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Patagonia High Endurance Kit (HEK) Review

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.

Sleeves up, zippers open in the lowlands.

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.

The Airshed Pro all sealed up as things get nasty.

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.”

It’s all about compression sleeves, pockets and access.

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.

Abundant cargo carrying capacity in the shoulder strap pockets.
Super hero layering deployment with the Clare Gallagher pull and shake.

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.

One of the key features of the entire HEK system is the Storm Chaser’s front zipper and panel system that allows access to the vest shoulder straps while also opening the jacket to breathe.

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.

The Storm Chaser keeping things dry while allowing full access to water and food.

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.

Side sleeves for food, phone, whatever

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.

Summer running does not always mean summer running. The full HEK system in use at 3600 meters on the Barrhorn.

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

Even if the weather is determined to ruin your day, gear this good will keep you out for experiences like this, which turns out to be the best kind of days.

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Comments 4

  1. You don’t have an inside picture of the endless run shorts by chance? They don’t have any liner at all? Not like the Strider Pro 5″ pants? I wonder how they are constructed and Patagonia doesn’t have a picture online ..and in europe no free returns …

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      Author
  2. I just ordered this vest for a 50k. It states there is a place to store trekking poles so I’m really hoping to take them along. Have you tried the pole attachments? There are no pictures on the Patagonia website showing trekking poles on the vest.

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      Author

      I haven’t used the pole straps, but they are just a simple stretch cord system on the sides of the pack.

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