Running

Product Review: Apera Performance Duffel Bag

Back in early April, I was asked by Apera Bags to check out their line of products. During that time you guys may have noticed it seemed like a lot of bloggers in the running community were all posting reviews about Apera. However, I really wanted to take my time with this review and put the bag through its paces, so after a few months, and a handful of business trips with the bag,  I'm now ready to share my thoughts. 

First, a little background on Apera. Before being asked to try them out, I didn't have a lot of knowledge of the brand, so I scoured the internet to see what I could find. It turns out the folks running the brand have pretty extensive luggage experience spanning American Tourister, Samsonite and even Nike. With those credentials, my immediate expectation was a quality product. I was also curious as to why they would enter an already saturated bag market, basically, what made them different. 

Apera has a few marketing positions. From their website, Apera mentions the need to address social athletes' needs for a quality bag that can perform at any facet of their active lifestyle. Also, the company selflessly dedicates to donating bags to the Special Olympics (one bag for every three sold), which is a good step most smart brands are approaching these days. But, the piece that most intrigued me was the claim their bags have an antimicrobial product protection that reduces bacterial odor. Basically, they are saying minimizes "the funk" that we runners are known for producing. 

Brand positioning.

Okay, so let's check this mother out. 

I decided to try out the Performance Duffel among their line of products, which ranges from backpacks to yoga packs to duffel bags. While my wife and I have a ton of hiking packs, we needed something larger than a backpack to carry more gear and this bag was a departure from the "traditional" tube shaped duffels that tend to have only one large pocket.

So, if I fit in this does that mean I can go with you?

My initial thoughts when first receiving the bag were that it's a surprisingly large bag, had pockets galore and had a unique look. Given the ends where the shoulder strap met the bag were turned up gave it an almost "purse" feel. It's not a bad thing, more of just something that took me a few trips to get over. 

Wish the ends were flatter.

Build:
Getting past the shape of the bag, the quality of the bag is definitely of a sturdy construction. There is very little exposed stitching with most of the seams receding into the bag, so there are no worries of snags as it sits underneath a cramped airplane seat or in a gym locker. The bottom of the bag has a reinforced nylon/plastic bottom which helps to keep your contents in good and dry shape. There's a nice water bottle pocket on the outside that's stretchy so it can accommodate any sized bottle (I tried a few). 

Sturdy construction.

Size:
Let me say this bag has room for everything I could throw at it. Its various assortment of various pockets in and outside of the bags allow for everything to have its own place. I really enjoyed this aspect as most duffel bags just have a big pocket and maybe one or two small pockets (which are usually useless), where the Performance Duffel had no less than ten pockets, including dedicated ones for shoes, which is great for me when I have to bring multiple shoes to mulit-race weekends. They also include a good-sized removable and washable bag to hold all your soiled gear. 

Staring into the abyss.
Shoe pockets.

Lots of pockets.
Top of the bag is good for things like phones, watches, keys, headphones, etc.
My typical race weekend setup: Shoes (x2), shirts (x4), singlets (x2), shorts (x4), pullover, even got some Nipguards in there.
Like a glove.
Great pocket in the back for a 13" Macbook

Durability:
The real test, can this thing handle the real world? Sure, it fared well enough on my easy train commute into the office, but how would it fare outside my reach. Wanting to get that answer, I crammed everything I would need on a five day cross-country trip from Boston to San Francisco. Since this was a business (and client) trip, I had to not only pack running gear, but client-friendly duds (read: chinos and a few button downs), nightlife and sightseeing clothes. I planned to take the bag as a carry-on, but my airline (let's just say their name is the opposite of "divided") ran out of room and made me check my luggage at the gate. I guess the best test is that of being handled by the infamous baggage handlers. However, upon receiving the bag at the baggage carousel, it showed no serious signs of living through the jigsaw puzzle of checked bags and boxes. The same thing happened on the way home (of course) and the bag stayed in great shape. 

"Sir, if you could just leave it at the end of the jetway.....never to be seen again. Muwahahahah!!!!"

My wife then took it on a train ride down to New York City for the week, and it handled just as well as my cross-continent trip. Nary a scratch or tear. 

I should also mention the bag held up its mention of minimizing my "road funk" clothes. They were still pretty nasty (this bag isn't magic), but it definitely compartmentalized the smell.

Final Thoughts:
Overall the bag performed well for what I needed, which was a medium sized bag that could handle a long road trip. There are a few nit-picks, such as the shape of the bag, the shoulder strap could be a little softer and I wish it was detachable from the bag. However, overall it's a solid bag. Retailing for about $75 US it's not cheap, but if you are looking for a sturdy weekender, the Apera Performance Duffel is a solid bet. 


The Fine Print: As I said before, this bag was supplied to me directly by Apera Bags. I received no compensation for my review and as always, my opinions are my own.

RUNFELLOW: A Local Running Company That's Dedicated to Moving Runners Forward

First, the site redesign is still in effect. I met with the designer yesterday and as the site says, it's moving forward. But, I didn't want to wait to get posting again, especially with a few more races under my belt since my last post. I'll get to those race reports shortly, but today I wanted talk about a conversation I had with a locally owned small running business I met at the end of Boston's Run to Remember Half Marathon. 

As I was winding down after the race, I walked around the expo and noticed a booth called RUNFELLOW. They were selling technical shirts with positive running quotes, such as "I like your pace," and I thought it was a clever idea, so I struck up a conversation with Jillian D'Amato, the owner of RUNFELLOW. I learned the operation is locally run out of Boston suburb, Somerville and not only do they sell awesome shirts, a portion of each sale is donated back to combat breast cancer. 

Since they are doing their part for the fellow runner, I thought I'd do my part and give Jillian the opportunity to tell you a little bit about RUNFELLOW.

I like your pace!

I like your pace!

1. What is RUNFELLOW? 

JD: RUNFELLOW is a runner inspired grassroots performance gear company, created with a focus on motivating fellow runners. Think of it as a “hands free high-five”, a little extra boost for the person running past you. A momentary sense of acknowledgement between two people doing the same thing, most likely for different reasons. Whether it’s to help them complete their first mile or cross the finish line of their 26th, it’s about recognizing that we’re all in it together regardless of goal or ability. 

2. What is the story behind the name?

JD: It came to me on the last mile, the idea of RUNFELLOW that is. I was running along Boston’s Charles River, crossing the Longfellow Bridge (iconic with Bostonians & runners alike), when the idea bulb lit.  I was struggling to keep my pace - to get myself back home, trying to resist my internal urge to walk, when I passed a fellow runner who smiled at me. He must have felt for me. But that smile was all I needed; that silent, unspoken sense of encouragement from another runner, who at one point had been in my sneakers (the ones just trying to finish a jog and get home). A fellow runner, crossing the Longfellow... a RUNFELLOW.

Boston's Longfellow Bridge

3. Who owns/runs the company? 

JD: After a few years of sitting on the idea, sketching and pondering whether to launch the "brand" or not, I went for it.  I realized the reason I was reluctant to take the leap (aside from having zero business or entrepreneurial experience) was because I wanted it to be a "perfect launch", which we all know does not exist.  So with that in mind, I tackled it one step at a time; securing the domain name, having shirts made, spreading the word on social media and among friends and family.  I just went for it.  And now, ten months after having officially announced RUNFELLOW to the world, it's starting to gain some traction.  I've been attending local races (with help from my amazing friends) and I'm building a community of RUNFELLOWs who are excited to motive their fellow runners and be a part of something positive.

4. What are RUNFELLOW's core beliefs?

JD: RUNFELLOW believes that running, being a basic human skill should not be reserved for the elite runner.  Whether you're running to get in shape, fit into a wedding dress or train for that marathon you've always wanted to run; each and every person out there is doing the same thing, regardless of pace, form or gear.  RUNFELLOW wants to recognize that all runners have those days when they need a little extra push, and our gear is designed to do just that.  Acknowledgment and encouragement for your fellow runner and a community built on those beliefs.  

5. In a clouded category such as athletic apparel, what makes RUNFELLOW different?

JD: RUNFELLOW's gear was created to build community by designing items you wear that others will read.  It's about the message on the shirts, not about who has the most expensive sneakers or the sexiest spandex.  RUNFELLOW's gear is sleek, well designed and fun but it's the message you choose to put on your body and motive your fellow runner with that sets RUNFELLOW apart from the pack.

6. What are your current products? What products are you expecting on the horizon?

JD: As a new brand, we have a limited line with the anticipation of expanding it as we grow. Currently available for sale on our website, our signature T-shirt reads " I LIKE YOUR PACE" on the front, RUNFELLOW on the back and the Longfellow Bridge (our logo) sketched on the sleeve.  The T's are available in two colors (one with reflective ink for night running) and are offered in both Men's and Women's short sleeve, moisture wicking tech T-shirts.  As the brand develops and evolves, I hope to add tanks, long sleeve and cold weather gear, headbands and accessories.  With Summer quickly approaching tank tops are on the horizon and we're currently casting a vote on what the next shirt tagline should be.

Any pace is just fine by me.

7. How do you feel about the social nature of running? How is RUNFELLOW bringing the running community together?

JD: Urban running was the catalyst for the brand. Passing people on paths or streets, having interactions at crosswalks and traffic lights or jogging along the river and dodging geese together. But the idea and community behind RUNFELLOW evolved from the desire to make that unspoken bond between runners tangible. It’s hard to explain but easy to understand: Fellowship, motivation, encouragement. Why not help to spread this positivity even further? I couldn’t think of a reason not to and I couldn’t think of a city more running centric than Boston to do it. The idea may be simple, but what it’s representing is big; a community for runners of all abilities, to share their love (or momentary disdain) of running. We all have good running days and we all have bad. Runfellow’s here to help make the bad ones just a little bit more tolerable.

8. Where can readers find RUNFELLOW and its products?

JD: If you can't make it to a race we'll be selling gear at, check out

www.runfellow.com

 to not only shop RUNFELLOW gear, but to find a calender of events, photos and to join our mailing list.

RUNFELLOW is social, it's part of who we are.  Chase us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @RUNFELLOWgear for the latest updates, including events we'll be at, races we're running or if you're looking for a buddy to hit the streets with.

9. What charitable contributions does RUNFELLOW support, if any?

JD: Many people have expressed that in starting a company for runners and about runners, any donations made should be for runners as well.  But I feel strongly that every little bit helps and if $1.00 from each shirt purchased can be donated to help safe a life of a young women, (women just like me) than that's where I want those funds to go. 

So $1.00 from every shirt purchased from RUNFELLOW will be donated to the

Young Survival Coalition

, an organization and resource for young women facing breast cancer.  Each donation will be made on behalf of RUNFELLOW, in honor and memory of my oldest and dearest friend Christine. At 26 years young, after a three year battle with breast cancer she left us to go run in heaven, leaving her footprints forever in the clouds. She was an all-around athlete and such a positive, spirited inspiration to all. I only wish she could participate in this venture as I know she’d be the biggest cheerleader for its success.

10. What's next for RUNFELLOW?

JD: I want to build a community of runners, who all want to motive fellow runners and have fun doing it. Currently RUNFELLOW is in the planning stages of giving the people what they want and organizing a local run club in Somerville, Massachusetts where the brand was born.  The hope is to create a fun, no-pressure running club for runners of all abilities that just want to get together, go for a run, have fun doing it and be a part of something good for their community.  Connect with us via email or social media for updates and to find out more about the currently in development 

RUNFELLOWS

, striding though Somerville this July.  

11. Any additional points that you want to mention?

JD: RUNFELLOW is built as a running community with a focus on motivating and inspiring fellow runners through our gear. Our positive, quirky tag lines catch your eye, make you smile and push you a little further. We’re not just another running clothing company or run club, we’re a community OF runners, FOR runners.

Make sure to check them out and support their effort. Who knows, they may even select your positive saying for their next t-shirt. 

DISCLAIMER: I did not receive any financial or product compensation for this post, I just really thought this was a neat idea for a company. Make sure to check them out. 

Coming soon, I'll be posting some recent race recaps, as well as, a new training program I am trying for the upcoming Chicago Marathon. As always, get out gang. Run Fast. Run Smart.