WHAT’S the outdoors equivalent to a petrol head; a kit tart maybe? Well if you are one of those, a kit tart, then it’s likely that you’ll be familiar with the name Salewa although chances are you’ve never bought anything bearing that name.
This is a real shame because Salewa has been producing high-end lightweight clothing and equipment since the early-1960’s, although its history goes back to the Dolomites mountains in Italy in 1935.
The name comes from its founding company, Saddler and Leather Wares: Sa (Saddler) le (leather) wa (wares).
For many of its early years Salewa produced photo bags for AGFA, while backpacks, leather football and tank bags for motorbikes were part of the portfolio; before ski poles (made from the wood of hazelnut trees) became the major sales item.
By the 1960s it was leading the way with the lightest crampons on the market followed by the world’s lightest climbing helmet in the mid-90’s.
Fast forward to today and Salewa is, not only, a major climbing brand but the main sponsor of the Lakes Sky Ultra; a mountain race of around 33-miles in the Lake District National Park that fuses running with mountaineering. Seems like an ideal match to me.
The race involves 14,107ft of ascent (including grade three scrambles) and takes in Helvellyn, Swirral Edge, Pinnacle Ridge, High Street and Red Screes.
Even though it’s a fully marked course, it’s definitely not a trail race; it’s an event aimed at high-end fell runners, a mere 100 of them.
At last year’s LSU I was one of around 45 marshals and for our efforts we were each given a yellow-coloured Salewa Puez Aqua jacket to guard us from the elements. (The race might have been held in the middle of the summer but the Lakes has no respect for the seasons.)
Race day started for me at 5:30am and ended around 9:00pm, and for about four hours late in the afternoon I was at the final checkpoint at Kirkstone Pass which is around 1,788ft above Ambleside.
For most of the day the weather had been a little overcast but generally clear and dry; however, by the time I arrived at Kirkstone Pass things had changed. There it was cold and windy and the coat helped to keep me snug.
It’s a summer jacket; it’s waterproof, windproof and breathable. It has two very big pockets, a draw cord at the hem and one for the hood (which you can’t tuck away) and Velcro wrist tighteners.
Being given the jacket proved to be perfect timing because my five-year-old Montane Atomic was starting to show signs of age; the Goretex membrane was beginning to wear thin around the neck and there was a small hole on one of the sleeves after part of a match head broke away while lighting a camping stove.
The first thing I noticed when I tried the Aqua on were the long sleeves; which I thought I’d find annoying but once the Velcro wrist straps were tightened everything was fine, and I’ve since found that the lengthy sleeves come into their own while stretching when scrambling or bouldering.
Here’s hoping that I’ll get as much wear out of it as I did with my Montane!