Accessories. Those little extras. They add value to your running experience. Or at least, they should. While optional, many of them make a big difference when you’re battling extremes of temperature, or terrain. Some exist merely to add a little fun. Others can prove so useful, you wouldn’t know how to cope without them.
Here then, is our breakdown of the top three contenders from the ‘Accessory’ category, introduced over the last year:
UD’s Flexform 350
Ultimate Direction Flexform 350:
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I’ve never been a fan of the Soft Flask. Perhaps because of the time spent previously, with a full size hydration reservoirs. Removal of that ‘sloshing’ sound hardly makes up for the unruly way in which they squash in your hands, reduce in volume and begin jumping up and down inside pockets once you take a drink. They crumple when you try to refill them and are a pain to wash. When all said and done, I always got along perfectly well with hard bottles. They slot back into their pockets a lot more easily than the softies too! (think magician stuffing a hankerchief into his fist).
But I’m a fickle so-and-so, always secretly envious of the fun others appear to be having. So while the soft flasks left me cold, I definitely hankered for a slightly more comfortable bottle than my old, cylindrical 500ml affair, which feaured a wide opening for fast refills, hard structure which assists a quick removal of the lid when reaching checkpoints/marshalls. It also had a brilliant soft rubber bite valve which never leaked once snapped shut. But the shape meant that they always pressed into my ribs while using half the vests I own. And the diameter of the bottles was so great that only some of the pockets could accomodate, while designed for the soft flasks now fitted as standard.
Solution – 2017’s Ultimate Direction Flexform 350. a hybrid bottle that comes in a pre-moulded shape, with a flat side and a rounded side. Trasluscent of course, so you can tell how much you have/have consumed. Wide opening, with a very easy to grip top that opens quickly when the time comes, while allowing a super quick refill by even the most inept runner… Once partially emptied, the shape is maintained, so although easy to squash and assist the flow of drink through that oh so comfy rubber bite valve, the bottle retains its shape inside the pocket and the overall fit of your vest remains unaffected.
Slightly more sophisticated is the latest GPS run watch from Polar, the M430.
An updated version of their M400 (which I already use and love). The main, but not only difference being that they’ve added a wrist sensor (six sensors to be precise) and now boast that the watch can be used without the need for a chest strap for Heart Rate Training. It still works with the optional H10 Chest strap however, which is still by far the more accurate set up.
The exciting update isn’t the hardwear though. The watch looks exactly the same as the M400 and yet the software has been massively improved. chief among the improvements – GPS is now recorded in a choice of settings for accuracy. So instead of either absolute detail or off, we can enjoy a ‘half power’ setting, that records your position every 30 seconds or so. The result is expanded longevity during activity. The once disappointing constraint of M400’s 5.5hrs total run time was improved by Polar’s generous update service (regular;y upgrading software and allowing more features to those who’ve already invested in a Polar product), to a much better 7.5hrs by end of summer ’17.
In came M430 and a massive 15hr activity time to those exploiting the all new settings.
So, a more user friendly watch in all sorts of ways, with the freedom to use wrist based heart rate when deemed convenient, or more accurate chest based for serious conditioning. Longer battery life, via better software, meaning longer activities, or more of them before having to upload/update via the imcredible Polar Flow website. Ever improving thanks to their update service.
Silva Explore Headtorch
Silva Explore 2:
We saw a frenzy this Autumn, for a lesser know headtorch by the name of Ninox2, by Silva.
But despite that torch’s bargain £30 price tag, for a 200 Lumen torch – the more interesting story was its big brother, the Explore 2.
Explore 2 comes in much the same housing, with a very minimal size/weight and in just the same way, runs on 3 regular AAA batteries. But with 50 additinal Lumens to throw a littel more light and an expanded array of settings, for its slightly higher £60 rrp, you’ve a much more versatile torch at your disposal.
Brighter and with a deeper range, it also allows amber mode for use with certain navigational mapping where red light confuses the features on your map! White however can glare and reduce night vision to almost dangerous levels.
It still has a dimmer setting and power indication upon switching off, so you should always be aware of when to swap batteries in advance. The addde extras in the box…. a ‘lantern bag’ which not only provides a place to store the lamp and spare batteries, but also converts the torch into a lantern when sitched on and placed back inside. So perfect for camping or group stops along a led route. Finally, with the Explore 2 – you get a clip thrown in that allows you to mount the torch on a belt, shoulder strap or chest rig, so providing a more appropriate low slung beam in mist or fog (where the glare at head height causes near blindness), so you can still see the ground! Absolute genius.
And the winner for ‘Best in Test 2017’ in Accessories….
Polar M430 takes it for being everything we loved about the M400, with bells on! Wrist based HR Monitor, without losing the accuracy of the chest strap. Same tidy unit, with less bulk than many on the market. Greater battery life and longevity, thanks to the new GPS settings and updated software. Throw in the usual Polar Flow connectivity, App, Phone alerts, on-screen feedback and more… well, it’s a no brainer!
There’s even a deal on right now, where for purchasing any Polar Flow compatible product, we’ll hand you a £25 Gift Voucher, which you can redeem immediately for £25 off, or offer somebody else so that they too can treat themself to ‘something Polar’.