Keeping the new, highly innovative, Patagonia High Endurance Kit (HEK) a secret was not going to be a problem thanks to the weather forecast. No other runners would be foolish enough to be out during the same time we joined athletes Clare Gallagher and Luke Nelson for a shoot on our very own Via Valais. The calendar said summer but the thermometer at 3000 meters said -10° celsius. And we were headed to 3600 meters on the Alps highest official trail, which happened to be buried beneath 40cm of new snow.
While conditions were not exactly something we were excited about, they were ideal for putting the HEK to the test. And that, plus photos and a film was the goal. The design strategy, spearheaded by Gallagher and Nelson, was to create a system that you carry on big missions with a huge range of conditions. That’s what we had.
The HEK is a six piece layering system composed of: T-shirt, Mid-Layer, Rain Jacket, Shorts, Pants, and a Vest. What makes the design so innovative? Let’s look at each piece from top to bottom to understand how it all works as a system.
The HEK System
Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt
The T-shirt baselayer is the proven Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt. This ultra thin, super light shirt with smooth seams is a fast drying, rugged shirt that’s been my go to mountain shirt for a few years now. $45
Airshed Pro Pullover
The Airshed Pullover turns Pro with new Capilene Cool Lightweight sleeves and fitted hood. On the sleeves, the Capilene only goes to just above the elbow where it joins the Airshed material. This allows the sleeves to be pushed up, extending the range of use for warmer temps. On the other end, the sleeves are left with some extra length to cover your cold paws. And with the addition of the Capilene hood you can forget your beanie at home.
In front is a ½ zip to dump heat and keep things breathing. Finally, a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish allows for some weather resistance.
Clare Gallagher made it clear this is a key piece for her, “This is the only mid-layer I need, and on mild days works as my top layer. It’s so versatile that I can wear it in 65°F heat or in 30°F snow with a layer underneath. The hood has replaced all my running hat/headband needs for cooler mornings or windy ridges.” $129
Slope Runner Vest
Notice it’s not called a pack… Patagonia designed their running vests to be more like a piece of clothing. We’ve been using the Slope Runner 4 and 8 liter vests for a couple of years now (our review) and love them. Before I used the new Slope Runner, Luke assured me that the 3 liter HEK version is even better, given that it’s part of a system designed around the philosophy of continual movement.
“It’s hands down the best running vest I’ve worn.”, says Nelson. “It fits like a shirt and holds all I need for a full day out. The center of the HEK, the vest integrates with the other layers seamlessly allowing me to focus on the mountains not on my clothing and gear.”
The vest has multiple compression sleeves on the back allowing it to be stuffed from the sides, or over the head and straight down into the main compartment.
In front, roomy shoulder strap pouches serve as your cockpit for carrying soft water flasks, food, gloves etc… $149
Storm Racer Jacket
When things turn wet and windy, this fully waterproof and breathable shell gets pulled from the vest’s compression sleeve and goes on over the Slope Runner. No need to stop, remove vest, jacket on, and re-install vest – just put the jacket on over the vest, which at this point is probably mostly empty anyway. And if it’s not, what’s inside will remain dry beneath the jacket.
Where the Storm Chaser gets really innovative is in the front with its dual zippers that open a large flap on the chest. This lets you have access to just one, or both, shoulder strap pouches where your water and food is carried.
Roll the flap all the way open and tuck it away to keep the jacket breathing without the sides flapping in the wind.
The hood is full coverage to seal out whatever you don’t want pelting your face.
Patagonia says that this H2NO shell is the lightest, most waterproof and breathable jacket they’ve ever made. $249
Endless Run Shorts
Patagonia has boldly introduced a men’s tight/short hybrid design to the US market. They look and feel a bit like tights, but thanks to a short’s like panel in the front are less tight and more, uh, loose. Like I said, a hybrid.
For women, the design is less of a hybrid and more of a classic pair of tight fitting shorts.
A compression pocket on each side is incorporated into both the men’s and women’s short that takes a phone, food, gels, whatever, without any bounce… this lets you distribute some of your freight away from the vest’s shoulder straps. And, being tight cut, they don’t bunch up when you layer them beneath the pants.
Clare, winner of the 2019 Western States Race, claims, “Best running shorts. Period. Holds so much– gels, phone, gloves. I never need another short. Works seamlessly underneath the Strider Pants. I wore them for WS100, alpine missions and while traveling. So versatile.” W’s $59 / M’s $79
HEK Strider Pro Pants
These ultralight, stretchy, polyester ripstop pants pack down to nothing and serve as a thin barrier to keep your legs warm and out of the wind. Similar to the Terrebonne Joggers, which have covered my own goosebump covered legs a time or 80, this new design has a much needed addition of calf high buttons that allow you to take them on and off without removing your shoes. $129
Piecing it all together
After all that explanation of what the HEK is, let’s look at what the HEK is for.
While the individual pieces all work well on their own, it’s the complete package that’s going to shine when you head high or long. I can’t imagine a better set up for our own Way Ups, where we typically encounter a huge range of conditions from valley starts, to windy ridges, and finally icy summits. Or, looking to run the Via Valais? With the addition of just another piece or two and trading up capacity for the 8 liter Slope Runner, this is your full kit. It’s feature rich, light, and after using it all as a system, you’ll get to know exactly how to maximize its simplicity, allowing you to travel more comfortably and efficiently. For even colder temps or hanging around time, consider adding an insulation layer like the Patagonia Nano Air Hybrid which compliments the system by being worn over the Airshed Pro.
To purchase the entire kit is an investment, but then that’s it, it’s what you use and pack for your missions. One kit to rule them all. If you’re into product performance as much as your own performance, this is the kit for you.
For more info, and to learn how to get wrapped in the HEK, visit Patagonia.
By Dan Patitucci