at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Category: Outdoors Gear

Salomon Sense Ultra 3/Set Review: A Sense (Vest) for All Runs

The way things go sometimes, they haven’t (yet) worked out as planned, but led to serendipitous findings.

It was running vest/packs with 20l of volume I wanted to test this year, for some overnight running outings, but I ended up testing Salomon’s 3 liter Sense Ultra (Set) vest instead.

And I found a running vest I really enjoy using.

The Sense Ultra 3 may, on first look from afar, look like a running pack, but it quickly shows itself to be just a running vest.

The material is so thin, one could bunch the whole thing – without the Hydrapak soft flask bottles, of course – up into not much more than tennis ball size.

Consequently, it gets rather wet with sweat, but it is also not too noticeable on the body and highly breathable; one can’t quite speak of how it carries, rather, it wears just like another thin piece of very well-fitting clothing.
It may also sound as if it should be flimsy, but it has shown itself not to be; the material has been working out excellently.

Give it a look and listen:

For overnighters, staying out to sleep, this wouldn’t be it – but that’s clear from its volume alone, I’d hope.

For overnight runs with the barest of essential/mandatory equipment, however, it works out very well.
For the essentials for a quick training run or longer outing – even a little forest forage run – it’s been working out perfectly for me.

OR Helium Jacket, Salomon Sense 3L Vest - Leeks Delivery System

OR Helium II Jacket, Salomon Sense 3L Vest, Salomon XA Pro 3D – Leeks Delivery System

And it rides very well on my backpack when I head for the mountains, to go running there, too…

Salomon Sense Ultra 3 on Arrakis backpack

Salomon XA Pro 3D

Salomon XA Pro 3D Review

There are a lot of new – or rather, same but changed/improved – shoes coming from Salomon this fall/winter (2015), as seen at the ISPO already. (I’ll report from the upcoming OutDoor Friedrichshafen with more details). At least some of them, I hope to get a chance to check out, but they won’t be out for most testing until September.

For the meantime, I asked one of their marketers for his recommendation for a shoe for mixed running, and the XA Pro 3D was the interesting choice.

Salomon XA Pro 3D

I’m a big fan of trail running through forests and in the mountains, and of the specialized shoes for that as well. Also, rather niche brands sit well with me. Salomon, consequently, is a brand I approach with some hesitation; they have done a lot of good through their support for running, but they are also so ubiquitous in trail running, it can get a tad disconcerting.

Then again, most of my running starts and ends on roads, very much of it goes over gravel roads that aren’t much different from paved roads, so a specialized trail running shoe is not necessarily the best choice.
A road running shoe, on the other hand, wouldn’t work for too many of the gravel roads, let alone the trails I end up on whenever I can.

Salomon shoes and gear, when in doubt, are a running staple to turn to and know to expect lots of choices and a decent quality.

There is also their store in the nearby Outlet Center… and even when I didn’t like how the Inov-8 TrailRoc had fared in Hong Kong’s humidity and needed to find another pair of running shoes, it was a pair of SpeedCross (SpeedCross CS, strangely enough) that I was able to find in my size even in Hong Kong and that enabled me to run comfortably out in the Hunan countryside.

Running in Hunan Countryside

Later, I would go on to use those same SpeedCross in running at the Grossglockner, and in the Linz Marathon, and in Beijing, doing the Beijing Marathon. Oh, and on the Great Wall as well.
Yep, I abused them in mountains and on roads, for two years, until they had no more lugs on part of their soles.

Running on the Great Wall

Not exactly a bad experience.

And back to the XA Pro 3D…

The XA Pro 3D are usually described as a (mountain) trail running shoe; mixed conditions are what I got them recommended for, and everything from road to gravel to mountain trails is what I have used them on for a while now.

Like many a ‘standard’ kind of running shoe, they have a rather thick sole (compared to shoes like Inov-8’s TrailRoc or Icebug’s Zeal, which I generally prefer). This, alongside their rather burly build, makes them less of a racing or nimble trail running shoe, but well suited for the road-to-trail running I have been using them for…

Not a bad pair of shoes at all. Now, let’s see what the true top-of-line models are bringing next.

OR-ay in the Rain: Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket Review

Summer is coming, protective gear may seem less necessary – but when you go out into the mountains, a light and highly protective layer may only become all the more necessary:

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at home in… Trail Running, Cradled by Icebug’s Zeal

Time for another shoe review, this time of the Zeal RB9X (“Rubber 9 Extreme”) from Icebug.

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La Sportiva Crossover 2.0

at home in… the snow w| the La Sportiva Crossover 2.0 GTX

Let’s celebrate spring with a look back at snow – and a (somewhat preliminary*) review of a shoe for snow, the La Sportiva Crossover 2.0 GTX.

La Sportiva Crossover 2.0

Somehow there’s no good time for talking about this shoe, at least the way I want to.

Right now, it’s a bit too early for it as I haven’t had all that many opportunities to try it out this winter.
At the same time, it’s a bit late for it as winter is pretty much over (although, we did get a cold front dumping quite a bit of snow on us just around Easter, so there’s still snow in the Alps).

Next season would just present the same problems, though.

Why all this back-and-forth?
Well, La Sportiva’s Crossover 2.0 GTX is – or at least looks like – a dedicated winter running shoe.
With a Gore-Tex membrane and an in-built gaiter, it is all about runs in wet and/or snowy conditions; the only other shoe like it would be the Salomon Snowcross CS.

There are two main differences:
The Salomon is a mid-height shoe while the La Sportiva (similar though it looks) is actually more of a normal La Sportiva running shoe, just with the gaiter added; and Salomon’s Snowcross uses a Climashield membrane (hence, the CS in its name) while La Sportiva’s Crossover uses a Gore-Tex one (hence, GTX).

The Snowcross also has metal cleats in the sole while the Crossover does not.

It was a tad difficult getting my hands on – or should that be, my feet into? – the Crossover; only few shops here in Central Europe carry them (strange for a brand that is from Northern Italy) and even those had some issues getting them. La Sportiva customer service also wasn’t exactly helpful.

I managed in the end, though, and I got lucky because the size I ended up getting it in proved just right: a US 12.5 (UK 11.5, EUR 46).

Why I went to the trouble anyways is that I wanted a shoe for my winter running, and I wanted a Gore-Tex membrane but no cleats.

Sure, cleats could be an advantage on ice, but they are also a problem when running on roads – and since I start out running at my door, not necessarily at a trailhead, I need shoes that can handle both on-road and off-road running decently well.

Advantage, La Sportiva.

Here goes:

And, I have been finding that I really like the combination of materials and properties.

It is not my absolute favorite of a shoe (but then, since no single shoe is good for everything, such a thing does not exist for me) because of its somewhat weighty feel, but I’ll probably be using it on wet mountain trails even in the summer (when or where it’s not hot), when the gaiter may collect burrs (yes, it does that) but still helps keep out scree while the membrane keeps the feet dry.

If you are looking for a shoe that provides a good, yep, crossover of features, especially but not just for winter running, I’d recommend giving La Sportiva’s Crossover 2.0 a try.


*I’m calling this a preliminary review because it’s “only” based on some 100km of running in these shoes. Ultimately, I’m more interested in how gear works out after 2-3 seasons…

inov8 TrailRoc 255

inov-8 TrailRoc Review, TerraClaw Preview…

If you’re looking to do more exploratory living, get out more (and faster and longer), and perhaps work on your running form as well, the question of shoes will become a big one.

Having switched over to a more barefoot-like running form with a few different types of Merrell’s “Glove” models, I have become quite a fan of more minimalistic kinds of shoes, albeit with a bit more than the minimal amount of cushioning (at least for longer distances).

One line, two pairs, of shoes that fit that bill very well and which I have had in use now since soon after they came out have been inov-8’s TrailRoc 255 and 245.

They are easily my favorite two pairs of shoes… except when I hate them.

inov8 TrailRoc 255

inov8 TrailRoc 255… definitely got a lot of use out of them

The problem is that their upper has turned out to be highly efficient at wicking moisture not just away from the foot in dry conditions, but also into the shoe and onto the foot when it’s wet outside.

With the 255, I went onto the Hong Kong Trail one summer day, and the wetness in the shoe built up because of the humidity all around to such an extent that it became quite uncomfortable. Later still it took so long to get the shoes dry again, I spent the rest of that summer’s time in China in a completely different, newly-bought, pair of shoes.

On the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, they held up well but showed a similar problem as water that got into the shoes could not, ‘thanks’ to the bumper around the lower part of the shoe (which is meant to protect the toes) drain quite as efficiently as would be good.

inov8 TrailRoc 245

inov8 TrailRoc 245

Drainage is not such a problem with the more minimalistic 245, but trail runs over grass wet with morning dew start off cold and wet as the upper moves the dew to the foot, at least until one gets warm and sweaty enough for everything to start evaporating.

Given dry/drier conditions, however, these are among my favorite shoes.

They hug the foot nicely while giving the toes room to splay;
they have a nicely minimalist, low- to zero-drop build with just the right amount of cushioning providing a good balance between cushioning and feel for the ground;
their grip on most surfaces has been among the best I’ve had so far;
and they have held up pretty well except for some small quibbles.

(On the 245, one side of the overlay at the toes came unglued pretty soon – on the Alpannonia, as it were;
on the 255, the toe ‘bumper’ in front has started to come off a little and collect small rocks, but that still hasn’t become an issue and has only come about after the third ultramarathon in/with this pair of shoes and several more miles in between).

Especially in the shift between the two models – and there would also have been the truly minimalist/race-flat 235 – it has been great running.

When I want a bit more protection while having some ground feel and not too high a shoe, I take the 255.

When I want to go more minimalistic, feel more of the ground and be more nimble but also (have to) pay more attention to my running form, I take the 245.

Shifting back and forth between these two, even given the ‘moisture issues’ that make me dislike them when conditions are wetter than is good with them, has made for lots of enjoyable running and, with the fore-/mid-foot-running-friendly build, I think it may have even made me a slightly better runner.

Details (from inov-8’s website):

TrailRoc 255
Weight: 255G / 9OZ
Lining: MESH
Footbed: 6MM
Drop: 6MM
Compound: TRI-C™

TrailRoc 245
Weight: 245G / 8.6OZ
Lining: MESH
Footbed: 6MM
Drop: 3MM
Compound: TRI-C™

(TrailRoc 235 info is here)

2015 Preview – From TrailRoc to TerraClaw

inov8 TerraClaw 220 and 250

inov8 TerraClaw 220 and 250

Coming in 2015/16 will be the TerraClaw 250 and TerraClaw 220 which essentially build on the TrailRoc – and indeed, replace all but the TrailRoc 255 – to deliver (in my opinion) simplified designs with (according to inov-8) improved performance:
The weight will be similar to the TrailRoc shoes’, the protective bumper will still be there but a little reduced (on the 250 model – or so it looks to me, and that should help with moisture issues) and an “X-LOCK welded overlay” on the upper is designed to keep the foot in place even better, even as the toe box remains wider than on many other (and as on most inov-8) shoes.

The sole design is, again, all about trail running function.

This time, there will be two different compounds used in different areas to give good durability and protection, and a good grip. Grip is further enhanced by “multi-directional cleats” designed to grip the ground at just the angles at which the foot strikes while being spaced far enough apart for any debris to be released well.

Stack and drop heights look to be quite similar to the two TrailRoc models I reviewed above, with the TerraClaw 250 having a drop of 8mm and the more racing flat-like TerraClaw 220 having a drop height of 4 mm.

Again, the numbers of the shoes correspond to their weights in grams: 250 grams on the 250, 220g on the 220.

They look and sound like interesting additions to / replacements of the TrailRoc, even before one can see if they will turn out quite as versatile as inov-8 says that they will be… and the TerraClaw 250 were one of the four products from inov-8 that won awards at the ISPO 2015/16.

inov8 Ultra 290 GTX

inov8 Ultra 290 GTX

Also coming will be a Gore-Tex lined version of the Ultra 290, which is good news for wet running conditions. Personally, though, I must say that I find the Ultra line a bit too much of a standard type of shoe to tempt me all that much (though I wouldn’t mind trying it out, by any means).

The trail running / ultramarathon racing gear is also going strong, with a new shell and a new merino wool baselayer coming out, and with different kinds of race vest/packs that are very much worth a look…

ISPO Munich 2015… Peaks in The Sea of Things

Sports should be among the best practices that make us – or really, through which we make ourselves – more at home, as bodies, in environments, with good things.

That’s why running has come to play such a big role on these pages…

But of course, sports can also be distracting, making us go for just the greatest of excitement and to little depth, especially when we get adrift in the sea of things and trends clamoring for purchase and to be put to use.

As you can see from the recent expansion into advice on the Suunto Ambit’s best use and reviews of select technical menswear, I have decided to help navigate this sea of stuff even more than before and find the peaks of interesting products that I find recommendable, usually through longer-term personal use.

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CW-X Revolution Tights (detail)

Run Tight – CW-X Sports Clothing Review

It’s getting time to quit with the reviews before I start writing about my favorite pen and paper (although, one could make a story of that…). There is one more set of running stuff that I have been using for ages, that already had me thinking of minimalism and too many things before, and is worth a review, though – especially given that it was a reader request I do so: CW-X performance tights.

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