Thursday, March 15, 2018

Salomon S/Lab Hybrid Jacket Review: Highly Functional Minimalist Protection

Article by Sam Winebaum

Salomon S/Lab Hybrid Jacket
$275. See sale pricing at the end of the article.
I am a huge fan of Salomon's S/Lab products and especially their gear and apparel. Developed for Salomon's top athletes needs, prototyped in house at the Annecy Design Center (see RTR article about my recent visit here), then impeccably manufactured  and sold to the public in limited quantities and at stout prices but... I always find the features and quality well worth it.

The S/Lab Hybrid Jacket is clearly the product of the S/Lab process. Here the goal was to create a running shell adaptable on the fly to rapidly changing mountain conditions. As such the Hybrid features:

  • super light Pertex fabrics with waterproof breathable Pertex Shield 2.5 layer fabric over the shoulders and front with breathable durable Pertex Microlight+ at the back and down the back side of the sleeves. The waterproof breathable rating of the Shield fabric is 20/20 so UTMB compliant although I am not sure given the other parts aren't if it passes the "test".
Inside Out Views
FRONT: Gray Waterproof breathable Pertex Shield 2.5
REAR: Gray waterproof breathable Pertex Shield 2.5  Black Pertex Microlight+
  • a hood with a headband to hold it in place eliminating draw strings and provided some warmth
  • very light stretch mesh cuffs that can go over the hands or be rolled to keep a watch visible
  • a wide soft mesh waist band to keep the jacket in place no matter how windy  AND to provide a  place to unzip the anorak style to the waist and rapidly and neatly roll the jacket into the waistband with even enough extra room for a hat, gloves, or another layer.
  • a high chest snap strap to keep the jacket in place with the zipper down.
  • some reflective highlights on the shoulder for night safety and touches of blue for a very classy overall look 
First Impressions and Fit
The fabric is impossibly light and soft for a breathable waterproof shell. The upper Pertex Shield 2.5 matches the color exactly and almost the feel of the lower Pertex Shield Microlight +. This is by far the softest membrane jacket fabric I have ever tried and it is almost completely silent on the run with just a touch of "crinkling" at the shoulders. For some extra breathability there are laser cut holes at the armpits and on the underside of the sleeves just behind the knit cuffs.

The fit is correct at my size medium with some room for mid layers below, bridging mountain shell and windbreaker. Those with big chests may want to size up for not only more room but to ease putting on and taking off the anorak style on the go. 

Sleeve length is adaptable given the stretch mesh cuffs and the overall length is relatively long given the wide stretch mesh waist band.
The hood fits impeccably, snug and full coverage thanks to its integrated stretch headband.
Hood internal stretch band, jacket inside out
There are no pockets in the jacket not even to stuff it as it is intended to be worn stuffed into the mesh stretch waist band.

Weight of my size medium is 145 g/ 5.1 oz. The only "waterproof" breathable jacket lighter the One Gore Active Run which is much shorter but does include a chest pocket. See the Gore and other waterproof breathable jackets at our round up review here.

While I do not have specs from Gore as to its waterproof rating, my sense is that it is less than the Hybrid but as it is all of a single fabric, its back and sleeves will be slightly more waterproof and overall the waterproof sections are slightly more breathable. The full waterproofing is a tradeoff as far as the actual breathability on the go. I find breathability to be superior overall in the Hybrid, assisted by its highly breathable back and sleeve panels. In my testing the Gore also wet through more rapidly than the Hybrid. 

I have used the jacket in a variety of cool and cold conditions. I tested on windy days, in downpours, and on runs where I started with a light layer and the jacket burrito style around my waist and then not regretting taking it when the skies opened up with cold rain and/or wind.

Breathability is excellent even in moderate temperatures in the 40's F.  This is a great wind shell in cooler conditions as your chest and shoulders will stay just warm enough while the back breathability and ability to unzip and use the chest strap will keep the heat down so superior to  full coverage water proof breathable membranes.
In my downpour tests, again a cold rain in the low 40's, I was very surprised that water beaded long into the run. I stayed warm thanks to the hood, not needing a hat. After 15 or so minutes of mist, light rain and wind and then 20 minutes of heavier rain and lots of wind, the jacket unlike the Gore in similar conditions, saw water beading considerably longer. I stayed comfortable.
Dark Spots are complete wet through
While wet on the inside it did not completely wet through despite its outer layer of fabric which the Gore dispenses with. The durable water resistance of the outer non membrane fabric aided by its thinness is truly amazing in its performance. I was shocked that water continued to bead even after a long period of decent rain. This feature keeps the membrane from getting saturated from the wet outer fabric but eventually it will still wet through. The jacket dried very rapidly after. 

Of course a key feature of the jacket is its on the go on and off.  The wide soft waist mesh waist band serves two purposes: it keeps the bottom of the jacket secure no matter how windy or how high you reach and it serves as the carrier for the jacket in burrito style. 

To initially put on the jacket, I found the only practical way is to "step in" and pull up. I found it hard to pull over the head as one normally would an anorak as the mesh stretch seems to get hung up on my back. There may be a trick to over the head and I will keep trying! The step in is a bit awkward for more "casual" use but keep in mind the Hybrid is meant to be a performance companion during runs and carried around the waist from step one.

To pull the jacket on I find that one must raise the mesh waist band above your stomach, reach back and hunch the shoulders forward a bit to pull on. All works very smoothly with a bit of practice. I found that with mid layers and especially bulky GPS watches a bit more effort and care is required. 

To remove reverse the process by raising the waist band, hunch shoulders forward and pull back both arms, roll the waist band up and over the jacket. The package is very neat and unobtrusive. This hybrid feature makes the Hybrid an ideal companion for any run where the weather might change, where there are windy sections, for climbs in the rolled up position then ridges in the wearing option etc... I found I took it on and off far more frequently than a normal jacket to suit conditions as the process is so easy and convenient and there is no annoying knotting around the waist, worried about tearing and then with tails flapping

The hood is excellent and eliminates the need for a hat in many conditions. The built in slightly stretchy head band keeps the hood super secure without needing drawstrings and provides some warmth and sweat absorption. There is a trick to putting on the hood so it is aligned. I put my fingers into either side of the headband as I pull it on.

The mesh sleeve bands keep the jacket snugged and can be stretched forward to cover most of the hands for a touch of protection and warmth. As with the hood, on many runs in cool to cold conditions gloves and a hat won't be needed or can be kept in reserve.

The S/Lab Hybrid is a sensational blend of state of the art fabrics in a highly functional, minimalist design. Luxuriously soft and light for a jacket with a water proof breathable membrane, its on the run performance has been superb and highly versatile and is clearly focused on rapidly and effectively varying protection as the elements change in the mountains or on the road.  It is not a full rain shell which is often overkill while on the move. I did not miss a full waterproof breathable membrane throughout the whole jacket, even in heavier cold rain preferring the extra breathability and thus versatility. 

Its anorak style rolls like a burrito into mesh waist band which doubles to keep the jacket in place on the go when worn. 

While the Hybrid is designed to be put on from the start of a run, and worn or rolled as need be. I do think the anorak style, and at least in my case the need to put it on by "stepping in" somewhat limits its versatility for non run uses. A system of front snaps or velcro to full open the waist band would help. I would also like, without compromising comfort, if the mesh waist band could be made slightly more substantial, maybe through the bottom bindings so heavier items such as a phone or soft flask could be rolled into it without bouncing or less so with the jacket worn or rolled.

The S/Lab Hybrid is clearly a highly functional and practical piece of gear, elegantly designed with beautiful materials and with serious purpose. Highly recommended. 

A fully waterproof Pertex Shield non hybrid jacket the Bonatti WP Pro is available as is a non waterproof version with similar burrito roll up and a pocket the Trail Fast Wing Hybrid.

Reviewer Bio
Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running trails and roads and run shoe geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half. 

The S/Lab Hybrid was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

Comments Questions Welcome Below!

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Unknown said...

I have been using my S/Lab Hybrid jacket for over three years now and love the functionality of the design. The protection against rain is acceptable for something that is not a true "rain" jacket with 3L protection. I do have to say that the breathability is pretty poor for such a light material and I would expect Salomon to use a more breathable fabric. Just look to the Marmot Essence as an example that gets double the breathability with better water proof features.

jason said...

Question not about the jacket but the pants, what are they? I’m in northern Vermont and am always on the lookout for winter run pants.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Jason, Great thought! I live in NH and based on the jacket believe they would be ideal for many wet and winter runs as well as hiking. I believe they have the same very light WP/B front and what is called out as extremely light rear breathable fabric. So like a nordic ski pant if you are familiar with them. I am trying to get a pair to test and review but they seem to be very short supply.
Sam, Editor
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