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Photo credit: Dan Stinton

Tried and Tested: Gear that Lasts

22-Jul-20

Last updated: 22-Jul-20

By Dan Stinton

Whilst you’re rummaging through your running cupboard is there something that you end up picking again and again?

RunUltra is packed with product reviews and I’ve done a fair few myself on these very pages.  Whilst there has never been any pressure to push out a quick review, generally we try to write them within a couple of months of receiving a product.

You can run plenty of miles and write a fair review over a few months, but it is difficult to truly evaluate the longevity and there seems little value in holding back on reviewing products that will more than likely be discontinued and replaced by newer (improved?) models.

Nevertheless, it’s important to understand how products fair over time. We’ll all have kit that we know we can rely on, so here’s my selection of clothing that has stood the test of time and, when the time comes, I’ll certainly be revisiting these brands to look at their latest models.

Ashmei Men’s Classic Jersey

When you first see the prices of Ashmei gear it will send your Garmin heart rate monitor into overdrive. I can’t remember how much I paid for my “Men’s Classic Jersey” several years ago, but the equivalent model now comes in at £78, so certainly up there in the higher price bracket. 

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This jersey has been worn for several ultras and many, many long training runs in all weathers.  The blend of merino and carbon feels good against the skin and keeps me warm even when wet, it dries quickly, it looks pretty cool with the trademark Ashmei back stripe and has a mid-zip which I love for regulating temperature.

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Whilst some may avoid because of the price, out of all of my running tops, this has delivered the most value for money on a £/mile basis and I expect many more miles/years to come.  I was so impressed, last year I took the plunge and purchased some 2-in-1 shorts and another jersey.  Looking at the current Ashmei range, they do seem to have developed a very neutral looking range with no particularly extravagant designs or colours so they won’t appeal to everyone but, if the quality of products I have are anything to go by, they are worth every penny.

Rat Race Trailblazer Shorts and Tights

Rat Race have built up a wide range of events combining a variety of adventure activities with running to push people to their limits.  The added adventure element may put off some more “pure” runners and certainly pushes the price up on their races, but despite being a bit apprehensive myself about wanting to splash through water obstacles, I had one of the finest experiences at Man vs Mountain in 2016 which was part of my journey to RunUltra that I wrote about HERE.

Anyway, this article isn’t about their events: this is about running kit.  Around the same time I entered Man vs Mountain, I bought the Trailblazer Shorts as a combo deal including the short length tights which I think were around £30-£35.  The tights have felt comfortable for many hours of running and have never chaffed, the lightweight shorts have a small “gel” stretch pocket on either leg and a decent sized zipped pocket on the back.  They’re still a firm favourite, particularly for long runs because I know I’ll stay comfortable throughout.

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Looking around their website nowadays the business model seems to have shifted significantly.  They used to stock a number of brands, but now seem more (or completely) focussed on Rat Race gear and targeting kit lists for their races, with some items of clothing branded for specific races.  Stock doesn’t always seem available but they may be worth checking out for some good value gear.

Nike Elite Running Socks

I hate buying socks.  Normally, when a running purchase either flops through the letterbox or is aggressively thrown over the fence by an enthusiastic delivery driver, I am almost shivering with anticipation as I tear open the package.  But socks are just… socks.  I have, however, almost exclusively picked Nike Elite.  Not particularly cheap and I’ve been through various iterations of the design and whilst they do eventually wear through, they’re warm, comfortable and largely contribute to a lot of blister free running.

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Nike Elite: The impossible task of taking a nice picture of some old socks

Columbia Montrail TransALP FKT

Runners love buying trainers.  When you’re telling your partner that you need a 9th pair because the lugs are more suited to the slightly peaty mud you’ll be running in over the weekend, you know you will see their eyes glaze over, but you buy them anyway.

This was an agonising choice for me because some of my absolute favourite running shoes have ripped/torn/fallen apart much earlier than I would have expected.

I ran my first Ultra in a pair of Columbia Montrail TransALP FKT.  They were a kind of dorky grey/yellow combo and when I first put them on I didn’t think I would like them: they felt a bit stiff out of the box with a largely mesh upper which didn’t seem to flex much, but the sole was nice, chunky and definitely suited more to harder trails rather than mud.  At the end of my first ultra, 50 miles, my feet felt fine.  Not a blister or sore patch in sight, unlike pretty much every other part of my body. 

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Looking back at my Strava records they only gave me 420km before the upper ripped.  I loved them so much I bought a second pair which lasted a marginally better 495km.  Whilst I’d have liked them to last longer, they gave me the performance I wanted which is (arguably?) better than something that lasts twice as long but doesn’t perform as well.

Other favourites are the Scarpa Neutron 2 which I reviewed for RunUltra HERE. It’s great to be able to look back at that review and know that they also had longevity on their side.  I have wide feet so tend to tear a lot of running shoe uppers, but these have held strong.  I purchased a second pair when I saw an offer online to make sure I had some ready for when the original ones give up.

Whilst it’s too early to comment on how long they will last, another firm favourite at the moment are the Altra King MT 1.5. With their wide fit and zero drop, I seem to be able to do any length of run and it feels like I’m wearing comfortable slippers, plus they have a Velcro strap so I can pretend that I’m still at primary school. I’m only around 250km in, but I’m sincerely hoping they stand the test of time.

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Of course, there’s loads more gear: waterproofs, vests/rucksacks (and I love rucksacks!), hats, gloves, baselayers, long tights, sunglasses and the other wealth of mandatory kit which may be the subject of a future article.  What gear for you is still going strong and provided you with years (or miles) of faithful service? Let us know!

As this article has been about products that I rate very highly and have stood the test of time, clearly there are going to be some high scores.  The value of a product is subjective, but I’m happy to accept a higher price tag for something that will not only perform, but last.

That said, more expensive does not always necessarily mean better.  Pricey products have been known to disappoint whilst their budget counterparts excel.  Here’s my scores for the gear in this article:

  Ashmei Men’s Jersey Rat Race Shorts and Tights Nike Elite Socks Columbia Montrail TransALP FKT Scarpa Neutron 2
Design 9/10 8/10 8/10 8/10 9/10
Features 9/10 8/10 8/10 8/10 8/10
Performance 10/10 9/10 9/10 9/10 9/10
Value 9/10 10/10 9/10 7/10 9/10
Overall 9.25/10 8.75/10 8.5/10 8/10 8.75/10

 

About the Author: Dan Stinton has been a contributor to RunUltra for some time.  Based in Glossop, he’s spent lockdown bashing out the miles in and around the Peak District.

Review Tried and Tested: Gear that Lasts

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