Salomon S-Lab HYBRID Jacket M and HYBRID Pants M review

Kasie ©salomonrunning

Kasie Enman ©salomonrunning

Just imagine it, you go to a car dealer looking to purchase a new car. You have set yourself a budget. You know what you want and you have narrowed your search down. 

Walking through the door, you see the car you want and in the colour you had selected. It ticks all the boxes, it’s your dream car and most importantly it’s the price you can afford and maybe more importantly, it’s what you can afford.

Just behind ‘your’ car is the new version… more streamlined, go faster stripes, a little more minimalist and certainly faster. It’s almost double the price! But you want it. No matter how much sense and logic says you have the ‘ideal’ car in front of you, at the price you can afford and in the colour you want. The ‘go-faster’ model behind keeps pulling you ever closer…

Welcome to the Salomon S-Lab range.

Let’s be clear right from the off. If you are looking for a budget jacket and/or trousers for trail and mountain running then the HYBRID M Jacket and trousers are not for you.

These two products are the Ferrari, the Stella Artois, or the Caviar of the running apparel world.

Ultra light, form functioning and with an attention to detail that is seldom seen, the HYBRID products are seriously impressive products.

I can see you are already tempted. So, if I need to provide any additional clarification or just to ensure that your bank manager doesn’t sue me for unfair persuasion, the HYBRID Jacket M has a RRP of £220 and the HYBRID Pant M has a RRP of £170. Yes folks, that is £390 of apparel porn.

Still tempted? Read on.

 HYBRID JACKET M

Jacket 1

Okay, joking aside, Salomon and more importantly the S-Lab range are all about travelling light and fast on technical, mountainous and challenging terrain and as such, the products they design are 100% committed to making that process as easy as possible. No compromises! So, price point to a certain extent is irrelevant. If you want the best technology, the lightest products and functional kit that does the job… the price will be what it will be and you just take out your credit card and commit. The question ultimately is, is it worth it?

This is a difficult one because affordability is very different for each and every individual. For example, I know many people who would reluctantly pay £2.50 for a coffee but wouldn’t flinch at paying £220 for the HYBRID Jacket M.

Breathability – Freedom of Movement – Ventilation

Jacket 4

Three serious buzz words when we look at any garment that needs to protect us from tough and challenging elements. The jacket is ridiculously light at just 120g. On first look, I really questioned if this would provide 100% waterproof protection. It does to an extent! (More on that later) Using ‘Motion Fit Technology’ the jacket is tailored like a fine Saville Row suit to provide non abrasive comfort around the neck and shoulders with unrestricted movement and more importantly ones arms don’t feel restrained.

The jacket has a ¾ front zip, glued seams and has ‘Advancedskin Shield,’ reflective panels and two seriously impressive breakthrough details that I haven’t witnessed on any product before. (Let me know if anyone else has?)

  1. Quick stash waist – this is an ingenious idea. So ingenious that I thought to myself, ‘I wonder why nobody hasn’t thought of this before.’ Basically, below the ¾ zip you have a large stretch band that goes around your waist. Initially I thought this was to stop the jacket riding up… no! This works as a ‘retainer’ when the jacket is not required. So imagine, conditions are changeable; one minute it’s raining, one minute it’s not. It’s cold, it’s hot and the need for protection is constantly changing. This system allows you to take off and put on the jacket without actually removing the jacket completely. You basically remove your arms and slide the excess fabric to your waist and then ‘store’ in the elasticated fabric band that sits around your waist. Ingenious.
  2. In the hood is a headband like product that sits around your head and therefore holds the hood in place and stops the hood moving and causing any annoying hassle. Again, so simple it’s ingenious.

Jacket 3

In all other aspects, the HYBRID Jacket M would appear just like any other jacket until you wear it. The key features then become apparent:

  • Ultra lightweight
  • Form fitting
  • Functional
  • No pockets
  • Ventilated armpits
  • And dare I say, ‘special.’

But this may not be the jacket for you?

Salomon may well not agree with me here but I have to say it like it is. This really is an awesome product and innovative but I can’t help feel that it is for shorter races, faster runners or faster runners doing longer distances.

I am no racehorse, if I were doing a tough mountain 100-miler say UTMB. I would not be finishing in 20-hours like Francois d’Haene, in reality it would be the opposite. I’d be getting full value for money and be out on the course for 30+ hours (I think). So, should bad weather come in and lets say a worse case scenario of torrential rain, snow, blizzards and zero temperatures I personally don’t feel that the HYBRID would provide me (or maybe similar runners) with enough protection. This is not questioning its waterproofing, the jacket is waterproof BUT only in key places. Also I need to state here, I am not sure if this jacket would comply with ‘mandatory’ specifications?

Jacket 2To clarify; the jacket is waterproof on the chest, hood, upper arms, shoulders and upper back. The remaining areas; under arms, under the armpit and lower back use a lightweight fabric. These fabric areas obviously reduce weight but do mean that the whole jacket is not 100%. So, if you are in gusty winds in bad weather, rain will gain access.

*So you see the dilemma. If you are moving quick and retaining core temperature, the HYBRID Jacket M will be ideal allowing adequate protection in a lightweight, breathable and seriously functional product. But if your pace drops, you have extended walking and your core temperature starts to drop, this jacket may well not be the best for you… something a little heavier, a little more robust and 100% waterproof may well be the better product.

See the BONATTI HERE

Salomon are very clear on this, they say:

“Ultra light jacket integrating water-proof panels for foul weather, and innovative quick stash waist, a stretch panel around the waist that enables you to remove and store your jacket without stopping.”

Fit is streamlined and as one would expect, excess fabric is at a minimum. For reference, I have a medium product and the jacket fits snuggly (I am 40” chest) with enough room to wear the S-Lab 1L or 3L vest underneath the jacket. Again, this is a real plus! If the jacket is stored around your waist, you can constantly add and remove your jacket as conditions change without adding or removing your race vest.

In conclusion, the HYBRID Jacket M is an awesome piece of apparel. It’s expensive, innovative and in my opinion has a very specific use. The jacket is light enough and small enough that it can be taken on every run as a ‘just in case’ product but its real use comes when racing and racing fast… it’s all about function, speed and providing adequate protection and freedom of movement. If you have the legs and lungs to go with this jacket, you won’t be disappointed.

 

HYBRID PANT M

Trouser 1It may come as no surprise that many of the comments above relate to the HYBRID Pant M too. Like the jacket, the pants weigh in at a ridiculous 120g. They fold up and compress into something similar in size to an orange and so therefore take up little to no room in any pack and to be honest, with the minimal weight you wouldn’t even know you had them with you. So, as mentioned with the HYBRID Jacket M, these pants could be added to your pack for every run and would provide a great emergency cover.

Trouser 2Like the jacket, the pants are not 100% waterproof but where waterproof panels are added, the rain and wind resistance is excellent. Arguably the pants are two halves; waterproof and wind resistant front and lightweight fabric to the rear except round the calf/ ankle area where the waterproof fabric extends around.

Trouser 3

A long zip that almost extends to the knee allows the pants to removed or added without removing shoes and elastic at the ankle keeps them nice and tight. The waistband is lightweight, breathable and has stretch with an adjustable cord.

Trouser 4I have a medium product and they fit close (maybe a little too close for me) but I need to clarify, I have big legs and large calf muscles. I am not boasting, just stating a fact. For most ‘normal’ people, these pants will fit really well. I am 31/32” waist with an inside leg of 31” and the medium is ideal (despite my huge legs).

Trousers 4

Running in the pants is a joy. They are so light that you don’t really notice them. The stretch panels allow plenty of unrestricted movement and the ‘Motion Fit’ ensures that no excess fabric gets in the way.

I personally feel these pants suit the racer who needs some protection when still moving fast. If you are in a long race and moving slow, I personally don’t feel these pants would provide the necessary protection or warmth for really long periods in challenging conditions. This is particularly apparent on the rear of the pants. For example, should wind and rain be coming from behind, the trousers have no waterproof panels to protect. Again, Salomon does not hide away from this fact. They are offering a product that clearly states what you get:

“S-lab hybrid includes a waterproof membrane on the front, with wind protection on the back for cold, wet weather training. Stretch panels ensure comfort and motion fit specific to running.”

As I stated above* and I repeat, “So you see the dilemma. If you are moving quick and retaining core temperature, the HYBRID Pant M will be ideal allowing adequate protection in a lightweight, breathable and seriously functional product. But if your pace drops, you have extended walking and your core temperature starts to drop, these pants may well not be the best for you… something a little heavier, a little more robust and 100% waterproof may well be the better product.”

See the BONATTI HERE

In conclusion, having spoken to and spent a great deal of time around many runners, wearing pants when racing is a no, no! It’s funny really, I often hear the phrase, “If I am wearing pants then my race is over.” I understand that but as we have seen on so many occasions, when conditions go tits up (as they often do) a functional and protective layer is essential. Salomon provides a very specific product that fulfils a need for many a runner and/or racer but that product comes at a price.

Summary

The HYBRID Jacket and pant M are two seriously impressive products with loads of innovation. They are light, pack small and are a dream to wear and use. Although anyone can wear them, I do feel that the products suit a particular type of runner. However, having said that, if you have the money, want a lightweight jacket and pants to take on every run, these two beauties are absolutely ideal for that. Ultimately though, you have to ask the question, do I want to pay £390 for that option? Personally, I would still need a more substantial jacket and trousers for big mountain days and products that are 100% waterproof (See the BONATTI HERE). I welcome the HYBRID products to my wardrobe but they do not replace other items. They are an addition and a really welcome addition.

 

CHECK OUT THE SALOMON S-LAB RANGE HERE

Salomon Logo

UTMB kit with Jez Bragg

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The TNF UTMB is just around the corner and in a previous episode of Talk Ultra I discussed with The North Face athlete, Jez Bragg what he uses for this 160km mountain race. It seemed topical that we should give you all an opportunity to listen to this once again and refresh your minds.

Get your check list and out and go through it step-by-step with Jez.

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LISTEN HERE

http://traffic.libsyn.com/talkultra/Jez_Bragg_-_UTMB_Kit.mp3

Equipment list as required by TNF UTMB race organisation:

In order to participate in these events, a set of obligatory equipment is required. However it is important to note it is the minimum necessary and that each trail-runner must adapt it according to their needs. It is important, in particular, not to choose clothing that is the lightest possible weight in order to gain a few grams, but to choose items which will give real protection against the cold, windy or snowy mountain weather, therefore giving a good level of security and performance.

Obligatory material :

  • mobile phone with option enabling its use in the three countries
    (put in one’s repertoire the security numbers of the organisation, keep it switched on, do not hide one’s number and do not forget to set off with recharged batteries)
  • personal cup or tumbler 15cl minimum (water bottle not acceptable)
  • stock of water minimum 1 litre,
  • two torches in good working condition with replacement batteries,
  • survival blanket 1.40m x 2m minimum
  • whistle,
  • adhesive elastic band enable making a bandage or a strapping (mini 100cm x 6 cm),
  • food reserve,
  • jacket with hood and made with a waterproof (recommendation: minimum 10,000 Schmerber) and breathable (recommendation: RET lower than 13) membrane (Gore-Tex or similar) which will withstand the bad weather in the mountains.
  • long running trousers or leggings or a combination of leggings and long socks which cover the legs completely,
  • Additional warm midlayer top: One single midlayer long sleeve top for warmth (cotton excluded) with a minimum weight of 180g (Men, size M)
    OR a two piece clothing combination of a long sleeve baselayer/midlayer for warmth (cotton excluded) with a minimum weight of 110g (Men, size M) and a windproof jacket* with DWR (Durable Water Repellent) protection
  • cap or bandana
  • warm hat
  • warm and waterproof gloves
  • waterproof over-trousers

* The windproof jacket does not replace the mandatory waterproof jacket with hood

Required by the frontier police forces :

  • identity papers

Very strongly recommended :

  • Knife or scissors with which to cut the self-adhesive elasticised bandage
  • walking poles for security on slippery ground in case of rain or snow
  • a change of warm clothes indispensable in the case of cold weather, rain or injury
  • the sum of 20 € minimum (in order to cover the unexpected….)

Advised (list not definitive) :

Telescopic sticks, change of clothing, compass, knife, string, sun cream, Vaseline or anti-chaffing cream, needle and thread,…

All clothing must be the runner’s size and without alteration since leaving the factory.
You will carry this material in a pack which must be tagged at the race-bib distribution and is not exchangeable during the race.

If you decide to use poles, you must keep them throughout the whole of the race… It is forbidden to start without sticks and recover them up along the way.
No poles will be allowed in the spare’s bags.

 

A full list of UTMB specific equipment is available via The North Face by going HERE

Jez Bragg website HERE

The North Face – AK Stormy Trail

A5YKJK33As the main sponsor of the TNFUTMB, The North Face fully understand the needs of every runner when embarking on the epic alpine journey. Irrespective of distance, the mountains can be a cruel and hard place.

Look at the history of the race. For several years the TNFUTMB has been hampered by bad weather. Just last year, 2012, the race was shortened at the last minute and ‘mandatory’ kit was increased to 4 layers to ensure the safety of every runner.

Two pieces of mandatory kit are a fully waterproof jacket with hood and taped seams but also over trousers. Now many runners, particularly the elite runners think… “I will never wear over trousers”. The 2012 edition of the TNFUTMB confirmed to many that mandatory kit, (although sometimes one may think it is over the top) is absolutely necessary,

To this end, The North Face have created two items that tick all the boxes. The AK STORMY TRAIL JACKET and AK STORMY TRAIL PANTS. Available in Black & Yellow

A5YKJK3

A48DJK32

Key Features

It’s simple really…. a tailored fit to reduces excess material and flapping. A reduction in ‘extras’ as these only add opportunities for onward problems or areas were leaks may appear. Lightweight and small pack size.

Box TICKED

The AK STORMY range do all the above and then some. Of course that doesn’t come cheap. At £160 for the jacket and £110 for the pants this is an investment. But you get what you pay for and I certainly wouldn’t want to compromise when I am several thousand feet up in the rain and snow.

SPECS

AK JACKET – The North Face® Men’s AK Stormy Trail Jacket is a waterproof, breathable, hooded running jacket for maximum protection in the foulest weather. Featuring The North Face® FlashDry™ technology, microporous particles improve and accelerate the removal of excess moisture from the skin, allowing drier and more comfortable performance for longer, in a range of weather conditions. Used and recommended for endurance races such as The Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc, the jacket is constructed with a reflective brimmed, stay-put hood, an adjustable hood cinch and a reflective drop-tail hem for increased coverage and weatherproofing. Easily stowed in a backpack and with a glued zip chest pocket for secure storage, follow the athletes in The North Face® Men’s AK Stormy Trail Jacket.

A5YKJK32

  • Reflective brimmed hood with stay
  • Adjustable hood cinch
  • Glued chest pocket
  • Reflective drop-tail hem
  • Stowable

available S,M,L,XL

AK PANTS – The North Face® Men’s AK Stormy Trail Pant is a waterproof, windproof, breathable running trouser for maximum protection in the foulest weather. Featuring The North Face® FlashDry™ technology, microporous particles improve and accelerate the removal of excess moisture from the skin, allowing drier and more comfortable performance for longer, in a range of weather conditions. Used and recommended for endurance races such as The Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc, these performance fit pants are constructed with an elasticized waist with adjustable drawcord and articulated knees for increased mobility. Easily stowed in a backpack and with reflective logos for increased security on night and low level visibility runs, follow the athletes in The North Face® Men’s AK Stormy Trail Pant.

A48DJK3

  • Elasticated waist with adjustable drawcord
  • Performance fit
  • Articulated knees, Ankle zips
  • Reflective logos
  • Packable

available S,M,L,XL

A full test of the AK range will follow soon. Initial impressions are superb. Fit is excellent. The attention to detail really is spot on and both garments are a real joy to wear but ultimately, they are a pleasure to run in… that is what counts!