Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Solomon Winter ’16 Gear Review



If you are into mountain sports like skiing, boarding, or mountaineering, you’ve probably heard of Salomon.  Born in the French Alps in 1947, Salomon has made products that portray their passion for the progression of mountain sports.  They are always striving to provide great new products with top quality materials and manufacturing technologies.  Their brand has grown to cover mountaineering, hiking, skiing, boarding, and trail running.  Salomon is really popular with ultra-runners because of the comfort and durability of their products.  I reviewed the Park short sleeve tee, Sense Pro 2 trail shoes, and S-Lab X-Series shoes in the past (click on the links to read my reviews).  I received several items to review in Salomon’s Fall/Winter line to review.  They sent the S-Lab Hybrid JKT, S-Lab Exo Tights, and the S-LAB Sense Set Vest.

S-Lab Hybrid JKT (Jacket)

The S-Lab Hybrid JKT is what Salomon calls “The Pro’s choice for fast and light storm protection”.  It is a very light weight, breathable, and waterproof jacket.  It utilizes Pertex fabric which is the main reason why this jacket is able to provide a waterproof and breathable experience and stay extremely light.  How light you may ask?  How about 90 grams or just over 3 ounces.  Let’s look at some of the features that this jacket has.

The Pertex is not only waterproof, but it’s windproof and has a water repellent coating.  The zippers have special waterproof taping and glue to keep the water out at the zipper locations as well.  When I took it out of my rainy test runs, I could see that water bead up and roll right off the jacket and I stayed as dry as a bone.

Unlike most jackets out there, the S-Lab Hybrid JKT is a ¾ zip which sounds kind of odd.  The great part is that the waist band hugs your waist so you don’t get any cold air up your coat when it’s windy.  The waist band is called the ”quick stash system” which makes it easy to store the rest of the jacket in the waistband.  That way you don’t have to stop to take your jacket off and put it in a pack.  I wasn’t too sure about ththe “quick stash system” when I was reading about it, but loved this feature on my runs.   

Salomon utilized a stretch cuff material not only at the waist, but at the sleeves too, so it fits great and keeps the wind and water out.  The MotionFit technology allows you to have unrestricted movement of your head, shoulders, and neck. 

There is reflective branding on both the front and back of the jacket to help make you more visible in low lighting situations. 

There are articulated sleeves meaning that are designed to the natural curvature of your arms when you run.  That way they don’t stretch (and the length gets too short) when you bend your arm.  It also uses the Advancedskin Dry 20/20 Technology.  It will keep the moisture and wind out while having an inside membrane that is highly breathable and allows moisture to escape.  There are also some laser cut holes in the arms (near the wrists) to allow some ventilation inside the jacket.  That way you don’t feel like you are in a sauna suit.

One of the best features though is the hood.  It fits your head extremely well and also had a built in headband that hugs your head.  Why is that important though?  When you have your hood on and the wind is blowing, you don’t have to sorry about your hood being blown off.  I have never seen anything like this on other jackets, and it is a wonderful feature.

I have tested 3-4 weather resistant jackets, which don’t keep water out if there is more than a mist or light drizzle.  I will more than likely just run in a long sleeve top since those jackets typically hold in heat (unless it is cold and I want to stay warm).  I have tested a few waterproof jackets as well.  The problem with most waterproof jackets is that they tend to not be comfortable because they are somewhat stiff and they retain a lot of heat.  I feel like I am just as wet from my own sweat as if I was just getting rained on. 

The S-Lab Hybrid JKT is different in a few ways.  It is the lightest jacket, weather resistant or waterproof, that I have tested.  It is completely waterproof, but is soft, supple, and is designed to move with you.  The hood actually does a great job of staying in place unlike most hoods on jackets.  The S-Lab Hybrid JKT is breathable and I never felt like I would overheat and it didn’t feel like a sauna suit. 

Now for the down side.  The S-Lab Hybrid JKT does cost $250 on the Salomon website.  While that is a lot of money, it is more than worth the price.  It is the one jacket you could use for racing and running weather it is cold, raining, or windy and should last for a long time with the excellent durability of the fabric.  Why pay $150 for a jacket that you will hate wearing when you could have a jacket you love for a little more.  I have seen this jacket online as low as $187.50, so it might be prudent to look around.

Pros:
Completely waterproof
Awesome hood that stays in place
“Quick Storage’ waistband
Breathable Advancedskin Dry material
MotionFit technology does not restrict movement
Extremely light weight and comfortable

Cons:
On the expensive side (Retail Price $250, less if on sale)

S-Lab Exo Tights

I also got to test the S-Lab Exo Tights.  They are not actually running tights, but part of the Salomon Nordic line of clothes.  While they aren’t specifically made for running, the technology that is utilized will help you perform at your best. 

The S-Lab Exo Tights are made with a blend of materials that provides compression, stability and posture-support.  Salomon claims the S-Lab Exo Tights are the “most technical race kit available.”  The fabric is extremely light weight, at only 150 grams (5.3 ounces).

The S-Lab Exo Tights uses their EXO Stability technology with carbon effect film to help you stay in good form longer.  You can definitely feel the hugging compression of the tights on your muscles.  It not only helps with posture, but also keeps your muscles from vibrating when your feet impact the ground.  That impact and muscle vibration can lead to fatigue and injury.  The S-Lab Exo Tights helps reduce that risk which can assist in peak performance for longer periods of time.

The S-Lab Exo Tights also used same Advanced Skin Active Dry material that the jacket uses.  That means that it will help provide a little bit of warmth and keep moisture away from your skin.  It worked great on my runs as long as it didn’t get too cold.  My legs did get a little cold when I ran in 38 degree temps and would have preferred something a little warmer.  It would be great as a base layer or in temps above 45 degrees (at least for me).

Another feature that was used in the jacket that is also in the S-Lab Exo Tights is the MotionFit technology.  It ensures the tights move with your body for unrestricted performance and a comfortable feeling.

Other features of the S-Lab Exo Tights are the two gel pockets in the waistband, reflective branding on the front and back, and articulated knees.  There is silicone grip tape on the inside of the waistband and on the legs.  I followed the guidelines for sizing and ordered a Medium.  While it was really tight, the fit was great.  My only concern is that I’ve gained a few pounds over the past month or so and have a bit of muffin top going on.  Because if that, the waist band rolls down on itself.  I am sure that it wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t for the extra pudge.  The fact that the waistband rolled down didn’t affect the performance and wasn’t uncomfortable in any way. 

What one person thinks looks good isn’t always what another person does.  I love the look of the S-Lab Exo Tights, my wife on the other hand doesn’t feel the same way.  I really like the blue with the silver honeycomb pattern. I think it looks sharp. 

The testing that I did in the S-Lab Exo Tights typically occurred on my long runs late into my marathon training.  I was dealing with an injured calf and while the compression of these tights is focused higher up your legs, I felt that it could help with the extra stress I would put on the rest of my legs.  The S-Lab Exo Tights worked well on my slow paces as well as when I really put the hammer down.  I loved how it truly is a next-to-skin tight and it just felt comfortable from the first stride to the last.  I can’t wait to test them out more when I lose the muffin top.

I really like the S-Lab Exo Tights and would highly recommend them.  Like the jacket, the price tag is a little high at $250.  I wasn’t able to find this cheaper anywhere else online.  This is the higher end line of Salomon and you definitely get what you pay for.  More than likely, this would be reserved for very serious athletes, unless you are not worried about the money.  I wouldn’t hesitate on buying them if that’s the case.  You can buy them on the Salomon website.

Pros:
Compression and posture control
Excellent moisture wicking
MotionFit technology moves with your body
Lightweight (5.3 ounces)
Front and back reflectivity

Cons:
On the expensive side (Retail Price $250)
Waistband rolls down

S-Lab Sense Set (Hydration Vest)

While I really like the S-Lab Hybrid JKT and S-Lab Exo Tights, my new favorite piece of Salomon gear is the S-Lab Sense Set Vest.  I have tested hydration packs, waist belts, vests, and handhelds from all of the main companies that produce hydration gear.  I like several products from each company for different reasons.  I have to say that the Salomon S-Lab Sense Set Vest is incredible! 

I am more and more impressed with Salomon with each piece of gear that I test of theirs.  Most of their running gear is centered around trail running and ultras, but would be great for all running.  I am starting to focus on more trail running (in addition to road running) so it is nice to test out gear made for the trails.

The vest is extremely light weight at only 90 grams (just over 3 ounces) without the bottles.  The S-Lab Sense Set Vest is specifically designed for stability and it truly becomes an extension of your upper body.  While it is more minimal than some trail packs, it still has plenty of storage. 

There are 8 total pockets.  Three of those pockets have zippers (two on the sides and a chest pocket for your phone or media player), two are for your water bottles and three have elastic at the top.  There is plenty of room to take gels and extra gear in addition to your fluids. 

The water bottles are thin, flexible, and collapsible.  They are made by Hydrapak (which makes bottles for several major hydration companies) with the Salomon branding on them.  They hold 500ml or 17 ounces of fluids each.  The valves are easy to get a decent amount of water.  My two complaints about the bottles would be that the opening for filling it is rather small, so adding ice may be an issue.  There is no shut off option on the valve, which I tend to like. 

The really cool thing about this vest is that it is so light weight and breathable that it almost feels like it isn’t even there.  I love all of the pockets and that the back will not trap heat in.  There is a whistle attached to the front pocket and the chest straps are easy adjust for a great fit.  Out of the 15 packs that I have tested over the years, this is my favorite.  You can get the S-Lab Sense Set Vest for $120 on the Salomon website.  I have even seen them under $90 online if you shop around.  They also have a slightly larger version (S-Lab Sense Ultra Set vest) for about $130 that has more pockets if that is what you are looking for.

Pros:
Awesome fit
Excellent breathability with mesh back and moisture wicking
Lightweight (just over 3 ounces)
Front and back reflectivity
Great price ($120)

Cons:
The bottles could have a larger opening and valve lockout

Salomon’s Social Media Links

I am thrilled to be testing Salomon gear for not just trail running, but for road use as well.  I have been blown away with the level of innovative technology, comfort, and materials in all of the products that I have tested so far.  I will be reviewing the S-Lab XA Alpine shoe in the next few weeks.  It is a waterproof trail shoe with a built in gaiter.  It will help keep the water, snow, and debris out of your shoe while you are tackling the nastiest terrain.  Give some Salomon gear a try and see what you have been missing.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

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