Gear

Skechers Go Run Ultra Review

A few years ago I jumped on the barefoot bandwagon when it came along, and have my 5 fingers sitting in my closet to prove it.  I enjoyed running forward on the balls of my feet, but my calf muscles never got adjusted to it.  I say this because with running, I am very willing to jump on any bandwagon that comes along because plainly said; I am a slow endurance runner.  Recently, I started migrating some Google Research to another bandwagon that is picking up momentum. The oversized running shoe.  I was noticing that a bunch of Ultra runners were changing their kicks for Hoka One Ones.  What is this new craze?  Running on more of a cushion to save knees and other injury proned joints from the jostles of running?  That seems logical but a little crazy.  I quickly jumped on the bandwagon and then purchased the cheapest pair I could find.  The Skechers Go Run Ultra.  I now have a solid month of running with these shoes and will give my review accordingly.  If over the course of this upcoming season, my opinions change, I will update this post.  I will grade this shoe on the following categories: Support, Comfort, Weight, Hype Realization, and Appearance.  Once again I will score each category with a scale of 1 to 5.  An overall letter grade will be given at the end.

Support (3.5)

The reason I knock this shoe down in this category is not for the vertical support but rather the lateral support. To specify, I mean the support that you might need when running around a corner or on an extremely sloped road surface. Granted one does not spend a lot of time doing either when road running, but I have noticed that doing anything similar to what I have described results in unsure footing or slippage in the foot box. I would be hesitant to try these shoes on a through the forest cross training run because of this feature, but in all reality I was actually expecting more instability because of the huge cushion and elevated center of mass for the shoe. For vertical up and down support this shoe is awesome and I have yet to feel an improper foot strike was caused due to lack of vertical shoe support.

Comfort (5)

Of course this is where the shoe is supposed to excel. I have been relatively impressed after my long runs to not have dead legs. I would have expected that after running on the increased cushion that new muscles or different muscles would be sore after a normal easy run and especially after long runs. However, this has not been the case. I am also pleased with how the shoe feels over the top of the foot. Snug and soft is how I would describe it. After the very first run I did have some soreness in a line on my big toe from where it was rubbing against the crease between the insole and the sidewall, but readjustment of the insole has alleviated that. I am really pleased with the comfort of this shoe. I could foresee these shoes as a perfect “all day on your feet” shoe.

Weight (4.5)

Of course the added cushion adds a little weight, but in comparing this shoe to my older pair of Brooks running shoes, I would say they were lighter due to the tops. Also in comparing these shoes with other oversized shoes, they are also considerably light. I knock it down a half a point because oversized shoes will never reach the lightness realms of minimalist shoes. That’s fine too.

Hype Realization (4.5)

I don’t really know how much hype is following this oversized shoe movement at the moment, and maybe it has passed, but for me this shoe has lived up to its hype. A few weeks after I purchased the shoe, I also noticed that it was placed on Triradar.com as the best every day training shoe for 2014, so hey, there really is some hype to it.

Appearance (5)

Of all the oversized shoes, the Go Run Ultra looks the least like a running shoe on steroids. I also really like the color options they have chosen at Skechers. I am usually a pretty conservative individual when choosing clothing options, but when I look down and see that dragon fire orange it might just make me feel a little faster.

The Letter Grade (22.5/25=0.90, A-)

Yeah, I know, picky picky, but I think the only way that I could give a shoe an A is if it made me run PR’s every time out. I am difficult to please, but overall, if I am willing to spend the time to post about it, it means that I am pleased with the product enough to recommend it. I would do so with this shoe to anyone I knew or didn’t know. It really has been pleasing to lace it up each time and put it through the works.  With only about 60 miles of running on these shoes, they still seem brand new, and I will enjoy them for this whole season.

 

 

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Big Agnes Seedhouse 1 Review

Note:  This review is for the formerly offered Seedhouse 1 tent from Big Agnes and not the current offering of Seedhouse SL1.  However, because of the similarities between my tent and the current offering, I feel much of what I will report here to still be pertinent.

I have 4+ seasons with the Seedhouse 1 (2009 version), and can definitively give an educated personal review. As mentioned, this is an earlier version of the Seedhouse line, and not a Super- or Ultra-light version. Weight is the major difference in the tent I have (see images for weight) and the currently offered version of the Seedhouse SL1 (2 lb 9 oz). The form, fit, and function of the tents remain very similar (if not the same). With solo backpacking tents I consider the following important: Shelter, Packable size, Weight, Room, Strength & Durability and Ease of Use, with more or less that order of importance. I will grade this tent within those categories on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being superior quality.  With those scores an overall final score (out of 30) and a letter grade will be given. There are obviously more areas in which a tent can be graded, but for me it is important to compare apples to apples. In other words this tent will have a different use and features than say a tent used for the whole family within car accessible campsites. The form, fit, and function of this tent is obviously for 1 person on something akin to backpacking trip.  The grading therefore will correlate to how it fulfills that role.  One man solo shelters are a specific breed and can only be compared to each other.  While some may prefer bivy sacs or a tarp, I enjoy the solidarity of a tent.  With that preamble aside here is my review:

Shelter (4.5)

When you backpack frequently, you fine tune your gear to eventually include the top of the line equipment. It is not uncommon for a backpacker to have a 300 dollar down sleeping bag. Such a bag cannot get wet; therefore, your tent must keep moisture out either from rain or condensation. For this category, this tent is awesome. The smallness of this tent requires you to stake it out as taut as possible so as to be able to access the most room. When this is done, the tent is very strong, and well ventilated. I have experienced high winds and heavy rains within this tent, and came away as dry as my favorite jokes. One note of observation, when camping in a spot with a common wind direction, it is best to place the door facing the wind. I knock it down a half a point because the single pole running the length of the tent is not very sturdy without the use of the fly or without it fully staked, but that is nitpicking. This tent employs 1200 mm polyurethane coating and the floor is 1500 mm coating.

Packable Size (4, 4.5)

The listed size on the website at the time of purchase for my tent was 19 inches long by 6 inches in diameter (4). The new Seedhouse SL 1 has the listed dimensions of 17 inches long by 4 inches in diameter (4.5).  I have found this to be the size of the bag, and not necessarily the size of what you pack it to. In other words, if you pack it tight you can get it so the limiting factor is the length of the broken down pole. I always place the footprint in the same bag with the tent, and it all fits really well. For volume saving possibility I have also at times placed everything but the poles in a compression sack and got the volume much smaller. However, good rolling and folding should be done before applying this technique as the Polyurethane coating has a bending/folding fatigue life.

Shown here with most minimalistic volume configuration possible.  Camera lense cap for size reference.

Shown here with most minimalistic volume configuration possible. Camera lense cap for size reference.

Weight (2.5, 4.5)

The listed weight of my tent at the time of purchase was 3 pounds 4 ounces, but that was without the footprint. The listed weight for the Seedhouse SL1 version is 2 pounds 9 ounces and with the footprint (4 ounces) is still under 3 Pounds.  I would categorize the current offering of the SL1 as great (4.5). Weighing the items separately on my tent I obtained the following information. The tent, fly and footprint inside a compression sack totalled 2 Pounds 15 ounces, the stakes were 6 ounces, and the pole itself was 11 ounces.  This totals almost exactly 5 Pounds.  Not great, in fact poor (2.5).  This of course is not much when considering the overall weight of the backpack, but for a one man tent, it is really poor.  I can understand why Big Agnes went to a Super Light version in this tent.  The current version is much closer to the realm of what a solo person backpacking tent should be. The fast fly weight is well under 2 pounds and would basically do the same thing that people do with tarps. I have yet to test the fast fly version of my setup as I am usually within forests during months when mosquitoes and other annoying insects are a problem.

Fly, footprint, and tents with compression bag weigh 2 lbs 15 ounces.

Fly, footprint, and tents with compression bag weigh 2 lbs 15 ounces.

The exact amount of stakes needed weigh 6 ounces.

The exact amount of stakes needed weigh 6 ounces.

Aluminum poles in bag weigh 11 ounces.

Aluminum poles in bag weigh 11 ounces.

Room (4.5)

Now of course giving this category a perfect score might seem impossible, but this tent scored close to perfect given it’s comparison it to other 1-person-tents.  I have developed a simple scoring methodology to compare it to three other “Free Standing” one-person-tents within the same price range. Just adding three variables (Sit room height, floor area, vestibule area) together gives a score. The higher the score the better.   I have never felt clostrophobic in the Seedhouse 1, and when it is stretched taut, I could almost argue that another small person (i.e. toddler) could also fit beside me for the night (I have yet to test this idea, but look forward to the opportunity).  For this category, the current Seedhouse SL1 version has the exact same dimensions as my tent.

BA Seedhouse SL1: Sit room = 38 inches, Floor space = 22 square feet,Vestibule Space = 5 square feet; Total for Seedhouse = 65 (2 lb 9 0z)

MSR Hubba NX Solo: Sit room = 36 inches, Floor space = 18 square feet,Vestibule Space = 9 square feet; Total for MSR = 63 (2 lb 14 oz)

Alps Mountaineering Lynx 1: Sit room = 36 inches, Floor space = 20 square feet,Vestibule Space = 10 square feet; Total for Lynx 1 = 66 (3 lb 15 oz)

Nemo OBI 1P: Sit room = 40 inches, Floor space = 21 square feet,Vestibule Space = 9 square feet; Total for OBI 1P = 70 (3 lb 3 oz)

Standing room for a 2 year old.

Standing room for a 2 year old.

 

Limited space in vestibule. Enough for backpack (lying flat) and boots.

Limited space in vestibule. Enough for backpack (lying flat) and boots.

20 Inch pad centered.

20 Inch pad centered.

Considerable shoulder room (roughly 8 inches)with 20 Inch pad centered.

Considerable shoulder room (roughly 8 inches on both sides) with 20 Inch pad centered.

Much more accessible room in fast fly mode.  Insects and critters are also allowed admittance.

Much more room in fast fly mode (ala tarp). Insects and critters are also allowed admittance. Yes, I know my boy is cute.

Strength & Durability (5)

Through 4+ seasons of use and multiple weather conditions, I would easily consider this a durable tent. I would not however use this tent much without the footprint.  For me 1500mm is not enough protection for me to leave the footprint home. The quality of durability I see sometimes to be a tradeoff with weight. I can attest to the durability of the aluminum poles under the load of wrestling toddlers too.  I have been careful with this tent, but normal use has not caused a rip, tear, or any other sort of undesired characteristic to develop.  The use of 7000 series aluminum for the tent pole is nothing special, but they do claim to have a environmentally friendly anodizing process for the poles, so I guess that is good.  As I mentioned, when this tent is fully staked, and taut, it is very sturdy.

Ease of Use (4)

Set up and take down is very easy and quick. Pulling it taut in all possible directions is also intuitive and quickly realized.  The clip system  and one pole design does not allow for this tent to be setup incorrectly, so that is also good.

One item of mention for this section is the entering and exiting technique required for this tent. The D shaped door and the limited moving room within the tent for me have required a feet first entry into the tent most times, and at some times entry into your sleeping bag at the same time. Changing clothes within the tent is difficult, as I would assume be the case with all one-person-tents. When changing clothes in the tent, most of it is done on your back. If this is done during a cold morning, or after a long day of hiking when cramping is possible, this tent is not the best.

Conclusion

Overall, I am pleased with my tent and give it a score of  25 out of 30 or a solid B.  The area of highest concern (weight) is what they improved the most with the current offering of the Seedhouse SL1.  It accordingly scores a 27 out of 30 or an A-.  For the pricepoint, I see the Seedhouse SL1 as a good purchase for those that don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars more to only shave a few ounces.  Admittingly I have always been a fan of Big Agnes, but I am a less loyal customer of their tents because there are so many high quality producing tent companies out there. However, that being said, were I given the opportunity to buy a similar tent from Big Agnes in the future, I wouldn’t hesitate.  One-person-tents are a rare breed because  they really have to be highly optimized to justify purchasing them over 2-person-tents or just using a tarp or a bivy.  However, if they are optimized, and they are free standing like the Seedhouse SL1, I find them a good purchase.  Thanks for reading.