Salomon S Lab Hybrid Jacket – Review

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.

Salomon S Lab Hybrid jacket

The Salomon S Lab Hybrid waterproof and breathable running jacket

Features

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.)

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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.

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Integrated headband in the integrated hood. A nice design! Note the seams are all sealed.

 

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.

Slide1

Laser cut venting grids on the side panels (left) and the sleeve (right). The laser cut ventilation is only provided in the non-waterproof fabric as is expected since the waterproof fabric sections are also quite breathable.

Slide2

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.

Use

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.

Price

$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.

Bottom Line

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.

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Salomon S Lab Hybrid Jacket – Review

  1. I’m kinda on the fence with this jacket. While it seems very nice I find it hard to believe that it can perform well in a heavy rain – having 2/3 of your back and inside of the sleeves not waterproof seems to me quite a bad idea. Does it really work? I mean – it’s counter intuitive, you should be soaked within minutes in heavier rain. I use inov-8 stormshell jacket which is also quite minimal (150 g, packs down roughly to the size of a clenched fist), is entirely waterproof and has a rating of 20k / 20k yet it still can’t withstand prolonged exposure to rain.

    • Hi Ivo,

      I can only respond based on my experience which, so far, has been that the fabric has not leaked in the conditions that I describe in the review. Of course when faced with a 40 mph wind of driven rain I do not purposefully expose the back rather I ensured that the front was facing the direction that the rain was being driven from. If I had turned around I am certain that I would have gotten wet through the back panel.The storm we were in was actively precipitating for about 2-2.5 h. Perhaps longer exposure would yield different results but based on the performance I experienced and my use of other raincoats I think this one will still be ok for another couple of hours, but this is just conjecture. I will be doing a 100 km race in about a week and there is a good chance that we will have “uncertain” weather at 3700 m (12,000+ feet) so perhaps I will get a test of the waterproof durability at longer times.

      • Looking forward to your impressions after the race, seems like potentially a fantastic piece of gear, unfortunately with the regular s-lab price tag 😉

      • Not much rain in the 100 km race… we had a few sprinkles but nothing of note. I did find that the jacket performed quite well as it concerns ergonomics and flexibility. It is a very good high altitude thermal layer- I was very comfortable at 3800 m (12,600 feet) without any moisture build up at high output.

        In the race I chose to go with the S Lab Advanced Skin 5 race vest instead of the “M” belt. It turned out that the S Lab Hybrid jacket fits nicely over the vest so you will not have to take off the vest to put the jacket up and on from the waist. As a result it will protect whatever you have packed in the vest from rain- great!. Also the breathability is quite good as I found no issue with the jacket during the brief rain and thereafter w/r/t moisture buildup inside. The jacket is so easy to shed that one does not hesitate to take it down.

        I have confirmed that it takes a bit of coordination to put the jacket up and take it down whilst running… I am getting better at it but still not very smooth. Perhaps with a bit more practice…

    • Hi Laurent,

      I think it has sold out in the US. It disappeared from the website soon after I ordered mine. Perhaps they did a limited run or only sent a few to the US. Last time I checked, it is readily available in Europe and the UK.

  2. Pingback: Om du bara ska köpa en löparjacka… | Trailupptechlöparen

  3. Great review! I’m about to buy this jacket, but I wonder: is it compatible with a e.g. the S-Lab racing belt (the wide-ish one)? Don’t jacket and belt compete for the same position?

    • Hi Martin,

      Yes, the Hybrid Jacket (when stowed) and the belt will use the same area so they may not be mutually compatible. However, the jacket may stuff in the area between the belt and your waist. I have not tried this as I have switched to the S Lab Sense vest which the Hybrid Jacket fits nicely over when deployed. You could also try positioning the Hybrid Jacket above the belt since it is very lightweight and not bulky but this position may not be ideal for comfort- depending on specific body size. I can highly recommend the Sense Vest-Hybrid Jacket combination- even for shorter ultras.

      • Dear Robert, thanks! I may switch to a backpack as well, I was planning to. Now I really can’t find much information about the fit, Salomon is terrible with sizing. When you say „nearly “skin fit”“, do you mean it’s supposed to fit that way – tight – or upsizing is an option? I’m 6ft1 160 lbs, usually I wear medium, but with Salomon it tends to be too tight. I’d also like to wear a fleece underneath in early winter. Tips would be greatly appreciated since I’ll have to order the jacket most likely. Cheers and thank you! Martin

      • Hi Martin,

        The Hybrid jacket is intended to be a close fit so as to minimize the amount of fabric that might bunch up or be rattled in the wind. A thin lightweight layer of fleece or the tight knit wool products (like IceBreaker) will work fine underneath- but not medium to expedition weight. If the Salomon medium tends to be too tight I would try the large. Salomon products typically are designed for the range from ectomorph to mesomorph so I would size accordingly, i.e. upsize if you are in the high mesomorph category or bigger. But biometrics are so varied it is hard to give accurate sizing advice without details so I highly recommend that you try the Hybrid Jacket on with the layers you intend to use. Here in the US there are a few online retailers that have free shipping both ways so other than the wait it is just like going to a brick and mortar store- except these retailers have a very large stock base. I just order the two sizes I think will work and send back the one that does not fit right. Same with shoes. Perhaps you have a similar online retailer there that you could use. Good luck.

  4. Again, appreciated! I’ll post another comment regarding fit once I’ve figured it out. It’s quite odd to see the puzzled faces of Salomon employees regarding sizing, in Switzerland the other day I was told even they haven’t figured it out and that it can be all over the place. I’ll simply order both. Cheers!

    • Hi Martin,

      Great! Keep us updated- and yes sometimes the sizing gets weird at Salomon- particularly in the lifestyle garments, but, at least in the size small category, the technical running and technical Nordic skiing items fit similarly year after year.

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