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Review: Trauma 1 Foot Care Kit XL

From: Shaina Brooks

Review: I do a lot of hiking, but long ruck marches are what brought me to finding better foot care. Trauma 1 provides a whole kit of footcare needs for a great price. I got the XL kit, which comes in a vacuum seal bag, perfect for fitting in an already stuffed ruck. The kit comes with needles, pain medications, mole skin, lubrication, alcohol pads, nail clippers, salt sticks, duct tape and bandaids. I’ve had one kit for over a year and have used most of it, sharing with people. The site also provides other medical kits and will customize each kit to your needs.

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Review: TomTom Spark Cardio + Music

From: Mike Lane

Review: My first jump into a fitness tracker came just after Christmas where I decided to try out a Fitbit tracker. The overall intent was to of course ensure I stay active and help keep me on track to prepare for the sport we all love, OCR. After about 7 months of using this product and enjoying it I found myself wanting more. Knowing that the Fitbit is not waterproof I was hesitant on bringing it out on the course and typically made good judgement on doing so. Just like many people though it killed me to not get those steps counted towards my overall day after a race. I could not use the time, distance and heart rate functions while competing. Of course I did try it at a course and you guess it, my Fitbit is now in a better place.

After looking around I decided to go with the TomTom Spark Cardio + Music. I wanted something that I could use daily to track fitness goals, but would also be extremely valuable on the courses. I was sold on the TomTom due to it having the daily features for goals, ability to store music and it was created to handle an OCR. Another bonus and hint if you decide to buy this watch. When you order the watch through the TomTom website they include the bluetooth headphones for free. That is a nice value you can’t pass up and so far they have worked extremely well. Uploading the music onto the watch was about as easy as it could get. The TomTom app automatically linked with iTunes and I was able to move a created playlist right onto the watch. The watch will hold up to 500 songs which I feel is more than I need. Also, good to point out that the pairing of the TomTom headphones was very easy and using daily is also very easy. All I need to do is let the watch know I am turning the headphones on and as I do so they start playing right away. The ear pieces fit into my ears perfectly and have yet to feel like they will fall out (they give you different sizes) and sound great.

This watch has multi sport capability so you can set it for multiple workouts which is nice. I really like how when you select an activity such as running the watch quickly picks up your heart rate and then locates you with GPS. Once it has both it literally tells you it’s ready and you can start. I will say that while running the Spartan Super it showed to be very accurate with my heart rate and distance. Each time I hit a mile marker on the course my watch was pretty much right with the marker. You can also display multiple views on the watch so whatever is most important for you is easily visible. If you want heart rate to be visible or pace or just time of day it is no problem. I also enjoyed how it broke down your run and gave you all the stats you would need as well as showing the map of where you actually ran. I’ve never had that luxury so that was nice.

If the TomTom was lacking in anything I would say it is in the mobile phone app. I think it could sync to the watch a bit easier (the Fitbit for instance would automatically sync when opened). Also, while it does give you your workout details and race details. As far as normal daily activities it only tells you your steps for the day and week. I would like it to have more info around daily activities like the Fitbit app.

When looking at design I think it is a great looking watch. It fits very comfortably on my wrist and does not look too big or clunky. It can easily be worn like an everyday watch in my opinion. The display screen is also very easy to read during a sunny day. The actual straps of the watch are very comfortable. It has the ability to be switched to different colors and is extremely secure on your wrist. I have never seen a watch clip in three different places like this one does. Great for doing OCR as far as peace of mind goes. There is no way that watch is falling off your wrist.

While this is really my first crack at a multi sport watch I definitely feel like I made the right choice. I love having the ability to have music when running without the need to carry a phone or iPod and it works extremely well. I have had no issues using the watch so far after about 3 weeks and would recommend it to anyone.

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Review: Garmin Forerunner 310xt

From: Jennifer Decker

Review: I’m a non-competitive athlete, and really find it hard to even call myself an athlete. That’s a disclaimer to this review. That being said, I put this thing on every time I ride, hike, jog, OCR.

1. Good battery life
2. Has a biking setting
3. I have used it for quite a few OCR’s where it got fully wet and beat up, regular runs (jogs), hikes, bike rides, and it’s worked great, no hiccups.
4. I like the setting where it vibrates at every half mile (how I set it), so at the Super, for instance, I can say to myself at the first half mile “I only have to do what I just did 15 more times and it will be over” (I’m pretty sure that’s how you’re supposed to use that feature).
5. Once it has the GPS signal, it holds it – I’ve only had it alert me that it lost the signal while we were hiking through the Grand Canyon, and let’s be honest, that is not unreasonable. And even that, it kept finding the signal again.
6. You can buy another piece that allows it to track your treadmill activity; it was kinda pricey, but I did it, and then realized I didn’t care to track treadmill activity, so I sold it on eBay.
7. I like the stats I can look at online, not that they’ve helped me improve, but I like the maps, the split info, the elevation grids, the notes I can add, etc.

1. It’s huge…like I have to put it on last because I can’t get stuff on over it.
2. The time does not show on the display, which I sometimes find annoying – I definitely find myself doing math (“it says I’ve been out 2 hours, we started at 10, it must be noon”).
3. Sometimes it is slow to find the GPS signal to start, especially if it’s cloudy.

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Review: DGearOG – Full Fingered

From: Hannah Hawley

Review: I bought these gloves at Dirty Girl Mud Run for Polar Bear. I had zero intentions of wearing them until winter. Well, after running Shale Hill on a hot sunny day, I realized when the heat got high for Shale Hell, I wanted something to protect my hands from burns on the metal. These worked awesome for that. They also helped protect me from the ropes that I find hurt my hands. Overall, I want to get a fingerless pair for summer events and highly recommend the full finger for winter events to avoid frost burns from the metal when the temperatures dip scary close to 0F.

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Review: FitBit Surge

From: Amy LaPanne

Review: I’ve owned 4 different Fitbits so far. The Surge is definitely the coolest & most advanced one of them so far.

What I love:
Fitbit’s app & dashboard. It’s fantastic. It’s very customizable and you can track your sleep, water intake, calorie intake, weight, food plans, and more. You want motivation? You got it. Add some of your friends who own Fitbits, which could be a lot of friends knowing this community, and challenge each other in a Weekend Warrior challenge, or maybe a Workweek Hustle to see who can get the most steps in. If you don’t want to participate in challenges, you can hit a little button and “cheer” or “taunt” them, or just send a message.

When you’re working out, unless you tell it what exercise you’re doing, the Surge will make an educated guess. For example, I went on a hike one night and it guessed that I was mountain biking. I went into the app, edited the activity and updated it in just a few moments. The connected GPS is a great feature on this tracker. I don’t always carry my phone with me, so it’s great to be able to keep track of my routes without carrying more stuff on me. You get a nice map on your dashboard showing your route and mile markers when you’re done. Sometimes it can take a little while for the GPS to find you, which is annoying when you want to get moving, but only once in the deep woods have I ever had an issue with it losing where I was. Smartly enough, the GPS tracking is available for certain activities, like biking, hiking, or walking, and not for things like yoga, lifting weights, or the elliptical.

The Surge is really easy to use, even for someone with limited tech skills like me. Setting up the device can be a little tricky but the instructions on line are good and their customer service is very good. They have live chat and phone options for assistance, and a great community section where you can often find answers to your questions for any Fitbit device.

The face display is customizable to 3 different ways to view, but the thing I love the most is that it’s so easy to read in the bright sunlight. It automatically adjusts to the brightness of your surroundings so that you can always read it. You can set the Surge to brighten when you raise your arm, or leave that feature off and just tap the Gorilla Glass face and it will brighten then for you.

What I don’t love:
It’s still not waterproof. Now, having said that, a friend wore hers in the ocean and in the pool with just some waterproof medical tape over the charging port, and it was fine.

It’s not a good device for karate/kickboxing and other contact sports. IMO, it’s just too big. One time it left bruises on my wrist from moving around and making impact. Another time I ended up leaving bruises on my partner’s wrist when we were practicing punching & blocking. The good news is that if you have a second Fitbit device because you upgraded, you can use the other device and still get credit for your steps when you sync the devices. I have a ChargeHR that I will often wear to karate instead, and after class I edit the activities to record the karate class.

You have a choice of 3 colors: Tangerine (yikes), Blue, or Black (which ends up looking sort of like a felon’s tracking device that you wear on your wrist instead of your ankle). You can’t change the band out either, so if you break it, you’re screwed. Fitbit encourages you to wash the band with some gentle soap to avoid skin irritation, and it’s important to know that some people have had some significant allergic reactions to it.

Overall, it’s probably more of a fitness tracker than I need, but I really like it & would recommend it. Fitbit has really good customer service. I started wearing the One in 2012, upgraded to the Force (later recalled), then the ChargeHR, and now the Surge. The devices come with a one year warranty. NOTE: You CANNOT buy an extended warranty from Fitbit, though you can if you buy the device at one of their Authorized Retailers.

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Review: Brute Force Sandbags

Bruteforce SandbagsAs an obstacle course enthusiast – maybe fanatic – a good sandbag should be in your arsenal for training. They’re awesome for simply throwing over your shoulders and hiking up a hill, to sprints, to much more technical routines than I’m qualified to recommend or dig into.

In fact, most races these days have some form of sandbag carry built into them. This may be a simple “pancake” carry at a Spartan, to a significant Wreck Bag carry at OCR World Championships. FIT has had Wreck Bags on course for many events now, and BoldrDash has a unique super long WreckBag that takes two to carry. In fact, with their signature orange handles, chances are high Wreck Bag is the style you’re most familiar with.

However, there are many other games in town. There are many vendors of sandbags or sandbag type equipment – and I’ve recently had my hands on such a beast from Brute Force Training out of North Denver.



Bruteforce Sandbags

Bruteforce Sandbags
Two fillers fit together, or separately.

The bag I was provided with is a Firefighter Red Athlete Sandbag kit. This gives me the bag itself, and two filler sacks – one for approximately 50lbs of sand, the other for approximately 30lbs of sand. Unlike the very similar GoRuck sandbags, the filler bags are included, and unlike Wreck Bags – they are shipped empty, which is significantly easier for your mailman. I spent less than $10 on two bags of play sand from my local hardware store to fill mine, and had left over.

The bag itself is made of 1000d military spec Cordura, and has a seriously chunky YKK zipper. It’s 8 handles are made and supported by what looks like seatbelt webbing, and are incredibly comfortable in the hand, even under weight – and noticeably more so than the GoRuck models. The handles are rounded, and sit proud of the bag itself, so you’re not grasping, trying to find them. The handles themselves are oriented on both vertical and horizontal, and on each end – theres no end to the variety. Don’t underestimate having contrasting colors too – black handles on a red bag are easier to find than the black on black GoRuck.

The fillers are double velcro’d, and easy to fill. They have a red stitch line to indicate when they’re at weight, and purposefully leave some space for the sand to move freely, creating an unstable load. One bag is rated to 50lbs and wider than the second bag, rated to 25/30lbs. Both fit in the shell together, or separately – so you can mix and match and create your own sandbag weight. Of course, you can partially fill the filler bags to get your perfect weight at any time.

Comparing this to what I believe is the most popular OCR sandbag on the market – Wreck Bags – there’s significant differences. For one – Wreck Bags ship full, and don’t use sand – instead they use a proprietary rubber pellet system designed to not shift, rot, or gain weight when wet. They only have a couple of handles, unless you buy the optional grip straps, and the weight isn’t variable. If you’re storing your training tools outside, or have the potential for them to get wet – a Wreck Bag is an instant no-brainer. If you’re buying in bulk for an event or gym, Wreck Bags will last a life time. In fact – the 50lb Wreck Bag in these photos is one of the first bags they’ve ever made, and it’s looking as good now as a new one – if a little dusty. Not a pulled stitch or tear to be found.

Bruteforce Sandbags, GoRuck Sandbags, Wreck Bags and a home made sand pill
Bruteforce Sandbags, GoRuck Sandbags, Wreck Bags and a home made sand pill

Another popular option, already mentioned, is the GoRuck Sandbag – which appears to be similar in many ways to the Brute Force sandbag – both are 1000d mil spec Cordura, both bullet proof in construction, although GoRuck make you buy your filler bag separately. More on that, below.

In fact – GoRuck have legendary build quality – and a legendary Scars warranty to back it up – but Brute Force is no slouch, either.

Each Brute Force sandbag comes with a 30day money back guarantee if you don’t want to keep it, and have a limited lifetime warranty, that excludes (from their website):

Actions that will void the warranty: (Do at your own risk)
-Dragging the sandbags
-Overfilling shells or fillers
-Using wet sand or abrasive filler material
-Pouring sand directly into the shell
-Exceeding pronated handle weight limits
-Abnormal use
-Running into it with a snow-blower (yes, someone tried to claim this)
Our priority is to keep you training, and we will work with you on a resolution.

It’s nice to see they want to work with you to resolve any problems, and it’s worth noting that Brute Force *and* GoRuck specifically mention slamming and dragging as reasons for exclusion from their warranties – yes, even the famous Scars warranty won’t cover slamming and dragging.


When it comes to buying, it’s not always so straightforward.

GoRuck insists you buy the shell, THEN buy the fillers – whereas Brute Force sells you the whole set in one go. What does this look like in pricing? Lets break it down:

Lets assume we’re shopping for a 60lb training bag. Prices include shipping from the vendor website, to MA, as of 7/17/16. Tax not included.

Wreck Bag: 60lb bag – $159.95. Free shipping. You would need to include the additional Wreck Ribs for $29.95 to get the flexibility of the Brute Force or GoRuck bags – but you need no sand. Available in several sizes – but the size you buy is the size you get.

25lb and 50lb Wreck Bags
25lb and 50lb Wreck Bags

GoRuck: A single 60lb filler bag was $25, and a 60lb shell was on sale at $69 for a total of $99 inclusive of the $5 shipping. Worth noting that GoRuck had a sale on the shell, which was normally $85 – and they had limited filler bags available, 40lb and 60lb only. Are they getting out of the sandbag game? Available in 20lb, 40lb and 60lb shells, with 20lb, 40lb and 60lb filler bags – if they get them back in stock.

20lb, 40lb and 60lb GoRuck Sandbags
20lb, 40lb and 60lb GoRuck Sandbags

Brute Force: The Athlete Kit gives you the Sandbag shell, rated to 75lbs, a 50lb filler bag, a 30lb filler bag for $129.95, plus $15.20 shipping. For a total of $145.15. Smaller kits (and larger kits) available, each one with multiple filler bags included. Add $5 or $10 for sand.Bruteforce Sandbags

What about the spoiler in the room? The home made, duck tape special? This 50lb home made sandbag is a simple $5, 50lb bag of play sand – wrapped in as much duct tape as I could. It’s not particularly versatile or flexible, prone to busting open and no handles – but if all you want is weight, throw this in a ruck and off you go for very short money.

Bruteforce Sandbags

25lb and 50lb Wreck Bags

So you have some cash in your pocket and you want to buy a sandbag – which should you buy?


I think the home made bags are t0o limited in their scope. I’m concerned about the lack of availability and flexibility in the GoRuck filler bags – and the sale price on their shells – which brings it down to the Brute Force bags and of course, Wreck Bag.

Wreck Bag are New England owned, and bomb proof. The contents of each bag will never get heavier in water or rot, and they can live outside. The weight doesn’t shift, and the bag is well built. However, they are a little limited in how you can “handle” them, without buying the extra ribs, and the weight is non-adjustable.

IMG_2011Brute Force offer a Made in America bag that is also pretty damned bomb proof. Sand is cheap and easy to get, but will get heavy if you soak it. The weight does shift, which they consider a feature, and the multiple filler bags mean you can tailor the weight to your needs. Plenty of handles that are comfortable.

As an additional, Brute Force produce an app that delivers a daily sandbag and bodyweight workout – it shows you each movement in a video, gives you a workout of the day, and lets you time and track your results – while you can do the workout with any sandbag, Brute Force are the guys producing it – it’s a nice touch. Wreck Bag have a certification program and trainers in real gyms – both pushing the scope of what a simple “sand bag” can do for you.

Which would you pick up?

(Code NES will get you 10% off, and a bulk order of 6 or more can be arranged for more savings)

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Review: Under Armour F4 Receiver Gloves

From: Ann Priestman
Product: Under Armour F4 Receiver Gloves

Review: I’ve been wearing these for dry, cooler weather races for a while now, but wanted to wait until I wore them through some mud/water to write a review. I’ve now worn them to Warrior Dash, Bonefrog, Barre Spartan Sprint, and Samurai Sprint, and couldn’t be happier with their performance.

I tried on a few pairs at Sports Authority (R.I.P) and got a medium, then went back after a few races to get a small (the extra room was uncomfortable on hanging obstacles because my hand would feel like it was falling out of the glove). The small fits me perfectly, and I usually don’t even notice I have them on during races. There are small holes in the palms that help with drainage and make them a bit more breathable. They are also easy to clean – after rinsing I put them in a mesh bag and throw them in the washer (watch out for the velcro – it can ruin other clothes). The gloves start with a tacky layer on the palms which eventually wears off, but the grip is still fine.

For me, the performance of the gloves during races has been fantastic. At Samurai Sprint, with its oddly placed rope climb immediately after the slip and slide, I had no problem gripping the rope while my companions found it too slippery. Same with the thin, mud-covered ropes at Barre. The one downside is that they can actually a bit too grippy for widely spaced monkey bars since they don’t let your hand rotate around the bar at all. But I’m happy to have them on for the majority of obstacles.

It should be clear by now that I’m very happy with these gloves. The price is high (~$30) but for me it’s been worth it.

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Review: Amphipod Trans4m Thermal Plus Run Gloves

From: Danielle Carrier
Product: Amphipod Trans4m Thermal Plus Run Gloves

This winter I knew I was going to need a new pair of running gloves that would work better for Winter OCR and still be comfortable for cold weather running. I went into my local running store and the owner recommended Amphipod Trans4m Thermal Plus Run Gloves.

These gloves have 4 levels of functionality. First there is the full coverage glove and mitten for total coverage. Level 2 would be just thumbs exposed to take a picture, send a text or to give a nice thumbs up for the camera. Level 3 is a fingerless glove. The mitten portion folds back snuggly to the hand and just fingers and thumbs are exposed. Level 4 is full hand exposure, a great feature for obstacle course racing. You can pull the whole glove off your hand and push it down on your wrist. This allows the runner to keep your gloves on but still be able to do the obstacles that require a full hand grip.

These gloves are very warm. They are fleeced lined, wick moisture very well, and are both windproof and water resistance. I used them for Blizzard Blast, Polar Bear Challenge and Winter Dash and never had a problem with cold hands. The Thermal Plus gloves run 45 dollars a pair and there is a slightly less warm version that retails for 40 dollars. These have been a great investment.

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Review: Innov-8 X-Talon 212

From: Chris Bordenca
Product: Innov-8 X-Talon 212

Review: This is my first pair of Innov-8’s following 3 pairs of Gen 1 Reebok trail shoes (1 pair Sprint, 2 pair Super).

The Innov-8 X-Talon 212 is very comfortable, but a little tight in the toe box going down hill even with the standard fit. There is a precision fit available that is even narrower. As soon as you set eyes on them you can tell they are a high quality, durable shoe with a lot of grip. The lugs are 8mm and seeing them instilled a lot of confidence about going down steep, wet hills.

That confidence was well placed. I’ve logged 21 very technical, wet, steep miles over the course of 2 races in last few weeks. I felt in total control running down some steeper declines that were either wet or just narrow and curvy or both. The 7 Sisters Trail Race and Bone Frog New England both posed formidable challenges and the shoes have come out looking almost new after a hose down.

They are very light, except after full submersion. Without drain holes, water is trapped in the shoes and does not “squish” out while running after. Instead it feels like lugging small wet towels around your feet for a longer amount of time than is comfortable. The benefit of no drainage is that they don’t stuck in lots of small pebbles during submersion like the Reebok’s tend to do. With both brand of shoe you feel uncomfortable either from water or from pebbles in the shoes and only the pebbles in the Reebok’s compelled me to stop and shake out the shoes.

Overall, I highly recommend the Innov-8 X-Talon 212. They are tough, mostly comfortable, and built for speed on the trail. If the drainage issue could be solved they’d be a perfect shoe. If possible try a pair on before buying to see if they are tight around the forefoot.

Rating: 5 star (amazing)