Team Gear Junkie took 3rd place in its category this past weekend at the annual MNOC Adventure Race, a run/bike/paddle competition in east-central Minnesota along the St. Croix River.
As with every event I do, some good gear hashing was all part of the fun, including a maiden voyage evaluation of a product I’ve been drooling over since the Outdoor Retailer trade show last January. I’m talking about the Inov-8 Debrisoc, which are essentially merino wool sport socks with a built-in flap that folds over the shoe’s opening to create a gaiter.
Indeed, these all-in-one innovations, which cost about $22 and are available now at sites like www.argear.com, take the hassle out of pulling on and managing gaiters while on the go. A flap of material folds over the shoe’s opening to seal it off from sticks, rocks and mud. A small hook in front stretches the flap over the laces. Elastic bands loop underneath to keep it on tight.
I wore the Debrisoc, which also come in an $18 Coolmax variety, with the company’s amazingly fast RocLite 285s (LOVE these shoes!). I added a healthy dab of Hydropel to each of my toes before the start to ward off blisters.
And then we were off.
My feet were wet within the first four minutes of the race, as our route sprinted straight east through a swamp to an initial checkpoint on a spur. About 3 miles of trail running and bushwhacking ensued from that point, with some moderately difficult navigation through a featureless section of the 1:25,000 USGS topo map that served as guide.
Checkpoint #4 was on an island in the St. Croix River, necessitating a waist-deep wade, and from then on out I—and my feet, obviously—were wet the whole rest of the day.
But unlike past races where my piggies have been destroyed, the Inovate-8 setup proved to be quite slick.
The Debrisoc is a cool invention. It fits nice and solid, and the all-purpose miracle material of merino wool is hard to beat in any season, as it breathes, insulates, cools, wicks, and then dries somewhat quickly.
As promised, the Debrisoc kept all debris at bay during the race. I never once had to dump out my shoes, despite wading in mud, swimming, running through swamps, and bushwhacking a couple miles through thick woods, jumping logs, tangling in raspberry vines, and sometimes practically swimming through bush as thick as it comes.
However, one issue: In a particularly nasty orienteering section, most likely when I was negotiating a forest of deadfall, one of the Debrisoc’s elastic bungee cords snapped off and disappeared.
This left me with a semi-functional gaiter for the rest of the race.
Now, I could have stopped and repaired it. These cords are made to be replaced, and you can thread a shoelace or cord or whatever you have ad hoc through the loops to tie it back on while in the woods.
But in a race, there’s no stopping to do something like that. So I simply tromped on with a flapping gaiter for the final few miles.
We came in at 6 hours, 59 minutes, 55 seconds, taking third place in our division, and smiling hard from a great day out yonder in the deep thick woods.