Arc’teryx Media Camp, Pyrenees, Spain July 2012.
Test Route – VerticalK : 1000m in 3km
The perfect testing ground for the new Arc’teryx Endorphin range.
Products tested include:
Mention the word Arc’teryx to any outdoor lover and you will typically get a one word answer that is drawn out as though the word is made of too many letters; N I C E !
And they would be correct. Arc’teryx make nice kit. Just like Stellar Artois, it is reassuringly expensive.
The first big question is the name… explanation please! Named for ARCHAEOPTERYX LITHOGRAPHICA, the first reptile to develop the feather for flight, freeing itself from the constraints of the horizontal world.
Arc’teryx achieves an advantage with its products by merging un-rivaled designs with the highest quality and highest performing materials. They use innovation and unique assembling techniques to make durable products that perform in the intended environment for the intended sport. The Endorphin range is the epitome of this ethos.
I was very fortunate to be invited to the Pyrenees in July for a ‘media camp’ to review and test the new Endorphin running range for 2013. This media camp was arranged in conjunction with Skyrunning and the Skygames of which Arc’teryx are a partner and as such they had several Arc’teryx sponsored athletes taking part, Adam Campbell, Murray Strain and Nicola Gollinelli to name just a few who participated in the events.
The media camp assembled journalists from Italy, France, UK, Germany, Spain and Sweden and we all congregated after a lengthy transfer from Barcelona in Ribagossa. Nestled in a mountain hotel we spent a superb three days learning about the Arc’teryx brand, running in the mountains testing the Endorphin range and of course we had some wonderful relaxation time with great food and great company.
The Arc’teryx advantage
Arc’teryx have an advantage! They are one of only a few major outdoor industry outerwear brands to have its own domestic North American manufacturing facility. This allows them to readily develop proprietary manufacturing processes, enabling them to efficiently create superior features that other manufacturers simply cannot build. They are able to design a product one day, manufacture it the next day and then by the third day the product is being tested out on the trail or in the mountains. It is this level of immediate feedback that enables Arc’teryx to select the right fabrics, construction and weight to ensure that not only the garment performs to the best of it’s ability but importantly, so that you perform to the best of your ability! It’s a synergy of design, fabric, manufacturing and performance. Adam Campbell explained in detail how he had specific demands for the Ultra Trail Mt Fuji in which he placed 2nd overall. A tough 100-mile run that had very specific equipment requirements. Adam needed a lightweight race pack that could hold mandatory equipment and allow him to hydrate easily while on the move. He needed a lightweight waterproof jacket with hood and over trousers. All these items were manufactured to Adams exacting needs all within one week. It is this on site facility of design, manufacture and immediate testing that allows these new innovations to transfer down to us, the consumer.
Working in conjunction with textile manufacturers, Arc’teryx are able to select and develop the highest performing and most durable materials that are specific to the demands of the sport in which the garment will be worn. It’s about finding that balance between weight, breathability, waterproofness and durability.
- GORE-TEX® Pro Shell
- Coreloft™ & Thermatek™ Insulation
- Fortius™ & Polartec® Softshell
- Phasic™ base layer fabrics
- MAPP Merino Wool
- 420ACT™ AC² pack materials
- Watertight™ zippers
Engineered to meet the needs of the most demanding athlete. Activity-specific patterning ensures complete freedom of movement, and each product is critically scrutinized and detailed for the intended end use.
- e3D patterning for enhanced range-of-motion
- Snowsports specific outerwear features
- Hoods with quick, one-hand adjustment
- Tri-Dex glove patterning
- Packs with articulated & breathable components
All these elements combine to ensure that Arc’teryx maintain an advantage over its competition. The synergy may make the products a little more expensive but believe me, when you see the difference; it is a price worth paying!
Testing in the Pyrenees
I can’t think of a better way to test a product than to put the stuff on and go and run it. Luckily the Arc’teryx staff very kindly provided all of us with the opportunity to run (walk) the VerticalK course as used in the Skygames. If you are new to Skyrunning and the races that they have, the VerticalK goes up 1000m with a typical gradient of some 30+% so effectively you cover a distance of around 3.5km and ascend 1000m. They are tough to do, particularly if you race them!
We congregated in the car park and with the help of Arc’teryx athletes as guides we started on our way. A promise of a sumptuous picnic and cold drinks on our return was surely just a ploy to get us up the mountain…
Like a flock of canaries we took flight. Our citrus Motus SS shirts making us look like a professional team out on a training camp. Unfortunately the reality was quite different. No sooner had we crossed the main road, gone up a small alleyway and then the climb started. The laughter and chat soon subsided as one by one everyone started to power walk.
Steep climbing and rutted technical trail underfoot made the 1000m ascent great fun. We had great company, beautiful weather, stunning views and incredible scenery. Overhead birds soared. Giant birds, eagle like in groups of 3’s and 4’s. It was incredible.
In our own time we each made our ascent to the imaginary finish line. Several of us ascended higher to get a panoramic vista of the whole mountain range, it was an incredible view.
The 1000 m drop back down to the car park offered a different test. Not a demand on aerobic ability and fitness, but a test of technique, nerve and confidence. As promised, cold drinks and a picnic awaited!
I always wear a hat or visor when running. Without wishing to add to much detail… I sweat and I tend to sweat quite considerably. A good head product stops all that salty liquid running into the eyes and causing irritation. I typically have a preference for a Visor and I have to say that the Arv’teryx ‘Neutro‘ Visor is the best on the market for me. For testing purposes though I was using the Accelero Cap. The cap is short brimmed and highly breathable with mesh side panels. It has the all important comfortable sweat band that caused no irritation and at the rear it has an adjustable stretch closure with a quick release buckle. Considering I was using this hat in the mountains with 30 deg temperature and I was running up a 30% incline I found the hat incredibly comfortable and cool, even with the heat absorbing black colour.
The Motus SS crew neck shirt was probably the greatest revelation of all the test kit provided. We all think a shirt is a shirt and the differences between products are minimal but believe me, the Motus is a world apart. Using Phasic SL fabric this performance orientated lightweight (97g for M) running top has bi-component construction and all important flat locked seems to remove any potential irritation. Light to wear it has a trim fit and is designed to quickly remove moisture from the skin. Running up steep gradients with a Backpack certainly helps generate some heat. I was impressed 100% at the ability of the Phasic SL fabric to not only remain comfortable when my sweat rate increased but also how quickly it dried. All in all this is a very impressive shirt and the addition of reflective strips to aid visibility this is one shirt that I will be using again and again for future runs.
A streamlined, trim fitting zipper vest is a popular addition to any runners wardrobe. It provides that all important protection for the chest in cooler temperatures but also allows for the arms to be free and therefore controls temperature regulation. This Incendo Vest is made of ultra-lightweight (95g) Luminara fabric which is 100% nylon. To the rear of the product is a 100% polyester mesh back that allows internal heat to escape from the body. It has a side (reverse) stow pocket (the vest will stow inside this) and reflective blades to increase visibly. The most important aspects of a product like this are lightweight, small pack size and ease of use. The Incendo Vest does all these things perfectly and is a great addition to any runners ‘essential’ kit list.
The Incendo Jacket uses the same fabric as the Incendo Vest but has some obvious significant differences. It has no mesh rear panel but mesh panels under the arms to provide temperature control. Obviously designed for cooler temperatures and/ or early morning/ late evening runs. It has reflective strips to increase visibility and at 119g is super light. At the top of the summit in testing it provided perfect protection from the wind and importantly it will reflect light rain. It has a trim fit and therefore when running it did not flap or move around in the wind. It is a product that is designed to ‘fit’ the body and in doing so I suggest that you make sure that you get the correct fit. I personally found the jacket and the vest sized a little large, so, if you are around a 38″ to 40″ chest I would recommend a ‘small’. Like the Incendo Vest it has a small pocket and the jacket will stow into it. Inside the zippered pocket is a media pocket with MP3 cord passage. In use it is a pleasure to wear. Once on you don’t even know you are wearing it. Perfect. When running or racing this jacket offers the perfect combination of wight, size and practicality. Obviously should you anticipate ‘harsh’ conditions then this jacket may very well be too ‘light’ and I would recommend the Visio FL Jacket. For 2013 the Incendo will also have the option of a ‘hood’. This product will be called Incendo Hoody.
A Backpack is an all important essential item to any trail, mountain or ultra runner. Because of the variables we encounter when out running the need to carry ‘essential’ items, food and water mean that a practical and comfortable pack is essential. Now if you are like me, I am sure you will have spent a fortune on constantly trying to find that ‘perfect pack’. We have so many variables to consider and I personally find that no ‘one’ pack does all jobs well. The Aerios 7L (also 10L available) weighs in at 400g and comes in either black or blue. It has two internal pockets, one for a bladder and the other pocket is a small zippered type with a key holder that could hold a wallet, phone or both. It is a simple pack that can hold a surprisingly large amount of kit. In the test case I had a buff, gloves, head torch, Incendo Jacket, Incendo Vest and 2 collapsable poles inside and I still had plenty of room for additional kit. On the outside is a drawstring elastic cord with a ‘garage’ to stow excess cord. This elastic is ideal for adding a jacket such as the ‘Gore Tex’ Visio FL. It has an elastic waist belt with a ‘quick release’ adjustable buckle and if required the waist belt can be removed from the pack completely with two fasteners. On the chest it has an adjustable chest strap that can be placed in one of four positions depending on your body shape and desired fit. In use it is really comfortable to wear and has minimal bounce. The rear of the pack has ‘Aeroform’ mesh that provides a stable support and minimal heat retention. At the bottom of the pack on either side are two small expandable mesh pockets that are easy to reach without removing the pack and can easily hold several gels or food. At 7L it has a particular use and for me I personally would like the addition of pockets on either the shoulder straps or waist belt. This would provide more options for food and or other essentials such as mobile phone or GPS.
Incendo Shorts are one of the best that I have worn. Made from two fabrics called ‘Invigor’ and Viente both of which are Polyester. They fit and hold shape perfectly. They weigh 132g for a medium and have a relaxed fit. An internal liner provides excellent comfort and no irritation. A drawstring waist allows for precise adjustment and at the rear a small mesh vent panel allows for heat to escape. It has two pockets, a hip stash pocket and hip zippered security pocket. In use they are extremely comfortable and allow for plenty of movement with no discomfort. Running or walking up steep gradients in the Pyrenees allowed my legs to move through a whole series of positions with no restraint applied by the fabric or the cut of the short. The waist band was just the right size and like all Arc’teryx products the attention to detail was second to no other make them ideal for a short or long run on road or trail. The addition of reflective strips to increase visibility make them a perfect choice.
I would like to thank Arc’teryx for the opportunity to travel to the Pyrenees and test the products. My reviews are independent, open and transparent. I am not sponsored by Arc’teryx.