Nitecore NU25 / NU25UL Headtorch Review – How does it perform?

Nitecore head torches are becoming increasingly popular with hikers and runners who want a lightweight torch that still offers good performance in terms of brightness and battery life. Here I look at Nitecore’s latest lightweight offerings, the NU25 and the NU25UL.

The Nitecore NU25 and NU25UL are essentially the same torch with a different headband. The UL shaves around 10g off by just using elastic cord rather than a cord and strap combination on the NU25. Take the headbands off and you’ve got identical torches. The torch body is plastic which combined with the headband design gives a very lightweight torch. I tested the torches on numerous outings whilst trail running and camping in the Peak District.

Nitecore NU25 & NU25UL side by side

Nitecore NU25 & NU25UL


The torch unit comprises of dual lenses, giving floodlight and spotlight, which can be used either on their own or in combination. In dual mode there are three brightness settings; low, medium and high. There is also an ultra low setting, strobe mode and red light mode using  two small red LEDs.

photo of Nitecore NU25 head torch

Nitecore NU25

On the top of the torch are two buttons, a rectangular on / off button and a circular mode button. A long press of the on / off button turns the torch on in dual mode (both spot and floodlights illuminated) on its lowest setting of 60 lumens. Another press increases the brightness to 200 lumens and a third press goes to the brightest setting of 400 lumens. Pressing the mode button allows you to choose either floodlight or spotlight if you don’t want to use them combined and you can choose either 60 or 200 lumens on each. The mode button also takes you to red light mode (you can choose either constant or flashing). An ultra low, 6 lumen white light setting is reached by double pressing the on / off button. Strobe / SOS mode is reached by double pressing the mode button and gives a choice of regular flash or dot dot dash flash pattern. Finally, a single press of the mode button whilst the torch is off gives you the battery power indicator; 4 tiny blue LEDs show how much battery is left according to how many light up.

Nitecore NU25 USB C recharge

USB C recharge and battery indicator

The elasticated cord on the headband is reflective and also glows in the dark. Tension can be easily adjusted, even whilst on the move by pulling the cord through a toggle. The lamp unit can be adjusted to tilt downwards and a rubber cover protects the charging port. The IP66 waterproof rating means you don’t need to worry about the torch failing in the wet – so no excuse not to go out if it’s dark and raining!

Nitecore NU25 and NU25UL side by side

same torch different strap


The NU25 is powered by an internal 650mAh li-ion battery which is charged via an external USB – C port.


NU25 58g, NU25UL 47g (on my scales)


NU25 £49, NU25UL £45

My thoughts:

Does all that selection of setting sound a little complicated?! It took me several uses to figure out how to switch between the different modes and sometimes I actually needed to take the torch off my head and look at it to see which lamps were illuminated! Often it was a case of pressing the buttons at random until I settled on a setting that seemed best. It doesn’t help that I have several different torches, each with different operating functions and admittedly if this was your only torch you’d probably soon get used to its operation.

The buttons are very small and lie quite flush with the body of the torch. This makes using the switches whilst wearing gloves quite difficult and with mittens it is almost impossible. Not a problem if you are using the torch without gloves but something to consider if using it in winter. The on / off button does have little pimples which help to locate it if you are gloveless. I tried both torches to get a feel for the different head bands and found the slightly heavier non UL version to be more comfortable. I would probably forgo a little bit of weight saving and choose the slightly heavier head band if I was choosing between the two torches. The reflective cord is useful if you want to be seen from behind or the side, for example whilst running on unlit roads.

Battery life is claimed to be 2 hrs 40 mins on maximum power. I tested the NU25 by fully charging it then leaving it on Dual Beam full power mode (indoors in a warm room) and it lasted for 2 hrs 27 minutes (I’d expect that it maybe a shorter duration if outdoors on a cold night) It then suddenly switched to a very dim reserve mode, this would be quite a shock if you were running, but at least you aren’t cast from high power to complete darkness all at once! Reserve mode lasted another 50 minutes before the torch switched off altogether. The external USB – C port allows you to easily charge the torch, for example whilst driving or even via a power bank whilst you are carrying it. The fact that there is no compartment to open to access the battery means there is no clip or hinges to break. Recharge from completely drained to fully charged (4 blue lights) took just over 2 hours using the supplied USB-C cable.

chart showing Nitecore battery life figures

claimed battery life is less than in reality!

I found that the medium setting of 200 lumens was sufficient for easy trail running and night walking with the odd burst of 400L in more tricky terrain. The ultra low mode was useful for camping when I wanted the inside of my tent to be gently illuminated. The cord allowed me to easily hang the torch inside my tent and the glow-in-the-dark cord means you can find your torch again for several minutes after you have turned it off.

NU25 floodlight mode

NU25 in floodlight mode


Whilst this is not the the torch that I’d use for serious mountain outings or Bob Graham support etc the Nitecore NU25 is a great torch for shorter runs on less technical terrain where battery life and brightness are less important. It is still powerful enough to cope with a very long run on medium power. The settings can take a little getting used to and it can be tricky to change modes whilst wearing gloves. It is my torch of choice for fast-packing and lightweight camping as at around 50g the weight is barely noticeable yet it packs enough of a punch to get you off the hill in the middle of the night if needs be. It would also make a great back up torch if heading into the mountains.

More detailed video review here:

Available here:
Nitecore Website:

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Nank (Naenka) Runner Pro2 Bone Conduction Headphones Review

The Runner Pro2 are the latest version of bone conduction headphones from Nank (Naenka). I’ve tried two of their previous models so was interested to see what was different about the latest version.

Note that Naenka have changed their name and are now known as Nank (Naenka). My reviews of the original Runner Pro can be read here and the Runner Neo review here

photo of Nank (Naenka) Runner Pro2

Nank (Naenka) Runner Pro2 waterproof headphones

So, what has changed? Visually the Runner Pro2 look very similar to previous versions, they share the same basic shape with the flexible cradle looping round the back of the head and over the ears and the bone conduction units resting on your temples. They are operated by three small buttons on the outer right hand side; on /off, volume up, volume down. The volume buttons also allow you to skip forward and back if listening to downloaded audio files. As with the original Runner Pro, charging is done via a magnetic port and USB.

photo of Nank (Naenka) Runner Pro2 charging port

magnetic charging port

The shape and position of the buttons is slightly different to the original version but their function is the same. A tiny LED light glows red whilst charging and changes to blue when the headphones are fully charged. Battery life is around 8 hours (at 60% volume) so whilst they might not last you through your next ultra race there is plenty of capacity for long runs and rides. Turning up the volume reduces battery life but wearing the foam earplugs (supplied) dramatically enhances the volume without cutting out surrounding sound.

Nank (Naenka) Runner Pro2

fully charged

The main difference is that the Runner Pro2 is upgraded in terms of performance with Bluetooth 5.3 rather than 5.0 (not that I noticed any difference here!) and is slightly lighter at only 32g compared to 37g. The weight difference is negligible and I didn’t notice any difference in comfort whilst wearing them compared to the other Naenka models. The real upgrade is the internal storage capacity; up from 8G to 32G meaning that you can load much more audio to keep you entertained on your long runs or rides. Uploading files is very straightforward, you simply attach the magnetic charger and plug the cable into your computer USB port. Your computer will recognise the device allowing you to drag and drop MP3 files. The Runner Pro2 comes pre-loaded with two music files which you can easily delete if they aren’t to your taste!

Nank (Naenka) Runner Pro2 connected to PC

connected to PC to upload audio files

Nank (Naenka) Runner Pro2 audio files

spot which file I loaded!

The original Runner Pro had a built in microphone that allowed you to take phone calls and talk whilst wearing the headphones. This isn’t available on the Runner Pro2. I your phone rings whilst wearing them you will be able to accept the incoming call by pressing the function button and you will hear the caller but you will have to get your phone out actually talk back to them! Although named “Runner” Pro2 the waterproof rating of IP68 (IXP8) means that they are fully waterproof and can be used for swimming. It is best to listen to audio via the inbuilt storage for this as Bluetooth has a limited range under water.

The control buttons on the headset are very small and thus difficult to operate whilst wearing gloves. I didn’t find this a big problem because I set the audio going on the required volume before I set off rather than trying to make adjustments once running. If you want to skip forward and backwards through audio files then it would be tricky with gloves on but not if you simply want to listen to a podcast or audio files in sequence. Pairing the headphones via Bluetooth is very straightforward and it is possible to pair to more than one device (I have them paired to my phone and TV). When turning the headphones on a voice tells you “Bluetooth connected”, thankfully the volume is turned down slightly compared to on the Runner Neo which was too loud!

photo of Nank (Naenka) Runner Pro2 controls

tiny buttons

The Runner Pro2 comes simply packaged (no chocolate box this time!) I found that I didn’t need to use the rubber tensioner and most tech savvy users probably won’t need to read the user manual as operation is fairly straightforward.

photo showing Nank (Naenka) Runner Pro2 box contents

box contents

Overall impressions

The Nank (Naenka) Runner Pro2 bone conduction headphones are a good choice for runners, cyclists and swimmers who want to listen to audio whilst exercising, but still want to hear their surroundings. Being able to hear what is happening around you is much safer than only being able to hear your music. Some races don’t allow full headphones for this reason, but will allow bone conduction headphones. Personally I don’t listen to anything whilst running outdoors, I prefer the sounds of nature (and it is my thinking time!) However I do wear headphones on a bike turbo trainer or treadmill, especially if I am in the shed staring at the wall as opposed to at the gym looking at the TV!
And you don’t have to use them only whilst doing sport, I use them to listen to podcasts whilst around the house and like the fact that I can do so without having to be attached to cables connected to my phone.

I haven’t used any other brand of bone conduction headphones so I can’t make comparisons. Price wise the Nank (Naenka) range are good value compared to rival brands.

RRP £99 (15% Discount Code: David15)

Available here

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Naenka Runner Neo Bone Conduction Headphones Review

Runner Neo are the latest bone conduction headphones from Naenka, featuring wireless charging and with more battery life than their previous models. The Runner Neo are designed for runners who want to listen to audio without compromising their awareness of the surroundings.

I recently reviewed Naenka’s Runner Pro bone conduction headphones, (link here) the Runner Neo are the latest offering with lots of similarities but a few key differences. I’ve been testing them for a few weeks, here are my impressions.

photo of Naenka Runner Neo bone conduction headphones

Runner Neo bone conduction headphones

Visually the Neo look very similar to the Pro, I opted for a green pair though they are also available in grey or red. They are an open ear design whereby the audio transmitter sits just in front of your ear on your temple or cheekbone rather than in your ear. The sound waves are conducted through your cheekbones allowing you to hear both the transmission and the sounds of your surroundings. They consist of a silicone coated titanium frame that wraps around your ears and round the back of your head / neck. This is very flexible yet doesn’t feel fragile. In order to suit all sizes the headset is simply tensioned by a piece of elastic that can be adjusted according to the size of your head. You may find that you don’t actually need to fit the tensioner. Along with the headphones themselves you are also supplied with a “wireless” charging cable and three pairs of in ear inserts which are designed to enhance the sound without blocking out external noise completely. The inserts are in three different sizes and there is also a pair of conventional ear plugs. A basic user manual is also included.

photo of Naenka Runner Neo bone conduction headphones box

Runner Neo plus accessories

In use

Although the name implies that the headphones are for runners, they would be equally suitable for other activities such as cycling or walking. Using the Runner Neo is fairly straightforward. First you need to pair them with another Bluetooth device i.e your phone. You can choose more than one device which is good if you want to share use of the headphones. Once paired you simply listen to the audio on your paired device through the headphones. The main control buttons are on the bottom of side part of the headphones which sits behind your right ear. The buttons are very small and you will struggle to operate them if you are wearing gloves, something to bear in mind for winter use. Be careful if you turn the headphones on whilst wearing them because a loud female voice announces “Welcome to Naenka Bone Conduction Headphones…!” Similarly when turning the headphones off the voice announces “Power off”. If you are wearing the in-ear enhancers these announcements are startlingly loud and there is no way to adjust the volume! Playback volume can be adjusted by the small buttons on the headset which also allow you to skip backwards and forwards between songs or podcast episodes. Other features include optional voice mode enabling you to speak to your smart phone to select audio. You can also answer phone calls at the press of a button on the earpiece (as long as you can remember where it is!) rather than having to dig your phone out of your bag should it ring whilst using the headphones.

Sound quality

Audio quality with the Runner Neo is good, I didn’t notice any improved sound quality compared to the Runner Pro version and I haven’t used any other make of bone conduction headphones so I can’t make any comparisons. The in-ear enhancers are anatomically shaped ear plugs that fit snugly in your ear and are designed to enhance the sound quality. They don’t need to be worn but they do significantly increase the volume without completely blocking out surrounding sounds.

photo of Naenka Runner Neo control buttons

very small control buttons

The Runner Neo use a wireless charging cradle. This sounds a little deceptive as they still use a USB type wired charging cable but the headphones simply sit in the cradle rather than physically plugging into anything. As such there are no contacts or electrodes to get damaged or dirty. This is a key difference between the Neo and the Pro models as the Pro use a plug in charger. Naenka claim that you will get 10 hours of playback time between charges with the Neo, a couple of hours more than the Pro. To be honest I didn’t let the battery drain all the way down before I recharged the headphones and I estimate that I used them for 5 hours between charges. Small flashing LEDs on both the charger and headset confirm that charging is taking place and the light turns to constant when they are fully charged. The light on the headset flashes rapidly why the battery needs recharging.

photo of Naenka Runner Neo bone conduction headphones on charge

wireless charging

Another important difference from the Runner Pro version is that the Neo don’t work as an MP3 player so you can’t load audio straight to the headphones themselves, you’ll need to take your phone with you on your run.

I wouldn’t describe the headphones as comfortable, I found that it took a while to get used to the feeling of running whilst wearing them. However neither are they particularly uncomfortable, I wore them constantly for a 90 minute run without issue. They remained in place without bouncing around even when I was running on uneven, fell terrain. I found that after wearing them for some time, when I took the headphones I could tell I had been wearing them and the sensation of having something in contact with my head lasted several minutes. This wasn’t uncomfortable, just something to get used to. I wore them both with and without sunglasses and also with and without a hat. The headphones are waterproof with a rating of IP66 meaning they can be used in the rain (good job as I got soaked on one particular run!) and you needn’t worry about getting them sweaty.

photo of runner wearing Naenka Runner Neo bone conduction headphones

testing their waterproof credentials!

The advantage of bone conduction headphones compared with in ear “pods” is that you can still hear sounds from your environment, so if cycling you can hear traffic or if running you can hear someone running up behind you. However this requires the sound transmitting part of the headset to be held in place on your cheekbone which in turn requires a wired frame that connects the two “earpieces” and wraps around the back of your head / neck. This design means that you can’t lean your head back on something or lie on your side whilst wearing them which means that they are much more suited to active sport rather than recreation. I tried to use them for watching TV but found that my natural relaxed position wasn’t possible because of the frame.

Technical specs:

Lightweight (30g including tensioner on my scales), waterproof (IP66), 10 hr battery life, wireless charging via USB type cable, Bluetooth connectivity.

RRP – £99 (15% Discount Code: David15)

Full details on Naenka website

Overall impression

Lightweight, easy set up, reasonably comfortable, good audio quality, cheaper than some other brands.

Loud voice when turning on and off! Their design doesn’t allow for recreational use eg wearing them whilst lying down.

The Naenka Runner Neo bone conduction headphones look very similar in design to the Naenka Runner Pro that I recently tested. The key differences being that the Neo use wireless charging and aren’t an MP3 player, however they last for longer before recharging and are fractionally lighter.  I didn’t notice an improvement in sound quality with the Neo, to my ears the quality is good on both models. They feel stable in use and reasonably comfortable. At less than £100 they offer good value for money. Although the name implies they are made for runners they would equally suit cyclists or walkers or indeed anyone who wants to listen to audio without it interfering with their awareness of the sounds around them.

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Camelbak Octane 22 Trailrunning Backpack Review

The Camelbak Octane 22 is a lightweight backpack with lots of storage options. Here I look at its features in more detail and discuss what activities it might be used for.

Firstly, the name is quite deceptive with 22 referring to the pack’s capacity of twenty two litres. This is quite small for a backpack and not really sufficient to carry enough kit for a lightweight camping trip. However the 22 refers to the internal capacity, once you add the storage of the external stretch pockets and numerous pockets on the harness the Octane offers much more volume and carrying capacity.

photo of Camelbak Octane 22 backpack

lots of storage options

As soon as you see the pack you notice how much external storage it has. On the back (I don’t know why some manufacturers call this the front!) there is a large stretch mesh pocket. This is large enough to fit my lightweight 1 person tent. Then on each side there is a slightly smaller stretch mesh pocket that will easily carry a 1 litre bladder or lightweight waterproofs with room to spare. These side pockets have an elasticated cord at the top to help keep items secure. These also act to secure trekking poles should you wish to carry them. There is a small loop at the base of each side of the pack through which to insert the other end of a pole, so you carry one at each side. The location of the loops means that you’d have to take the pack off to attach and remove the poles, you wouldn’t be able to stow them on the move.

photo of Camelbak Octane 22 pack fully loaded

loads of room in the stretch back and side pockets

On the front of the pack the chest and waist straps form what Camelbak call the “Command Centre”. This implies that all the important things that you might need quick access to are readily to hand and easily accessible. There’s no computer or bank of switches in the command centre but there are pockets – lots of them! On each of the chest straps there is a mesh pocket that is deep enough to fit a 500ml soft flask (not supplied) and below these and overlapping them there is a fabric (Cordura) pocket that can fit food, gels, compass, map extract etc. Then below this on the right hand side of the harness there is a small stretch mesh pocket with only a small opening to it. I wasn’t sure how useful this was at first but when I came to wear the pack I realised that it was ideal for stashing empty wrappers. The small opening keeps them from falling out and blowing away. On the left hand side there is a zipped pocket that easily fits a reasonably sized mobile phone. Then on the hip belt there is a zipped pocket on each side. I can just about squeeze my phone into these but they are probably better for hat, gloves, food and other small items. There is also an emergency whistle easily accessible on the upper left chest strap.

So there are lots of places to carry your kit before you even get to the main storage compartment. This is accessed by a double zip that opens up the whole back section of the pack meaning that you pack it like a holdall rather than filling it from the top. This has pros and cons; it makes packing and then accessing your kit really easy but you have to be careful not to over stress the zip. On a pack that you fill from the top you can really squash things down inside, but you can’t do that with this design.

photo of Camelbak Octane pack unzipped

main compartment zips open

With the pack fully unzipped there a more internal storage features. Five small pockets on the back and two larger ones, one on each side allow you organise items within the pack. I haven’t really found that I use these and think they are a bit unnecessary, I just fill the main compartment. You’d probably find them useful if you like to keep things organised! There is also a medium sized zipped pocket on the inside of the flap. This has a key clip so I assume it is designed as a place to keep your valuables safe. However, the very last thing that people probably pack is their car key and in order to reach the secure pocket you need to unzip the main compartment. If you’ve packed everything nice and tight then items will fall out!

photo showing inside view of Camelbak Octane 22 pack

internal organiser!

The Octane has another zipped compartment, handily identifiable by a blue zip pull, this is designed to house the 2 litre reservoir that comes supplied with the pack. The reservoir has a rigid plate to help feed it into the compartment when filled with water. I prefer to use soft flasks and a filter rather than a bladder / reservoir so in that scenario this compartment becomes additional storage. I find it is ideal to carry my tent footprint / groundsheet protector which easily slides in and keeps dirt and water away from my other items once it’s been used. There is also a small zipped pocket on the bottom of the pack that contains a waterproof cover (or a better place to keep your car keys!)

photo of Camelbak Octane 22 pack

reservoir compartment or extra storage

The Octane 22 is a unisex, single sized pack but it is highly adjustable. The two sternum straps fasten with a clip buckle and simply slide up and down to adjust for comfort. The waist has a larger buckle and there are also adjusters at either side of the harness where it connects the main pack to the front straps. I’m small – 28 inch waist and 35 inch chest so I have the adjustment straps done up close to maximum but there is loads of “slack” to let out for bigger bodies. Information supplied with the pack state that it will suit chest sizes from 33 to 47 inches. The pack is made from water repellent Cordura, lightweight stretch mesh and has a flexible foam back that provides a bit of padding and prevents items in the main compartment from digging in your back. The adjusting straps aren’t elasticated but the fabric of the chest straps is slightly stretchy. This gives the pack a bit of “give” rather than it feeling too restrictive.

The pack is ideal as a reasonably sized day-sack for hill walking and trekking. I’ve used the Octane 22 for ultralight camping trips where I want to move fast and light with minimal kit rather than carry a bigger pack. It would definitely be big enough for a mountain marathon if you were aiming for speed rather than comfort and you were sharing some of the load with a partner.

One size, unisex.
Weight – 890g (not including reservoir)
RRP – £170

Overall impression

The Camelbak Octane 22 is a lightweight backpack with much more storage capacity than its name implies. It is highly adjustable to fit a wide range of body sizes. It would be a good choice for walkers and trekkers or for campers who want to take the minimalist, fastpacking approach. It would also make a good mountain marathon pack for runners wanting to go fast and light.
Likes – Lightweight, lots of storage, more capacity than the name suggests, long zip giving ease of access to all of the main compartment, lots of size adjustability, looks and feels good quality / well made.
Dislikes – Expensive, needs a key clip on an external pocket, overkill on internal organiser pockets, “Command Centre” – it’s not a spaceship! 🙂

More detailed video review here:

If you found this review useful you can buy me a coffee to show your appreciation!

My Fastpacking Kit

Getting out for a run or fast hike, with a small pack and some lightweight kit for an overnight camp, is fantastic! Here’s a description of some of the kit that I use.

Shelter – tent or tarp?

I have two options: a 1 person lightweight tent and a small tarp. The tent is the Nordisk Telemark 1 LW; the tarp is the DD Hammocks SuperLight S. Although the tarp is lighter and packs down smaller than the tent, it requires use of a bivvy bag to protect my sleeping bag from condensation (even on a breezy night the tarp can develop condensation on the underside which can drip or otherwise wet anything that it comes into contact with). I’ve got the Alpkit Hunka bivvy (as seen in the photo below.) Using a tarp also requires some form of groundsheet to protect the bivvy bag and help keep it clean. You also need a pole, unless you are going somewhere that you know you can set it up with trees. I’ve made my own pole from 3 sections of spare tent pole. I’ve also got an Alpkit Vertex Carbon pole, but I find my DIY one works fine and is easier to set up. My preferred tarp configuration is this asymmetrical set up giving more headroom at one end.

photo of DD Hammocks Superlight S tarp

tarp life! 

So the size and weight of the tent is pretty much the same as the tarp, pole and bivvy bag. The tent is incredibly light, less than 900g, and even lighter if you don’t use the inner. You can prop the door open to give it a tarp like feel if you don’t want to be zipped in. I will often sleep with the tent set up like this. So, tent or tarp? I like both – if the forecast is good and there are no midges it’s great to lie under a tarp and watch the night sky, then awake with the morning sun on your face . If the forecast isn’t as good or if it is midge season I’ll go with the tent.

photo of Nordisk Telemark 1LW tent under Great Gable

great tent, Great Gable

Sleeping bag

For summer I use a very small and lightweight bag: the OMM Mountain Raid 160. Although made with PrimaLoft, not down, it packs down very small. However, I have felt cold in it so I reserve it for mid summer or boost it with a down jacket. If you are taking a down jacket anyway for sitting around in then you could sleep in it too, that way you might get away with a smaller / lighter sleeping bag.
My 3 season bag is a Rab Mythic 400. This is my luxury item! It’s a quality down bag, expensive but worth it, as it offers exceptional warmth to weight / size. Again it can be boosted with a down jacket if needed, for colder winter nights.

For deep winter camping I have an old Rab Ladakh 800 down bag. It weighs about 1.6kg so certainly isn’t a fast packing item, but it is warm!

photo of OMM and Rab sleeping bags

Mountain Raid 160 and Rab Mythic 400

Sleeping mat

Last time I did the OMM Mountain Marathon I used a small piece of foam and bubble wrap to sleep on. Actually I didn’t sleep, I lay there for most of the night, very cold and uncomfortable! I now use a 3/4 length mat, the Pariah Recharge S. This is insulated with an R value of 4.2 so it can cope with cold ground, yet packs away very small, barely bigger than a 500ml soft-flask. One of the advantages of being short is that I can get away with a three quarter length pad!

I have experimented with an inflatable pillow, the Alpkit Drift, but I actually find it more comfortable to put a jacket or spare clothes inside a fleece pillowcase and use that.

photo of Pariah Recharge S sleeping mat

small guys only need small mats!


As previously mentioned, if using just a tarp I use a groundsheet to give some barrier from the damp and possibly dirty ground. I have two DIY groundsheet options; one is a piece of Tyvek (see tarp photo) cut to size as a footprint for my tent; the other is a lightweight emergency bivvy bag that I can peg down and lie on. I also use one of these (usually the Tyvek) with the tent just to protect the floor from sticks, stones, sharp bits of heather etc.

Cook Kit

Unless I’m in a rush to cook or brew up (which is rarely) then I prefer using alcohol. Bioethanol and meths are both reasonably cheap and easily available in DIY stores. I have two Speedster Stoves burners, these are incredibly small, lightweight and simple. They are simply a small tin containing ceramic felt and are thus very inexpensive. There is very little to go wrong, you just pour on the alcohol and light it. They are spill proof too so unlike some meths burners such as the Trangia they won’t send a stream of burning fuel flying if accidentally kicked over. The smaller Speedster burner holds 20ml of fuel whilst the larger one holds 30ml.

My mate laughs at me as he fires up his MSR Pocket Rocket and I set up my alcohol burner and windshield. He can have almost have finished his brew before my water has boiled – but he can’t carry his stove and fuel in his pocket, and as for lugging all that extra fuel up the hill! Plus, my burner costs less than a fiver!

photo showing Speedster Stoves alcohol burners

small and smaller Speedster burners!

As a windshield I either use a Speedster Stoves combined windshield and pot-stand which can be made specifically to suit your pot dimensions. Or I use my DIY titanium “Caldera Cone” type stand / shield. I made a 2 piece one that weighs only 28g and nests inside my 650ml mug. Both of these designs are very efficient as they funnel hot gases up the sides of the pot or mug. I’ve found that 300ml of water usually boils in around 7 minutes and I’ve managed this with only 12ml of fuel on a windless day. With my DIY cone I can boil 500ml of water with just 20ml of bioethanol. I use a Soto windproof lighter as it allows you to angle the flame onto the burner whilst it is inside the windshield – and it doesn’t blow out! Underneath the burner I use a Speedster Stoves reflector / insulated ground protector. This also helps provide a flat, stable surface for the burner.

photo of DIY Caldera Cone

DIY titanium “Caldera Cone” combined stand / windshield

My mug is either the Titanium Alpkit Mytimug 450 if I’m only having a hot drink, or the 650ml version if I’m boiling water for both a brew and a dehydrated meal. If I’m only making a brew, I use just 15ml of fuel (I’ve re-used a 15ml eye drops bottle). I’ll use the larger burner and 25ml of fuel if I’m having a brew and noodles. For an overnight camp with a brew and dehydrated meal at night and two coffees in the morning, I take a small repurposed plastic bottle with 60ml of fuel. I sometimes take a Sea to Summit collapsible mug for my brew and eat my noodles from the 650ml MytiMug, but I often rehydrate the noodles in a Ziplock bag and eat them straight out of that with a long handled titanium spoon. That way I don’t need the collapsible mug and the Ziplock bag then acts as a rubbish bag. My burner, fuel, lighter, tea / coffee bags all nest inside either of the titanium mugs. The tea bags prevent things from rattling.

photo of Speedster Stoves windshield in use

brew with a view using Speedster windshield / pot-stand

Please be very careful if using alcohol stoves in dry conditions. Always use a ground protector or cook on a stone and never leave the stove unattended.

Water filter

The heaviest thing that you are likely to carry is your water. Sourcing it on the move or when at your camp spot saves you having to carry it. Unless you are in high and remote places it’s probably best to filter your water, I use a Salomon Soft-flask with filter for drinking on the go. If I need to carry more I use a Cnoc Vecto 2L bladder with a Sawyer Mini filter that screws on.

photo showing Sawyer and Salomon water filters

filter water rather than carrying it


Pack choice is generally determined by which sleeping bag I use. With the OMM bag I can get all my overnight kit into an Inov-8 Race Elite 20L pack (no longer made). If I’m using the slightly larger sleeping bag then I’ll use an Inov-8 Race Pro 30L pack (again no longer available).

photo showing Inov-8 back pack

Inov-8 Race Elite 20 fully loaded

I’ve just got a feature-packed but very expensive CamelBack Octane 22 pack that has loads of storage. I can get just about get all my overnight kit and Mythic bag into it if I use the external mesh pockets to full capacity.

photo showing Camelbak Octane 22 pack

Camelbak Octane 22 has loads of storage


So I’ve got a range of kit, some expensive, some cheap, some homemade. I like to experiment. I’ve had some great nights out and some uncomfortable ones where I wish I’d taken more or better kit – you live and learn! It’s great to share ideas and see what other people use, then find what works for you. Happy Camping!

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Naenka Runner Pro Bone Conduction Headphones Review

Runner Pro headphones by Naenka use bone conducting technology rather than traditional ear pieces. They are designed for sports use where having an awareness of your surroundings is important.

Personally I don’t use headphones on any of my runs, I prefer the sounds of nature and to be alone with my own thoughts. I have used them to try to relieve the monotony of being sat on a turbo trainer, but I find that the slightest head movement causes them to fall out. I do however use normal earphones to listen to podcasts and watch videos at home and I get annoyed whenever I catch the wire and pull the earpiece out. So I was interested to see how a set of headphones that didn’t rely on in-ear earpieces would perform.

First impressions on receiving the Runner Pros were good; the box is classy and looks like it contains expensive chocolates!

photo showing box containing Naenka Runner Pro headphones

nice box!

Runner Pro Features

The box contains the headphones, USB charging cable, elastic tensioner and a pair of standard foam ear plugs. There are also some basic user instructions. No chocolates. Neither is there a carrying case of any kind, although Naenka do sell one as an optional extra. To my slight embarrassment, never having worn a pair before I couldn’t quite work out how to put them on! The instructions didn’t include this so I had to visit Naenka’s website to look at the photos! Once I’d figured that the band went round the back of your neck rather than over the head, things made more sense. Maybe the instructions need dumbing down to include this information. The “earpiece” doesn’t sit over your ear but rather on your cheekbone just below your temple and the sound is conducted to your inner ear through the bone.

The headphones are lightweight (coming in at 39g on my scales, including the tensioner) and very flexible. Operation is very straightforward, even I didn’t need to read the instructions to work out that you turn them on with the small button and adjust the volume with the larger button. It is easy to locate the buttons whilst wearing the headphones but less so if you are wearing gloves.

photo showing on / off button on Naenka Runner Pro headphones

on / off and volume buttons

Pairing the Runner Pros with a phone via Bluetooth is again very straightforward and it is possible to pair with more than one phone which is useful if you want to share the headphones with someone. As well as linking via Bluetooth the headphones are also an MP3 player capable of storing 8GB of files. This means that you can listen to audio directly off the headphones if you don’t want to take your phone with you. To get audio files onto the headphones you plug them into a computer using the USB charging cable and drag your chosen files onto the Naenkas. When I did this the headphones simply showed as USB Drive (E:) rather than being named. Switching between Bluetooth and MP3 is done by double clicking the on / off switch. Audio files automatically start where you left off and play in order that you uploaded them. Long pressing volume + / – allows you to skip forwards and backwards between files.

Although named Runner Pro, the headphones are also designed so that they can be used for swimming. They have an IXP8 waterproof rating, but as Bluetooth doesn’t work under water they will only work in MP3 mode, (do people really listen to music whilst swimming??) Their waterproof rating means that you needn’t worry about damaging them if you wear them whilst running in heavy rain.

Charging is done via the USB cable which has a magnetic port which seats firmly on the headphones. A red LED light indicates that the headphones are charging. This changes to blue when they are fully charged which takes around an hour and a half. Battery life claims to be 8 hours so they aren’t going to get you through the Bob Graham Round! Also this is with volume set at 60%, they will drain more rapidly if you have them set to play louder.

photo showing charging of / off Naenka Runner Pro headphones

magnetic USB charger

photo showing charging of / off Naenka Runner Pro headphones

red LED shows charging

Runner Pro on test

So, having sussed out how to use the headphones and charged them fully it was time to see how they performed. The first question I wanted to answer was would they stay in place, especially whilst running on uneven and downhill terrain? Yes they do. Although at times they felt like they were about to slip off, they never did. Wearing them was a strange sensation and took a while to get used to. I used the elastic tensioner to increase the grip slightly although I probably didn’t need to. However I do have a small head and the band of the headphones projected quite a way out from my neck rather than sitting snugly against it. I’m not sure if this led to a sub-optimal fit or not. I was able to wear a hat (buff) whist also wearing the headphones. I liked the sensation of being able to hear both the sounds of the environment and the headphones at the same time and found that I could tune in to one or the other. When I needed to concentrate – such as when running down steep, uneven terrain – I completely zoned out of what I was listening to, so they are probably best suited to use on less technical terrain. I did also need to turn up the volume quite loud when I was running in windy conditions. The fact that you can still hear the environment around you whilst wearing the headphones would probably make them a better choice than in ear headphones for anyone running on roads or cycling. You would probably be more alert to danger from traffic whilst wearing bone conductors compared to in-ear headphones. Some events don’t allow the use of headphones whilst taking part – this is for safety reasons where you might not hear shouted warnings or sirens. Bone conduction headphones might be a good compromise (check with race organisers to confirm).

runner wearing Naenka Runner Pro bone conducting headphones

Runner Pro headphones on my small head

I often wear sunglasses when running, even if it isn’t sunny, as I find that they also keep the wind and insects out of my eyes. I was a bit concerned that I might not have enough ears to wear both the headphones and my glasses at the same time. It turns out not to be a problem and works best if you put the glasses on last.

runner wearing Naenka Runner Pro bone conducting headphones

headphones and glasses? no problem

photo of runner wearing Naenka Runner Pro headphones with glasses

headphones, glasses and hat? still no problem

Sound quality was good (although I haven’t tried any other brands so can’t give an honest comparison) and although they feel slightly strange, the Runner Pro aren’t uncomfortable. The longest I wore them for is a couple of hours after which it was good to take them off. I’m not sure I’d like to wear them for any longer without a break.

Technical specs:

Lightweight (39g on my scales), Waterproof (IXP8), 8 hr battery life (230mAh battery) USB charging via non standard magnetic cable, MP3 & Bluetooth

RRP – £99 (16%Discount Code: David123)

Full details on Naenka website

Overall impression

Having never used bone conduction headphones before, it is difficult to compare the Naenka Runner Pro to other brands on the market. However, first impressions are good as the Runner Pros give good sound quality, are stable in use and feel reasonably comfortable. They also seem to offer good value for money against other headphones of similar specifications. I won’t be taking up wearing headphones whilst running, but these would be excellent for use on the turbo trainer and for general use.

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Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280 Review

The Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280 is a highly cushioned trail shoe with a wide fit.

The Trailfly, as its name suggests, is a shoe designed for long distance trail running. Its unique selling point is the high level of cushioning and energy return offered by the nitrogen infused foam in the sole unit. That sounds impressive but do they measure up to the hype?

photo of Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280

Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280


Inov-8 offer a wide range of trail and fell running shoes, the feature that makes the Trailfly Ultra G 280 stand out from the others is its cushioning. The “FLYSPEED” midsole uses foam infused with nitrogen (sounds like something from a Heston Blumenthal recipe!) This is said to give high levels of bounce and energy return. Inov-8 state that their testing shows that the FLYSPEED foam gives back 65%-68% of the energy put in whereas a standard foam midsole gives back 45%-48%. The use of nitrogen is also said to cut back on the use of energy and chemicals during the manufacturing process.

side view of Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280

8mm drop and 33mm stack height

The Trailfly has an 8mm heel to toe drop and a stack height of 33mm / 25mm (heel / forefoot) which also provides high levels of cushioning. The Adapter-Flex groove in the outsole all0ws the shoe to flex on uneven ground whilst the 4mm multi directional lugs provide grip. The Graphene enhanced outsole gives high levels strength and durability.

Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280 sole

graphene sole with 4mm lugs & Adapter-Flex

The upper is made of a breathable, stretch knit material with a lightly padded tongue which should remain comfortable over longer distances. The roomy toe box is a size 5 on Inov-8’s width sizing scale i.e. the widest available. Again this is designed to allow the toes to splay and maintain comfort over long distances. There is also a toe bumper for protection. Despite their chunky appearance the Trailflys are lightweight with my size 6.5 weighing just over 270g.

close up photo of Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280

wide toe box

On Test

I’m fairly cynical when it comes to marketing terminology so I wasn’t overly impressed when I first read about the bouncy nitrogen infused shoes! Rather than hearing all the technical blurb I just wanted to know what they felt like to wear. I tested them for a week on hard packed Peak District trails during a fairly dry spell of weather.

photo of trail runner wearing Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280

tested on hard packed trails

Cynicism aside, I must admit that first impressions were good with the shoes being noticeably well cushioned and comfy. I don’t usually find that running shoes are comfortable straight out of the box, I tend to need to wear them a few times but the Trailflys were just that. My first proper run in them was a two hour outing on firm, man made paths and the springiness of the shoes was instantly evident. I haven’t run for a very long duration in them but I can imagine that they would help reduce fatigue on very long runs. Although the word “Ultra” in the name suggests that they are designed for longer distances I would also be happy to use them for faster runs or training sessions on hard, dry surfaces. I did some faster paced intervals whilst wearing them and was pleased with the “feel” of the cushioning at a faster pace.

photo of fast runner wearing Inov-8 Trailfly shoes

suited to faster paced running too

I would be less inclined to wear them for faster running on more technical terrain as the 8mm drop and 25mm forefoot stack height plus the wide toe box results in less stability and control than a lower shoe. The high level of cushioning also makes them a good option for recovery days such as the day after a race or hard training session when you want an easy, low impact run.

It is uncommon to do an off road run that is wholly on dry trails and I did encounter a bit of mud during my test runs. The 4mm lugs will handle shallow patches of mud and wet grass but they are not designed as a fell running shoe so it wouldn’t be fair to expect them to perform like a fell specific shoe. The question everybody will be shouting is “what are they like on wet rock?” The answer – ok. I’ve worn shoes that are grippier but also ones that are much more slippy; shoe choice for mixed terrain is always going to be a compromise. The lightweight knit uppers don’t look particularly robust and I wouldn’t want to venture off road in rough heather in them, but then again they aren’t designed as a resilient fell shoe.

photo of In0v-8 Trailfly G 280 in mud

reasonable performance in mud

The cushioning and ride height of the Trailfly Ultra is evident when viewed from the side and several people have commented that they look like a Hoka. They certainly have similarities. I have a pair of Speedgoats that I wear when I need more cushioning but I find them a bit too “tippy” on uneven terrain. The Trailfly has less forefoot stack height and so would be preferable to the Hokas from now on for runs on uneven ground.

side view of Inov-8 Trailfly G 280

highly cushioned sole

Technical Specs.

Weight 280g (size 8), Drop 8mm, Lug depth 4mm, Graphene enhanced outsole, Width 5 (on Inov-8 1-5 scale with 5 being the widest) Stack height (including outsole and footbed) 33mm at rear 25mm at forefoot, Colours Men: Pine & Nectar (as in photos) Grey & Blue. Women: Red & Burgundy

RRP £165

Overall impression

The Trailfly Ultra G 280 is a shoe designed for trail running rather than fell running. They will handle a bit of mud and grass but that isn’t what the shoes are intended for, the cushioned sole definitely means they are best suited to harder packed trails. I found them to be light and very comfortable with a noticeable amount of cushioning on hard, man made paths. The high amount of cushioning and wide toe box allows them to remain comfortable over long distances whilst the Graphene enhanced sole aims to provide both durability and grip. They would be a good choice for longer runs or races on firm, stable terrain or dry grass (remember last summer?) The cushioning also makes them suitable as a recovery run shoe.

Maybe the nitrogen infused foam is a recipe for comfort despite my skepticism!

Click link to purchase or see more details about the Trailfly Ultra G 280

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WakiWaki Water Purifier Bottle Review

Do you filter your water whilst out in the hills?

Often when you are out in the hills there is plenty of water to be found in streams, lakes and ponds. In the higher mountains it’s usually safe to drink out of flowing streams but what about on the lower fells? Rather than take a risk it’s probably best to filter any water before drinking it. There’s plenty of choice when it comes to water filtering systems, a brand I’ve only just heard of is WakiWaki. Here I look at their Blue Purifier water bottle (also available in orange and purple)

photo of Waki Waki water purifier bottle

blue bottle with filter installed


The system comprises of a rigid plastic bottle with a 600ml capacity (if using the filter the capacity is reduced slightly) The lid has a pop up mouthpiece which clicks down and locks in place when not in use.

photo of Waki Waki water purifier filter

flip top with filter attached

The lid unscrews completely allowing the wide mouthed bottle to be easily refilled. The bottle comes with a straw and a filter which are interchangeable meaning that it can be used in two ways; either as a standard bottle to drink water or juice using the straw, or as filtering device. Swapping between straw and filter is a very simple process that only takes a few seconds. The lid also houses a small compass although I wouldn’t rely on this for navigating!

photo of Waki Waki bottle compass

flip top reveals compass

I tested the blue bottle, orange and purple are also available.

photo of three Waki Waki water purifiers

3 colours are available

Also supplied are a syringe to allow simple backwashing of the filter after use and a carabiner which can be used to attach the bottle to a rucksack. The filter is replaceable if you exceed its lifespan of filtering 1500 litres.

photo of Waki Waki water bottle purifier

bottle, straw, filter, syringe and karabiner

Technical specs.

  • Food grade BPA free plastic bottle.
  • 4-stage filter: Coarse Filter, Activated Carbon, Hollow Fiber Ultra Membrane, PP Cotton Fiber
  • Filter Pore Size: 0.1μm ceramic membrane
  • Filter lifespan: 1500 litres
  • Flow Rate: 450ml/min (max)
  • Weight: 220g (empty bottle with filter)

RRP $22.99 (cheap shipping to UK)


Personally I prefer to use soft-flask type filters when running or hiking and bladder systems when camping so I probably wouldn’t choose a rigid water bottle. However, for anyone who likes to use a rigid drinks bottle the WakiWaki offers good value. It is versatile in that it can be used simply as a drinks container or as a water filter. It will fit neatly into the side pocket of many walking rucksacks and is sturdy enough to cope with the usual knocks and scrapes that come with hill walking and camping.

photo of Waki Waki drink straw

easy to fill and can be used without the filter

For people simply wanting to drink from a source rather than carry and filter water then the WakiWaki Straw Filter would be a good option.

About WakiWaki

I must admit that I hadn’t heard about WakiWaki, this info is directly from the company:

Waki Waki is an innovative brand that strives to create quality and leading outdoor water filters, while providing relevant outdoor equipment as a whole.  Our company Membrane Solutions was founded in 2006 in Texas USA.  Since 2008, we have realized that many outdoor enthusiasts, explorers, adventurers, athletes, campers or friends & family travel have difficulty in clean and safe water, so we came up with the idea of establishing a characteristic brand to offer users suitable outdoor products and solutions for those who expect to enjoy a healthy and pleased outdoor life. We are the earlier brand to provide ultrafiltration screen technology up to 0.01 microns, it can remove 99.99999% of Bacteria, Parasites, and micro-plastics; Reduces Turbidity, and heavy metal; Adsorbs chlorine, VOCs, odours etc.) and improve the taste. Ensuring the safest water in the worst environments. 

Our Water filter straw or water purifier bottle is generally small in size and lightweight to carry. We can filter water directly from natural sources such as lakes, rivers, and pools into clean and safe drinking water. Waki water filter bottles with a backwash design, easy to wash and keep, can be recycled. We admire healthy lifestyle. And we love spending time outdoors and encourage our users to go outside and enjoy all that our beautiful planet has to offer. 


 The Waki Waki Purifier Water Bottle is an affordable and versatile system for anyone wanting the flexibility of a rigid bottle that can also be used as a purifier / filter.

Waki Waki are a US based company but ship to the UK at low cost.

Link to the Purifier here:

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Harrier Helvellyn Pro Carbon Poles

The Helvellyn Pro Carbon are Harrier’s top of the range collapsible poles that are suitable for both trail running and hiking.

Although not allowed in fell races, running poles are becoming accepted and more widely used in longer distance trail running events. It is not unusual nowadays to see people using them on the Bob Graham Round – much to the disapproval of some of the traditionalists! On longer multi-day events such as the Spine Race, Dragon’s Back and Cape Wrath Ultra most of the runners will use poles at some point, including the elite runners at the front end of the race. The Helvellyn Pro Carbon poles are a strong, lightweight, collapsible pole, perfectly suited to such events.

photo of Harrier Helvellyn Pro Carbon poles

Harrier Helvellyn Pro Carbon poles


The Helvellyn Pro Carbon are a collapsible, 3 piece carbon pole with the sections being linked by a plasticated wire running through the inside. When folded the 3 pieces form a Z shape and hence they are sometimes referred to as Z poles. The length isn’t adjustable, they are available in six lengths from 105cm to 130cm to suit different user heights. My 110cm poles weighed in at 341g for the pair and measure 36cm in length when folded. The handles are ergonomically shaped EVA foam with an adjustable wrist strap which has a fleecy lining for comfort.

photo of Helvellyn Pro wrist loop

adjustable wrist loop

The poles are easy to use, to deploy them you simply unfold them and slide out a telescopic section until a small button clicks into place to keep them rigid. To fold them away you simply press the button, slide the telescopic section back in and fold the poles.

photo of Helvellyn Pro Carbon pole

push button to fold poles

A small notch on the plastic mud basket allows the two smaller pole sections to clip together for neat storage. Deploying and stowing the poles is very straightforward and can be done quickly, even whilst wearing gloves. The poles come with a rubber end cap which can be removed to reveal a carbide tip allowing a choice of end depending on the terrain. The poles come in a sturdy, water resistant bag for storage and transport when not in use.

photo of Helvellyn Pro carbide tip

rubber or carbide tip

Technical specifications

3 piece collapsible Z poles, fixed length (6 options), 4k carbon fibre, weight 340g per pair, rubber or carbide tip, adjustable wrist loop, carry bag.

RRP £89

Overall Impression

Poles can be effective, particularly when climbing steep hills or when descending whilst tired. However my personal preference for long, hilly days out has been the hands on knees approach! I didn’t use poles on any of the Big 3 Rounds and the only time I’ve carried them is when supporting mates on their Rounds and they’ve said “Here Dave, can you carry these for me?” Having said that I did give these poles a good try out on steep, technical Peak District terrain and found them very easy and comfortable to use. They are very simple to open up and likewise to refold. They felt surprisingly light and the grips were comfortable in the hand. The poles seemed strong and I was happy to commit my whole bodyweight to them without them bending or creaking (having said that I’m not very heavy!) I would be cautious of using them in bouldery terrain as it would be easy to get a pole wedged between rocks and snap it, but that would apply to any brand of pole. My main issue with poles isn’t whilst using them it is the faff of carrying them when they aren’t in use. If they knock against each other or bounce around on my pack it drives me mad!

photo of runner using poles

look, a fell runner with poles!

If you’re considering using poles for your next ultra or big “Round” make sure you get lots of practice using them in training (and don’t let the fell running “purists” know!) You need to become efficient in both using them and also in doing other things such as eating and navigating whilst holding them. Practise with them both with and without gloves on and whilst wearing the pack that you intend to wear for the event. It’s important that you perfect your system of stowing and attaching them to your pack – unless you are expecting your mate to carry them for you! 

You don’t have to be a runner to use poles. hikers and wild campers will find them useful too. I know campers and “fast packers” who use very lightweight tarps instead of tents and they erect them using hiking poles. Winter walkers can also find them useful for added stability when crossing streams and when seeking to negotiate a safe passage through the notoriously deep Peak District bogs!

So, if you are looking to buy a set of poles then take a look at Harrier’s Helvellyn Pro Carbon poles. They are lightweight, easy to use and offer great value for money.

Harrier are a small, family run, Peak District business. Their range of poles along with tips and advice on using them can be found here:

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Voom Nutrition Energy Bars – Review

VOOM Pocket Rocket energy bars are an alternative to gels, giving you an easily digestible energy boost to fuel your training and racing.

Energy gels are an efficient way of taking in sufficient carbohydrate to fuel your long training runs and races, but they have a downside – you are left with a sticky packet that seeps its remaining contents into your pocket or pack – yuk!
Wouldn’t it be good if you could have a quick energy hit without the mess. VOOM Nutrition offer an alternative in the form of their Pocket Rocket energy bars.

photo of VOOM Nutrition energy bars

VOOM bars

The bars
There are three different bars in the Pocket Rocket range with each 42g bar containing around 40g of carbohydrate (twice that of a standard gel). In addition to carbohydrate each bar is formulated with slightly different ingredients to target specific use. The orange zest flavour Beta Blast bar contains caffeine and beta-alanine for high intensity exercise, the lemon and lime Electro Energy bar contains electrolytes to replace those lost in sweat whilst the berry flavoured Caffeine Kick bar contains 175mg of caffeine and 100mg of taurine to stave off fatigue later in a race or run.

The bars are made in a way that they can easily be broken into four bite sized cubes making it easy to work out how much carbohydrate you are consuming. Two cubes are the equivalent of one gel which would typically contain around 22g of carbohydrate, so effectively one bar is equivalent to two gels. As well as the advantage of not having to deal with a sticky gel wrapper you can eat the bar in small doses if you want to take a “little and often” approach to refueling. You certainly wouldn’t want to put a half empty gel wrapper back into your pocket!

close up photo of VOOM energy bar

each bar has 4 bite sized cubes

In addition to the Pocket Rocket bars there is a 50g Protein Recovery Fudge bar containing 32g of carbohydrate and 10g of protein (the 3:1 ratio is accepted as being the optimal balance). The Pocket Rocket bars are gluten free and suitable for vegans, the protein bar is gluten free but contains milk. All of the bars are batch tested to ensure they don’t contain any substances on the World Anti Doping Agency banned list. This gives peace of mind to athletes competing in events with drug testing.

Individual Pocket Rocket bars cost £1.50 (bear in mind 1 bar = 2 gels) with the Recovery Fudge costing £2.50.

First impressions
I expected the bars to be chewy and was quite surprised to find that they aren’t! They are more like a mildly fruity Kendal Mint Cake in texture. This makes them very easy to swallow as they dissolve quickly in your mouth and don’t require much chewing. This is important for when you are exercising hard and breathing rapidly and is one reason why gels are commonly used – you are unlikely to choke on them!

Personally I don’t have a sweet tooth and found the Pocket Rocket bars to be a bit too “sugary” for my liking. However this is the case with gels too (and most sports nutrition products), they serve a purpose, we don’t eat them because we like the taste! If I was to pick a favourite it would be the berry flavoured Caffeine Kick although I’d be wary of just using that bar on a long race due to the high caffeine content. Friends have commented that they like the product too although there isn’t a consensus on which one tastes best.

photo of the VOOM Pocket Rocket range

different bars for different scenarios

About VOOM
VOOM Nutrition are based in Lancashire, close to both the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District and their products are made in Britain. The staff are themselves experienced athletes from a range of sports and the products are created based on scientific research. Often nutritional products make claims that they will “improve your performance” without providing any evidence to say how or why! VOOM are much more open about their products and the VOOM website is very informative giving explanations of why the various ingredients have been used and with links to scientific research which validates their use. For example explaining how beta-alanine (used in the Beta Blast bar) can reduce muscle acidosis during high intensity exercise

The products are available from a number of outdoor shops or directly from the VOOM website

So if you are looking for an alternative to energy gels take a look at VOOM Nutrition’s Pocket Rocket bars. Easy to eat carbohydrates without the sticky mess!

If you found this review useful you can buy me a coffee to show your appreciation!