Salomon announced the S Lab Hybrid running jacket at the Winter 14 OR Show and Expo with some innovative and appealing features. I have received an S Lab Hybrid jacket recently and have been able to put it through the paces due to an unusual “monsoonal” flow of moisture from the Gulf of California up here to the mountains of central Idaho. What this means is that our mountain weather transforms into something very similar to what the San Juans of Colorado always get in the summer- daily thunderstorms often accompanied by hail or snow. Having grown up hiking and running in the San Juans and Sangres, this weather system has provided a nostalgic respite from the normally “blue bird” perfect weather we usually get this time of year. It has also allowed for some good tests of the performance of the S Lab Hybrid jacket in difficult conditions. As one will see in the remainder of this review, this is a jacket that you will definitely want to consider if you are in the market for a super lightweight, waterproof, windproof, hooded mountain running (or fast and light alpinist) jacket.
There are numerous new features associated with this jacket and I will review the primary ones here.
Weight and packability
My men’s small weighs in at 108 gms- a very light jacket and lighter than any other waterproof running jacket that I am aware of. Although weight below some reasonable value, say 150 gms, is not a driver for use, it is generally clear that the lower the weight the more packable the garment. This is what holds true here – this jacket is very packable even if one does not use the integrated storage waist band. The jacket can be easily stowed in any of the Salomon waist packs or backpacks. Although this jacket does not pack down to as small a volume as the S Lab Light jacket (it is not significantly less packable), it does have much more versatility.
Waterproofness, windproofness and breathability
The waterproof portions of the jacket are made with a fabric that Salomon calls “Advanced Skin Dry” which upon inspection appears to be a 2 layer PTFE membrane/face fabric laminate. It could be GORE-TEX or it could be from a competitor manufacturer. It is common that clothing manufacturers who use GORE-TEX fabric put a GORE-TEX identifier on the garment somewhere. The S Lab Hybrid jacket has no “GORE-TEX” labeling so I suspect that this fabic is not GORE-TEX but rather some other super lightweight waterproof fabric (e.g. eVent, etc.)
The waterproof/breathable fabric utilized in this jacket is rated at 10k/10k* which represents very good waterproofness with significant breathability. The face fabric in the laminate is clearly a rip-stop nylon material with a “durable water resistant” (DWR) coating as is commonly used in such garments. The waterproof fabric portions of the jacket are also windproof as expected.
Integrated storage waistband
The most unique feature of the jacket is the integrated storage waistband. As can be seen in the image of the jacket above, a stretch-mesh waistband approximately 5″ (13 cm) wide makes up the bottom-most portion of the jacket body. This waistband fits snugly around the waist and can be utilized to stow the rest of the jacket when not needed. The three quarter length zipper facilitates both the stowage and the ease of shedding the upper part of the jacket.
Integrated hood headband and “skin fit” hood
The jacket also has an integrated hood that fits very snugly around the head with an integrated interior “headband” retention system. This very comfortably keeps the hood in place and the “skin fit” around the head and face ensures good visibility.
Design and Fit
The overall design approach for this jacket is “minimal”- minimal waterproof fabric, minimal weight, minimal fit (meaning = nearly “skin fit”).
The waterproof fabric portions are the entire front, the shoulders and outer parts of the sleeves, and about one third of the back. The inside portions of the sleeves, the side panels, and the lower two thirds of the back are all made from a lightweight very stretchy nylon material some of which has strategically placed laser cut ventilation grids.
The fit is snug but the entire jacket is quite stretchy so it does not bind or pull while running or reaching; I would say that the fit is best described as somewhere between the “active fit” and “skin fit” designations that Salomon uses. The hood is closer to a “skin fit” level, which is a nice feature since many hoods severely and annoyingly limit visibility. This one does not.
The cuffs are made of the same material as the elastic waistband and they have a soft, comfortable feel against one’s wrists. I typically fold the cuffs up back into the sleeves where they serve to not only guard against wind intrusion but also to increase comfort in the sleeve-end area and to allow space for a watch.
There is also an upper chest retention clasp that allows one to unzip the jacket, fasten the clasp, and not have the jacket flapping around. It works well and I use it often. This feature has been on many of the Salomon cross country skiing jackets and skiing/running vests and is now on this jacket as well.
I have spent a total of about 12 hours of trail running time in this jacket (100 km (62 miles)) including one 40 km run (2000 m D+/6500 feet vert, climbing to 2900 m (9500 feet)) where all manner of weather was evident throughout the run. On this 40 km run we had light rain, heavy rain, 48-64 kmph (30-40 mph) winds, heavy hail (about 45 cm (1.5 feet)), some snow, and horizontal winds. Temperatures ranged from about 27 C (80F) down to 3 C (38F). It was a wild day in the Pioneer Mountains. The S Lab Hybrid jacket performed exceedingly well. With the exception of a small amount of leak-through on the lower (non-waterproof and marginally windproof) portion of the back panel in horizontal, driven heavy rain, I stayed entirely dry and warm the entire time. My companion had a Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie (DWR-coated) and became quite wet under the same circumstances; her discomfort was alleviated by putting a windproof (S Lab Light jacket) layer over the Fast Wing Hoodie and this additional thermal layer provided a substantial decrease in heat loss. Within an hour we were in sunny skies and 21 C (70F) weather, so there was no criticality. But if the wet and stormy weather had persisted the Fast Wing Hoodie/S Lab Light combo would likely have not been sufficient for protection. The S Lab Hybrid jacket was far superior in these conditions. The performance in wet and high winds was particularly impressive.
All of this performance was coincident with a highly breathable jacket. I experienced very little condensation on the inside of the garment. Even when running through some rain and then into dry, warmer conditions, I have not seen much condensation. This very different that what I have seen in other products. It would appear that the breathability is getting better in these fabrics.
The “skin fit” hood and integrated retention headband is simply the best running jacket hood I have ever experienced. The hood stays in place (even in high wind conditions), fits snugly around the head and face leaving a sufficient opening for high visibility, and remains extremely comfortable. Hard to beat.
One of the features of the Hybrid jacket that is unique is the elastic waistband that serves as stowage for the jacket. This features works quite well and does a good job of keeping the jacket contained comfortably and evenly distributed about one’s waist. In fact it is easy to forget that it is there in the stowed position. Salomon claims that you can disrobe from the upper portion of the jacket and stow it whilst still running. While I may not be the most coordinated, I currently find that shedding the jacket down to the stowed position while running to be difficult. Practice and development of technique may improve this but after about four separate tries on the run, in each attempt I have had to stop and get the thing fully tucked in properly. Once there it basically stays in place but doing this on the run is a bit of stretch, at least for me. I can see where this will become easier with practice but do not expect to execute a smooth, flowing shed and stowage right away. It should also be pointed out that one does not need to use the “stowability” of the elastic waist as stowage can also be accomplished by just trying the sleeves around the waist as you might do with a “regular” jacket. The advantage here is that you do not have to roll up the jacket and then tie it around the waist since the S Lab Hybrid jacket hangs naturally in a convenient way. This “shed-and tie” approach is easily accomplished while running and may be what Salomon intended. I prefer a neater package and therefore use the waistband as the stowage medium.
The singular slightly negative use experience I have had is that, once stowed, the jacket can work itself a bit out of the fully stowed position, particularly on long, technical downhills where one is gyrating around in some not common body positions. However, the jacket has never fully “untucked” itself under these conditions. Being a bit of a neat-nik, I grate at imperfectly stowed stuff, so this may not bother anyone else.
I will also mention here that I expect this jacket to perform very well as a top layer for cross country skiing in wet snow or rain conditions. Typically cross country skiers will don full-on GORE-TEX raincoats in such conditions as there have been very few products available that combine lightweight, waterproofness, and a close fit. The S Lab Hybrid jacket should serve well as a wet-conditions cross country skiing layer.
The jacket currently comes in just one colorway- black with red accents. However, Kilian has been seen wearing one in red with yellow accents so expect to see that colorway come spring as well as some others. I prefer a brighter color for foul weather garments as it is usually best to maximize your visibility in case something goes wrong. The Euro-black colorway is basically camouflage in most mountain conditions.
$275 US…. ridiculous!….. but worth it as there is nothing else out there in the form of a running jacket that has the waterproofness, windproofness, breathability, low weight, and unique design functions (stowage and interior hood headband) that this jacket has.
I am not aware of another running jacket that combines all of the features and functions that the S Lab Hybrid jacket does in such a lightweight, stowable package. This is the one jacket that will likely cover your needs for anything you might encounter on mountain runs from spring through fall. Although expensive, it should see significant use and therefore, on a cost per mile used basis, may even be economical. Highly recommended.
*The 10k/10k rating means: The first number is the waterproofness, measured in the minimum height of a column of water (1 cm x 1 cm) before the fabric begins to leak. In this case the height is 10,000 mm, a very good rating. The second number is a measure of how breathable the fabric is using a metric that is the minimum number of grams of water vapor that can pass through one square meter of the fabric in a 24 h period. A value of 10,000 grams of water vapor/24 h is also a very good rating.