Saturday, September 24, 2022

Ultimate Direction Jason Schlarb Merino Tee and Shorts Review

Article by Sam Winebaum and Jeff Valliere

Jason Schlarb Merino Tee ($70) and Jason Schlarb Short ($80)

Designed with input from Ultimate Direction elite Jason Schlarb the signature shorts and tee here are focused on maximum utility and versatility. The shorts feature "massive" well held storage while the tee is made of an all season Merino blend with as a bonus lots of well styled in reflectivity front and back. Jeff and I tested the collection in New Hampshire heat and humidity and Utah and Colorado dry high altitude conditions this summer and share our review here.

Jason Schlarb Merino Tee ($70)

Sam: The Tee is made of a blend of 50% Merino / 50% Sorona fabric for temperature and moisture regulation, anti odor, durability, and anti-pilling. 

The Merino is responsibly sourced and cruelty free. Sorona® is 37% plant based, using 30% less energy and emitting 50% less GHG (greenhouse gas) as compared to the production of nylon from non-renewable resources.

I don’t usually comment on the “style” of a tee but here I will and many who have seem me wearing the Tee have as well! The front reflective mountain tracing on black is distinctive, functional and has gotten many compliments, truly. I easily wear it for all sorts of runs and casually. The fabric is neither over shiny or  over wooly yet has some texture. 

The fit is just generous enough with some stretch at my usual medium. I am 5’9” and 163 lbs. 

I have worn the Tee in a wide range of conditions from very warm and very humid to dry and sunny. It performs best when the heat, and especially humidity, is not overwhelming. In warm drier conditions it is exceptionally cooling if there is a breeze in the mix, drying quickly and is chafe free. Odor resistance is excellent. I always test for multiple runs without washing and here I got 4 days of 1 hours runs in high humidity before it was ready for the wash. I always immediately sun dry after runs. 

It is a near perfect layer for changing mountain conditions and more generally for fall and spring wear or as a winter base layer. I particularly appreciate the front and rear reflectivity, well styled into the Tee.

Jeff V:  Sam’s description is spot on, the tee is exceptional in all regards.  In fact, I would love to just donate my drawer of running tees and have seven of these in different colors, one for each day.  I find the fit to be excellent in my normal size medium (I am 5’9” / 145 lbs), where it lays and drapes just right having a moderate cut, not too baggy and flappy, but not too athletic either.

While black is typically my least favorite color for a short sleeve shirt, as I only wear short sleeve shirts when it is warm and sometimes summer, I lean toward lighter colors, however this tee keeps surprisingly cool.  That said, it would be really awesome to have some color options like white, yellow or light blue for those more sunny summer days.

Breathability is excellent and the shirt dries quickly.  I do not normally wear running clothes multiple days without washing, but if I hang the shirt after the run instead of tossing it in the hamper, it will dry quickly and not stink.  It is also great for travel.

The material is super soft and it is very welcoming to put on on those dark cool mornings when I climb out of bed.  Most synthetic shirts can have a bit of an off putting cold feel at first, but the Schlarb Merino tee is just right all of the time.

Because it is half Merino, it is also an excellent choice when damp and as a base layer, as its heat retention properties are very good.

I have received compliments from strangers and even my wife and daughters, as the reflective mountain zig zag across the front just looks sleek and cool.

Jason Schlarb Short ($80)

Jeff and I received black shorts. The blue and black above really highlights the depth of the top black mesh storage areas.

Sam: The shorts will not win style points for me as the tee does as I find their lower hem a bit baggy and the length a bit long but they sure do excel in terms of utility and functionality. 

The medium sample fit me true to size with my approx. 32” waist and even when fully loaded the fit did not change, neither over snug nor loose. They have a brief and not a boxer type inner and I am fine with that, particularly in warmer weather.

This short replaces a race vest for most runs for me. It has an approximate 12 cm / 4.7 inch mesh storage area around the entire top of the short. The storage area is actually made up of an outer area divided into 4 sections then a slightly snugger thicker inner mesh layer as separation to a continuous inner compartment. Finally against the skin another layer similar to the short's shell

The outer compartments are ideal for flasks, phone and jacket while the somewhat snugger hard to reach inner ones are great for keys, gels or blocks standing up, or other small items you don’t need to access frequently on the run.

I have easily carried two 500 ml flasks, a phone, and other small items with no bouncing at hike paces. 

On the run, flasks are better placed diagonally in the two somewhat shorter side outer mesh compartments and a phone upfront as either phone or flasks placed front and back in the center outer pockets will bounce some while in the inner layer they may be harder to reach.

At the rear we have pole holders with inner sticky silicone as well as reflective branding

As with the Tee there is plentiful reflectivity front and back. 

The Schlarb short is a super versatile and well priced "carry a lot" short. At a very reasonable $80, it is half the price of the Gore Ultimate 2-1 (RTR Review) which has about the same capacity  with the Gore longer with an inner near compression tight with thigh pockets. The 2-1 is heavier and less airy than the UD’s similar mesh waist banded carry system but for cooler to cold conditions is my go to.

The  Salomon S-Lab 6” Short ($120) which has a single layer of mesh pockets around its waistband would be a better race choice, especially if combined with a vest. It is lighter, has almost the same capacity and is somewhat more comfortable if stickier overall in heat . 

I also have tested the Ultimate Direction Velum Short. It shares a waist band storage system which is single layer and not as deep. I have struggled to get a soft flask to stay put in them more than in the Schlarb. It has a shorter inseam and side split. I have worn them for both trail and road running. With their easier, more flowing fit they make an excellent race short when a phone and some gels and car keys are on board but do not have the big capacity of the Schlarb.

Jeff V: I have a pair of GoreWear Ultimate 2 in 1 shorts with a similar pocket system, as well as the older Ultimate Direction Hydro Short with good pockets, both of which have a long bike short length inner liner.  While both have good and secure pockets, I primarily use them on cooler days and/or days up in the higher mountains because having that much material can feel warm to me on hot days.  I have long wished for a shorter, more vented short with great carry capacity for those warmer days.  The Schlarb short now fills that niche.

I find the pocket system to work very well, holding a phone, food, compact windbreaker and water very securely with no bounce.  Unlike the Gore Ultimate 2 in 1 shorts, the pockets are not segmented, but instead pass through for essentially a 360 degree pocket.  At first I was a bit uncertain of this, but over time found it to be an advantage, as it allows for more carry options.

Like Sam, I carry the water on either hip, as I find it to be more secure.  Additionally, as Sam mentions, the pockets are divided into an inner and outer ring which allows for better organization.

Fit is excellent for me in my normal size medium and I never find them feeling too tight or too saggy, however they do not have a drawstring and when shorts are fully loaded with two full water flasks, phone, etc…  I wish I had one to secure them a bit..  Breathability and venting are excellent and even on the hottest days, I feel very comfortable.  I find styling to not be quite on par with the shirt, as the cut seems a little baggy and unflattering, but given the functionality and performance of these shorts, that is a very minor nitpick.

If I could suggest a few improvements, I would add a drawstring, larger grab tabs for the outer pockets and some for the inner compartment , a key clip (I have improvised with a small key biner) and would lastly get rid of the rubbery strip that lines the inner hem.  

These rubber hems are not really noticeable much of the time, but it becomes mildly bothersome, feeling sticky on the thigh when I get sweaty and start taking large step ups on steep trails (most of what I do).

While I do not often utilize the poles straps for poles, it doubles nicely to carry my foldable saw that I use for trail work.

I would highly recommend the Schlab short for warm days where you want to pack as much in and not carry a vest.  It is essentially like having a built in waist belt! 

Shop Ulitmate Direction here for the Jason Schlarb Merino Tee & Jason Schlarb Short

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he is lucky, training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better.  He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 11 year old daughters to the outdoors.  Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years.  He is a little over 5’9” and ~145 lbs.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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