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December 13, 2010

Gear of the Year 2010; Surprise Holiday Giveaway

If you’re new to these parts because you’ve recently subscribed to get in on all the great giveaways, I’d like to point out a couple of things …

1) Welcome! It’s great to have you on board. It will be even greater if you decide to stick around after the contest frenzy dies down in January - but that’s a bridge to cross when we get there, I suppose. I do periodic giveaways throughout the year, but they’re just another part of the ultrarunning / minimalist / outdoor adventure / family life collage that makes up this website. Please stick around for a while, and maybe you’ll find something you like. Also …

2) I do a lot of product reviews. Most are for this website, others are for FeedTheHabit.com, and the vast majority are focused on trail running gear. Yes, it’s a great gig, and gives me opportunities to test and try products that I wouldn’t normally think of purchasing. It also gives me a point of reference to highlight some of the items that really stand out for one reason or another, and make recommendations for your own gear decisions.

Accordingly, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite gear over the past year – products that I’ve used over and over again, long after the original review was published. On the list that follows, the first links take you to my original reviews, followed by links to purchase the product from various vendors (disclosure: some of them are affiliates), along with a brief description of why I’m so crazy about each item.

I’ve divided the list into three sections - apparel, gear, and footwear – but since this is December and we’re in the middle of a contest frenzy, I’m also including a cool little giveaway at the end to make sure you make it to the bottom of the post. Sound good? OK then. Let’s get started!


GoLite Manitou shirt: Their Wildwood shirt got most of the press this year, but the slightly thicker, super-comfortable Manitou was my shirt of choice for foggy morning runs and day-long hikes. Retails for $29 from Amazon.com.

GoLite Mesa Trail 7” shorts: Comfortable, lightweight, durable … everything you want in a trail short. Retails for $40 from the Golite website.

The North Face Apex ClimateBlock jacket: A perfect combination of style, comfort, safety, and protection from the elements, I use this for early mornings trail runs and after-work neighborhood runs. A bit pricey at $159 from Gear.com, but this may be the only jacket you need for cold-weather running.

Mountain Hardwear Geist vest: Provides enough warmth to get you through pre-dawn chill, and is small and light enough to easily stuff into your hydration pack when the morning gets warm. Retails for $90 from Gear.com.

Drymax socks: I’ve gone on and on about these, so I won’t belabor the point here. They’re simply awesome. Try either the Lite Trail model or Regular Trail model for 9 bucks from Wilderness Running Company, and thank me later.

*Note: as with all WRC purchases, remember to use my coupon code R&R10 for an additional 10% off.


Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp: bright LED in front for visibility, blinking red LED in back for road safety, lightweight construction for comfort, and a rechargeable battery to be eco-friendly. It’s the complete package, and it's discounted to $60 at Wilderness Running Company.

Black Diamond Icon headlamp: This is an ideal headlamp for running through the night, and with the rechargeable NRG battery pack (sold separately), it’s green as well. It's also discounted to $45 at Wilderness Running Company, which is an outstanding deal, or you can wait and try your luck with a giveaway at the end of the month.

Petzl Tikka XP2 headlamp: When I need something bright enough to run trails in the dark but small enough to fit in a waist pocket after sunrise, there’s no beating this lamp. New for this year, it’s compatible with a rechargeable battery pack, which I’m currently testing and will review in January. The headlamp is currently on sale for $44 from TravelCountry.com.

Nathan HPL 020: The ultimate victor in my extensive hydration pack reviews last year, this one has proven its worth over and over again. Amazon.com sells them for a crazy discount price of $56, and this should be any new ultrarunner’s first investment.

Ultimate Direction Uno: For any run between 1 and 2.5 hours, this is mandatory equipment. I love the upright bottle position and dual pockets that are actually big enough to keep stuff in. It's currently discounted to $23 from Wilderness Running Company.


Soft Star RunAmoc: My favorite everyday minimalist trainer, because it captures the essence of trail running better than anything else I’ve ever worn. $87 from Soft Star, or you can enter my giveaway drawing through December 16th.

VIVOBAREFOOT Evo: Who says minimalist shoes can’t be high-performance? For race days and epic adventures, these are my first choice. $160 from Amazon.com.

Vibram FiveFingers Bikila: Awesome ground feel and amazing comfort; for pure road running, minimalist footwear doesn’t get any better than this. They are so popular that Vibram has trouble keeping up with demand, but TravelCountry.com has a great supply of them at a retail price of $100.

New Balance MT101: If you’re not quite ready to go completely minimalist, this is the next best option: lightweight, low to the ground, comfortable and durable. This would also be an ideal off-road race shoe, and sells for $75 from Endless.com.

Sanuk Boardroom sandal: OK, it’s not a running shoe … but remember how I’ve mentioned a few times that the VIVOBAREFOOT Oak is one of my favorite work shoes? The Boardroom is the other. It’s lightweight, flat, flexible and super comfortable – and stylish enough that your boss won’t look at you funny. $85 from Amazon.com.

And now for our special surprise category …

Race nutrition: The clear favorite here is GU, which I started using as my sole fuel source in my ultras last spring. I used to have fairly frequent stomach distress during ultras, but this year it hasn’t been an issue at all. I will probably supplement this with real food during a 100-miler, but for 100K or less, all I need is a steady supply of GU – especially the Roctane formulations specifically designed for high-endurance activity – along with some fluids to keep rolling right along.

GU also shows its holiday spirit this time of year, with limited-release flavors that I described in this giveaway post from last year. They’re stepping up big for my website again this winter, and this is today’s secret giveaway prize: three winners will receive one box of each of GU’s holiday flavors, vanilla gingerbread (incredibly delicious, in my opinion) and mint chocolate. This will be a straight “one comment, one entry” system, so sign in below by 5PM PST on Friday, December 17th, and I’ll announce the winner later that night. Big thanks to GU for sponsoring this giveaway, and good luck to everyone!

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samur 12/13/10, 9:26 PM  

I'm first! ;) Sign me in with one entry, please :)

Samurai 12/13/10, 9:59 PM  

Happy holidays, one entry please!

Giuseppe 12/13/10, 10:05 PM  

They look delicious!

Danny Miller 12/13/10, 10:23 PM  

I'm in - looks tasty!

Sean 12/13/10, 10:44 PM  

Count me in bro. Merry Christmas.

krystyna47 12/13/10, 11:18 PM  

Happy Happy Holidays, there's nothing better than Gu under a christmas tree!!
Count me in for the giveaway! :)

Mannie 12/14/10, 1:43 AM  

Doin the hokey pokey and signing myself up. Gotta love fuel to burn!

Yakov 12/14/10, 1:54 AM  

Free GU for the holidays, sign me up!

Tony 12/14/10, 4:00 AM  

mmmm.... GU....

Puller 12/14/10, 4:17 AM  

sweet, i want one!

Pinkcorker (Renee) 12/14/10, 4:43 AM  

I love these Gu flavors!

adam 12/14/10, 4:45 AM  

Oh yeah count me in!

Kirsten,  12/14/10, 4:49 AM  

Oh, the flavors sound AWESOME! "I'm dreaming of a GU Christmas..."

Kel,  12/14/10, 4:53 AM  

One entry here, please. I've been meaning to try Gu (I've been using another brand).

Run Mama 12/14/10, 5:08 AM  

I would love, love, love a box of that yummy holiday GU.

I also have a comment/question about minimalist shoes, particularly the NB101. I made the switch to NB100 from the NB790, but have had some adjustment issue (primarily toe numbness) due to the change in shoe last? Has anyone reported a similar issue, and if so, do you know if the NB101 upgrade is a good fix?

Thanks, and Happy Holidays!

TMB @ RACING WITH BABES 12/14/10, 5:24 AM  

Found you via Nathan's Facebook page ... sign me up for some GU!

Jacob 12/14/10, 5:42 AM  

do quotes count? "I know a secret or two about GU"

Hall 12/14/10, 5:45 AM  

That North Face jacket looks pretty great. Especially after just finishing a run on a windy 15 degree morning.

Chris 12/14/10, 5:48 AM  

Thanks for the Christmas shopping list and in for some GU's.

Gretchen 12/14/10, 6:01 AM  

The new flavors sound great!

TK 12/14/10, 6:01 AM  

Those holiday flavors are delicious. Count me in!

Nathan C,  12/14/10, 6:04 AM  

The chocolate mint is amazing, never tried the Vanilla Gingerbread. I hope to change that soon.

Chanin 12/14/10, 6:04 AM  

Thanks for hosting these contests!

RD Jim 12/14/10, 6:05 AM  

Mmmm, designer gu.

Malinda 12/14/10, 6:14 AM  

Happy holidays, Gu! I'm in!

JimDog 12/14/10, 6:25 AM  

Just bought $10 worth of GU to keep me going, but I will always need more! Count me in!

Lynette@ A Hodge Podge Of Randomness 12/14/10, 6:26 AM  

Thanks for giving me ideas for my wish list =)

Merry Christmas!

Mike E 12/14/10, 6:26 AM  

Thanks for the entry. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Gu-nite!

Rob 12/14/10, 6:36 AM  

Mmmmm.holiday Gu!

Jason 12/14/10, 6:45 AM  

Yummy! Thanks for the entry.

jen 12/14/10, 6:53 AM  

Haven't tried the gingerbread one yet, but I love the mint. I'm in! Happy Holodays! :)

pontdo 12/14/10, 6:58 AM  

GU me Donald:)...one entry please. Thanks for the great blog!

Sarah AJ 12/14/10, 7:06 AM  

Yum, those sound really good! Happy holidays!

wch 12/14/10, 7:18 AM  

Thanks for the great reviews... Once my stash of Christmas cookies is all consumed I'll move on to the Gu!

Nate 12/14/10, 7:20 AM  

Nothing like some GU for Christmas!

Woodrow 12/14/10, 7:50 AM  

And Gingerbread GU at that it seems.

Chu 12/14/10, 7:54 AM  

Sweet! Love gingerbread!

dug deep,  12/14/10, 7:58 AM  

one entry please

My Life and Running 12/14/10, 8:17 AM  

Awesome giveaways Donald! Now to check out that North Face Apex you reviewed...

Kirstie 12/14/10, 8:26 AM  

Love the mint chocolate ones!

MtUnpaved 12/14/10, 9:04 AM  

Yep, Better sign me up, those sound good!

Noah 12/14/10, 9:11 AM  

Mmmm holiday Gu! Thanks for the entry!

Tezcatzontecatl 12/14/10, 9:15 AM  

I continue to soldier on in my quest. Sign me up, Donald.

Jeff_C,  12/14/10, 9:40 AM  

Thanks for another contest...one of these days...


Tater 12/14/10, 10:03 AM  

mmmmmmm... mint chocolate, my favorite. Thanks

jbgodfrey,  12/14/10, 10:22 AM  

GU is the best. I love all their flavors. 1 entry, please. Thanks.

misszippy 12/14/10, 10:22 AM  

New reader...looks like you've got a great site here! I'll stick around post-giveaway!

Would love the holiday giveaway.

ScottyRev,  12/14/10, 10:53 AM  


itsagoodmorning 12/14/10, 12:40 PM  

I like your style - single comment, single entry. I don't participate in any other contests because the laundry list of "tweet, facebook, comment" is ridiculous! Happy Holidays!

Mikey 12/14/10, 12:42 PM  

mmmm, just had a GU holiday flavor for my stocking shuffle a few days ago. amazing. would love to stock up on those for chilly runs during the summer!

Sparkplug 12/14/10, 12:50 PM  

Vanilla gingerbread, yum!

Mickos 12/14/10, 12:54 PM  

Sweet as, I'm in.

Chad 12/14/10, 1:29 PM  

I am a huge fan of GU!

Andy 12/14/10, 1:58 PM  

Missed out on the Clif Shots. Maybe I can snag some GU!

runputt 12/14/10, 2:29 PM  

MMm. GU. Good stuff

Carl,  12/14/10, 3:19 PM  

You know, I've never actually tried any energy products.

Carter 12/14/10, 3:29 PM  

Sweet, love the idea of Gingerbread GU!

Caleb 12/14/10, 3:56 PM  

Sign me up! Pick me!
Me! I've been looking everywhere for Holiday GU!

Timothy 12/14/10, 4:18 PM  

Never tried GU. I'm excited

CK 12/14/10, 4:26 PM  

Throwing my name in the hat. It's the most runderful time of the year!

Bryan M.,  12/14/10, 4:39 PM  


Mowgli 12/14/10, 4:41 PM  

I got my evo IIs, they're great! More protection than my Runamocs, so they're great for letting loose on some of the rougher trails. Thanks a lot, and count me in for the GU contest. - James

Erik 12/14/10, 5:22 PM  

I love Gu! Thanks for this opportunity!

Kelly 12/14/10, 8:13 PM  

These are my fave flavors!! Great giveaway!

msimpson 12/14/10, 8:50 PM  

Sign me up!!! I love GU products.

JBK in CA 12/14/10, 10:51 PM  

Gu is good. Or to quote Jack, "Just a dab will do 'ya"

shel 12/15/10, 8:00 AM  

gu me, brother!

robb 12/15/10, 11:10 AM  

Oooh, I want Gu!

Matt Dubs,  12/15/10, 3:13 PM  

Gu please!

Jeff 12/15/10, 3:14 PM  

I'm in! Jeff P

Running With The Devil 12/15/10, 4:11 PM  

Sign me up for one! Todd F.

questionfear 12/15/10, 5:05 PM  

mmm gu. I loooove the mint chocolate flavor!

Turi 12/15/10, 8:02 PM  

Whoa, that is a GREAT price from Amazon on that Nathan pack. Been wanting one of those for awhile...

I'm halfway through a 6-pack of the Vanilla Gingerbread Gu right now, and it's good stuff. Mint Chocolate sounds pretty good too, though.

Jeff 12/16/10, 5:19 AM  

Count me in, too!

Joel 12/16/10, 10:42 AM  

Yes, please! Here's to the GU :-D

Angie Bee 12/16/10, 6:59 PM  

One can never have enough GU!

RunningLaur 12/16/10, 9:25 PM  

I love Gu - throw my name in the hat, please!

Torquewrench 12/17/10, 11:50 AM  

Count me in for one entry. Thanks!

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