Tested: OMM Kamleika Race Jacket and Trousers

A friend recommended the OMM Kamleika range to me; she swore by it for long-distance mountain running. Being new at the sport at the time, I was keen to take any advantage I could get – and better kit means faster times, right?

OMM, or Original Mountain Marathon, is a British company who arrange a series of fell and mountain running in the UK and across Europe and Japan, during which competitors have to carry all of their equipment and clothing with them. Think of it as a mini Marathon de Sables, but with mud and rain rather than sand and sun. The emphasis is, therefore, on lightweight clothing that is good enough to fulfill that particular purpose and no more. Over-engineering has no place in ultra-lightweight running clothing: extra durability and adaptability add weight and complexity, and ultra-running demands light and simple; when you’re tired and cold and wet, you want something that works first time, every time.

The Kamleika jacket and trousers are both made of a 4-way stretchy material that is windproof, waterproof, and breathable.

The Kamleika jacket has a water-resistant YKK zip up the front, a hood and two zipped pockets, but only Velcro cuffs and no fancy extras; if you want fancy, then buy something else and be prepared for it to weigh you down and fail when you need it most.

The jacket weighs just 280gms – my Arc’teryx LEAF Alpha LT jacket, the lightest in the LEAF range and itself a marvel of stripped-to-the-bones engineering, weighs 425gms by comparison – and folds up smaller than a coke can.

The trousers are even lighter, tipping the scales at just 190gms. They’re super-simple and don’t even have a zip fly, just an elasticated waist and two long zips on the lower legs that make pulling them on a doddle, even while you’re wearing trainers or walking boots. A Dyneema panel on the inside of each leg gives protection from scuffing, and under-foot straps help keep them in place.

Both are waterproof to a 20000mm head (yes, that’s right, 20 metres!) and breathable to 18,000 gms/m2.

In use I haven’t found them to be quite as breathable as Gore-Tex Pro but then they’re lighter, smaller and considerably cheaper. Expect to pay £120 for the trousers, and £160 for the jacket. Both are close-cut, so you might need to go up a size in the trousers unless you like the Lycra look.

Despite being super-stretchy and very comfortable to wear, I’ve found that I tend to restrict them emergency use only, keeping them in my waist pack or running vest as insurance against foul weather. (Both meet OMM’s requirements for emergency kit, as you’d expect.)

Perhaps I’m doing them an injustice but I run hot, and the sort of long-distance running I do means that I’d rather run in lightweight clothing that dries quickly when the rain stops as my body temperature is usually enough to dry them in pretty short-order. This means I almost invariably wear OMM Flash running tights (in either full or three-quarter length, depending on the ambient temperature), plus a long-sleeved Trail Tee.

Both feature flat seams and a stretchy, close-fitting cut that all but eliminates rubbing, even over long distances when I’m carrying a waist pack and a running vest packed with snacks and water.

I’ve also found that as long as I keep moving neither wind nor cold weather is a problem; this echoes the experience of Ranulph Fiennes when he was man-hauling in the Arctic and Antarctic. He, like me, would rather be a little bit cold and not have the problem of sweat chilling him when he stops.

And when I do stop, I simply pull on my Kamleika jacket and trousers, which cuts out any wind and any associated wind chill. But then the key for faster times isn’t necessarily running faster; it’s taking fewer and shorter breaks, which is where the Kamleika’s stretchy fabric and long zips come into their own; if it was more of a faff to put them on I probably wouldn’t bother, which would leave me dangerously vulnerable.

So, do I recommend the Kamleika jacket and trousers? Yes, absolutely. I use mine as emergency insurance for both running and cycling. I’ve only ever used them for protection while I’m taking a break so far but I’ve no doubt that they’re potential life-saving pieces of kit if I’m ever caught out in inclement weather.

Carlton Boyce @motoringjourno