KitBrix Bag Review

KitBrix Bag
4 Overall
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The KitBrix Bag was initially created for the triathlon market in the UK. The bags solved some common problems right away. The first being that racers needed multiple bags for the various transition (swim,bike,run) stations. Second, A triathlete needs a bag that keeps the wet clothes away from the dry clothes. Last, there needed to be a way to easily transport these bags together when needed. The next market this bag maker decided to tackle was the OCR community.

For the purposes of this review, we will be discussing the “KitBrix Bundle X 2” with “DobiPak”.

KitBrix Bag Features

Sturdy Waterproof Outer Shell  – The first thing you notice about KitBrix is how much sturdier it is than your average gym bag. The plastic is tough, yet light. The zippers are sturdy as hell. It basically screams OCR.

Zipper System – Speaking of the zippers.  You can travel with 2 (or 3) bags together, or separate depending on the amount you want to pack for your trip or race. The zipper lock system makes them easy to bundle together.

Multiple Handles And Straps – The bags have a handle on top to give you the ability to carry like a lunch pail, a strap to sling over your shoulder, or, double straps to wear like a backpack. You can lug this thing around any way your heart desires.

kitbrix-review-shoulder-straps

DobiPak (sold separately) – The bag within the bag. Use it to dump your wet/disgusting post race clothes and shoes in it. You know how at the end of every OCR, you are walking back to your car with your gym bag AND a big white trash bag? The DobiPak fits back into the KitBrix with your wet clothes, so you can carry it all out with one hand.

KitBrix Bag Usage

The first place I used this product was packing for an obstacle race. As a blogger/podcaster, the two bag system was perfect for me. In one bag, I put my change of clothes and shoes. In the other bag, I put my phone, camera, audio recording devices, wallet, keys etc. You can see how putting wet clothes with electronics (and other important items) in the same bag can create issues. When my race was over, I easily changed into my dry clothes, and put all the wet and muddy clothes where the dry ones were. I was then able to pull out my wallet to buy food, use my phone, and get my audio recorder to handle all the writer/podcast stuff.

kitbrix-review-race-bag

The next test of KitBrix came on a recent trip to New York. I typically pack a suitcase and a separate bag for all of my “racing stuff’. I decided to use the KitBrix only as my entire “luggage”. It was not as black and white as the “race day only” usage, but I was able to fit everything I needed into both bags for an entire weekend trip. The double straps allowed me to easily carry it everywhere, including onto the plane where it easily fit into the overhead luggage bin.

kitbrix-review-airplane-storage

KitBrix Bag Durability

As mentioned in the features. This Kitbrix itself is made of some very sturdy material. The fact that it is plastic, means its also easy to wipe off or hose off if need be. The DobiPak is also quite durable. You can turn the DobiPak inside out, then throw it in the washing machine along with your wet clothes, and it’s raring to go again for the next race.

KitBrix Bag Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Easy to keep wet/dirty away from the clean and sensitive
  • Convenient carrying straps. No more hands full/awkward walk to the car with tons of stuff that’s hard to carry
  • Lots of places to store. Extra sleeves, pockets inside to get even more clever with how you store stuff.

Cons

  • Not quite ready for the US. Most of the language on the website and packaging is all Euro and UK centric. Could turn some hard core ‘Mericans off.
  • Heavier than a standard duffle bag

KitBrix Bag Conclusion

Can you tell that the KitBrix Bag is my favorite OCR product ever? It’s everything I have ever wanted in a race bag. I can easily see these becoming the “DryRobes” of 2016/17 OCR. As in, becoming that thing in OCR everyone is dying to get. Really hoping these catch on here as well as they have in the UK.

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Matt B. Davis

is the host of the Obstacle Racing Media Podcast and the author of "Down and Dirty-The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs". He is also the only (known) #wafflehouseelite obstacle racer.

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Mudbandz Review

Mudbandz
2.5 Overall
0 Users (0 votes)
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When I first received my Mudbandz I was very excited to try the product. It is basically a neoprene arm band that is designed to wrap around and cover Fitbit devices to protect them from mud and water during races. Originally, and this is my own fault for not really reading the description, I wanted to use it to cover my Suunto GPS watch in the desert at World’s Toughest Mudder. This did not work as Mudbandz are currently designed to only fit Fitbit devices.

Mudbandz Features

100% device coverage including strap – If you properly wrap the Mudbandz on your Fitbit it will be completely covered. It’s basically a Fitbit burrito that has a complete impact, mud, and moisture barrier.

Mudbandz

Spongy 1.5mm “scuba grade” neoprene – Mudbanz are 100% waterproof and mud-proof. This will stop mud from getting in the cracks and crevices of your device. This will basically eliminate the need to clean your device post race.  Additionally, the band is four-way stretch and lined with a nylon blend with spandex edging. This makes for a comfortable wear. It is also easy to put on and take off.

Washable – Whether you rinse it off in the sink or throw it in the wash, it is quite small and easy to clean.

Mudbandz Open

Mudbandz Usage

I busted out my trusty old Fitbit (which was retired for having one of the buttons fall off) and hit the trails of Burke Lake Park so I could submerge it in water while being athletic. I wrapped the Mudbandz around the device, folded it over twice and stuck it in the water for about 45 seconds. The device only had a few small spots of moisture present and had I stuck it in a puddle of mud nothing would have made it inside. That being said, while the material is 100% waterproof water can get inside  since the edges are not sealed. You should always refer to your devices waterproof rating before you submerge it for longer than a few seconds.

Mudbandz Submerged

After dunking my arm in the water I proceeded to run the 4.5 mile loop around Burke Lake. I did not experience any discomfort or reaction to running with the neoprene on my wrist with a watch fastened inside of it. The only downside is since the device is fully covered I couldn’t easily check the Fitbit for any information.

 

Mudbandz Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Protects Fitbit devices from Mud and quick water submersions
  • Comfortable
  • Easy to clean
  • Inexpensive ($8)

Cons

  • Can only be worn with Fitbit devices
  • Covering your device makes it inconvenient to check your progress while wearing it
  • Can’t monitor heart rate

Mudbandz Conclusion

If you currently run with a Fitbit and are concerned with protecting it during a Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Savage Race or other mud runs then for $8 you really can’t go wrong. The only real downsides to this product are that it only works with Fitbits and can be a hassle to open and close of you want to check your device during an event. I have been advised that they are in the process of designing Mudbandz for other watch models as well as releasing more colors. If they ever come out with one that is sized to work with a Suunto Ambit3 I would definitely grab a Mudbandz.

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Matt B. Davis

is the host of the Obstacle Racing Media Podcast and the author of "Down and Dirty-The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs". He is also the only (known) #wafflehouseelite obstacle racer.

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Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2 Review

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2
4 Overall
0 Users (0 votes)
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For years, I have been hearing about the love for Hokas by my ultra-running friends. I have to admit I was at first frightened by the whole “moon shoe” concept, but I later realized Hokas come in a few shapes and sizes. This meant there was a way for me to give them a try without going “Full (Hoka) Retard“. It was suggested to me by my local Hoka rep that the Hoka One One Challenger ART 2 would be great for both road and trail.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2 Features

Tons of cushioning – Shock absorption to the max. Hoka calls this wide and thick part of the shoe -“The Marshmallow”. It’s what gives Hokas that whole moon-shoe look that they are famous for.

The “Meta Rocker”– Another feature unique to Hoka that is a massively curved bottom of the shoe. As you can see in the photo below, the front of the shoe comes up quite a bit. This supports a “rocking chair” kind of movement as you run.

hoka-one-one-challenger-atr-2 nine

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2 Usage

The Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2 shoes are advertised as road or trail, so I have tested them on everything. I’ve done lots of short neighborhood jogs on pavement. Since they don’t have giant lugs, they are a great shoe for concrete runs. They are very padded and feel like you are running on clouds. Despite the cloud like feeling you can still feel the details in the surface you are running on.

In addition, I’ve also used them on many a long trail run. On trails they can be a little tricky on more technical sections since they have you up on a platform. The higher sitting foot rolls a little easier if you don’t pay attention. They have been through every kind of “every day usage” terrain one could imagine. I took the Hoka ATR2s on rocks, mud, single track, and anything else you might find in your favorite local trail run.

Unlike so many popular running shoes, these shoes run true to size, without being too narrow in the toebox. After many many miles, I have no blister or hot spot issues.

hoka-one-one-challenger-atr-2 five

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2 Durability

I have run 190 miles in these to date. No holes or other specific damage to the shoes, just general wear and tear. If this pair of shoes is in the trunk of my car, I am set for a run pretty much anywhere. My guess is I will be ready for a new pair around the 250-275 mile mark , which is standard for me with any running shoe.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2 Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Great for road or trail.
  • Tons of support.

Cons

  • NOT an OCR shoe.
  • Standard lacing verus Speed Lacing.

Similar Products

Reebok All Terrain Super 2.0Reebok All Terrain SuperSalomon Speedcross 3Inov-8 X-Talon 212
Weight234 g229 g310g280 g
Heel Drop5mm5mm9mm6mm
Grip3/16"3/16"3/16"1/4"
Metal StudsNoNoNoNo
Price$100.00$75.00$80.00$120.00
ORM ReviewYesYesYesYes
BuyAmazonAmazonAmazonAmazon

 

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2 Conclusion

hoka-one-one-challenger-atr-2 eight

It’s so nice to have a pair of shoes that I can use anywhere. Most street shoes suck on trails, and all of my other OCR deep lugged trail shoes are awkward at best on the street. The Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2 have become my go-to pair for a standard trail run, or any time I do a quick run around the block.

I will be ordering additional Hokas pairs as I am now one of the Hoka converted.


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Matt B. Davis

is the host of the Obstacle Racing Media Podcast and the author of "Down and Dirty-The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs". He is also the only (known) #wafflehouseelite obstacle racer.

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Best Wetsuit For World’s Toughest Mudder

Editor’s Note: We asked ORM contributor Keith Allen to answer some FAQ about the best options for wetsuits for World’s Toughest Mudder. Keith completed 50 miles at the 2014 WTM, and 55 miles at the 2015 WTM (putting him in the top 12% of all males).

image

Greetings! If you are reading this you are most likely interested in being a participant at World’s Toughest Mudder. Congratulations! This is a big decision, but I’ve got some unfortunate news for you, if you thought the entry ticket was expensive, just wait until you realize how much gear you need to purchase to make it through the night.

The gear list for World’s Toughest Mudder is extensive even if you merely settle on the bare essentials. Rather than writing Moby Dick 2: World’s Toughest Mudder Edition, I’m going to answer a few frequently asked questions about the best options for wetsuits for World’s Toughest Mudder.

What Do Those Numbers Even Mean?

Should I Buy New Or Used Gear?

Fullsuit or “Shorty”?

What About Layering?

What Do Those Numbers Even Mean?

The first number represents the thickness of the neoprene of the wetsuit in the torso area. The second number represents the thickness in the arms and legs of the wetsuit.

The whole deal here is balancing this question: How warm do I want to be versus how much mobility do I want?

Bigger numbers mean thicker, but less flexibility. Smaller numbers mean less warmth, but more flexibility. Make sense? Good. Let’s Mo Vaughn with the next question you probably have.

New Versus Used?

One way to save some money on your gear list is to scour the internets for used wetsuits at places like eBay or craigslist. There is one positive to buying used: Saving money.

Really, that’s about it. One positive.

The negatives to buying used are as follows:

  • When buying used it is rare to know the exact type of neoprene that the suit is made of. The stretchier the neoprene the easier it till be to run in and the less it will tax your system. I’ve had a random medium O’Neill 3/2mm that I grabbed on eBay for $32 that I promptly relisted on eBay as it was very uncomfortable. I have no idea what model or year it was from, but I do know that it did not work for me. For comparison sake, my medium 3/2mm Hyperflex Cyclone 2 suit fit me perfectly and the 100% super stretch neoprene was extremely comfortable.
  • People pee in wetsuits. People also clean wetsuits, but that is not a given.  If you want a suit that only you will pee in it is best to look at new options!

Worlds-Toughest-Mudder-Wetsuits-2

Should I go Full Suit or “Shorty”?

If you are going to bring one wetsuit to World’s Toughest Mudder then that wetsuit should be a fullsuit. The water isn’t extraordinarily cold (in Vegas), but there is no humidity in the desert and it gets chilly, especially if you aren’t moving quickly, which most people aren’t during night ops.

A shorty can be a good early evening option if you can maintain a fast enough pace that allows your body to generate heat to stay warm. You can layer over or under a shorty to make it warmer, but unless you are a really strong competitor you will most likely wish you had a fullsuit at some point.

In short, if you can afford multiple options then get multiple options, but if you can only afford one, go with a full suit. Here are some examples of reasonably priced comfortable suits that you can buy.

My Very Favorite And First Choice :

Best Wetsuit For World's Toughest Mudder

I fell in love with this wetsuit last year after a recommendation from Ryan Cray. I previously used a 5/3/1.5 Xterra Vortex TriSuit in 2014, but I felt too too restricted and it took too much damage from the Vegas terrain for someone as OCD about equipment as me. This particular suit is made of 100% 4-way Stretch Quantum Foam construction, which translated into:

“Holy smokes this thing is comfortable. Is this really a 3/2? The 3/2 I bought on eBay was waaaaay more restrictive!?! This is really comfortable”

Additionally, it it has knee pads which provided extra protection against the rocky Vegas terrain. I was ecstatic when the event ended last year and there were no holes in it. Last but not least, I felt like the sealed seams allowed me to stay warmed  and get away with wearing a 3/2mm suit instead of going thicker, which many World’s Toughest Mudder participants recommend.

For those that feel more comfortable going thicker, here are the links for the 4/3mm and 5/4mm versions of the suit, along with women’s options.

The thicker suits have the same features as the 3/2, just with thicker neoprene, and they are not sealed.

Men 

My choice:  3/2mm

Thicker choices:

4/3mm Wetsuit

5/4mm Wetsuit

Women

My choice:  3/2mm

Thicker choices:

4/3mm Wetsuit

5/4mm Wetsuit

Why/How Should I Layer?

Personally, I prefer using layering options to add warmth as opposed to buying a thicker suit. Using the 3/2mm as my base and adding one piece layers on top gives me more flexibility than if I was in a thicker suit.

World's Toughest Mudder Layers 2
This also allows me to quickly adjust my layers as I get colder or warmer without having to do a full suit changeout (which is very time consuming).
Unfortunately, these layers do not have a unisex or women’s option but if one becomes available I will add the links. However, if you look at the Men’s size chart and fit within the sizes then I would definitely pull the trigger on these layering options.

Here are my favorite two pieces of layering gear:

Hyperfelx Polyolefin 50/50 Top Longsleeve 
This top is extremely versatile as you can layer it over a shorty or full suit while also using it by itself over a regular running top. The chest section is made of 1.5 mm neoprene and the arms are made of polyolefin. Polyolefin has the highest insulating capacity of any fiber, natural or man made, which makes this top a good option for creating more warmth. The fit is tight in the arms and looser in the chest, as it does not fit like compression gear or a wetsuit would. I’ve used this top in both 2014 and 2015 World’s Toughest Mudder and plan on using it again this year.Wetsuit For Worlds Toughest Mudder Layers

These polyolefin bottoms can be used as a baselayer under or a layer above a wetsuit. They do fit tight, however they are not as tight as compression pants. These add a layer of warmth without restricting movement. I wore these above my 3/2mm full suit last year and as a layer over a shorty in 2014 and was very pleased. The only wear on them is slight scuffing on one of the knees. Another plus is that these are a great base layer for snow shoveling in the winter.
Well, there you have it. A few of the many pieces of gear that you will need to embark on the 24 hour journey that is World’s Toughest Mudder.

Keep an eye out for some other lists including gloves, headlamps and other goodies.Seacrest OUT!

Altra Golden Spike Review

Altra Golden Spike
3.8 Overall
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Well known for their line of foot-shaped shoes with roomy toe boxes and a natural fit, Altra has become increasingly popular over the last few years, especially among ultra distance trail runners. Despite their growing popularity, they have yet to tap into the short distance market, let alone the world of obstacle racing. With the addition of the Altra Golden Spike to the lineup, that may change. While it’s only their first shoe to cater to high speed racers, they did a fantastic job with it and it has the potential to be a great choice for short course OCR, or virtually any other race where you need to run fast!

altra-golden-spike-review-1

Altra Golden Spike Features

Spikes or No Spikes  – the Golden Spike, as it’s name suggests, comes with five gold colored spikes per shoe, but you can wear the shoe with or without them. Some companies will offer a spikeless model of their racing shoes, meant specifically for road and trail running when spikes aren’t needed; with Altra, you just have to leave them out if you don’t want them. While a dedicated spikeless model would be cool, it’s not a big deal. The main downside is that after lots of racing and training with the spikes removed, the holes may get so beat up and filled with dirt that you can’t get the spikes in later if/when you want to.

With the spikes in, the shoe basically performs like you would expect a spike to perform. It has great traction (the same amount of traction as any other spike, for the most part) and it feels fast. Aside from the obvious, nothing really changes with the spikes removed. Without them, the shoe has pretty good traction as you can see, similar to some of Altra’s other shoes like the Superior. It doesn’t compare to an x-talon, but the traction is on par with things like the New Balance Minimus or Brooks Pure Grit. It doesn’t look like much, but it grips well while still allowing for decent ground feel.

altra-golden-spike-review-4

Top shoe: Brooks Mach 14, Bottom Shoe: Altra Golden Spike

Stack Height, Weight, and Other Specs – like all of Altra’s shoes, these are zero drop. That means that the heel of the shoe is at the same level as the toes. The total stack height is 15mm, so you have a little over a half inch of rubber and foam underfoot for cushioning and support. It’s not really much, and it’s certainly no Hoka, but I found it refreshingly soft compared to my last pair of racing shoes. Even with a touch of cushion, the shoe is very light at 5.2oz for a men’s size 9.0. It’s not the featherweight of something like the Mizuno Wave Universe (2.8oz), but it’s a lot lighter than your average OCR shoe. It doesn’t have any extra material to hold water either, so even when soaking wet, it’s still lighter than Inov-8’s most popular options.

Upper, Tongue, and Laces – it doesn’t look like it in pictures, but the tongue is actually fully attached to the upper, so you don’t have to worry about it sliding around or being uncomfortable. It’s not a super papery, scratchy tongue like some, so it feels good against the top of your foot even without socks. They also used pretty soft laces, so it doesn’t feel like fishing line running across your feet. The upper is somewhat soft, but kind of plasticy too. Not the most comfortable upper I’ve ever felt, but it still passes the sockless test; I’d wear it without socks and not worry about blisters.

altra-golden-spike-review-2

Sole, Footbed – The Altra Golden Spike fixes some issues that I’ve had with other Altra shoes in the past. Before, on steep downhill runs in wet conditions, the footbed would slowly start to bunch up in the front of the shoe and become a major pain in the butt. However, the footbed is glued in place with the Golden Spike, so this isn’t a concern.

Natural Fit – Like all of their other shoes, the Altra Golden Spike is what they call “foot shaped”, meaning it has a wide toe box and allows for toe-splay instead of squeezing your toes together. Shouldn’t all shoes be shaped like feet? Why is this an award winning innovation? It seems like common sense to me, but I digress… Anyone who has ever worn spikes knows how uncomfortable they can be. Altra encourages their customers: “don’t settle for the XC spike that hurts the least”. I’d have to agree. The wide toe box on the Altra Golden Spike (lower) is clearly a better fit than my old Brooks Mach 14 spikes (upper).

altra-golden-spike-review-3

Colors and Sizing– the Altra Golden Spike is unisex, so the fit is the same for men and women. It’s a bit ironic since they advertise a female specific fit on their other shoes, but I guess when it comes to speed, men’s and women’s feet have the same needs. The shoes come in red, green, blue, and pink. You can get them anywhere from a size 4.0 (women’s 5.5) to a 15.0. This is still kind of disappointing as I know a handful of women that wear a 4.5 or 5.0 who have extremely limited footwear options, but at least there’s a 5.5. The shoe fits a bit large, about a 1/4 size in my opinion, so size down for a competition fit.

Altra Golden Spike Usage

altraracephoto2

I have used the Golden Spike for various training runs on the road, trail, and treadmill, and it’s a great shoe on all surfaces. I mostly use the shoe with the spikes removed, but they perform as expected when you put them in; they’re metal, sharp, and stick into the ground – that’s about it. Most spikes are so tight and uncomfortable that you can’t wait to rip them off after your race or workout. Not so with the Golden Spike!

Beyond comfort, I’ve really enjoyed their versatility. While remaining super light, they still have enough cushioning that it feels fine for mid distance road runs. You’re not limited to short track workouts with the Altra Golden Spike and it seems like it’s built to handle more miles than your average spike. It’s comfortable enough that you could run a 10k or even a 13.1 if your feet are strong enough to run in a minimalist shoe for that distance.

I ordered my first pair of Golden Spikes a half-size too large which made them far less comfortable. I highly recommend you don’t make the same mistake. While the upper is comfortable when it fits properly, a poor fit will result in pinching around the toes and severe blistering! When it fits well, the shoe is astonishingly comfortable, and not just for a spike. I would still recommend a thin sock, but the upper materials are soft and pliable. If you think you’re between sizes, opt for the smaller size; it’s a pretty flexible shoe and can fit tightly while still feeling good. If it’s too loose then you’ll have the same problems I did with my first pair – not fun.

While most of my experience has been on the road, I think the Golden Spike really shines on the trail. With the spikes removed, it still has excellent traction. Plus, it’s comfortable enough to wear for longer distances and has moderate cushioning (as far as racing flats go). With all that in mind, it will be my go-to shoe for 10k-13.1 trail races!

Altra Golden Spike Durability

It drains exceptionally well and has a glued in footbed, ideal for wet and muddy conditions. I’m tempted to take this shoe out to an OCR to see how it performs. I have no doubt that it would perform well over varied terrain, but I worry about it’s durability through obstacles. It would be fine for a stadium race, but a Spartan Beast might be more than it can handle. It is tougher than a lot of spikes on the market, so it has great potential. Only time and further testing will tell if it can stand up to some of the tougher courses and obstacles.

If you only intend on using the Golden Spike for trail racing, I’d tell you the durability was excellent. Just don’t expect it to compare to something like an Inov-8 or Icebug. While the traction is excellent for dry courses, it simply won’t perform well in mud like a shoe with lugs.

altra-golden-spike-review-5

Altra Golden Spike Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Durable for “normal” use
  • One piece construction

Cons

  • No spikeless model
  • Probably not durable enough for long OCR

Similar Products

Altra Golden SpikeBrooks PureGrit 5Reebok All Terrain Super OR
Weight290g277g219g
Heel Drop0mm4mm5mm
Grip1/8"3/16"3/16"
Metal StudsYesNoNo
Price$90.00$119.00$120.00
ORM ReviewYesYesYes
BuyAmazonAmazonReebok

Altra Golden Spike Conclusion

While the Altra Golden Spike might not be the next big shoe in OCR, it’s worth checking out if you run other short distance events. Try it out for your next road or trail race and see why I love this shoe! You may just fall in love with it and end up wearing it for your next obstacle race. If you do, let me know how it goes. My hope is that Altra will expand their offerings and make a beefier version geared towards obstacle racers!

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Matt B. Davis

is the host of the Obstacle Racing Media Podcast and the author of "Down and Dirty-The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs". He is also the only (known) #wafflehouseelite obstacle racer.

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Suunto Ambit3 Vertical Review

Suunto Ambit3 Vertical
4.9 Overall
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How does Suunto’s Ambit3 Vertical compare to other premium watches like the Garmin Fenix 3?

Ever since my review of the Garmin Fenix 3, I’ve been getting requests to do a review and comparison with the Suunto Ambit3. Well, I finally got my hands on their latest and greatest edition, the Ambit3 Vertical, or Ambit3V for short. Like pretty much every watch over $400, it boasts an incredible battery life and supreme durability, but Suunto claims this watch is a must have for high altitude enthusiasts and want-to-be mountain goats. Is it really all that special? Compared to the Fenix 3, there are a lot of things that I really prefer with the Suunto, but it’s not without shortcomings. So which watch is right for you? It depends. Garmin vs. Suunto is kind of like iPhone vs. Android.

suunto box

 

Suunto Ambit3 Vertical Features

GPS  – With Suunto, you can choose between three different ping rates for GPS. 1s, 10s, or 100s. Ping rate refers to how frequently the watch updates your position; the more frequent the updates, the more accurate the watch is going to be. Unlike Garmin, there is no “smart recording” or variable rate. A large majority of the power used by the watch goes to the GPS chip, so your battery life is going to be hugely affected by the setting you choose here.

On 1s recording, accuracy is really quite remarkable. No GPS watch is going to be perfect, but the Ambit3V does a surprisingly good job even under a tree canopy. I did a few different tests here to determine it’s accuracy.

For my first test, I evaluated GPS drift. If you start an activity but remain stationary, the watch will keep racking up miles (very slowly) since there is still some uncertainty in terms of your position. Measuring the total amount of distance accumulated while stationary can be a good indicator of overall accuracy.  With 1s recording intervals, I got an astonishingly low GPS drift of only 0.03 miles over the course of 10 hours. This means that, at rest, it was only incorrect by about 15ft/hr. That’s pretty solid! The accuracy wasn’t as good with the other GPS settings, but if you’re looking for precision, this setting does a fantastic job.

For my next test, I took the watch out to a local trail that has notoriously bad satellite reception due to a combination of topography and tree canopy. For the 2.50 mile route (measured with a wheel), I’ll typically see values around 2.25-2.35 miles with my Garmin. With the Suunto Ambit3V, I recorded 2.4 miles for the loop, the highest value I’ve ever seen for the run. Still not up to the actual 2.5, but definitely an improvement. I repeated this test on 3 occasions all with similar results.

For my final test, I ran a certified 5k loop on a cloudy day. Depending on weather conditions and tree cover, I often see anywhere from 2.95 to 3.05 miles for the route with my Garmin. On the day of the test, I expected a lower reading due to the poor visibility. Garmin came in with a respectable 2.99 on but Suunto wins this contest with 3.08 on 1s-recording. I complete the test again on a sunny day with good satellite reception and recorded 3.05 on Garmin and 3.07 on Suunto (pictured below) – the Garmin seemed to improve on the sunny day but the Suunto was not phased by the weather.

suunto vs garmin

Now, it sounds like Suunto is the clear winner with accuracy here, but this only comparing the watches on a 1s recording interval! Suunto doesn’t have variable recording or any intermediate settings (2s, 5s, etc) like Garmin, so if you want battery life over 10 hours, you instantly lose considerable accuracy by increasing to a 10s refresh rate. With this recording interval, I accumulated a GPS drift of over 3 miles in the same 10 hour period as before, only increasing battery life to 20 hours. Suunto also has a 100s rate option, although unless you’re doing a multi-day hike, this option isn’t practical or accurate. However, it is nice to have the option since a 100 hour battery life would be very useful for multi day events where precision isn’t necessary (think SISU Iron, Spartan Agoge, etc).

Battery Life – Battery life on the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical can be highly variable depening on the setting you have it on. As mentioned above, I get about 10 hours on the most accurate GPS setting, 20 hours on 10s recording intervals, and 50 hours on the 100s recording intervals. While 50 hours sounds extremely impressive, this comes at the expense of significant accuracy, so if you want flawless data for your 100 miler or multi day event, you’ll have to look elsewhere. It is worth noting that my personal tests were very consistent with what Suunto advertised on their website for the watch, so I figure it’s safe to trust whatever the say in terms of battery life for other watches / configurations as well.

Also worth noting is the battery life in storage. One great future of the Ambit3V is that it “sleeps” when not being used, turning the display off and conserving battery life. You can keep this in a drawer for weeks and still have a nearly full battery for your run. Garmin is pretty good at this too, but not like Suunto.

suunto back

Suunto Ambit3 Vertical Usage

I had the pleasure of using the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical for a couple of races and a handful of super long training runs with lots of vertical gain. The watch initially seems a bit less user friendly than Garmin, but after I got used to the menu options and controls, I began to like it quite a lot. It was very reliable, had extraordinary battery life and durability, and quite frankly, looked awesome. One thing that I quickly appreciated was the quick satellite lock. While my Fenix 3 locks onto GPS reasonably quickly, there are days where it will take several minutes. The Ambit3 is AMAZING here, finding satellites within a few seconds every time.

One cool feature that Garmin simply can’t compete with is Suunto Movies. Basically, they take your GPS data and create a short “movie” showing your run (drawing a red line across the topography) while displaying some key stats from the run. It’s cool to be able to share these videos along with some humble bragging on your most recent workout. While cool, it’s limited. I think that this would be way better if they allowed you to customize the video and choose what stats to display, add photos, text, etc… Still, it’s a pretty neat feature of Movescount, their online data analysis software.

Speaking of Movescount, I really like Movescount a lot more than Garmin Connect. It doesn’t quite compete with TrainingPeaks in my opinion, but I think it’s easier to analyze data on Movescount and looks much more visually appealing. They also show some metrics like energy consumption that Garmin does not show, and they allow for zooming and scrolling across the various charts. The running heatmap is also pretty cool, showing you where other people often run around your route.

movescount datamovescount heatmap movescount graph

Despite my love for the watch, I’m not sold that it’s a must-have for people that love climbing. There wasn’t anything particularly special about the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical compared to the standard Ambit3, and I think that Garmin’s “auto-climb” feature far outperforms Suunto in this area. While it is nice to see your daily/weekly vertical gain on the watch face itself, it’s just as easy to track this with a 3rd party app like Strava or TrainingPeaks.

I actually find it somewhat ironic that Suunto chooses to display your vertical stats on the watch itself, but limits so much configurability to the phone app. Want to change the displays? Better have your iPhone handy. Basically any sort of configuration changes you want to make, you must do on your phone or computer and sync it wirelessly with the watch. This is extremely frustrating if you find yourself walking to the start line of a race trying to add a display field or modify the settings. Don’t get me wrong – it’s very easy and simple to do it on the phone and I love that this feature exists, but it’s very frustrating that you can’t also adjust these settings directly on the watch if you wanted to. This is honestly my biggest frustration. This aside, I really loved my experience!

Suunto Ambit3 Vertical Durability

The Suunto Ambit3 Vertical, just like the Garmin Fenix 3,  is built like a tank. There’s virtually nothing they could do to make it any more durable than it already is, nor is there a need to. The silicon strap is thick enough and seems quite sturdy, so I don’t imagine that it will tear or break even after extended usage. That being said, if something was going to break, that would be it… I just don’t see it happening any time soon.

Suunto Ambit3 Vertical Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Extremely good accuracy (on 1s recording setting)
  • Supreme battery life, up to 50 hours
  • Durability. Nearly indestructible.
  • Easy configuration via phone app.
  • High contrast, scratch resistant display.
  • Semi-stylish and not “overly rugged” for day to day wear.
  • “Instant” satellite lock
  • Suunto Movies

Cons

  • The buttons / controls aren’t super intuitive
  • Poor accuracy when you need battery life over 20 hours (rarely)
  • Inability to adjust some settings without smartphone or computer
  • No wifi data uploading. Bluetooth only.

 

Similar Products

Suunto Ambit3 VerticalGarmin 235Garmin Fenix 3
Battery Life2 weeks as watch, 15 hours with GPS9 days as activity monitor, 11 hours with GPS5 weeks as watch, 20 hours with GPS
GPSYesYesYes
Heart Rate MonitorYes, with additional chest strapOpticalYes, with additional chest strap
Waterproof 100 Meters5 ATM (50 Meters)100 Meters
Weight2.62 oz.1.5 oz2.9 oz.
Phone CompatibilityAndroid, iOSAndroid, iOSAndroid, iOS
Price$325.00$329.99$499.99
ORM ReviewAmazonYes Yes
BuyAmazonAmazonAmazon

Suunto Ambit3 Vertical Conclusion

Overall, the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical is an amazing watch. Many people ask me whether the Ambit3 or the Fenix 3 is better. It’s really a personal preference and depends on which features are important to you. If you run 100 milers, I think you’ll most likely prefer the Suunto because of the battery life if nothing else. If you often run mountainous trails or other areas where GPS performs poorly, Suunto has the potential to be more accurate. Suunto Movies are also super cool! I prefer the latest edition of the Fenix 3 that has a built in heart rate monitor and think that Garmin is more user friendly overall, but neither watch is downright superior. If you’ve never tried a Suunto watch, I encourage you to give it a try! I was definitely impressed and am excited to try more Suunto products in the future.

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Matt B. Davis

is the host of the Obstacle Racing Media Podcast and the author of "Down and Dirty-The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs". He is also the only (known) #wafflehouseelite obstacle racer.

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