Earlier this year, Patagonia introduced the High Endurance Kit, an integrated collection of six pieces designed with input from mountain runners like Clare Gallagher and Luke Nelson to be a streamlined layering system of gear that would be sufficient for any big mountain/trail adventures in wildly changing weather conditions. I had the chance to test three of these items: the Patagonia Slope Runner Endurance Vest ($149), the Patagonia Strider Pro Pants ($129), and the Patagonia Women’s Endless Run Shorts ($59).
Other items in the collection include a base layer, the Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt (which I purchased and absolutely love), a mid layer, the Airshed Pro Pullover, and a weatherproof outer layer, the Storm Racer Jacket (our full review of Patagonia Storm Racer Jacket). The men’s and women’s systems are identical with the exception of a slightly different hybrid design of the Men’s Endless Run Shorts.
Patagonia has made some of my favorite, long-lasting outdoor gear since I first discovered the brand in the 1990s. It wasn’t until I really put the gear to the test in the mountains of Colorado and Alaska a few years after that that I truly appreciated the technicality and attention to detail that is consistently present in the items Patagonia creates. The new High Endurance Kit continues that tradition of innovation and excellence.
Patagonia Slope Runner Endurance Vest
With its 3-liter capacity, the Patagonia Slope Runner Endurance Vest is an interesting evolution of from the Slope Runner Pack 4-Liter and 8-Liter (which I reviewed in March of 2019). It’s now called a “vest” instead of a “pack” and the close-fitting, ultra-breathable design certainly warrants that distinction. It completely conforms to the body and lies flat when minimally loaded yet can accommodate far more than the 3-liter capacity would suggest for longer adventures. At a mere 6.17 ounces/175 grams, the pack itself is very lightweight and the breathability is impressive thanks to the 3.6-ounce 200-denier 100% nylon mono-mesh and the overlying stretchy panels constructed of 1.5-ounce 20-denier 100% nylon (54% recycled) with a durable water repellent finish. In nontechnical jargon, these materials make it a perfect choice for hot climates as well as cooler, wetter ones because the moisture moves freely through and out of the very quick-drying pack. On the flip side, I typically store my phone in the back panel inside a small dry bag.
Front-facing bungee cords on either side of the ribs as well as load-lifting bungees in front of the shoulders allow you to adjust the fit of the pack on the fly as fueling and clothing changes alter your load over the course of your adventure. The dual-adjustable sternum cords also allow you to customize the fit and angle of the straps across the chest. The cords are easy to adjust yet don’t slip at all once you have your desired length set. The actual hooks that attach to the opposite side’s loops unfortunately don’t seem to be as secure as the prior versions of the Slope Runner Packs, so I do find they occasionally come loose particularly if I’ve been leaning forward pushing on thighs on a hard climb or, as I often do, bend forward to pet sweet dogs. It’s not hard to reattach, but I think this could be improved. Overall, though I found the bungees very unobtrusive and easy to operate even in the cold or when tired, I did notice I had to be careful about the position of the load-lifting toggle on the upper front of the shoulders since it occasionally irritated my collarbones if I didn’t have it set just right.
Patagonia took excellent steps to eliminate the potential for annoying cord bounce. The shoulder toggles and cords are secured by wide webbing strips that also allow a bladder hose to be routed to the right or left if you’re choosing to utilize one. The lower rib bungees tuck easily into the long horizontal pocket that runs the length of the low back and is accessible from both sides. Additional bungees are placed just lateral to the soft-flask pockets for front stowage of folded poles and do not flop around. These work surprisingly well and are easier to get the poles in and out of than some packs. If you have other bulky items to take up a bit of space (and very flexible shoulders), I also discovered the poles may be routed horizontally in the back lower pocket.
This vest has the capacity for two 500-milliliter soft flasks in the front which are included (yay!) with the pack. Overlying the bottle pocket on each side is an elasticized stuff pocket with a wide opening that easily swallows a phone, fuels, a headlamp, gloves, and about anything else you want quick access to. As mentioned above, there is a long horizontal pocket at the bottom of the back of the pack that securely carries bulkier layers like a rain jacket and the Strider Pro Pants. Thanks to the large, stretchy openings on either side of the pocket (with a hidden flap to help keep gear inside), even someone like me and my non-flexible shoulders can reach back and pull out the outer layer of choice when the weather gets a bit more rowdy. The long, back vertical pocket can accommodate a 1- to 1.5-liter bladder and has a secured loop to keep it suspended. I frequently use this pocket instead for an extra filter bottle, a small dry bag with my phone that I can pull out the top while still wearing my pack, or even a thin puffy jacket. On the exterior back panel, a well-sized zippered pocket easily holds a wallet, key (with secure loop option), phone, fuels, or a few first-aid supplies. This pocket doubles as a stuff sack for the entire pack which is quite cool and definitely facilitates inclusion in your carry-on if your mountain adventures require significant travel.
I really like the new Slope Runner Endurance Vest for “shorter” daily runs in the heat, or mild-weather (less gear intensive) mid-length forays into the mountains. The vest rides in the mid-back yet just low enough that the upper shoulders don’t get too weary. With the slightly “higher” ride, I feel like I still have airflow in my mid-lower back which helps for summer runs. It can occasionally feel a bit bouncy with the front bottles full and some fuel in the front pockets unless I balance it out with my phone/wallet/key in the back, but that’s easy to do. The breathability and moisture management more than make up for it particularly on an 80-plus-degree-Fahrenheit day. As for the all-day-long mountain-mission concept, I’m a habitual “contingency packer,” so if I’m going to be out playing up high from dawn ’til dusk, I typically need more volume/carrying capacity in a vest. Those with less tendency to “pack the kitchen sink” may find it adequate.
One last comment on sizing—the pack comes in unisex sizing from extra small through extra large which, in combination with the stretchiness and significant adjustability built into the design, will make a lot of people happy. Because of the “vest” design, however, the shoulder openings are fixed in size which will make it harder for those with larger upper bodies to perhaps find their perfect fit.
Patagonia Strider Pro Pants
The Patagonia Strider Pro Pants are my favorite piece in the Patagonia High Endurance Kit that I was able to test and maybe my favorite piece of gear I’ve tested all year. The pants are so fabulously dialed, I now take them in my mountain-running pack every time I go. At 4.6 ounces/130 grams, the pants seem to disappear whether in my pack or on my body. I absolutely love the relaxed fit and the super lightweight versatility and protection they offer. While not at all intended to be waterproof, they’re the perfect wind-resistant, breathable layer that keeps you running and powerhiking as the temperatures dip and the jet stream settles right over top of you. I’ve slid them on over shorts and capris in crazy, high-alpine summer winds and light freezing pellets along treeless ridges and have been completely happy, comfortable, and dry.
The 100% recycled polyester stretch ripstop utilized in much of the pant is surprisingly smooth and soft against the skin and has proven to be quite durable. I’m not sure how excited I’d be to bash willows all day in these with how light they feel—and how much I love them—but the limited incursions I’ve had with brush, scrub oak, willows, rough rock, and dog paws have left no visible wear and tear. Durable water repellent treatment throughout helps to resist moisture from the outside but doesn’t inhibit incredibly fast moisture transfer out of the fabric. I absolutely do not get clammy in these pants. The back of the upper leg has 89% recycled polyester and 11% elastane which ensures absolutely free movement no matter what you’re climbing and descending. I love the fact I have full hip and knee range of motion with these even with a layer on beneath. Lower-leg durability is enhanced with the combination of 65% recycled nylon and 35% elastane which makes it more resistant to scuffs and seems to keep it from getting stuck on shoe tread. Once you release the four snaps that secure the stretch cuff ankle and lower-leg opening, it’s no trouble at all to quickly don the pants even with trail shoes and reduced one-leg balance at hour seven of a burly mountain day. They come off just as quickly which makes weather-related clothing changes no burden at all.
The adjustable waist is lined with a brushed fabric which makes the elasticized front portion and the smooth stretch panel along the back very comfortable against the skin. The stretch panel hides a horizontal pocket you can easily store a few gels in or the pants themselves if you’re squeezing them into a narrow opening in your pack. Again, they’re designed to quickly fit over whatever you’re running in, so the fit and elasticity is very generous and non-restrictive which my belly is inordinately pleased with. The sizing is true to Patagonia’s measurements on the size chart, but I went ahead and ordered a size up anyway which I have not regretted given the freedom of movement I have. The inseam is 32 for women’s medium, a bit long for me at 5 foot 5 inches, but the snaps keep the ankle closure right where I want it, and makes the pants even easier to move in. All in all, Strider Pro Pants for the win!
Patagonia Women’s Endless Run Shorts
The snug-fitting Patagonia Women’s Endless Run Shorts are designed to allow you to take a bit of the load off your back with two deep no-bounce side leg pockets that fit lightweight items we tend to run with like larger cell phones, fuels bars, gels, and gloves. Along the center back, another horizontal stretchy pocket exists with an opening on each side for things you like to keep close to the small of your back. I’ve had good luck with a phone on one side (there’s a secret little flap at the top of the opening of the pocket that keeps it secure) and a few small fuel items on the other with a pair of gloves and chews in the back pocket and noticed no bounce or downward slippage of the shorts. There’s no key hook, so I tend to keep my key either deep on the side or in my pack if I’m wearing one.
Interestingly, the shorts don’t fit “tightly” in the “spandex” sense of the word, so there’s less muscular support than a true pair of compression shorts, but there’s also complete freedom of movement through the legs and hips which makes them really easy to choose for trail days. They’re also slightly thicker feeling than most “spandex” without sacrificing breathability. What this really means is that you can slide down a bit of scree on your bum, brush the dust off, and be on your way with nary a scuff on the material.
The 4.2 ounce/119 gram shorts are constructed from 79% recycled polyester and 21% spandex power-stretch knit fabric and treated with HeiQ Fresh which makes them resistant to odor. The spandex provides just enough support to keep the shorts close to the body even with items in pockets yet doesn’t make you feel squished in anyway. The adjustable waistband doesn’t impede breathing and stays very comfortable due to the soft, wicking material and the wide, flat lie against the body. Another thoughtful design feature I really appreciate is the absence of a vertical seam in the front and back panels of the shorts—this ensures no pressure points along sensitive areas. These were truly designed with all-day adventures in mind.
The one potential challenge with these shorts for many women will be the overall length. Though they are billed as a 4.5-inch inseam, functionally, they do ride up a bit higher at least on my body—maybe a half to a full inch. It doesn’t actually bother me once I get out on the run especially since it’s been so hot lately and I love the other features so much. I would absolutely love to see the shorts made with two inseam lengths. Keep this one for those who like a shorter short and add an option for a 6- to 8-inch inseam for those who prefer a bit more coverage. I don’t think you’d have to change any other feature at all. This would allow more women the pleasure of exploring all day in such an otherwise well-designed short.
Patagonia High Endurance Kit Overall Impressions
It’s easy to see that a lot of time, effort, and energy went into designing these extraordinarily comfortable, high-performance pieces of the High Endurance Kit by Patagonia. The Patagonia Strider Pro Pants in particular make my very short list of “must-have gear” for mountain and trail runners. I deeply appreciate it when companies take the time to listen to their athletes, ambassadors, and users and then create pieces of gear that truly enhance and one’s experience while moving through wildly changing conditions in our outdoor adventures in wild places they fight to protect. Patagonia’s pieces can feel like an investment, but like the company itself, they perform to your highest expectations, and they last and last and last.
Call for Comments
- Are you running in any pieces in the Patagonia High Endurance Kit?
- If so, what are you using and what are your thoughts?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]