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Review: NES Cooling Towel

From: Chris Jones

Review: I have been using one of these for about 1 month. I sweat excessively and I now always carry this on a training run. It’s small enough to fit in the pocket of my shorts. Its very absorbent, just pull it out and mop away then give it a good snap or good shake and its cooling. I suspect the water is distributed through the material when you snap it so after that you are wiping with a cooling damp cloth. It works a treat.

(editors note: This is a review of the sample that became our NES Cooling Towels, now available in the store!)

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Review: OCRBuddy

From: Nicole Landry

Review: This is the first app of it’s kind that I’ve seen, where I can keep all of my races in one place! I have an iPhone, so I can only speak to the functionality of the app on apple devices. Previously, I have kept multiple versions of my race schedule throughout the year: excel spreadsheets, day planner, google calendar on my phone, iCalendar, a white board…and invariably, I double book at least one thing every month. It’s a pain, and too time consuming to keep cross-referencing every place I keep my schedule.

With OCR Buddy, I can log in, hit “My Events,” and it gives me the list of every race I am planning to do. It also stores the races you have done in the past. When you search the calendar for events, you can click on an event, see if any of your “buddies” (they have to be using the app, as well) are attending, and you can either click “attending” if you have registered, or know you are going to register; or, you can click “interested” so it adds it to your event list.

Each event that you add to your list has a section for notes, so you can add whether or not you have paid the reg fee (or any other info you want to add).

When an event is finished, there is also a place for you to add your finishing time. This makes it easier to go back and compare finishing times, if that’s your thing.

The app itself is really easy to use. You can update your profile with a pic, your regional information, the teams you are on, and your social media “names.” The profile page shows you how many buddies you have and how many races you are attending.

If you’re looking for an event, there are events listed throughout 2017 already (as of this review, there are 911 upcoming races). If there is an event you are going to that isn’t listed, you have the ability to add it, and the moderator will review and add it to the calendar. I’ve actually expanded my race calendar from just looking through the published events and finding races that I wouldn’t have originally planned on running. And the events are nationwide, and international..on vacation and need a race fix? Look at the calendar and find one in the area you’re vacationing in. 🙂

The app also has filters, so you can narrow down your search by only your events, events your buddies are attending; race brand, country (currently US, UK, Canada, and Australia), region, state, length of race, whether or not you’ll get dirty, and whether or not you’ll get swag.

Under the settings tab, you can find a FAQ on the app. It tells you everything you need to know to use the app. It has a clickable menu, or you can scroll through the whole FAQ (which I recommend, there are a few tidbits in there that I didn’t know!). It’s not overly verbose, and it doesn’t miss any of the points you may be looking for.

The only thing the app is currently missing is the ability to export to your daily calendar on your phone. I hear they’re working on it, though. I’ll be very excited when that happens. One less cross-reference to worry about!

The best thing about the app, is I can literally just tell someone to hold on a second when they ask if I’m free to do something, and I can look at my events and give them an answer right away. Before I had to say…Oh let me go home and check my race schedule. Pretty cool.

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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: 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: #ItsTheNerve

ed. note: Thanks to Michael Downey for this review and opinion on this product.

A few weeks back the makers of this product reached out to NES about seeing if people would be interested in trying out some samples of this new product at the beast. It is not due to hit the market till next June so the formula and or product could change between now and then but ill review based off the sample provided.

When we spoke with the rep about this product we were given a heads up that its a bit spicy and has some kick, when you read the label you can see why there propriety blend is cinnamon, ginger and capsicum (one of the active ingredients in pepper spray) . It is in a bottle about the size of a 5 hour energy drink and meant to be taken as a shot once you feel a cramp coming on. I myself am chronic cramper so I figure I had nothing to lose; even though I was not a huge fan of the idea of trying something new on a race.

A short way into the first big climb of the Killington beast my calf’s started screaming and I figure lets give this a try. I felt like I was doing a shot of fireball whiskey with the burn factor but after a few swigs of water my mouth cooled off and a few mins later my calf’s felt like they had been massaged and were nice and loose.

Now I know there is a ton of studies and science looking into the cause and remedy of cramps so I will be curious to see what they say about this in time. I do not know if its just the placebo effect or if this stuff is legit but when iItook it I felt results. If its priced within the $3-5.00 price range I think it will be a good buy

Rating: 4 star (good)

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Review: GripSling

gripsWe are all looking for new ways to train. Obstacle racers, parkourists, endurance athletes and more are always pushing the limits and trying new things. Lately, there has been quite a buzz about Gripsling. To be honest, I haven’t seen a buzz like this since the WreckBag first came out.

So, what is a Gripsling?

GripSlingTM (grip sleeng)—noun: A simple yet effective workout strap that is used for performing dynamic training methods. The workout straps may be used independently as a suspension trainer for bodyweight exercise, or with other fitness equipment such as weights, dumbbells, and exercise machines.

Our pride lies with serving our country. GripSling raw training straps are manufactured in the United States, we are a recognized Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, and our primary market lies with government and federal organizations. Secondary markets include collegiate and professional sports teams, gyms and exercise facilities, medical and rehabilitation centers, as well as individual athletes of all fitness levels. We proudly deliver the highest product quality and service to all of our customers and affiliates. – from the Gripsling site

There have been many Spahtens training with them. I’ve seen pics of Christine Dion using them, and Mike Collins puts up videos all the time with the various things he is doing with them. Heck, watch the one below to see how beastly Mike gets with his training straps.

You can use them for body-weight exercises such as pull ups, pushups, dips. You can use them for toe to bar movement. Tie em around a brick and drag it around.

There are so many things you can do with these, and they fold up easily to take with you anywhere. I think in the video above, Mike had brought them camping with him. My boys and I strapped these on to the monkey bars and “hung around a bit” upside down, right side up; any which way we could get. Because my muscles were not used to some of the movements, I have been pretty darned sore after workouts.

Or, combine them with a WreckBag and you can do all sorts of extra movements! What?!

Use them as Tarzan ropes! I know it’s not pretty, but I tried em and they worked great. Now I just need some more space to really set them up, kids are so….. short! HAHA!

You don’t have to workout alone either, they have videos that show you how to work out with partners. I can see these being a huge hit at the next Spahten training/ social!

There are so many ways you can use a Gripsling. Not only are they great for getting a workout in, but dynamic stretching is absolutely amazing. I come home from work really tight sometimes and I loosen right up after some stretching with my Gripsling.

So, because this community is so AWESOME, Gripsling has extended us a huge discount! Use the code “NESpahtens” on check out and get 20% off! Guys and gals, that’s amazing for what you are getting here. Seriously, you can pack these things and take them with you anywhere.



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Review: UAG Navigator iPhone 6 Case

uagcaseThese are the same guys that brought you the Lifeproof case which received a rave review from another Spahten. I was approached about some new cases they had an was happy to give them a try.

The Navigator case if completely different than the Lifeproof, it is made for durability more than needing to be waterproof. Which is good, because I would be scared to get anywhere near water with this thing, it’s not protected from wetness at all.

Aesthetically, I love the look of it. It’s a sharp case and the design is very industrial looking. The buttons are fantastic and are much easier to use than some of the other cases I’ve had for this phone. The outer shell is made from a company specific composite and an impact resistant softcore to absorb drops. I did drop mine, on it’s side and on the corners. It bounced up and there was no damage, at all. The issue I had, and this was cringe worthy, was worrying if when I dropped it if it would fall on its face.

This case does not fully envelope the phone and all that protects the screen is a scratch resistant “sticker”. Ok, not so much a sticker, that cheapens what it is. But, it adheres like a sticker and to be perfectly honest, I felt it was about as useful as putting a sticker on it. If you happened to be running with this, and it wasn’t secure in a sleeve on your arm, I would be super iffy on it shattering when it hits the ground.

My recommendation is to use a similar design to the Lifeproof case going forward. That screen sticker worries me. Or, and I hate to make the comparison, mimic the Survivor case. I have dropped that thing from 20′ up and my phone is in awesome shape, no scratches at all. Dropping this from 20′ up? I don’t feel that comfortable. It has to be encapsulated to be fully protected for me.

All in all, a good everyday/ casual use case. In our sport I don’t see it being useful.


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Review: LED Lenser Seo7R head lamp

Great review, Paul. Thanks for submitting it!

lightI’ve been using a pretty cheap, Petzl Tikka2 for some time now. At just $30 or $40, it was inexpensive,
“good enough”, and has survived a couple of Beasts and Hurricane Heats in my pack, without incident.

But, I rarely actually used it in the dark. I just had it there, in case.

At the debacle that was the 2014 VT Beast, when many of us got stuck out on the mountain in the dark, then discovered we had to share our headlamps with less prepared people, I figured the battery was low, it wasn’t too helpful – but then, with fresh power, I used it at the Cape Cod Ragnar Relay and it was – frankly – pretty shit. Amazon tells me it has 40 lumens, the measure of how much light it puts out.

I wanted to get something better – something that would be about the same size and weight, but much more useful when I actually did need it. Some reading and research led me to the LED Lenser Seo7R.

It’s not a lot bigger than the Petzl, but it does feel a bit front heavy when you wear it. There is a built in tilt mechanism, and you can even turn the bezel to focus the light from a tight beam, to a wide spread.

But it’s WAY more powerful. Like, 220 lumens powerful.

It has a few modes, including a red LED mode for night vision, and it’s run time isn’t quite as high as the lesser powerful Petzl, of course – but even five hours of light is enough for me. It has a USB jack on a battery pack, so you can pop the battery out, charge it anywhere – no more AAA’s (although it takes them too, if you need to switch out in a pinch). It even has a mode that is supposed to dim the light, when the ambient is bright enough to need it, but honestly, I’ve yet to notice this happen.

Some cons – like I mention, it feels front heavy on your head. I think thats just getting used to the heavier, bulkier unit though. When you have the focus ring set to the widest setting, there’s a dark “dead spot” in the middle, but bring it into any level beyond widest, and that goes away. It’s more expensive than a cheap headlamp, but it’s so much brighter!

This will be in my pack now – it’s crazy bright, and really, thats what I want in my head lamp – especially if I find myself on Killington in the dark, babysitting three unprepared athletes again …

Rating: 5 star (amazing)

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Review: McDavid Hex Knee-pads

hex padsThanks Paul for this awesome, and extremely helpful, review of this! Here you go folks, no more shredded knees!!

Having been an avid racer for many years now, I’m getting very sick of one obstacle. Barbed wire crawls.

They’re usually rocky. They slice my knees to shreds.

So, for the Beast, I added a new piece of clothing to my gear and picked up a pair of McDavid Hex Knee pads. You can get these from Dicks, but buy them from Amazon for a million more color options.

Relatively cheap at about $25 a pair, and in a variety of sizes (I bought L and that was fine).

The entire goal for me was knee protection. Crawling through the crap, I just wanted to come out without open wounds – and these absolutely nailed that for me. When I didn’t need them, I can just slide them down over my calf sleeves, and they’re totally out of the way, but I tended to wear them over my knee for much of the race.

After 9 hours, they started to feel a little chafy, but up until that point, no problems at all.

Product Info:

Rating: 4 star (good)

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Review: Topricin

Thanks again to Miss Hannah for this awesome review. Folks, let us know what works and what doesn’t. It might help someone else too!

topricinThere are many products on the market to rub on sore muscles.  They all have different claims and work in different ways.  My favorite is Topricin.  I have been using it for roughly 3 years and other than the rare need to use BioFreeze (very different type of product), I won’t use anything else.

I love to apply after a shower before bed.  Even with just one application, I have found that I recover faster and the pain and soreness is not as severe.  I even notice that my bruises appear to heal faster.

As an added bonus, Topricin is homeopathic!

Rating: 5 star (amazing)