Crossover efforts are a mixed bag. If we all had a dollar for every time someone spoke ill of Garth Brooks for his ill-fated and thoroughly-bland Chris Gaines’ effort, well, we’d all spend a whole lot more time on the trail and less at the daily grind. But, there are times where a well-established market (including alternative rock, but that’s a different story) benefits from a crossover move. Arc’teryx has effectively accomplished this move into the trail running clothing market, with a few minor reservations.
As most of you likely know, Arc’teryx cut their teeth in the 90’s with highly-praised and valued backpacking backpacks (their climbing gear was also worth note). Their Canadian-manufactured bags were, and still are, sought after by backpackers for their durability and pragmatic designs. The resulting popularity allowed Arc’teryx to expand into other outdoor markets and move a portion of their manufacturing overseas.
Twenty years later, the company is still going strong and producing excellent backpacking equipment. And, to our benefit, has decided to continue their expansion into trail running clothing. Clearly, they bring plenty of outdoor product experience to the table, but also a well-deserved reputation that can demand a lofty price-point. Is their newly-produced Endorphin line of clothing worth it? Or, are we looking at a Chris Gaines reunion tour? Read on!
The first thing one notices when picking up the Arc’teryx Incendo Jacket is weight. The company claims the jacket weighs a svelte 4.2 ounces and it certainly doesn’t feel any heavier, either on the body or in your backpack/vest/waistpack. And, the fabric feels significantly tougher than the other jackets in my closet of similar design and weight. It packs down nicely into its solitary hand pocket. The pocket also features a small port to run headphone cords through. However, the port is quite small for a standard headphone jack and there are no additional loops to route the cord, so its effectiveness is somewhat limited.
The construction of the jacket is fairly typical of lightweight running jackets. There is water-resistant fabric across the shoulders, back, front, and upper arms. Underneath the arms and down the sides, Arc’teryx placed mesh. The result is a jacket that does very well in wind, light rain, and temps up to 80F. I’ve included it in my pack for almost every run since I received the jacket. And, I have found myself pulling it out for a little coverage, even when it is plenty warm out.
Runners looking for a jacket with good low-light visibility should likely look elsewhere. While the jacket does come in a startling “Brimstone” color (the reviewed color was “Squid Ink”), it only has four 3” by .25” reflective strips (two on the sleeves and two on the back). However, if you are using it out on the trail, you’re not going to worry about catching the headlights of an oncoming moose.
At an MSRP of $129, there are cheaper options out there for jackets. However, for the high-performance and light-weight market, it is not out-of-line. Chris Gaines… wait in the wings.
Motus Crew Long-Sleeve and Short-Sleeve
With both the long sleeve and short sleeve versions of the Motus Crew, Arc’teryx again went extremely lightweight. The long sleeve is advertised to weigh 4.2 ounces and the short sleeve at 3.5 ounces. The fabric is lighter than all of the similar shirts that I own. They also boast a UPF rating of 54. When you combine those two features, light weight and sun-block, you have the heart of the Motus Crews. They are designed to be worn when it is blazing hot and bright. And, in that mode, they excel. I wore the long sleeve crew repeatedly on hot days and came back from extended runs cooler than I have in other short-sleeved shirts. Plus, after being drenched in sweat, the fabric washed well and didn’t pick up undesirable scents like many other of my technical shirts tend to do.
There are two things I take issue with in the Motus Crews. First, the tags are of a nylon/plastic construction. While I am sure they were meant to be either A) lightweight or B) more resilient, I found them to be far more irritating than ordinary tags. Scissors solved this problem after obligatory photos were taken. Second, lightweight here means minimal features. And, while one can argue that running shirts really don’t need much, thumb-holes to help sleeves from riding up and/or a small pocket for a key is always a welcome bonus.
The LS and SS versions retail at $75 and $65 respectively.
Incendo Shorts – Short
If there is a solid top-20 hit in Arc’teryx’s crossover attempt, it is the Incendo Shorts. I received a pair of the “short” version, which equates to a 6.5” inseam. The shorts have a lightweight fabric shell with a brushed finish, which has a slight stretch and soft feel. The waistband is broad enough to be comfortable while cinched to prevent any upward or downward movement.
The feature that really surprised me upon receiving the shorts was the lightweight compression/brief layer inside. All of us have shorts that have the little briefs sewn inside. Arc’teryx took this idea further by stretching the legs of that inner layer down 3/4 of the inseam. The resulting compression is light, both in intensity and weight. After 15 miles on an exceptionally hot day, I was completely comfortable with this extended internal layer and, frankly, glad to have the additional protection. The layer did ride up a few times over the course of that run, but not to a point that it was bunching or uncomfortable.
The shorts also have a small stash pocket located on the right rear of the short. It handles a key and ID without problems. A gel packet is about the maximum I would put in it. And, putting a cell phone in it would be very questionable.
At $75 MRSP, the shorts are at the high end of the market. However, the construction and design on these shorts comes very close, in my mind, to justifying full price.
By and large, Arc’teryx’s expertise lends itself where it matters. And, the majority of my concerns could be filed under personal preference. Whether the quality of the clothing meets the price-point they ask is still debatable in my mind and will only be resolved if the durability of the lightweight materials stands the miles. Suffice to say, Arc’teryx’s venture into trail running clothing is a very respectable crossover effort. While I wouldn’t encourage them to grow their hair out and sprout a soul-patch, they certainly shouldn’t hang up their guitars.