Product Review: ScatBelt Griz

Product Review: ScatBelt Griz

It was one of those endless August evenings. You know the kind, where the sunlight tricks you into thinking it’s 4 o’clock when in reality it is closer to 7, and you’re out on the trail and there is really no reason to go home and eat dinner at a reasonable hour. That can wait. There is singletrack to attend to. And there we were, out on a run in our local recreation area, fully appreciating the long, winding descent we had earned after a tough uphill effort.

Here’s the thing about those winding descents: you can’t see all that far in front of you. You turn a corner and before you know it, you’re face to face with an angry mama bear. Well it just so happens that on this particular evening, that is exactly what was waiting for us around one of those corners, several feet off the trail, with two cubs close by.

I have never made a habit of carrying bear spray when I am going on short runs or rides close to town for a couple reasons. For one, there is usually a fairly steady stream of people, so generally the bears will be somewhat desensitized to human presence. In addition, the bears you might run into close to town are almost exclusively black bears, which are very rarely aggressive.

Mostly, though, I just don’t really like carrying bear spray, so in my mind I will justify not taking it however I can. I’d rather not carry anything in my hand when I’m running, and I’ll certainly avoid putting on a vest if I can get away with it. So what is to be done? That’s the problem the Scat Belt set out to solve.

ScatBelt.jpg

Basically, this a belt that holds your bear spray so you don’t have to carry it. Simple enough. Of course, they do have two versions of the belt. The Griz (pictured above) includes a phone holster and a small accessory pocket. The Cub is the bare bones version that is designed to only carry bear spray.

In terms of overall comfort, this belt is not bad. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I stopped noticing that I was wearing it, but it doesn’t bounce and the straps are effectively contoured and cushioned to avoid any discomfort. The ease of access is awesome. I like the idea of having my bear spray attached to my waist without having to worry about it jostling around. Pulling the canister out quickly, which I was a little worried about when I first saw the velcro strap design, turned out to be very easy.

I’m not sure about the phone holster design. It uses an elastic velcro strap, and if you have a phone that is particularly tall, you have to pull the strap very tight to secure it. Under that pressure, I am skeptical about the durability of both the elastic and the velcro. With smaller phones (under 5 inches), this will not be an issue. Still, I would be interested to see a system that places the phone horizontally, opposite the bear spray, instead of vertically next to it.

At first, I was interested in the prospect of using this belt while backpacking. In the past, I have always let my bear spray dangle from my hip belt. If I could have my phone handy for photos and my bear spray secured but easily accessible, that would be great. The Scat Belt is advertised as “fitting comfortably under any backpack,” but unfortunately, there is no way I could get it to work with mine, as my hip belt very much gets in the way. Alas, it looks like I will have to stick with my current system (although maybe this is just the excuse I need to upgrade my embarrassingly old, heavy backpack).

Where I see myself using the Scat Belt a lot is for longer backcountry run/hike days, in combination with a vest or hydration pack. Since it can carry my bear spray and phone, it frees up two vest pockets for more nutrition and hydration, and it is by far the most comfortable way I have found to carry bear spray while still keeping it accessible. In my preparations for the IMTUF 100 in September, I see myself doing a lot of those types of days this summer.

Fortunately, we didn’t end up needing the bear spray that we weren’t carrying on that beautiful August evening. By the time the mama bear crashed out onto the trail to give us a good talkin’ to, we had already passed her by. She stood up for a moment, but then glared disapprovingly at us and ambled back into the bushes. Perhaps, though, I will try to make a habit of bringing my bear spray along more often, at least when I am running alone.

Product Review: Sugoi Titan 5″ Shorts

Product Review: Sugoi Titan 5″ Shorts

Until recently, I have to admit I have never thought too much about the features of my running shorts. Basically, if they don’t fall down, chafe, or flop around heavily when I am trying to run, I’m generally good to go. As my runs have gotten longer, though, I have started paying a little more attention. In training for trail ultramarathons, things like carrying nutrition, adapting to varying weather conditions, and just being comfortable in general become very important. When you’re 15 miles out on some ridgeline, you can’t just stop in to the gas station to grab a snack and cool off/warm up.

When it comes to general comfort, your first consideration is clothing. I recently tested out the Sugoi Titan running shorts to see how they stacked up, and I found some positives and some negatives as compared to other shorts I have tried.

Sugoi Titan
The Sugoi Titan 5″ Shorts

The first thing I will mention is that the material of these shorts feels very light. While they fit a bit looser than I generally prefer, I didn’t notice any excess bulk. They felt surprisingly airy and, when I wore them to the local Tuesday night track workout with the intention of getting an idea how they feel while running fast, I completely forgot to pay attention after about two laps. That’s usually a good sign.

One of the features that is touted by Sugoi in these shorts is their “Icefil” technology. As much as I wanted this to just be little pockets that you fill with ice when you get too hot (brilliant marketing idea), it turns out that’s not what it is. Icefil is a specific type of fabric that is used on the inside layer at the front of the short. Anyone who has experienced chafing in that area on a hot day is aware of the importance of a particularly effective moisture-wicking material, and additionally, Icefil supposedly reacts with body heat to cool your skin temperature, leading to less sweat to begin with. I wish I could say I got a chance to put this feature to the test, but it turns out heat management hasn’t been much of an issue in the last few weeks in western Montana. I do look forward to trying it out in the summer, and I definitely plan on using these shorts when I pace the Missoula Marathon in July. If your goal is 3:20, follow me and I’ll get you to the Higgins bridge right on time!

Okay, so we’ve got general feel covered; now let’s talk storage. For running around in the mountains, vests and hydration packs are cool and all, but sometimes you just want to carry a handheld water bottle, a couple gels, and some Shot Blocks. For those days, shorts pockets are extremely important. Pocket configurations vary greatly from one to the next. Most shorts these days have a zipper pocket in the back, where it is least likely to feel off balance or bounce. Some also have small hip pockets, which I have grown very fond of for storing gels or other small, light foodstuffs. The small inside front pocket that used to be the standard on running shorts seems to have essentially gone extinct, for better or for worse.

The Titan shorts have only one pocket, and that is the rear zipper pocket. The most notable thing about this pocket is its size. By running short pocket standards, it is rather massive. Just for fun, I tried putting my Samsung Galaxy S8 in it, and I could still fit a pair of gloves and a couple gels. For the gloves and the gels, this pocket is great, but for me, the cell phone was too heavy for a pair of shorts this light and loose-fitting. I tried running a few strides, and the bouncing annoyed me right away. However, I will say if I were going for a short hike on a hot day, I would have no problem with it. In the spring weather, I have made good use of the pocket, storing a buff, gloves, etc. as the weather changes during a run.

Features are great, but when it comes down to it, the true test of a good pair of running shorts is whether you notice them when you are running. If not, it’s probably a well-designed pair of shorts. So far, the Sugoi Titan 5″ shorts certainly pass that test.