We are moving slowly, large lumbering steps up towards the grey heavens. Rain pouring down in grey sheets, causing rivers to flow boldly down the path beneath our feet. Hoods on, hands tucked up inside the sleeves, we progress upwards until the terrain begins to level out. I love this place. The West Coast of Tasmania is as wild and rugged as you will find anywhere on the planet, and the Tyndall Ranges here are a dramatic representation of this wild beauty.
As we reach the top, the wind begins to buffet us backwards and the rain comes down as heavy as ever. Graham turns to me, a grey outline against a grey background.
“I should be miserable now!”
And yet we are not. This is the christening of our new The North Face Hyperair Goretex Jackets. We started with the hoods on, climbed over 1000m vertically, ran across the ridgeline and yet I am only mildly clammy beneath this single-layer of Goretex fabric. The idea behind these jackets is to create an incredibly permeable and yet fully waterproof jacket specifically for high-intensity activities such as this run we are doing up the Tyndall Ranges.
The jacket is fully seam-sealed, hooded and has a new Shake Dry technology which means that it permanently repels water to avoid moisture being held in the fabric of the jacket. Like water off a duck’s back! This jacket was designed for the Japanese trail running market where conditions are definitely at the epitome of wet and sweaty.
I have never had a jacket that has really, 100% kept me dry when the rain hammers and I am exercising intensely. And yet, after over 90 minutes running through this torrential rain event, I am still completely dry and only slightly clammy, albeit no more than normal when participating in such activities. We haven’t taken our hoods off at all and I am so surprised that I do not feel too hot or uncomfortable.
As we begin to make our way down, the rain slightly eases and I am able to observe that my jacket is beading. That is, the water sits like tiny little water droplets on the top of the fabric until I shake and it bounces off. By the time we have bounded and skipped our way down the track I realise that I am 100% dry again inside my jacket. Any sweat that I had produced on the uphill had evaporated completely whilst running back down! Incredible!
In summary, this groundbreaking new jacket by The North Face has been made for active endeavors in wet and cool conditions. The shake dry technology throws the water off beautifully and the single skin membrane means that no pit zips or ventilation zones are required. The jacket has a thin, slightly rubbery feel and comes in a super sleek dark grey coloring for both the men and women, with unique tailoring for the girls so we feel slightly special. There is so much attention to detail in this jacket, for even the detailing on the cuffs of this jacket, with their tailored shape over the hand, is amazing. There is a fully waterproof rear pocket for stowing your essential items too.
This is my absolute ideal rain jacket for trail running, cycling and lightweight missions. However, the thinner technology means that I would not be using it with more than a lighter vest pack on.
I have been slow to learn this golden rule but… having the right product really does mean that you can play wilder and with more confidence in the outdoors, even when the conditions appear against you. Put down the weather app, done The North Face Hyperair Goretex Jacket and get playing.
Shop The North Face Hyperair Goretex Jacket Men’s Style Here RRP: $350.00
Shop The North Face Hyperair Goretex Jacket Women’s Style Here RRP: $350.00
I have to say, before I even start this review, that the Petzl Head Torch range is phenomenal and definitely comes with my highest recommendations. What makes these torches so awesome is the comfort of the housing and the fact that they do not bounce at all. This is an absolute must when you are playing on trails an any movement in the housing will create a disconcerting, unsteady beam of light.
Out of the entire range, I absolutely love my new beefy, brighter-than-car-headlights Petzl Nao+ and its less-bright but still ridiculously bright sister, the Petzl Reactik+ Reactive Head Torch. Graham and I own both of these two head torches. Technically, the Petzl Nao+ is mine, whilst Graham owns the smaller, less bright Petzl Reactik+ Reactive Head Torch. However, throughout the winter I used both as each has great advantages (and few disadvantages!).
This year, the Petzl Nao+ head torch underwent some updates. The most notable improvement was an increase in the maximum brightness of the torch, from 575 lumens to 700 lumens. I cannot begin to tell you how bright this is! You will honestly need to shield the torch with your hand when facing oncoming runners or traffic as it will blind them! That said, the torch is still reactive. What this means is that the torch has a sensor in it which monitors the reflection of light back onto you. This allows the torch to automatically dim the brightness when you are looking at something nearby, such as a map, sign or the trail at your feet, but then as soon as you look up the brightness intensifies into a 700-lumen beam again. This is just so, so good for picking up the definition of a trail, seeing the trail’s pathway off into the distance, and moving without hesitation over the terrain. Furthermore, the battery life has increased. If you have the torch on a constant 700-lumen beam, you can get 90 minutes of running out of it. However, it would be rare that you really need this brightness for a prolonged period. Instead, if you let the torch do its thing on the reactive setting, you can get a lot longer out of the battery life. On its dimmest 120-lumen setting, which is still super bright, you get a whopping 12 hours out of one battery charge, which takes approximately 6 hours to completely recharge.
COMPARISON TO THE PETZL REACTIK+ REACTIVE HEAD TORCH
The Petzl Reactik+ Reactive Head Torch is the baby sister to the Petzl Nao+. The biggest differences are in the construction and in the brightness. The Petzl Nao+ has the battery pack situated on the back of the head. There is where the power of the head torch is stored. Conversely, the Petzl Reactik+ Reactive’s is located within the front housing of the torch. This makes it far less bulky and much lighter in weight, albeit not as bright.
To summarize the main differences, here is a comparison table between the two:
In conclusion, I truly believe that either the Petzl Nao+ or the Petzl Reactik+ Reactive Head Torches are the best for athletes wishing to run or play harder and wilder on the trails. The brightness of the beams and the reactive nature of the head torches ensure that you never need to slow down or alter your activities. If you want brightness, go for the Petzl Nao+. If you want packability, then select the Reactik+ Reactive Head Torch.
I am a proud Tomboy. Always have been. Skirts, dresses and anything ‘girly’ were never, ever on my radar until just two years ago when I acquired a bright blue Salomon S-Lab Sense Skort. At this point, something inside me clicked! A switch was flicked and suddenly I was a proud chick, running playfully around the trails in a skirt. I loved the sensation of freedom from the skirt, with the super light fabrics bouncing and breezing as I bounded, darted, squelched and ducked along the trail.
When I heard that Salomon skorts were going to be hard to come by in Australia I was really, really concerned. My beloved Salomon S-Lab Sense Skort now has mud stains and has faded to a duck-egg blue. What was I going to do? So, it was with slight intrepidation that I decided to give the new Salomon S-Lab modular clothing system a go.
Salomon S-Lab Evolution
In 2017 Salomon made an interesting decision to overhaul their S-Lab shorts, skirts and skorts range. The new styling is actually a 3-piece modular construction, requiring the user to purchase an inner brief (boxer length or longer), and integrated belt (for hydration, fuel and stowage), and another short or skirt (in three lengths). Ideally, you choose what will work best of you in whatever combination you like.
What I look for in a Skort or Short
When I choose a short or skort, what I am really choosing is comfort, especially over the longer distances. I look for lightweight, decreased chances of chaffing and quick drying. That is really why I loved my old Salomon S-Lab Sense Skort. The comfort of this was really in its liner. I just loved the super stretchy, incredibly light-weight, great wicking fabric of this inner short. It was the ultimate in comfort.
I have never been much of a fan of compression garments as when I am running I feel that my muscles are crying out for blood flow and with it, oxygen and nutrients. Restricting this just doesn’t feel right for my body and makes my legs ache. The only time I use compression is on aircraft or recovery after a long, challenging day on my feet.
Trialling the new Salomon S-Lab 3-piece Modular Construction
Inner ShortIn Australia, we are only able to access the compressive Salomon S-Lab Exo Half Tight or the the Salomon S-Lab Support Half Tight. As mentioned above, I try to avoid compression garments and so chose to trial the Support Half Tight option. This inner garment is made from a very lightweight, stretchy fabric that doesn’t shift or move and provides excellent next-to-skin comfort. They also have two stash pockets for gels and other small accessories, such as car keys. I have to admit this is a very comfy option.
Outer Short or Skirt
The new Salomon S-Lab modular range was created to have three outer variations for the girls – a 3-inch short, a 6-inch short and a 4-inch skirt. The idea is that any of these garments can be worn over the inner half tights. Sadly, in Australia we have only been able to access the 3-inch short and the skirt which is of a similar length. That is, they are very short! However, I absolutely loved the fabric of these outer garments. Super stretchy, incredibly quick to dry and it literally felt like you were wearing nothing. My only hesitation is that they are REALLY short. One day I tried to wear the 3-inch short without the inner half-tight and I realized that this was a massive mistake. I just felt too exposed. I am sure that if we could access the 6-inch length short this would be much better for wearing in isolation, especially in hot climates.
So yep, both the short and skirt are very, very comfortable but definitely need to be worn over the Salomon S-Lab Support or Exo Half Tight.
Okay, so this is where I started to have struggles with this Salomon S-Lab Modular Constructions. The belt felt a little cumbersome for me. See, the integrated belt is designed to snap onto your chosen inner short or brief, and then nestle snuggly to your waist. The belt has four pockets distributed around the entire circumference, with two longer pockets across the front and back, and two smaller pockets on the hips. This allows you to carry plenty on you without a pack. This is seemingly a good idea except that I do not always want to be carrying things with me. What I loved about my old skort was the sense of freedom it provided. Pull it on, lightweight, simple, and out the door I could go. I do not really want to wear the belt unless I am going longer distances.
Therefore, I have begun to trial wearing the inner and outer shorts without the belt. This appears to work really well although judging by the narrow waistband on my outer shorts, I am not sure that they were designed to work in this fashion. Anyhow, I am getting away without the belt and it feels like the most comfortable daily-use option for me.
SUMMARYIn summary, irrespective of the price, I would recommend the new Salomon S-Lab clothing range. I definitely think it is an awesome option for ultra-distance, trail running races and there is a lot of value in the price point. I think it is a great start from Salomon but I would like to see where it continues to evolve too.
Admittedly, I still run amok in my old blue skort, I am just really hoping that they can bring back a S-Lab Sense Short into the mix, and to also provide a longer short or skirt option to us trail chicks here in Australia.
I have been testing the new Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 8 Set trail running vest pack for the past few months in the anticipation of using it for the Ultra Trail Australia 100km. Whilst I know this will be a challenge, I now believe that the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 8 Set trail running vest pack is capable of carrying the mandatory gear requirements.
Absolute credit to Salomon for creating such a lightweight pack capable of going the long haul. I have used this pack for long missions, training runs and hopefully soon a race. The absolute benefits are:
I have to admit, whilst this pack is pretty awesome, I still do not love this version of Salomon’s S-Lab vest pack series quite as much as my original Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra Set vest pack which I reviewed in 2016. Whilst definitely not deal breakers for me, my small negatives are:
So, in summary, I am satisfied to recommend the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 8 Set vest pack, especially to athletes who want an allrounder pack capable of going up to the longer distances. This pack will suit you if you:
Finding a shoe that will meet most of our requirements as a trail runner is really difficult. Not only do races throw multiple challenges at us - single tracks, rougher terrain, roads - so too does the weather! What happens when the rocks get slippery or the scale of muddiness increases? Then of course we all partake in training or ‘missioning’. Whilst I enjoy the freedom of the trails on my daily jaunts, there are times when I find myself cruising the roads and footpaths too, be it for recovery, long runs, speed or access to new trails.
Asking one shoe to do all this for us is quite a challenge! However, I honestly believe that the all new Salomon SLAB Sense Ultra trail running shoe gets damn close to achieving this for me. Details and technical specs is not my strength so here is my ‘layman's' review of this shoe.
Typically, Salomon has produced many shoes for ‘European feet’ - longer & narrower. However, the new Salomon SLAB Sense Ultra trail running shoes have a broader toe box, whilst still maintaining the glove-like fit around the mid foot & heel. Even though I have the SLAB blessing of narrow feet, I love the feeling of allowing my forefoot & toes to spread out as I am sure it helps me with stability & propulsion. Do you have a slightly wider foot? I believe this shoe could be good fit for you.
Wow, this is a huge change! Whilst I enjoy my other SLAB shoes, especially my Salomon SLAB Sense 6s and Salomon SLAB Speeds, I had often found myself craving a more cushioned shoe for the longer distances or harder surfaces. The new cushioning in these Salomon SLAB Sense Ultra trail running shoes is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT! This morning I took them for a spin on a longer, faster road run and they rivalled my road shoes. So, if you have also had this concern with Salomon shoes in the past, you will be nicely surprised by the plush cushioning of the new Salomon SLAB Sense Ultra trail running shoes.
Heel to Toe Drop
Most of Salomon’s SLAB shoes have either been quite minimal (your heel is only 4mm higher than your forefoot) or heavier on the drop (your heel is at least 10mm higher than your forefoot). I love the feeling of running wildly amok in a low profile, minimal shoe but my legs do begin to hate me after a longer period of time, especially if I am not running on diverse, uneven terrain. The Salomon SLAB Sense Ultra trail running shoes are an 8mm drop. Whilst this may sound higher, I can honestly say that it doesn't feel like you are too far away from the ground. I find that I am still getting responsiveness back from the ground but am loving having a little bit more support from my shoe.
Protection from shapely rocks hasn't ever really been a concern of mine but I have to admit that I currently have a bruised nerve in my foot from a hard jab from the trail. I am enjoying having the rock plate under the balls of my feet to protect me from such items. This combined with the extra cushioning is helping to settle the discomfort in my foot.
It is early days but I have already been pretty hard on my new pair of Salomon SLAB Sense Ultra trail running shoes. We started our relationship together on the granite of Freycinet and then headed for some missions amongst the Dolerite peaks of Cradle Mountain. Since then we have done plenty of road, fire-trail, single track and vertical mileage on Mt Wellington. So far so good!
The upper fabric of this shoe is still highly breathable. I am sure it won’t be quite as tough as the sturdy uppers of my more aggressive trail shoes but as per the above statement, so far so good!
A shoe has to look good. I am not a girly girl but who doesn’t ask themselves the question, ‘Does this shoe look good?’ In the traditional black and red colour-way of Salomon… I love them.
My Final Say
These are my ideal shoes for quantity training and also the mid to longer trail races. I am just so stoked to have a shoe that protects my feet and legs on both the easier terrain and the gnarly stuff too. They have been a popular seller at Find Your Feet, especially with individuals lining up for the 25km to 100km distances. The most common comment I receive is, ‘I love the cushioning!’ This is not something we have heard often when runners describe their experience with Salomon SLAB. I think the Salomon SLAB Sense Ultra trail running shoe will be a winner with many trail enthusiasts!
I didn’t really need a watch. I had always loved my Suunto Ambit 3 Sport GPS watch and it had become a trusted companion on all my trail running adventures. But when the all new Suunto Spartan Ultra Limited Edition Copper GPS watch landed in our Find Your Feet store, all self restraint failed.
See, the thing is, I don’t think there are many GPS watches out there that look this nice! The first night I brought my new Suunto Spartan Limited Edition Copper watch home I happened to be going to a very formal cocktail function. First a sneaky run, then a quick shower and out the door I whizzed, hair mostly done and yes, in a dress! I didn’t get one comment on my dress or the fact that you never, ever see me in high heels. Rather I received a multitude of compliments on… my watch! The contrast of the copper trim and black casing just looks super eye catching and fitted into the jazzy evening.
The new Suunto Spartan watches are really sleek and streamlined. The GPS unit is now built into the watch rather than on the strap, an especially big perk for us girls with smaller wrists. This was perhaps the biggest criticism with the Suunto Ambit Collection and the reason why I never could comfortably sleep with my Suunto Ambit3 Sport at night. The relocated GPS is also one reason why the Spartan doesn’t look like a sports watch. For sure, the watch face is large but ‘big is in’ and I find this makes the digital display much easier to read when I am moving, especially over technical terrain or at speed. And if you have any concerns about the watch being big AND heavy, I can easily calm these concerns. The watch is heaps lighter than my older Suunto Ambit3 Sport.
What I also loved about the new Suunto Spartan Watches is that you can adjust the face. Need a second hand? No problem. Prefer a digital display? Too easy! But please don’t get me wrong… this is NOT A GIRLY WATCH! The other day my watch went missing and was finally relocated on Graham’s wrist.
My greatest hesitation when I heard Suunto were bringing out touch screen watches was functionality. A long time ago I had used a Garmin GPS watch with a touch screen and it was a nightmare, not too dissimilar to when you try to use an iPhone with wet, sweaty fingers. But technology has changed a lot and the watch responds to sweaty or damp fingers very easily. You can also opt to use the buttons over the touch screen technology any time.
When it comes to accuracy, I know that the Suunto Spartan GPS watches have copped some criticism. But, to be honest, I have not had any issues. For sure, I am not the most tech savvy person on the planet, nor the most meticulous about keeping records. But I can guarantee that this morning’s interval session felt tough and my Spartan watch agreed! I love that if you ensure your personal data is accurate, the watch can determine how much recovery you require from a session. And if you do not listen to its wise advice (for instance I am told by my Suunto watch that I need around 38hrs recovery from this morning’s harder session) then it will keep accumulating recovery after each session. I think I am up to about 45hrs of recovery from this week’s training. This feels pretty accurate. Today I am weary but once rested I know that by Saturday morning I will be raring to go again.
The other criticism that I have heard about the new Suunto Spartan watch collection relates to the accuracy of the altitude recorders. I can confidently say that mine has been excellent and far more accurate than my Suunto Ambit 3 Sport watch which could be anywhere from 100-400m vertically out after a longer run. With the Suunto Spartans, you can also choose to swap between a compass and barometeric altitude recorder to suit your needs. To be honest I haven’t done this but it is interesting to know that the watch can allow this functionality.
The other thing I am loving about my Spartan Ultra GPS watch is the battery life. My old Suunto Ambit3 Sport was great for what I needed at the time (it had up to 10hrs battery life) but now that I am venturing further afield my watch can continue to be my companion. The Spartan Ultra watches have up to 20hrs battery life on the most accurate 1 sec GPS recorder. Don’t need one this long? Then opt for the Suunto Spartan Sport GPS Watch which has 10hrs battery life. You can always change the accuracy setting of the GPS recorder if you need to go for longer - I think you can get up to 100hrs battery life on the Sport or 200hrs on my Ultra. If you are not actually using the watch you can get around 2 weeks before you need to charge it, a simple affair with the new magnetised USB charger.
In summary, this is my ideal watch. It can meet my most technical needs out on the trails but then I can live in it, sleep in it and feel proud of it on my wrist. The new updates by the Suunto developers appear to have mended any of the earlier teething issues and so I am confident to honestly say, ‘Suunto, you have really nailed it!’
I used to be a camel. I would pride myself on my ability to guzzle fluids before I headed out the door on a long run. Off I would trot, my stomach sloshing and multiple layers of thermals & rain jackets wrapped around my waist. Despite my proud claim of rivalling one of the slowest species in the animal kingdom, unlike the camel I found I had a lifespan on a training run or race of around 2.5 hours. My water stocks didn’t seem to last as well as my humped animal role model, my jacket would begin to unravel and flap around my legs, energy levels would begin to dip and the negatives stemming from discomfort would start to set in. My world had become limited by my inability to rival the camel. Until… I was given my Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra Set vest pack in 2014. Gone are my camel days!
I have now owned my Sense Ultra Set Vest pack for 2 years. It has been on literally hundreds of runs, been my go-to for every single ultra race, my companion on missions and a survivor of the brutality of my washing machine on a weekly basis. However, what confirmed this vest pack as my best friend in my trail world was the mission I completed with it on the Tasmanian Overland Track last winter.
This Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra Set trail running vest pack is deceptive. It is comprised of a mesh lining with a stretch sleeve on the outside, and multiple small pockets on the front. There are also two zip pockets built into the pack under the arms. When you look at this pack, you assume that you might get a thermal and possibly a rain jacket squished into it. However, on my wintery 65km traverse of the Overland Track last summer my trusty vest pack carried:
That said, this pack is absolutely ideal for Skyrunning and any race with less mandatory gear requirements. I have used it comfortably & successfully in: the Buffalo Stampede, Dolomitii & Hong Kong Sky Races; the Surf Coast 50km; and a road marathon. Full or empty, this pack can be the carrier of your nutrition & hydration, or your life’s possessions.
These articles are a collection of my writing. If you have feedback or questions, would love to hear from you!