sport that puts you in search of hidden flags scattered through a forest, a map and compass your only guides -- that 20 kilometers feels twice as long. You jump logs, duck trees, crawl through brush, and claw your way from flag to flag.


The map from last Saturday's 5.9KM course, a 1:10,000 scale view of a preserve near O'Hare Airport in Chicago.


I'm an average orienteer, sometimes squeaking off a top finish in my home state at the local meets. But at this race I was just embarrassing, missing flags, then circling back, getting lost, tripping on logs, and running ragged as the clock ticked on.


Indeed, on Saturday, when I ran a 5.9KM course, the winner finished in about 35 minutes; I took more than an hour and a half. (I did better on the sprint that day, pulling a mid-pack finish with a time of about 20 minutes on the 2KM course.)







Close-up of the map from Saturday's meet.


But all the running around outdoors did give me a chance to test some gear. As reported in this race pre-lim, I used some unorthodox stuff, including the Asics GEL Dirt Dog 2 track shoes and Brave Soldier foot lube. Here's a quick run-down on what gear performed well, and what did not. . .


Asics GEL Dirt Dog 2

I had planned to use these 5.7-ounce spiked track shoes just in the sprint events. But I decided to give them the full test and wear 'em all weekend. The cross-country racers gripped great on all type of terrain. They felt so light as to be unnoticeable. But after a couple miles pounding through the woods my feet and lower legs became somewhat fatigued. There is essentially no support with these shoes, just a thin plastic sole on a bed of spikes. Further, there is no grip on the mid-foot on back, meaning that if you step on a tree root or log on your heel, you can slip. The shoes' mesh is no good for sandy areas, as dirt and grit works through. Finally, the tongue, which sticks out and creates an open fold on top of the foot, attracts grit and sticks. I will employ gaiters next time I wear these shoes in the woods. And for anything over 5KM long, I'll wear more-supportive shoes. ($75,








Brave Soldier foot lube

I liberally applied this lube on my toes and heels before Sunday's 10.9KM race. It felt slippery on my toes, as it should, while I ran off. (See my full description of the lube here: Then, it became unnoticeable, quietly doing its job down there to keep my toes rubbing smoothly together in my socks, staving off blisters. This wasn't a race where my feet were wet for long periods, so I didn't get to test this lube's water repellency. After running for three hours --  yes, that's how long the course took me! -- I removed my socks to inspect the lube's resiliency to friction and wear. It was pretty much rubbed off or absorbed into my skin at that point, which was a little disappointing. I like a foot lube to be tacky and slippery still after several hours of running or racing. This was my first try using this product. I'm a huge fan of a competing product, Hydropel (click here for that review). But watch for more Brave Soldier coverage as I test the lube further this fall. . . . ($16 for 2.5oz tube,











Rail Riders Eco-Mesh pants

Do not use these pants in thorny woods. I repeat: Do not use Rail Riders Eco-Mesh pants in bushwhacking situations in thick woods. These pants, which I love for general trekking, are made to be light and airy in hot climes. They are the pants I wore during the 10 day Primal Quest race in Utah, when temps hit 120 degrees F one day. But in the woods -- as my legs can now attest -- they are the wrong product for the job. The thin and breathable fabric does very little to protect your skin from thorns. I have red stripes, punctures, rips and thorn-slivers embedded in my flesh to prove it. In sum, nothing against this product. Just make sure to use it in the intended-for situation. ($69,











Suunto Arrow 1 Thumb

This thumb compass has been a longtime trustworthy tool in the woods. (See my full description of it here: At the Big Blues, the compass did the same. It stayed on tight to the thumb even when I was on my hands and knees at one point crawling through thick brush. It's there always, securely, and unnoticeable until you need to glance down and take a quick reading on the earth's electromagnetic pulse. ($45,













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Marathon Meltdown

Posted by Stephen Regenold Oct 23, 2007

The lights went out for Paul Krumrich 25 miles into his marathon, head swirling, knees buckling, body flopping to the asphalt of Summit Avenue in St. Paul as daylight faded to black. It was Oct. 7, a bit after 11 a.m. on the penultimate mile of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. Krumrich, 34, was on pace to complete his first 26.2-mile run in time for a late-morning victory lunch. He ended up in the hospital instead.


Thus starts my story in last Wednesday's Minneapolis Star Tribune, where I look at two recent marathons on Oct. 7 that descended into near chaos due to unusually-warm temps and masses of heat-suffering runners.



In Chicago, where the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon attracted about 36,000 runners on Oct. 7, nearly 200 runners required hospitalization, a dozen admitted in critical condition. Hundreds were treated for heat ailments on the course. Aid stations were overwhelmed, with water running dry and cups unavailable for competitors in the back of the pack.



Then, as temps rose in Chicago to 88 degrees with 81 percent humidity, the course director shut down the race at the halfway point, moving in emergency vehicles, air-conditioned city buses, hovering helicopters and bullhorn-wielding policemen to remove the nearly 10,000 remaining runners from the course. Chad Schieber of Midland, Mich., was pronounced dead after nearly completing the race; an autopsy later revealed that a heart defect, not heat, had killed the 35-year-old competitor.



"That Sunday in early October was a perfect storm," said Ryan Lamppa, a researcher with Running USA, a nonprofit clearinghouse that tracks data on marathons.



Participation in marathon running continues to soar in the U.S., where last year about 410,000 people completed the 26.2-mile challenge. But is this populist tilt a good thing? Big marathons involve planning akin to a military operation, with thousands of workers and a massive force of police and medical personnel moving small cities of 20,000 or more people through elaborate urban courses. Managing so many people at their physical and mental limits can be daunting, and, some argue, dangerous.



"It's a new marathon world," said Lamppa. "The sport has changed dramatically from its roots 20 or 30 years ago, when I think the distance drew more respect."



Go here ( to see the full story on the Marathon Meltdown of October 7.



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In celebration of the one-year anniversary of, we're starting up a weekly Gear Giveaway contest. Go here and sign up:


One winner chosen at random each week will win prizes the likes of. . .


-Jetboil PCS Camp Stove

-GoPro Digital HERO 3

-Ahnu Footwear's SoMa travel shoe

-Kelty Lightyear 15 Sleeping Bag

-Gregory Z22 backpack

-Osprey Talon 11 pack

-OR Furio shell jacket

-Sole footbeds


Just enter your email to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter (go here -- and you'll be added to the bin for the drawing every week anew for your chance to win.


Here's the full list of gear to be given away. . .


Osprey Circuit

Week of October 15th


Ahnu Footwear's SoMa travel shoe

Week of October 22nd


Kelty Lightyear 15 (Women's) Sleeping Bag

Week of October 29th


La Sportiva Onix GTX-XCR

Week of November 5th


Origo Pedometer Watch

Week of November 12th


Primus EtaPower Multifuel backpacking stove

Week of November 19th


SOLE DK+ footbed

Week of November 26th


Gregory Z22 backpack

Week of December 3rd


Osprey Talon 11

Week of December 10th


Outdoor Research Men's Furio Jacket

Week of December 17th


Outdoor Research Women's Enigma Jacket

Week of December 24th


Pacsafe DaySafe 100

Week of December 31st

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For those who don't know, The Gear Junkie began life -- and remains -- a nationally-syndicated newspaper column that runs once per week around the country, Seattle to Minneapolis to Greensboro, N.C. After the columns run in newsprint, we store them online in The Gear Junkie Archive.


There are currently 200+ in-depth reviews in this Archive.





Today, we posted six new columns, including. . . 






a jog stroller by BOB Inc. </div>




a fixie bike from Kona </div>




Inov-8 gaiter-socks



a unique Gregory daypack



Mylar bivy sacks



a pair of center-mounted child bike seats

See the full Gear Junkie Archive here:



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This is the second part of my gear recap on last weekend's END-AR, a 12-hour adventure race in North Dakota. (See my Race Report here: My team, Covert Loons, took first place, pushing hard for 75 miles and 10+ hours straight on the bikes, feet, and in a canoe. Here's a summary of some gear that worked, and some that did not. . .


BIKE: Kona Jake the Snake

A 'cross bike for adventure racing? That's right, I went with the skinny-but-knobby tires of Kona's Jake the Snake, a longtime standby bike for me. It's fast enough on the roads and the trails, though it doesn't really excel at either. Instead a cyclocross bike -- which has no suspension and brakes that are accessible only in the drop-down position -- lets you pull off both dirt and asphalt both at a good enough clip. On the road its knobby tires slow you down some. On dirt, the tires are sometimes too skinny, and the lack of suspension can become jolting. In the North Dakota race, which featured about 40 miles of muddy gravel roads. the bike was near perfect. I had been a bit nervous the night prior to race start, as it was so wet and muddy. But riding it on race day I soon realized I'd made the right choice by leaving the heavy mountain bike at home. The Jake weighs about 23 pounds. ($1,099,





BOAT: Old Town Penobscot 16

At 58 pounds and 16 feet 2 inches long, the Penobscot 16 is no racing craft. But the boat, a design suited for flat water as well as fast-moving river, felt fairly quick and nimble in this race. We navigated the north-flowing Red River in Grand Forks, N.D., paddling far downstream to get checkpoints before spinning the craft and going upriver toward the finish. The boat's hull is made of Oltonar/Royalex, a high-impact and abrasion-resistant material that includes ABS plastic, foam and vinyl in its multi-laminate makeup. The canoe has a straight keel line for tracking but is quick responding and maneuverable on a rocky river. Old Town includes niceties on the Penobscot 16 like anodized aluminum gunwales, nylon web seats and an ash-wood thwart and yoke. Those nylon seats, I can attest, felt nice on the rear after the race's many miles on the bike. ($1,199,






Energy gel provides quick calories. Water hydrates. Why not combine the two in a single-serve bottle? That's what ventureDESIGNworks has done with its Gel-Bot, a new-age water bottle that integrates a gel-dispensing flask with a traditional plastic bike bottle. I filled these up -- with water and gel -- before the race and stuck them on my bike. Come time to ride and I had my drink and "food" right there ready to go. The bottle holds 24 ounces of water; the separate bottle inside the bottle holds 3.2 ounces of energy gel. ($16,







Food: Bento Box

This is a simple way to keep food -- candy, energy gel, nuts -- accessible while pedaling. Eseentially, this is a small nylon container that mounts on the top tube behind the handlebars. A mesh flaps closes with Velcro over the top. The food is right there, ready to eat without a pause in your pedaling. Simple and effective. ($16,





MAP: Sea to Summit Waterproof Map Cases

The name says it all. This roll-top map case keeps your topos dry even if submerged. Crossing a creek? Throw your compass, race passport, food, whatever, inside, roll it up, and you have ad hoc protection. The case is made of cold-resistant PVC and has an adjustable webbing neck strap. It measures 8" x 12". ($16,








Go here to see the first part of this blog:





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Adventure racing, a multidisciplinary sport involving long wilderness courses and hours (or days) of non-stop action, I believe to be one of the best venues in which to test gear. If a pair shoes can handle 40 miles of off-trail bushwhacking, for example, then they can handle pretty much anything.


Last weekend I competed in the END-AR, a 12-hour adventure race in North Dakota. My team, Covert Loons, took first place, pushing hard for 75 miles and 10+ hours straight on the bikes, feet, and in a canoe. (See my Race Report here: I tested a couple new items but mostly went with old standby products I love and trust. Here's a head-to-toe hash out of what worked, and what did not. . .



Feet: Inov-8 Roclite 285

These "elite trail and adventure racing shoes," as Inov-8 calls them, have been around the block with me. This is probably the tenth race I've ran in them, so that says something about my affinity for the brand. The shoe is lightweight (285 grams, thus the name) and nimble, with very little midsole support. It mimics a barefoot running style, with a sole that can twist and grip on the terrain. The outsole is knobby and made of floor-marring, rock-grabbing sticky rubber, which helped me on this race during a dicey rock-hop river crossing segment. I like these shoes for their fit and speed. You can sprint on trail, road or through the backcountry. Their support, however, is minimal. You should be strong on your feet to start with before stepping into Inov-8s. One battle wound: While coming off a river, I stepped on a sharp piece of steel rebar, tearing a gash through the heel area of the shoe and skimming my skin. Almost put me out of the race. And I think it killed the shoe off for use in future events. (





Legs: Rail Riders Weatherpants

These amazingly tough nylon trousers have put up with me for three years of racing. Now they are just about dead, with the fabric getting stiff and sun-worn, and several tears littering the face. But still I wear the darn things. Nothing I've ever put on my legs has been this tough, eschewing thick thorns and brush as I run in the backwoods. On the bike segments they are annoying, tough, as the fabric flaps in the wind. I scrunch the ankles in with Velcro straps before stepping on to pedal. (





Backpack: Inov-8 Race Pro 12

The company calls this an "elite lightweight hydration pack." It's made for trail running, cycling, adventure racing, and other off-trail excursions where speed is goal No. 1. On the North Dakota race, it was a perfect companion, with just enough capacity and a fit the acquiesced with all the paces we were put through during the day. The pack weighs less than a pound when empty (15.5 ounces), and has a nice harness system that hugs when you run. Its minimal feature set includes: A main compartment with about 12 liters of capacity; a large stretch mesh pocket on back; BIG hip-belt pockets (I love these for food storage!); and reflective piping for nighttime visibility. The pack has a "horizontal hydration bladder," but for this race I needed more capacity, so I used a CamelBak 100-ouncer instead. To keep all my gear 100% waterproof, I employed a beefy roll-top dry bag from Sealine during the event, stuffing it inside the Inov-8 pack and rolling all my crucial gear inside for safe keeping. (





Shirt: Ibex Woolies Zip T-Neck

This top was a strange choice for an adventure race. But the weather the morning of the race -- raining and about 50 degrees -- convinced me that wool was the way to go. The Ibex Zip T-Neck is a thin wool base layer that feels like a second skin, insulating, regulating your temp, and wicking. It's made of a super fine wool that does not itch. The chest zipper provides further ventilation. For this day, it was a perfect top. Though one complaint: Burrs and thorns leap and stick to the top with a seemingly magnetic attraction. (





Shell: REI Icon Jacket

Too bad this jacket has been discontinued. The REI Icon Jacket is a lightweight (10 ounces), waterproof, breathable shell made of ripstop nylon with a proprietary laminate for wicking/breathability. It has held up well for me, with no tears despite much abuse. Can't say that for other shells I've tried. It remains fairly waterproof, too. (





Glasses: Smith Optics Reactor Max

The rubber pad on the nosepiece wore through, causing a small pokey metal piece to stick out and interact with my skin. This is no good. Need to fix or replace. These glasses, otherwise, I've loved: They've held up to almost two years of abuse, and the lenses remain basically un-scratched. I bring two sets of lenses to accompany the Reactor glasses (you can switch them out in 20 seconds), including an amber-tone sunglass as well as clear lenses for low-light and after-dark scenarios. For the North Dakota race -- a dreary, cold and cloudy event -- I stuck with the clear lenses all day long. (











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It was one year ago this month that we launched To celebrate, we're starting up a new weekly gear giveaway contest where you can win the likes of a Jetboil PCS Camp Stove; a GoPro Digital HERO 3 camera; Ahnu Footwear's SoMa travel shoes; the Kelty Lightyear 15 Sleeping Bag; Gregory's Z22 backpack; Osprey's Talon 11 pack; and much more. Sign up now to be entered into the weekly drawing:






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I don't actually know what "après anything" means, but with its new Terrasoles line of shoes R.G. Barry Corp. "targets the void many people face when transitioning from active footwear into something that is more comfortable and casual, yet remains functional." Right. . . like when I get done climbing a mountain, remove my boots, and think "dang, if there wasn't just a shoe perfect for this pub and the muddy lot I need to negotiate on my way inside. . . ."








Sorry, had to get that out of my system. The press material accompanying these new shoes from R.G. Barry Corporation was just full of gems. (Example: "Terrasoles, innovative hybrid footwear designed for thrill seekers whose hearts belong to the spirit of the great outdoors.")



In reality, these are interesting shoes. They're soft and comfy, made with thick fleece and flexible soles. Kind of stylish, too.



The company ( is trying to market them as some kind of hybrid performance/style brand. But they'd be better just to stick with the style angle.



They sent the Gear Junkie crew two pairs: The women's Rainier and the men's Tuckerman, both of which go at $49.95.

The Rainier model passed our tests. It's a ballet flat of sorts made for "yoga, pilates or for just a walk in the park," as per the promo. It comes in lavender, persimmon, stone and espresso colors. Fit was fine on our female tester. She liked the look and feel, which was comfortable and low-profile.





I tried the Tuckerman model and was less impressed, mainly because they kept slipping off my feet. The heel area is too short. My foot comes out too easily back there. Maybe I need a larger size, but then I'd be swimming up in the forefoot.





In the end, Terrasoles is an interesting first try. Maybe a brand to watch for now, but probably not to buy.



Available: Now.



Pricing: $30 to $50



Contact: R.G. Barry Corporation,



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