Friday, July 27, 2012
A while back, I received an email from a company about possibly writing a gear review on one of their products, as I do from many companies. The products for this company consisted of colorful bracelets and key chains. Now, I would be lying if I didn’t first relate these products to friendship bracelets in my head and thought, “this will be a stretch to do a hiking gear review on friendship bracelets!” I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Once I was able to dive into the details of the email and explore their website more closely, it was apparent to me that Cobrabraid made quality survival gear that was perfect for all sorts of outdoorsmen, including those in the hiking community. Cobrabraid makes different types of bracelets and key chains, all constructed out of true 550 paracord (meaning it can withstand a tensile load of 550+ pounds). Apparently, these bracelets were developed overseas by our military personnel as handy survival tools when needed. By having one of these things on your wrist, you’re effortlessly carrying around a hefty length of useful paracord that, when unraveled, could be used for a multitude of things such as a shelter or fishing line. Cobrabraid hasn’t just stopped at bracelets and key chains either. They are also selling dog collars, belts and kits to make your own products. One of the most important things to add is that all their products are 100% made in the USA!
To receive my bracelet, I needed to give them a size measurement. Getting your wrist size is very easy and Cobrabraid gives you easy to follow instructions so that they can ship you the perfect size. Instructions can be found here. One 8” bracelet yields approximately 7-8 feet of 550 paracord which could be a lifesaver if you find yourself in a survival situation on the trail.
When I received my bracelet, I tried it on and it fit nicely around my wrist. It was a little stiff at first and figured that was due to it being right off the production line. I bent it around a little, back and forth, and it loosened right up. The clasp on this particular bracelet was Velcro, which was great because it allows you to make it as tight or as loose as you’d like. I was also particularly fond of the color theme they sent me, being camouflage. I grew up in a military family so camo was a favorite in my household for many articles of clothing :).
Cobrabraid also sent me a great key chain in the same color scheme as the bracelet. It is a bit shorter, so yields less 550 paracord than the bracelet, but has a great little carabiner on the end of it. Hikers love carabiners! This particular carabiner found a perfect home on the a loop on my hiking pack.
It was tough to know if this bracelet would go unnoticed on my wrist or not while on the trial. I actually don’t hike with my wrist watch. This is because the constant movement of my arm lets my watch bang on my wrist, causing discomfort. The only way to know for sure if this bracelet would work for me was to bring it on a hike. Recently, my office had Wellness Week and I planned a trip to Mount Pawtuckaway – North for everyone. I made sure to bring my Cobrabraid bracelet along to wear (as well as the key chain on my pack). It was very light weight compared to my watch and I barely even noticed I had it on…so it passed the test.
I really think this is a great product and one that no one should pass up when choosing survival kit gear. I certainly won’t be found on the trail without it moving forward. It helps you save some room (and weight) in your pack by spreading out your gear to other parts of your body, which is definitely an attractive concept to most “light” hikers. Also, as I mentioned before, it is a USA based company and all products are made with the highest quality in mind.
Cobrabraid was very nice and actually sent me two products to giveaway to some interested readers. I have a bracelet and carabiner key chain (blue and black in color). I will be giving these away on Live Free and Hike’s Facebook fan page. All you have to do is comment on the posting for this article and why you’d like this product for your survival kit and you could win one. You have until Wednesday, August 8th to do comment. I’ll draw two random comments on August 9th and announce them on Facebook, so please leave a comment and check back after that date!
Sunday, July 8, 2012
By Kevin Bernier
So, Karl asked me to give a summary of all the gear I used for running. I’ve always been into to grabbing the latest technology, so some of my gear is probably a little over the top and not necessary. That said, if I could single out one thing below as the most important, it is without a doubt, the Body Glide (well, let’s be honest, shoes are the most important, but that was too obvious). Chafing is very, very painful (and most of the time you don’t realize you’ve done it until you get in the shower and the water hits the raw skin…good times).
As with my other posts, please keep in mind that I am still a novice when it comes to distance running.
Garmin Forerunner 410 GPS Watch - Probably overkill; however, it (A) provides your pace for all runs (which is most helpful for fast runs, varying your pace on different runs and generally tracking your progress), and (B) records all your runs so you know how far you’ve run. Garmin also has its own website called Garmin Connect – you can download all your runs to it; check out pacing, elevation changes, splits, etc. You can also take notes and keep an online journal of your runs. Plus, if you like high tech toys, this is a good one (and this isn’t even the newest model…).
Brooks Ghost 4 Running Shoes – I highly recommend getting fit for running shoes if you have not done so before – many specialty running stores will watch your stride, check your feet and make recommendations for the right shoes (they take into account injuries, distances, etc.). I have a neutral stride with a high arch, so the Ghost 4’s work well for me. I’ve also worn the Mizuno Wave Riders (they had a lower profile and better “feel” for the ground), but switched to the Brooks because they just felt better. Now that I’m trying to incorporate more speed (new goal is to break 20:00 in a 5K) into my workouts I just bought a pair of New Balance RC1400’s (I wear these on speed days – plus the colors are pretty bad ass. Side Note: all “speed shoes” seem to have crazy colors…I’m convinced that there are 2 reasons for this (1) so faster runners will be immediately recognizable, and (2) so slower runners, who have no business wearing speed shoes, will be immediately recognizable – I’m more (2) than (1))
Under Armour Cold Gear Everything - I despise running on the treadmill (and I own one). I can run for 2-4 hour stretches at a time, but my maximum time on a treadmill before I start to twitch is about 3-4 miles (and many times I can’t even go that long). So, to combat this issue (and if you are training for a Marathon in February – May it will be an issue for you), I run outside all the time (there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes). As long as it’s above 0 I’ll run outside. It took a while to get used to running in the cold, but you begin to realize that it only take about 5-10 minutes before your body heats up (of course once you slow down or stop it only takes about 2 minutes before you realize how cold it is outside). I own a lot of UA stuff, from compression shirts, to half zips, to running tights. For the really cold days I wear running tights and do a double layer of cold gear for my upper body. I also wear gloves and a hat when it’s below 40 degrees…and if it’s really cold I wear a hood (think “sniper” or “ninja”) that covers my neck and mouth. If you wear the compression tights, compression shirt, gloves and hood all at the same time and all in black you will look like a ninja, which I think we can all agree is pretty awesome (and no one will be able to see you when you run).
Under Armour Socks - As painful as it is to spend money on socks it’s absolutely worth it. My feet take a beating when I run. I’ve dealt with blisters (in all the typical places, plus some places that I did not expect like the tips of my toes), toes rubbing together and have even lost a couple toenails (Side Note: I actually needed to go up in size on my running shoes by a full size to accommodate my feet swelling during runs, and even that did not save my toenails when I did the Marathon). Dry Fit/Wicking Socks are the only way to go (cotton will just get you more blisters).
Running Vest/Reflective Clothing – I have a lot of bright colored clothes but I wear them infrequently. I think it matters most when the weather isn’t great or if you are really running in a place that does not have great lighting (although I would recommend not running in really low lit areas…it’s just not worth it). Plus, I always feel like a schmuck when I wear my reflective vest.
Rain Proof Shell - I went with a shell because I wanted something I could wear when it was cold (over all my other cold gear) and when its warm (a jacket would be too warm and sweating in a jacket makes you feel like you are wearing a garbage bag. Completely Random Note: I once played basketball against a guy who had wrapped himself in saran wrap underneath his clothes…he said it made him sweat more and therefore he would lose more weight…I sometimes worry about the viability of humans as a species). Another consideration is how quiet the jacket/shell is while running…I don’t want to overdue the garbage bag metaphor, but I will, some of the jackets sound like you are running in a garbage bag due to the fabric rubbing together (I just re-read this and I sound like a pampered brat).
Black Diamond Head Lamp - I used to not run at night because I didn’t want to break an ankle…now that I have a headlamp I can run any time of day. You look like a Brazilian Miner (sans mine and the risk of mine collapses), but whatever. If you haven’t used one before, I’d try some out before buying one because they can be heavy and awkward (imagine running with a small apple taped to your forehead). It definitely takes a little getting used to, but I recommend them if you are running at night or early in the morning (and if you have kids or a job, those are the times you are running).
Blinking Flashing Light for Back - I had a flashing light that I clipped to my back so cars could see me from behind. Not sure if it helped (it fell off somewhere along the way), but no one hit me while I was wearing it (although I was also wearing socks and by the same the logic socks will prevent you from being hit by a car).
iPod - I use one for every run. Some people like to hear themselves run so they can “listen to their body” – my body is loud and can be heard over the music so this is not an issue for me. If you are running in bad weather it probably makes sense to ditch the music so you can pay extra attention to not getting killed (for example running in the snow or other bad weather). While running with music is a personal choice, I did not use my iPod for the Marathon (and I don’t use it in races where there are a lot of spectators) because I wanted to take in the crowd and the rest of the experience (and I can confirm that I did not once regret the decision…although on races without spectators the music can help give you a lift).
Body Glide/Vaseline - Once I reached 8 miles things started chafing (I will not describe what was chafing). And as the length of the runs increased so did the chafing (both in the amount of chafing and the number of different things chafing). Pretty much anywhere seams of my clothing touched my body I could count on some chafing. Body Glide is a god send – you can use it everywhere, and I do. It helped the most with my toes and my nipples (too much information? Too bad, if you run a lot you have to deal with nipple chafing…nipple chafing, that’s something I did not ever picture myself writing about).
Fish Oil Supplements/Vitamin D - So I mentioned in an earlier post that I had some knee issues. Due to an extreme fear that my knee would prevent me from running the marathon, I read up a lot about how people dealt with Patella Tendonitis. I found that many people had success using anti-inflammatories such as fish oil and Vitamin D (combined with stretching, foam rolling and ice). I loaded up on both – I have no idea whether or not there was any benefit to taking these supplements, but my knee held up the whole 20 weeks (I also built in some extra rest for it). I am going to declare the supplements a success; however, my doctor said these were fads and that they probably didn’t help (he’s only a doctor, so what does he know…I’m an attorney, so I definitely think I know more than him). If they did not physically help me, then I’ll give them a few points for psychological assistance. If you decide to try out fish oil, read about it first, but also spend the money to get the good stuff; I use Nordic Naturals Ultra Omega Sport (don’t buy it at CVS…I tried this and was burping up fish oil…to say this is disgusting is an understatement). If you have high cholesterol the fish oil helps with that as well, so, regardless, it’s not totally devoid of value.
Foam Roller (and now The Stick) - Also known as the miracle workers. You recover faster and it takes the place of needing to get constant massages. Helped with my knee pain and really helps loosen up those tight IT bands (although foam rolling the IT bands hurts like hell). As an added benefit, my 3 year old son would sit on my back and pretend it was a ride while I was trying to use the roller…it’s fun for the whole family.
Water Bottles/Belt - Tried both the water belt and the hand held water bottle and preferred the latter. I absolutely hated the water belts for several reasons: (1) they look stupid (can you tell I care about how I look), (2) they are uncomfortable (the water swishes around while you run and the belt bounces up and down), and (3) on a cold run, one of them froze. I know plenty of people who use the belts, but they are just not for me – I’m happy to carry a handheld water bottle.
Gu - For all of my long runs that lasting more than an 1:20 I brought GU packets for extra energy. I also tried the Gu Chomps, but found that they were really hard to chew in the cold weather (turns out they are easier to chew in warmer weather or if you can keep them warm during your run). Definitely try out a few flavors because some of them taste gross and tough to get down (I’m partial to the berry flavored ones).
And that about sums up my gear. I’ve done a lot of reading a research so if you have any questions about these or any other gear you’ve read about let me know.