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Noxgear Tracer 360 Review

 

ADVANCED VISIBILITY GEAR!

Noxgear is an Ohio based company who takes safety very seriously when it comes to playing outdoors in dark conditions.  You might be a runner or a cyclists who only has time to exercise, train or play in the early morning or late night hours.  If you’re like me those two times are the only times you can get away for a an hour or two.  I’ve looked and looked for ways to improve my visibility during these times.  I came across Noxgear (noxgear.com) while searching safety vests on the computer and immediately became interested in seeing for myself what the product could do.

Tracer360 Features Callout

“Noxgear was founded by two engineers, Simon Curran and Tom Walters. In the beginning we set out to solve a problem we faced, and in the process of doing that we founded a company with a simple mission: deliver innovative, well-designed gear to all nocturnal athletes.  We are proud of this company and what it represents. Our name, Noxgear, is based on the Latin word for night: nox. Nocturnal, or being active at night, is also derived from this Latin origin.  From the earliest days of our working prototypes, our vests burnt a distinct ‘X’ in the night air.  So the perfect combination of its meaning and using the letter ‘x’ gave us our name: noxgear – for the nocturnal athlete.”

About a year ago a good family friend, Ashley, was running late at night with her husband when she was hit by a truck.  She survived with a broken arm, some scrapes and bruises but the fear of running again in those dark hours scared her.  The safety gear she was wearing was the typical bright yellowl, bulky vest with a few strips of reflective material in certain areas.  She was holding a flashlight, which was mostly so she could see the ground.  The driver admitted he didn’t see her until it was too late and as he went to cross the intersection he hit her.  This is one of the problems Noxgear has solved with their light up vest.  It’s always on, always visible even with out the use of a light source to reflect off the material.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Traditional safety vests require a light source to shine on them before they will be reflective or be seen.  The Noxgear Tracer 360 has it’s own light source that wraps around your entire torso for a complete 360 degrees of visibility.

The Tracer 360 has a single elastic chest strap that holds the entire vest together and the main power source is located on your back.  From the main power source there are two clear tubes of plastic that filter light through them.  These tubes go over your shoulders and around your lower torso almost looking like an X.  The chest strap can be adjusted for a more perfect fit, the tubes can also be adjusted to fit the shoulder areas better.  The main power source comes with three AAA batteries to light it and weights in at only 6.5oz total.  It has a single on/off and toggle switch to change the solid color of the light coming through the tubes and also has flashing modes that increase your visibility.  Here are the complete specs of this vest:

Technical Details:

  •     Low Profile, Integrated Battery and Electronics Enclosure
  •     Super Bright CREE LEDs
  •     Solid Core, Super Side Light Fiber Optic CableFlexible
    •     Heat and Electricity Free
    •     High Efficiency
    •     Solid Optical Gel Core
  •     All Weather / Season Design – Wear with T-shirt or Jacket
  •     Operates on (3) AAA batteries (Included) with Easy-access Door
  •     Up to 40 hours battery life
  •     Noxgear’s Unique Always Bright Electronics
  •     LED-blink Battery Notification on Start-up and Power Down
  •     High Quality, Durable and Chaff-free Elastic Belt Material
  •     Recessed Power/Mode Button to Prevent Inadvertent Activation
  •     Sweat Resistant, Breathable and Comfortable Design Using High Quality Sports Mesh
  •     Front Quick-Clip Buckle for Easy On and Off
  •     Minimal Fabric-to-Body Contact – Won’t Trap Sweat
  •     Water Resistant Design

Be seen.

I’ve been running with my Noxgear Tracer 360 for about 3 weeks now and absolutely love this product!  It’s my essential piece of gear as I’m heading out the door when it’s still dark outside.  I run with so much more confidence knowing that the increased visibility alerts drivers way before they come upon me.  I’ve noticed that cars are giving me an extra wide girth when passing and even slow down a little.  I had one driver thank me because she was able to see me immediately from far away and could tell a runner was on the road.  Of course I took the opportunity to quickly show her the cool piece of gear and found out she was an avid runner herself!  We recently featured this product at the 2015 Endurance Sports Show in Sandy Utah as safety gear for our cycling event, the Salt to Saint Bicycle Relay.  The most frequently asked question was if the lights bother the eyes when running or cycling?  The answer is no, not even in the least.  I can’t even tell it’s on me when I’m running and in no way hinders my night vision.  I will tell you who does see it….the motorists!

This vest is ideal for any type of activity outdoors in the dark or for a relay type event that runs throughout the night.  Noxgear has put a ton of thought into this amazing vest, keeping it light weight and completely functional.  This would be a great fit for the Salt to Saint Relay when our riders are cycling across Utah in the middle of no where at night!

HOW DID THEY RATE?

We rated this item under four categories, each with a maximum of 5 stars:

Quality 4.5
Performance 4.75
Features 5
Value 4.5

 

OVERALL RATING FOR THE NOXGEAR TRACER 360: 4.68 stars

I felt that Noxgear really hit a home run with this product.  It’s an absolute must for anyone who is active at night time.  I was very happy with the testing and feel it’s very much worth the investment.  Noxgear offers a ton of other high visibility items which can be found on their website, noxgear.com.  Just this morning I pitched this vest to a police chief and fire chief as another way to be visible when helping with an accident scene, DUI roadblock or other incident where safety is a priority.  It was received very well!  How will you be using your Noxgear?

Hillsound Freesteps6 Trail Crampon

WINTER TRAIL RUNNING

Anyone who runs in the winter knows that it can be a dangerous and tricky environment if one is not properly outfitted. Slipping on ice can lead to an untimely injury and potentially weeks of recovery. I have ran on icy trails in only shoes and taken my share of falls, so when I finally decided to get some kind of trail running crampon I was pleased to find an alternative in the Hillsound Freesteps6 (MSRP $39.99 USD/CAD). The other alternatives I had seen previous were Khatoola Microspikes® (MSRP $64.95) and Yaktrax RUN (MSRP $39.99).

 

PUTTING IT TO THE TEST

After a year of use the features I like about the Freesteps6 are:

  • The Elastomer Harness

    is stretchy enough to pull from the toe and get around the heel without problem. They then stay in place quite well, due in part to the sticky grip and in part to being a little tight. I have worn these crampons on my size 11.5 Brooks and size 11. Altras. On the Altras they tend to fill too tight, likely due to the wide toe box of the Altras. It depends on the angle of my foot placement on and the steepness of the slopes, but occasionally the crampon will move around in the toe area. From time to time I find myself making adjustments, which is not difficult since there is a nice finger hole on top of toe box and grippy tab on the heel for stretching over the shoe. There are no odd clasps, buttons to snap or velcro to connect when putting the Freesteps6 on.

  • High Traction and Confidence

    on ice and icey snow the crampons grip and provide firm traction. I can not recall a single time of slipping on the ice. Even strutting one cold January morning on pure ice, with a 20% downhill grade that curves into a ravine (I was really expecting to go down on this one).

  • Light (comparatively),

    the Large size weighs just under 12 ounces, almost 2.5 ounces less than the 14.4 ounce Khatoola Microspikes®. Really, compared to running specific snowshoes, these things are hardly noticeable. Forget Red Bull, these things will give you Winter running wings.

  • Exploring

    A really cool thing about throwing on a pair of crampons is that it makes exploring winter scenes much more accessible. Not to mention the thrill and fun of cruising out across a moonlit trail at night. Old familiar trails take on a new life when explored in the solitude and quietness of a snow landscape. There are always less crowds and an other-World feel at times.

SOME BAD, BUT MOSTLY GOOD

The heel section of the chains and spikes come together to form a ring of stainless steel. This ring can prove to be an area of snow accumulation when the snow is really sticky. Which can lead to a ball of snow right under your heel, not a comfortable running experience. I found that if there is too much snow and it is wet or sticky then the crampons were better left in my backpack and I would let the traction of my trail shoes do the snow gripping, similar to running in mud.

Speaking of the stainless steel ring, I took my Freesteps6 out on a run in early Decmeber up a local trail. At the end of my run as I took off my crampons I noticed that the ring heel on one of them had broke. I took some pictures and sent an email to Hillsound explaining that I had the product for just over a year. Since they have a 2-year warranty it was no problem to have them replaced. It is always a bonus when a company stands behind their product.

Snowball Accumulation

Snowball Accumulation

2-Year Warranty (phew!)

2-Year Warranty (phew!)

Slightly Tight on Wide Toe Boxes

Slightly Tight on Wide Toe Boxes

SOME SPECS

The Freesteps6 are made of Stainless steel, chains and a 21 spike bed, reinforced Elastomer harness, Size LG that I used weighs 340g.

HOW DID THEY RATE?

We rated this item under four categories, each with a maximum of 5 stars:

Quality 4
Performance 4
Features 3.5
Value 4.5

OVERALL RATING FOR THE FREESTEPS6: 4 Big Stars!

Considering the value when compared to the other leading brands out there, the Freesteps6 should not be overlooked if you are looking to walk hike or run on some icy trails this season.

ABOUT HILLSOUND

Icame across Hillsound at the January 2012 Outdoor Retailer show, where I was introduced to their new running crampon the Freesteps6. The reps there were very passionate about their products, they were friendly and cool to talk too. Hillsound, headquartered in Vancouver BC, had their beginnings in traditional trail crampons and from there branched out to gaiters. You can check out their goods here.

On Running – CloudRacer Road Shoe Review

Take a look at an On road shoes and immediately you know there is something very unique in it’s design.  This Swiss company is relatively new to the whole road running scene but years and years of experience went into making their line of shoes.   “February 2014 – With the On Cloud, On launches the world’s lightest, fully cushioned running shoe. With this, On lays the foundation for a new lightweight technology platform.”  (on-running.com)

 

INTRODUCING “ON”….

“A quest for the
 perfect running sensation.”

Prior to 2010 a Swiss engineer created a running sole that would cushion the landing and harden during the foots take off.  In January 2010, David Allemann, Oliver Bernhard and Caspar Coppetti design the first On shoe with this CloudTec system, which makes On very unique.  From there the company launches several lines of running shoes and professional athletes from all over begin to rave about their performance.

April 2010– Marathon legend Tegla Loroupe tests the On and becomes an enthusiastic ambassador. Many pro-athletes follow her lead and record their fastest times with some setting course records!  On was introduced into the United States in March of 2013, making Portland, Oregon their second head quarters.  In April 2013 On introduced a Cloudrunner model with a new flex plate called the Speedboard and of course it’s signature CloudTec system.

On has a specific goal in mind when designing and continually updating their technology….it’s to have more fun when running!  If your feet feel good it will translate into a more relaxed run and that will equate to faster times, longer distances and less fatigue.  No matter the model of On shoe you’re choosing one thing will remain the same, cushioned landing and firm take off.

 

ON IS BREAKING THE NORM!

Tn stands behind four core beliefs as a company to ensure it’s customers are receiving the best running shoes possible.
On Core Belief 1: From focus on correction to focus on experience and comfort…
On Core Belief 2: From one best way to run to billions of ways to run…
On Core Belief 3: From a look at the ankle to a look at the whole body…
On Core Belief 4: From a diagnosis for life to an evolution over time…

When On contacted us for this review we were asked to really stress the shoes and the runner.  They sent us a pair of their On CloudRacer shoe for testing and asked us to really put some long, fast miles on them. Their goal of course was to prove to us that their technology really works.  So we gave these shoes to our favorite road runner, Ryan Daley of Farmington, Utah.  What we discovered is not only do these shoes look super cool but the CloudTec system works!  True to their word, On really did create a sole that cushions on the landing and is firm in the take off.

Ryan shared his experience:  “As an avid-competitive runner, I’m always on the lookout for a comfortable, stable, lightweight racing shoe, which will help me achieve my running and performance goals.  So, I was very excited when I found out I was able to test-run a new shoe from a company I had never heard of before. The company is On, and the shoe is their CloudRacer.  As I opened the box for the first time, I noticed the shoe design was something I had never seen before.

There are 18 low profile “clouds” on the sole of each shoe, which are, as per their website, “designed for fast performance, but keep you fresh with a surprisingly comfortable and protected run.”  Putting this claim to the test my first run in the CloudRacer I did a 7 mile easy pace run, just to see how they compared to the brand I usually run in. I was a little nervous at first because the CloudRacer was so light weight. I wondered if they would have the support to keep my feet comfortable, and the stability to get me through the run.  After the first mile, I was put at ease and was amazed at how comfortable my feet felt in these shoes.  After my run, my feet felt great, which surprised me with this being a “break-in” run for new shoes.  No blisters, no rubbing, no foot cramps.

Over the next several runs I added distance up to 14 miles, and increased my speed. I am happy to report that I accomplished several personal records while wearing the CloudRacer and even a podium finish at a Thanksgiving Day 10k race.  I have tried many different types of shoes, and have stayed pretty loyal to one in particular. However, the CloudRacer definitely gives its competitors a run for their money.  After putting these shoes to the test, I was sold on them in both the great looks and the technology! I can’t wait to see what else On will come out with. I highly recommend this shoe if you are looking for comfort, stability, and performance which is usually hard to find in a racing shoe.”

ON SHOES CAN BE FOUND IN UTAH

There are two locations in the Salt Lake area but for an On retailer near you, visit on-running.com or order them right from the website.  Their sizing runs a true US size, so if you’re a size 10 order a size 10.  But for a perfect fit we recommend trying on a pair before purchase.  While you’re visiting the website take a look at the other running shoes On has to offer.  If you’re a triathlete, simple trade out the traditional laces with a speed lace and you have a perfect triathlon shoe!  Our hope is that On continues making great shoes and eventually dives into the trail running scene with an incredible trail shoe!

 

HOW DID THEY RATE?

We rated this item under four categories, each with a maximum of 5 stars:
Quality 5
Performance 5
Features 4.5
Value 4.5

 

OVERALL RATING 4.75 Stars and is highly recommended!

We couldn’t be happier with this shoe which is reflected in our overall rating.  The construction and durability of the shoe translates directly into the performance of their shoes.  It’s no wonder professionals from all over have loved them!  The features go far beyond just a cool looking shoe and deep into the sub layers of the sole and construction of the upper part of the shoe.  Their technology really works like they promised and for that we give this a great recommendation with a price that’s right in line with a solid running shoe!