The Chronic Consumer

I buy things — all the time!

Nike Max Air Team Training Backpack

nike team training Most backpacks available today are more or less the same. You can expect a couple of main compartments, exterior water bottle holders, and a laptop/tablet sleeve in almost every model. So when I recently started shopping for a backpack, I wanted something with a feature or two that really set it apart from the rest. I found it in the Nike Max Air Team Training pack.

This backpack comes in several different sizes, including Medium, Large, and Extra Large. I went with the Extra Large version because I plan to use it for lugging my workout gear (including clothes, shoes, and towels) to and from the gym. I couldn’t fit all that stuff in my last backpack, and ended up having to walk with shoes and a wet towel in my hands.

So besides the size, the other thing that drew me to this particular backpack is its “hydration pouch”. This is an insulated pouch at the front of the pack that is meant to hold a Camelbak hydration device or something similar. I’ve been using it to keep protein shakes, extra water, and even sandwiches nice and cool until I’m ready to consume them. So far it’s working out great!

This backpack cost about $60, which is reasonable for the size. I think I’ve got a good one here, and just hope it lives up to expectations for at least 2-3 years.

Under Armour Mid Sports Bra

UA Sports Bra I exercise a lot, but like most women, have a difficult time finding “good” sports bras — which basically means a bra that provides the right blend of support and comfort. For the past few years I have just been wearing a cheap cotton model from Champion. But when I saw UA sports bras on sale recently, I decided to spend a bit more money and give one a try. I’m glad I did!

I went with a mid-support bra to wear while running and playing sports such as tennis and basketball. The one I chose is from the HeatGear line and is supposed to keep me feeling “light and dry” due to the moisture-wicking properties of the fabric — and the bra actually does just that!

There is a HUGE difference between wearing my old cotton sports bras and this UA one. The cotton bras would start to feel heavy and uncomfortable after becoming soaked with sweat, but that doesn’t happen now. The moisture-wicking fabric actually works, and feels SO MUCH BETTER, especially now in the summer.

The support is great, too. I’m a B cup/C cup in most brands, so I admittedly don’t need tons of support. This bra offers just the right amount without feeling too restrictive.

Now that I’ve experienced firsthand the difference a good sports bra can make, I’m not going to settle for the cheap stuff anymore. The extra comfort is definitely worth the extra dollars, so I’ll be buying Under Armour bras from here on out.

Ohnitsuka Tiger Machu Racer

machu racer I was recently in the market for a new pair of flat running shoes to replace my New Balance Minimus shoes that I finally wore out. I originally wanted to stick with NB for my new shoes, but couldn’t find anything I liked. A majority of their shoes seem to have that “Fresh Foam” bottom, which doesn’t suit my purposes.

So after a ton of shopping I settled on a brand I’d never tried before: Ohnitsuka Tiger. I guess they’re well known in Japan and are now made by Asics or something. I just chose them because they were on sale for 50 bucks and were as flat and light as I wanted my running shoes to be.

The particular model I selected is called the Machu Racer, and I’ve trained in this shoe for about a month now. I really like it! It’s roomy and comfortable without being loose to the point of feeling like it’s flopping around on my foot. And it’s extremely lightweight, which allows for quicker turnover/higher cadence and faster speeds.

There’s no kind of cushioning to speak of, and not a lot of support anywhere in the shoe. But again, this was the kind of shoe I was looking for. I do have other shoes that provide greater stability and support, and believe they have their place and time (on longer runs, for instance). I just didn’t need those features here.

So far, I can say that my Machu Racers are a very good shoe for the money. I obviously don’t have enough time or miles in them to attest to their durability, but if I can get 400-500 miles out of these, I’ll definitely buy another pair!

Under Armour Storm Full Zip Hoody

storm I hadn’t shopped for workout gear in a long time before hitting up the mall a couple weeks ago. On that trip I noticed something called Under Armour Storm. This is apparently not a new product line, but this was the first time I’d ever heard of it. I was interested to try it and decided to do so as soon as I could find favorable reviews. I did, and I did.

I bought a full-zip hoody version similar to the one pictured here (but not exactly the same. I’m just too lazy to take a pic of mine.) I bought it to replace a regular Under Armour hoody that was not rated for rain or anything like that, and planned to use the new one for winter running.

So I like the way the new hoody fits. It’s labeled as semi-fitted, which is the perfect description for it. Not too loose and not too tight. The cuffs are a little longer than I prefer, but I can live with them.

The hoody is also just as warm as my old one. I use it as the top layer for my winter runs, with three thinner moisture wicking/insulating shirts underneath, and I can’t feel the cold or wind any more (or any less) than before.

What I really wanted to do was test this storm fabric in the rain. Luckily, it rained two days after I bought this, so I put it on and decided I’d give it a trial run of about 15 minutes. I brought my regular Gore-Tex raincoat along too, figuring I could just switch out if the UA hoody proved too leaky.

Well, that never happened. The UA Storm worked precisely as advertised and kept me almost completely dry after 40 minutes of running in light yet consistent rainfall. I say “almost completely” because the only area of seepage that I noticed was under the embroidered logo–which I figure is made of a slightly different material than the storm fabric.

Anyway, I am IN LOVE with this hoody! They are currently on sale at the Sports Authority near here, so I’m going to go buy a couple more tomorrow. I’ll use one as a backup for running and one for wearing around the house or going to the store when it’s raining.

Bottom line: highly recommended!

Dunkin Donuts Hazelnut Coffee

hazelnut I usually prefer to buy whole coffee beans from the store and grind them at home before brewing. But my exception to this rule is Dunkin’ Donuts Hazelnut ground coffee. This stuff is freakin’ delicious for being what it is: an affordable, artificially flavored blend.

I’m sure the true coffee snobs out there are turning their noses up at the very notion of drinking anything from Dunkin’ Donuts, but I don’t care. I am hooked!

Cuisinart Personal Blender

So I’ve had my Cuisinart personal blender for a few weeks now — and I have to say that I absolutely love it! I’m not an advanced user or anything (I am ONLY using it to make smoothies), but that’s what makes the product so great for me. It does what I need it to do and doesn’t come with a bunch of bells and whistles that would only serve to confuse me.

Okay, so beyond the machine’s ability to crush ice, frozen fruit, and nuts, what exactly do I like about it? I love that the blending cup is also the drinking cup! That makes cleanup SOOOO much quicker and easier than traditional blenders, and is the number one thing that will probably get me to continue using the Cuisinart even after the novelty wears off.

Bottom line: I love this thing and can’t believe I waited so long to buy it!

Hario Mini Coffee Mill

hario coffee mill I’m not a coffee snob by any stretch of the imagination. I usually just drink drip coffee made with already-ground beans purchased from the grocery store. The brand doesn’t even matter to me; I just get what’s on sale.

But recently people have been telling me that grinding my own beans right before making coffee would really change my appreciation for the beverage. So I looked into some hand grinders (mills), saw that they were only around $20, and decided to give them a try.

While I won’t say my world has been rocked, I do notice a difference now that I’m using this Hario Mini Coffee Mill.

This Hario is a burr grinder (which I guess is what you want) and is very easy to use. It’s tiny, though, so should only be purchased if you tend to brew coffee for one or two cups at a time.

Anyway, you just put some beans in there, turn the crank, and grind away. You can adjust the blades to get the coarseness or fineness that you want, of course. This takes some playing around (and some bad cups of coffee in the process) until you find the size that suits your tastes and brewing style. I’m not going to go into details about that, as I don’t know enough about it, but it really is a matter of taste.

So… the results. Again, my world wasn’t rocked, but I definitely think coffee from my grinder tastes… I don’t know…smoother or more uniform (?) than the stuff I had previously been using. I get a more consistent cup of coffee for sure, and find that I get fewer upset stomachs (heavy, kind of “ugh” feeling) with freshly ground coffee than the pre-ground products. To me, that’s a win.

I’m not sure how this Hario would appeal to the experts out there, but for me, a casual drinker who couldn’t identify the “good stuff” out of a lineup in a blind taste test, it’s perfect. Small, cheap, and (so far) durable. Recommended!

Asics Gel Velocity Tennis Shoes

gel velocity I play a variety of sports and consequently need sturdy shoes that can take the beating of running, starting, stopping, and changing directions. Ordinary running shoes are not meant for sports like basketball and tennis, so I always need at least one other pair for my cross-training days.

I used to buy shoes labeled as cross-trainers, but found that they didn’t hold up much better than running shoes. After a while, holes would develop in the toe box, and I’d have to replace them within 6 months of once or twice weekly usage. So this time around I decided to try shoes made specifically for tennis.

Since starting and stopping are a big part of tennis, I figured there would be extra reinforcement around the toe box. I was right. These Asics Gel Velocity tennis shoes are great in that respect, and feel very sturdy without being overly stiff or uncomfortable. I’ve been using them for a couple months now and find that they’re breaking in nicely and are not showing any signs of unreasonable wear and tear in unexpected places.

The shoes cost around $50, which seems fair so far. If they last for a year, I’ll be happy!