The Dumb Runner 2016 Spring Gear Guide

Readers, it's spring. And you know what that means—the Earth's axis has increased its tilt relative to the Sun, resulting in more daylight. Cool!

It also means the annual profusion of Spring Gear Guides, which crop up every year around this time like editorial dandelions, sown by the seeds of previous Gear Guides carried on the wind and fertilized by copious new-product press releases full of words like unveiled and innovative. We at Dumb Runner are so excited by this, we have written a poem to express our feelings:

Spring Spring Spring! 
Gear Gear Gear!
Guide Guide Guide!
Spring! Gear! Guide!

We're thinking of submitting it for publication.

Meanwhile, it's time to take a hard look at the piles of crap you've surrounded yourself with over the years, examine each item one by one, and ask yourself, "Does this spark joy?"

If the answer is "no," throw it the hell away. Or donate it. Whatever. Just get it out of your life, and the sooner the better. Because you need to make room for new crap.

Not new running crap, though. We don't know you, but we would bet good money that you probably have all the running crap you need, and then some. Because, as Dumb Runner has stressed from Day One, you just do not need that much stuff in order to run. Really.

So here, in no particular order, are a few of our favorite things. Not "new" or "innovative" things, exactly. Just things that we enjoy owning and using. Maybe you'll see something that you'd enjoy too.

Disclosure: As on the rest of this site, links to Amazon.com pages include tags for Dumb Runner's Amazon Associates account. Dumb Runner (which relies on reader support!) has no relationship, financial or otherwise, with any of the companies whose products are included here.

THE PK GRILL & SMOKER

When I bought my first actual house nine years ago, I figured it was time I bought my first actual grill as well. I didn't know what I wanted, exactly, but I knew I wanted something cool and different. 

After some research I discovered PK Grills. The price seemed steep, and in fact I almost went with something cheaper. I'm glad I didn't, for three reasons: 1. This thing will last a lifetime. Made of thick cast aluminum "poured by hand in the USA," it's rustproof and sturdy as hell. In that sense, it was a bargain. 2. It's a thing of beauty. Every time I see it I get happy. And 3. It works like a champ. I've used mine for everything from grilling burgers and chicken to smoking a Thanksgiving turkey breast. 

And this is running related... how? Show me a runner who doesn't like to grill. 

$370; Buy Here

 

Specialized Diverge Comp

This time two years ago, I owned two bicycles: A Cannondale road racing bike—an older frame with very nice, but old, components—and a relatively cheap Specialized Crosstrail, a sort of commuter/city/trail bike that was OK but frankly sort of heavy and clunky.

I liked the Cannondale but rarely rode it. It just wasn't that practical or comfortable. I rode the Crosstrail, especially after we moved to Portland, Oregon, and it was... OK.

Finally I decided to sell both of these "meh" bikes and instead own one versatile bicycle that I truly loved—something with the look and feel of my Cannondale but the sturdiness and utility of the Crosstrail. When I saw the Specialized Diverge it was spooky, as if someone had designed it just for me.

My Diverge has an aluminum frame with carbon fork; hydraulic disc brakes, which offer crazy stopping power, even in rain; bike-trailer-friendly gearing; bomb-proof wheels; and integrated fenders that are so sleek you hardly notice they're there. It is everything I wanted in a bike and more. (I could easily take it off-road if I wanted to. So far, I haven't wanted to.)

Oh, and it's fun to ride.

At around $2,600, my Diverge Comp wasn't cheap. Please note that I justified this purchase by selling not just my two existing bikes but also my year-old Subaru Impreza. Specialized does offer a range of Diverge models, though—a few above that price but also a few below.

$2,600; Buy Here

 

Brooklyn Brewery Vintage Big Logo Tee

There is no shortage of good beer in Portland, my adopted hometown. But this east coast shirt remains one of my favorites. Not just because it's supersoft and comfortable but because every time I wear my Brooklyn Brewery tee I'm reminded of Brooklyn Lager, which I used to enjoy regularly when we lived back east. And, hey, it looks cool.

$25; Buy Here

 

 

KAVU Big Timber Jacket

I don't have much to say about this jacket except that I got it just a couple of months ago and it quickly became my favorite non-rain jacket. With a flannel lining it is lightly insulated, has big pockets, and looks good with just about anything. Also when I wear it I instantly feel 20% more rugged.

Oh, and: Does your current midweight canvas jacket have a "large antique brass YKK zipper and snaps"? Because this one does.

And this is running related... how? OK, it isn't. Sue me.

$122; Buy Here

 

Rosle Can Opener

First of all: Yes. This can opener costs nearly 50 bucks. And I would gladly buy it again, for the same reasons I love my PK Grill: It will last a lifetime, it's beautifully designed, and it works brilliantly. I never imagined I'd fall in love with a can opener. But here we are.

Apart from the quality of construction, the Rosle differs from other can openers in one key way—it "operates from the top of the can instead of the side," meaning it cuts laterally. Meaning, no sharp, jagged edges to slice your fingers. Plus it has "integrated pliers to pull up sticky lids."

And this is running related... how? Runners gotta eat canned food sooner or later, right? 

$49; Buy Here

 

Showers Pass Skyline Softshell Jacket

Very shortly after moving to Portland I realized I needed to up my rain-jacket game. Particularly for biking, which suddenly became a major source of transportation. I was lucky to find this jacket at a local bike shop outlet store at a steep discount. But even at full price it'd be worth it.

No matter how heavy it's pouring, this jacket keeps me dry. Visible, too, thanks to the bright color and plenty of reflective strips. And the fit is excellent—trim and sleek, cut longer in the back, with sleeves that cover every inch of my long, gangly arms. There are several small, thoughtful touches too. Zippers at the wrists and under the arms, for instance, for ventilation, and a slightly off-center front zipper that won't rub your neck when you're fully zipped up.

I was so impressed with Showers Pass, in fact, I recently bought another of their rain jackets.

And this is running related... how? A good waterproof cycling jacket will encourage you to ride your bike, even in inclement weather. Cycling is excellent cross-training for running.

$140; Buy Here

 

Ortlieb Messenger Bag

Related to the rain jacket, above. I actually bought a different waterproof backpack shortly before we moved to Portland. (I shall not name the manufacturer.) Once we were actually here and I used it, I realized I'd chosen poorly. I also noticed an awful lot of cyclists using Ortlieb packs and panniers. So I bought this one.

Smart move on my part. My Ortlieb Messenger Bag is exactly what I want in a cycling-friendly pack—it's waterproof, comfortable, sleek and attractive, and sturdy as hell. It's beautifully basic, too. No outer pockets or zippers or other embellishments. Just one huge compartment with a roll-top closure secured with a wide Velcro strap. Perfection.

And this is running related... how? Well, you can carry running gear in it. How's that? 

$210; Buy Here

 

Sharpie Retractable Fine Point Permanent Marker

In the past, you needed two hands to use a Sharpie marker—one to hold the marker, and one to remove the cap. Thank God those days are over. Thanks to Sharpie's line of retractable markers, that smooth-flowing permanent ink is just a thumb-click away.

I really do love these pens. They produce nice, crisp lines, the ink never smudges, and that click sound is just so damn satisfying. The Sharpie Retractable Fine Point is my go-to pen for book signings. Highly recommended. 

And this is running related... how? I suppose you could use this marker to write your splits on your arm before a race. Or to have your favorite running author sign your book.

$6 for three-pack; Buy Here

 

 

Klean Kanteen Steel Pint Cup

From the folks who make those ubiquitous stainless steel water bottles come these simple, sturdy steel pint cups. Kean Kanteen says these 16-ounce cups are made of "18/8, food-grade stainless steel" and are "ready for any occasion ... anyplace glass can't go." 

And this is running related... how? Because after a 20-miler on a hot day, sometimes you just need a cold beverage on the patio. Or in the shower. In your fatigued state, do you really trust yourself not to drop a bottle?

$10 single cup / $37 for 4-pack; Buy Here

Ka-Bar D2 Extreme Fighting Knife

For reasons I still don't understand, a few years back I badly wanted—and got—this knife for my birthday. I've never actually used it for anything, such as "survival" or hand-to-hand zombie combat. But it feels so good knowing I could. Plus, look at the thing. It's just so cool. 

The product's description on Amazon says this knife will help you "take your moves to a new level," meaning, I guess, your knife-fighting skills, and "will give you a leg up on the competition," meaning, I guess, whoever it is you're knife-fighting. 

Plus, there's this, from the customer Q&A section:

Q: Is this full tang?
A: Yes, this knife uses a Full Tang, but so you know, and others reading, not all Ka-Bar knives are full tang, some may say full length tang, which means it's a partial tang that extends all the way to the butt cap. 

Ha ha ha. "Butt cap."

And this is running related... how? I recommend carrying a Ka-Bar D2 Extreme Fighting Knife with you on your runs, to open stubborn gel packets.

$104; Buy Here