New Inov-8 Bags & Apparel

There’s an abundance of new gear from Inov-8 arriving in time for the start of the 2015 season, including new ISPO award winning 5 and 10 litre vest packs and a waterproof jacket and pants combination that, whilst perhaps not aesthetically to everyone’s taste, offers functionality at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

“Designed to meet all strict mandatory race day kit requirements, ultra and mountain runners will be able run lighter and faster with the Race Ultra Shell. Weighing just 125g, it boasts superb levels of protection, while its super-stretchy fabric guarantees unrestricted body movement when running. Race numbers pinned on tees/singlets underneath remain visible at all times through shell’s transparent material.”

Inov-8 RACE ULTRA 5 Vest/Pack

“Evolution of the award-winning race ultra™ vest. The Race Ultra 5 vest has been specifically designed to carry five litres of kit while maintaining a close-to-the-body fit that ensures stability and zero bounce when running over even the longest of distances. Available in two sizes (S/M and M/L), the vest has two simple-to-use adjustable clip straps at the front. It boasts a total of eight pockets. The rear can hold up to five litres of kit, while an extra zip allows access to a separate reservoir compartment. Comes supplied with 2x 500ml soft flasks with 30cm tubes.”

Features

  • Large weather resistant zipped pocket to rear
  • Separate reservoir zipped pocket
  • Two 500ml softflask with 12″ / 30cm tube
  • Two large side mesh pockets
  • Two large zipped mesh pockets to front double as bottle holders
  • Two large mesh pockets to front top
  • Two smaller stretch mesh pockets to front top
  • Whistle
  • Rear bungee compression
  • Pole loops to rear
  • Two sizes

Specifications

Volume Capacity

  • 5L / 305 cubic inches

Fluid Capacity

  • 1L in 2 x 500mL soft flasks with straw/tube (included)
  • 2L in bladder (not included)

Weight

  • S/M: 250g / 8.8oz
  • M/L: 255g / 9oz

Back Length

  • S/M: 30cm / 11.8in.
  • M/L: 36cm / 14.2in.

Sizing at chest (Unisex)

  • S/M: 31 – 38in. / 78 – 97cm
  • M/L: 38 – 44in. / 87 – 112cm
  • Note: Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear

Materials & Design

  • Nylon / Polyester / Spandex

Included

  • 2x 500mL soft flasks with tube/straw

Inov-8 RACE ULTRA 10 Vest/Pack

“Evolution of the award-winning race ultra™ vest. The Race Ultra 10 vest has been specifically designed to carry ten litres of kit while maintaining a close-to-the-body fit that ensures stability and zero bounce when running over even the longest of distances. Available in two sizes (S/M and M/L), the vest has two simple-to-use adjustable clip straps at the front. It boasts a total of eight pockets. The rear can hold up to ten litres of kit, while an extra zip allows access to a separate reservoir compartment. Comes supplied with 2x 500ml soft flasks with 30cm tubes.

The Race Ultra 10 was voted best in the performance accessories category by a panel of expert judges and named a 2015/2016 ISPO AWARD GOLD WINNER.”

Features

  • Large weather resistant zipped pocket to rear
  • Separate reservoir zipped pocket
  • Two 500ml softflask with 12″ / 30cm tube
  • Two large side mesh pockets
  • Two large zipped mesh pockets to front double as bottle holders
  • Two large mesh pockets to front top
  • Two smaller stretch mesh pockets to front top
  • Whistle
  • Rear bungee compression
  • Pole loops to rear
  • Two sizes

Specifications

Volume Capacity

  • 10L / 610 cubic inches

Fluid Capacity

  • 1L in 2 x 500mL soft flasks with straw/tube (included)
  • 2L in bladder (not included)

Weight

  • S/M: 260g / 9.2oz
  • M/L: 265g / 9.4oz

Back Length

  • S/M: 30cm / 11.8in.
  • M/L: 36cm / 14.2in.

Sizing at chest (Unisex)

  • S/M: 31 – 38in. / 78 – 97cm
  • M/L: 38 – 44in. / 87 – 112cm
  • Note: Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear

Materials & Design

  • Nylon / Polyester / Spandex

Included

  • 2x 500mL soft flasks with tube/straw

Inov-8 RACE ULTRA SHELL Waterproof Jacket

“Inov-8’s lightest ever waterproof running jacket, weighing just 125g. Designed to meet all strict mandatory race day kit requirements, mountain and ultra athletes will be able to race as light and fast as possible. This shell is fully transparent, so race numbers worn underneath remain visible at all times. Its super-stretchy fabric guarantees unrestricted body movement when running and packs away into its own hood pocket, ensuring it is small and easy to carry. Breathable, the Race Ultra Shell keeps you dry and protected in the wettest of conditions. Unisex.”

“If you’re an out and out racer and every gram counts, this ridiculuously lightweight waterproof is for you. It won’t handle day to day heavy use but, packing into its own hood, it’ll deliver just enough protection to get you off the hill, home or, with taped seems, past a pre-race kit check. It’s see-though so you can wear it over your number” (Trail Running Magazine)

Features

  • 2.5-layer waterproof fabric with 10,000 HH and 10,000 B-1 breathability
  • Taped seams
  • Packs away into hood – small and easy to carry
  • Fully Transparent fabric – race number visibility at all times
  • 4-way stretch fabric – allows unrestricted body movement whilst running
  • Deep centre front YKK Aquaguard zip with internal storm flap and dual locking zip heads
  • Thumb loop
  • Elasticated cuffs and hem
  • Multi-angle reflective detailing

Specifications

Weight

  • 125g / 4.5oz

Materials

  • 56% PU / 44% Polyester Soft Tricot breathable fabric (2.5 Layer)

Sizing at chest (Unisex)

  • XS: 36in. / 92cm
  • Small: 38in. / 97cm
  • Medium: 40in. / 102cm
  • Large: 42in. / 107cm
  • XL: 44in. / 112cm
  • Note: Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear

Inov-8 RACE ULTRA PANT Waterproof Trousers

“Inov-8’s lightest ever waterproof running trouser, weighing just 95g. Designed to meet all strict mandatory race day kit requirements, mountain and ultra athletes will be able to race as light and fast as possible. These trousers are fully transparent and instantly stretchable to fit over shoes. Its super-stretchy fabric guarantees unrestricted body movement when running and and can be quickly compressed into its own integrated pocket/stuffsack. Features taped seams and lycra-bound hems. Breathable, the Race Ultra Pant keeps you dry and protected in the wettest of conditions. Unisex.”

“Designed with the same racing philosophy as their Race Ultra Shell jacket, these will mainly live in your pack to pass kit checks. They weigh practically nothing and pack down impressively small. Their fit is good over tights, they deliver a surprising amount of protection but won’t take much abuse. Ultimate weight and space-saving choice” (Trail Running Magazine)

Features

  • 2.5-layer waterproof fabric with 10,000 HH and 10,000 B-1 breathability
  • Taped seams
  • Packs away into integrated pocket/stuffsack – small and easy to carry
  • Fully Transparent fabric
  • 4-way stretch fabric – allows unrestricted body movement whilst running
  • Lycra bound hem
  • Elasticated front, flat back and waist band
  • Ergonomic fit
  • Multi-angle reflective detailing

Specifications

Weight

  • 95g / 3.5oz

Materials

  • 56% PU / 44% Polyester Soft Tricot breathable fabric (2.5 Layer)

Sizing at waist (Unisex)

  • XS: 28in. / 71cm
  • Small: 30in. / 76cm
  • Medium: 32in. / 81cm
  • Large: 34in. / 86cm
  • XL: 36in. / 91cm
  • Note: Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear

Available from www.ultramarathonrunningstore.com

The Altra Lone Peak Neoshell – ‘Better Than Waterproof’

I’ve all but worn off the tread of my Altra Lone Peak 1.5 (Altra Lone Peak 1.5 Review) which have been by far my favourite trail shoe for at least 5 years, if not my all-time favourite. I get a decent number of shoes to test so the fact that the Altras have seen quite so much use is testament to the quality of the shoe.

As far as I am concerned, it offers the perfect balance of cushioning, zero drop and a spacious toe box, offering what is essentially the perfect ‘minimalist’ shoe for long distance running.

As such, I was interested to see the information about one of Altra’s latest releases – the Altra Lone Peak Neoshell, which is described as being ‘better than waterproof’.

“Altra Running introduces the Lone Peak Neoshell – the ‘better than waterproof’ version of its award-winning Lone Peak trail shoe – at the 2015 ISPO international sport, performance and outdoor industry trade show in Munich. The new shoe has better dryness, breathability, flexibility, comfort and toe room than traditional waterproof trail shoes on the market.

The only negative is that we have to wait until August 2015 before the Lone Peak Neoshell is available!

Specifications

  • The FootShape™ toe box allows your toes to relax and spread out naturally for more comfort and stability in uphill and downhill trail conditions
  • Sandwiched StoneGuard™ technology offers protection from rocks and other trail debris
  • Sticky rubber TrailClaw™ outsole combines unique uphill and downhill lug traction for a wide range of trail condition
  • GaiterTrap™ and full compatibility with Altra Trail Gaiters
  • Stack height: 26 mm on a Zero Drop™ platform
  • Weight: 11.5 ounces/326 grams, one of the lightest trail shoes with technical protection for wet, muddy or snowy conditions
  • Altra is the only running shoe company with a full line of gender-specific footwear created with completely unique lasts, or patterns, for every shoe in each gender, to accommodate natural differences in foot anatomy

2014 Review

Given that it’s now the start of February 2015, it’s technically getting a bit late for a ‘2014 Review’. Things keep getting in the way, not unlike the way they keep getting in the way of training, but I set out to write a review of 2014 and I am determined to complete it. After all, if I can’t even complete a review, what hope have I got of completing 2015’s planned event schedule.

My ‘2014 Review’ will be quite unlike many of the reviews that I have been reading online.

For one, my ‘2014 Review’ is actually going to go back as far as 2013, so we can get the whole picture, as my running spiralled into oblivion.

Further, my review is different because I didn’t run in any organised events, let alone any ultramarathons, and I ran fewer miles than I have since at least 2010 and, most likely, since 2007.

There were no big events, no (official) PBs, and no logging of mileage. I couldn’t even give an approximation of how many miles I ran.

Sounds a bit chaotic really but the truth of the matter is that I was ‘otherwise engaged’, ‘on sabbatical’, ‘out of office’ as far as running was concerned.

It’s a situation that, given the prominent role that running has played in my life these past few years, I would never have envisaged, and yet, 2014 was the first year since 2004 that I didn’t compete in an organised event.

Since late February 2013, it has all been about parenthood, attempting to master the role of ‘daddy’, a challenge that I have relished despite constantly feeling like I am making it up as I go along!

My last ultramarathon was the 2013 D33, just weeks after the birth of my son Harris. ‘Training’ had been severely impacted by preparations around the house for the impending birth, with practically the whole house decorated, including a kitchen that was finally finished just a couple of weeks before Harris’s arrival. I hope never again to repeat the chaos of those few months.

By the time the D33 came, in mid-March and just a couple of weeks after our new arrival, I had mustered ‘long run’ training, and I really do use that description in the loosest sense, of just 11 miles, 1/3 of the total distance that I expected to cover.

I did grind out a finish, along with a PW time, but admittedly not actually that much over my first ever D33 time!

It wasn’t pretty.

Understatement.

It hurt.

A lot.

Huge understatement!

I knew there was no chance of me making it to the 2014 D33 and was gutted to lose my place as one of the ever presents in this, the 5th year of the event.

So, we’ve established, 2014 wasn’t about the running.

It wasn’t, however, a complete write-off where fitness was concerned.

But we are not quite at the positive part, not just yet.

Following injury and my resulting failure to attain a 1/2 marathon PB at the Great Scottish Run in October 2013, a very visible failure thanks to my role as a PUMA PB Challenge Ambassador with PUMA and The Running Bug, I found my running mojo plummeted.

I was then unfortunate enough to catch something called Hand, Foot & Mouth from my son. Fortunately, he appeared to have a fairly mild reaction to this viral infection, something which, according to the NHS mostly affects young children.

I, on the other hand, did not. One of the symptoms is described as follows:

“A non-itchy red rash, made up of spots or small fluid-filled sacs (vesicles), which usually develops on the hands and feet, but may also occur on the knees, elbows, groin and buttocks; sometimes the rash can develop into painful blisters”

I ended up unable to walk thanks to painful blisters that covered the soles of my feet, amongst other areas, almost in their entirety. My feet were in a better condition at the end of 95 miles of apocalyptic weather on the West Highland Way than they were after just one single day of hand, foot and mouth.

It was a good few weeks before I could even walk, let alone run without pain, and the skin of my feet took months to properly heal.

My weight started to creep up, nullifying all the gains that I had made thanks to the nutrition element of the PUMA PB Challenge.

2014 started with illness. I was in the Cairngorms for the start of the year but was under the weather thanks to a bad chest infection. I made the most of my time there but I was most definitely held back by the severity of the infection.

Finally, around the middle of 2014, things took a positive turn on the health front. By this point, my weight was up around the 16 stone mark.

Following the opening of the new Aquatics Centre at Aberdeen Sports Village, I popped across for a swim, just to see what it was like. This made a change to my usual approach of working through lunch, eating a packed lunch at my desk.

My single visit turned into a daily pilgrimage to the pool. When I tired of swimming every day, I alternated between the gym and the pool, and this is pretty much how it has been since.

I started 2015 some 3 stone lighter than my 16 stone peak, still heavy by a lot of people’s standards but, certainly as far as I am concerned, the lightest that I have been since… well, since I can actually really remember. I was possibly lighter at some point back in my early 20s, but that’s a good while ago now and the memory isn’t ‘that’ good!

I’m not finished yet. Despite a plateau over the past few weeks, I am determined to lose more weight, hopefully in time for 2015’s planned events.

Losing weight does bring new ‘problems’. For one, I need to replace a large portion of my wardrobe as and when finances permit. That’s not such a big deal.

I also discovered that I am no longer impervious to the cold, resulting in the purchase this past weekend of a Rab Summit Jacket, a toasty warm down garment that should hopefully keep me much warmer.

The main issue is with regard to the impact on my running.

On the plus side, I’ve found myself able to run considerably faster than previously, notching up a massive PB at the 5k distance and taking over a minute off of my 10k PB, a time which itself was a fluke, much faster than my usual times, set way back in 2008!

On the negative side, my pacing has gone out of the window. I’m no longer ‘Mr. Single Speed’. I can now mix it up. Unfortunately, however, I usually do mix it up, each and every long run, and I have yet to find the optimal pace for completing runs over the 6 mile distance. That’s obviously something that needs to be resolved, ideally before the D33 in March.

I had, admittedly somewhat naively, hoped that muscle memory, coupled with the not insignificant weight loss, would see me easily smash all of the ultra PBs that I have set in the past.

The reality, as I found on one particularly bad 18 mile run the other week, was that I will need to a) find my optimal long run pace and b) train just as hard, if not harder, than I have in the past, to try and get anywhere near to the levels of ultra endurance that I had previously accrued over 3 solid years of ultra training and racing.

To add insult to injury, I actually struggled from the 3 mile mark on that 18 mile run. Still, I persisted, something that I obviously haven’t forgotten from my time running ultras and, further, an 18 mile run, albeit a bad one, is still 7 miles longer than any run I managed while training for the 2013 D33! As such, I can’t really complain.

So, that’s where things stand now. I am attempting to get enough running in, albeit mixed up with swimming, cycling and cross training. Gone are the days when I run simply to log miles and add to yearly mileage totals. I haven’t in fact, logged any of my mileage. I just have a rough idea of how things are building up.

With a bit of luck I will complete the D33 and the Highland Fling, the two events that I have signed up for at the time of writing. I’m also keen to do the Great Glen Ultra, a 72 mile run from Fort William to Inverness that I have never run before. It would, in fact, be my first BaM (Bill & Mike) event. Having cycled the route, from Inverness to Fort William, a good few years back, it’s a race that excites me, and especially with the prospect of running some of it on the new higher level path, with the improved views over Loch Ness.

Ideally, I would also like to round off the year with a return to The Speyside Way. Hopefully training, finance, and logistics, will allow that. As an ‘Elgin loon’, it’s almost like returning home, even though running, let alone running endurance events, was about the furthest thing from my mind in those first 18 years of my life when I lived in Elgin and Lhanbryde (located 4 miles out of Elgin, not in Wales, for those that don’t know the area).

There are elements of that Speyside Way Race route that are amongst my favourite trails outside of the Cairngorms and I can’t wait to run them again.

So, in summary, 2013/2014 didn’t have the best of starts health wise and running was always a secondary, if even that, part of my life in this time. However, 2014 was the year when I finally, after years of trying, turned a corner where my weight was concerned, something that will hopefully have an impact on my 2015 ultra schedule and for many, many years to come.

The North Face Spring Summer Range 2015 & The Ultra MT

I wasn’t sure what, if anything, to expect from The North Face in terms of new trail friendly product given the news that they would no longer be the headline sponsor for UTMB. However, having now had a peek at the new The North Face Spring Summer range 2015, it appears that it’s full steam ahead, with, dare I say it, some sexy looking product!

What’s more, my UK size 8 feet, also happened to be the right size to fit into a pair of the pre-production Ultra MT trail shoes which The North Face kindly supplied me with. I’ve been testing those out for the last couple of weeks now. More on that below.

Unfortunately, both the Men’s Storm Stow Jacket and Better Than Naked Long Haul Short were only available in size M and, even with recent weight loss and the best of intentions, there was little hope of shoe-horning my XL frame into those garments. But hey, can’t win them all!

The TNF Ultra MT – A First Look

I really liked the The North Face Ultra Guide, running a 33 mile ultra in them after just a couple of test runs, and continued to use them until the soles started to wear through. (TNF Ultra Guide review)

As such, I was really looking forward to the prospect of getting to test out the new TNF Ultra MT.

I have to say that the brochure just doesn’t do them justice. Again, I find myself resorting to use of the word ‘sexy’. Unboxing the TNF Ultra MT for the first time, I was impressed with the striking orange and black colour-scheme and the overall aesthetics of the shoe, and then there’s ‘that’ sole – the ‘gnarly’ new Vibram® Megagrip outsole.

Unlike the Ultra Guide, there’s no way the Ultra MT is ever going to be described as ‘retro’. There was also something else that struck me about the shoe and, it would appear, I was not alone…

The website running.competitor.com describes the Ultra MT as follows:

“The Ultra MT is the most technical trail shoe yet from The North Face. (And, yes, it was modelled off the Salomon Speedcross 3.) With a knobby array of sticky rubber Vibram outsole lugs and a water resistant upper, this shoe is built to run on gnarly terrain in the worst weather. 18mm/10mm heel-toe offset.”

(Sneak Peek: 17 New Summer/Fall 2015 Running Shoes )

Aesthetically and functionally, the latest offering from The North Face certainly invites comparisons with some of the offerings from Salomon, but then, considering the reputation and range that Salomon offer, this must surely be a good thing.

I’m going to leave a full review until I have had long enough to really test out the Ultra MT but first impressions are positive. I will say that I found the toebox on my right foot (my fractionally larger foot) slightly tight, and they are most definitely less roomy than the Ultra Guide. However, once running, this wasn’t something that I noticed. It will be interesting to see if that impacts at all on longer runs.

The fit is most likely a result of the new bodymapping layer system on the upper, intended to enhance support and, from initial tests, the shoes certainly are responsive.

My inaugural run in the Ultra MT was in the Quarrelwoods on the outskirts of Elgin, an often muddy, potentially technical trail at the best of times. On the day in question I was caught in a snow storm as well so it really was a baptism of fire as far as the Ultra MTs were concerned but they performed well as I charged around one of my favourite forest destinations.

Watch this space for a full review of the Ultra MT in due course.

The North Face Spring Summer Range 2015

The following information is taken from the TNF Spring Summer 2015 Performance Brochure.

Men’s Storm Stow Jacket

More daylight during summer means running longer, which is why you should be prepared if the weather changes. This ultralight jacket is fully waterproof and windproof, but also packs incredibly small, so you can keep it on hand for any emergency. When the trail takes you further, there is no better protection to carry with you.

Men’s Better Than Naked Long Haul Short

Stay comfortable on longer runs with a wider comfort-fit waistband, stitch-free design on critical seams, and maximum storage capacity for big days.

Ultra MT

No matter what terrain you’re on, the Ultra MT will keep you running along the toughest trails. Thanks to the new Vibram® Megagrip outsole, unrivalled traction will keep you close to the ground. You’ll also have the benefit of enhanced upper support as well as breathable Ultra Airmesh over the quarter. The innovation continues underfoot, where precise stability and protection ensures a better performance with every step.

  • Upper: A bodymapping layer system on the upper enhances support on the medial side, protecting the toe area
  • Bottom: 8mm drop between heel and forefoot ensures control on uneven surfaces and supports midfoot striking when needed / Overlasted midsole increases stability of the upper/bottom connection / ESS in the forefoot secures an impact distribution on the forefoot / Vibram Megagrip full length trail specific outsole.
  • Men’s Sizes: Approx weight pair: 580g (based on men’s 9)
  • Womens’s Sizes: Approx weight pair: 480g (based on women’s 7)

Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 2015 Backpacks & 3 Generations Of Salomon Vests – A Comparison

I can’t recall exactly when I purchased my first Salomon S-LAB vest pack but it’s certainly going back a few years now. I remember initially thinking how ‘clingy’ the pack was, quite a bit different to the running backpacks I had used previously. But then, that’s the whole point of the vest pack approach, it’s more like an item of close fitting clothing than a bag per se.

It didn’t take long to get used to the snug-fitting nature of the pack, helped in part by wearing closer fitting t-shirts and, therefore, reducing the potential for uncomfortable folds of material, and I can’t actually envisage going back to a more conventional running pack now for anything other than perhaps a multi-day event.

I was fortunate to receive both the Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 12 SET 2015 Backpack and the Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 5 SET 2015 Backpack to review from www.ultramarathonrunningstore.com and, to cut a long story short, I am totally sold on the new 12 Set version of the pack.

There’s an overview of the new packs directly below, followed by a look at the 3 different incarnations of the S-LAB vest to date.

Note that I will refer to the vests as v1, v2 and v3 for brevity, which relates to the original S-LAB vest pack, the second model, and the most recent offering, respectively.

Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 12 SET 2015 & Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 5 SET 2015 Backpacks

The most recent incarnations of the S-LAB vest are a world away from the original, as outlined in the comparison below.

Both the  Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 12 SET 2015 Backpack and the Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 5 SET 2015 Backpack offer close fitting packs that don’t move or bounce about and, thus, reduce, even eliminate, chaffing.

Thanks to the approach employed on both the 12 SET and the 5 SET, utilising stretchy mesh, the packs are as comfortable and compact when empty as they are when filled to their respective capacities. Unlike many conventional packs, there’s no excess of material to bob about when empty.

Whilst bladder friendly, the emphasis is on hydration via two 500 ml soft flasks, which sit on the front of the packs in specifically designed pockets.

Initially, I felt quite ‘booby’/’mooby’ with 2 full 500ml soft flasks but this soon passed. One definite benefit of having your hydration on the front is that, especially with the temperatures of late, your fluid is always chilled! With appropriate weather conditions however, this may actually backfire and result in frozen water. That’s thankfully something I’ve yet to discover!

Occasionally, when the fluid levels dropped, I would find that the soft flask would slip down further into the pocket, making it slightly more difficult to retrieve and drink from. If this proves to be an issue, air can easily be blown into the flasks, keeping them inflated and in place.

I found that, with a little squeeze, I was able to run and drink without actually having to remove the soft flasks. The only real criticism I have of the soft flasks and the pockets that hold them is that, when the flasks aren’t full, they can be a bit of a faff to reinsert, hence my preference not to remove them.

You can, on occasion, hear the water sloshing around but you would get this regardless of your approach to hydration. Certainly when it comes to training, I tend to plug in so it hasn’t bothered me in the slightest.

Every inch of the packs has been utilised some way or another to provide storage space, with a variety of pockets of all sizes. Check out the full specifications at the bottom of this review for a list of all of the available pockets on both the 12 SET and the 5 SET.

From a personal perspective, the 12 SET wins the day for me. Whilst I can appreciate the slightly lower weight of the 5 SET, the additional storage capacity of the 12 is more in keeping with my perceived use and, further, because of the stretchy mesh approach employed in the construction of the pack, you don’t actually notice when you are under utilising the space.

In terms of weight, there’s only 45g difference between the 270g 12 SET and the 225g 5 SET. Dimensions wise, there’s a more noticeable difference, with the 12 SET coming in at 42 x 20cm and the 5 SET at 33 x 16cm.

There’s some more specific details in the comparison below, which outlines how the S-LAB vests have developed and improved over time.

3 Generations Of Salomon Vests – A Comparison

The gallery photos best highlight the changes between the 3 packs, with a few very obvious changes which are covered below.

Hydration

The v1 pack offered a bladder approach to hydration. The v2 and v3 versions of the pack are geared towards the use of Salomon’s Soft Flasks, a product which, if I am not mistaken, wasn’t around at the launch of the v1 vest.

The v2 and v3 packs don’t even come with a bladder supplied, though they do, quite thoughtfully, come with a handy bladder sleeve, should you wish to use your own bladder.

Personally, I like the inclusion of the sleeve. Like so many others, I have a small collection of bladders, mostly unused, that have been provided with packs throughout the years. On the rare occasions that I do use a bladder, I have two favourites that I turn to, the Salomon bladder that came with my v1 vest, and an Osprey bladder.

Hydration in the v2 and v3 packs is by way of 2 500 ml soft flasks, with plenty of pockets to carry additional soft flasks if required. As a convert to soft flasks, this was one of the main selling points of the new Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 12 SET 2015 for me.

Arguably, with the focus on soft flasks, many people will never use a bladder with the pack and, as such, the inclusion of a bladder by default would be unnecessary and, further, would likely have increased the cost of the pack.

As a word of caution, I would advise that you remove the sleeve if you don’t intend to use it. On a recent long run I felt something at the back of my head and, on inspection, found that the sleeve was attempting to climb its way out of my bag. Had it succeeded, I would likely have been none the wiser until returning home.

Size

Size is one of the main differences between the packs, with the S-LAB vests slimming down with each incarnation. This is most noticeable between the v1 and v2 versions of the pack, with a more marginal slimming down between v2 and v3 versions.

In terms of weight, the v2 12 SET comes in at 320g, as opposed to the v3’s 270g, and the v2 5 SET comes in at 260g instead of the v3’s 225g.

Looking at the 3 packs side by side, it’s hard to believe that they all offer the same 12 litre volume. Which leads nicely onto…

Pockets

As previously mentioned, it’s quite remarkable to see just what can be packed into the S-LAB vests and, as such, they are prime candidates for races with compulsory kit lists, such as UTMB, and/or for long days on the hills, where sense dictates that you carry kit that will let you comfortably weather all conditions.

The original v1 pack contained a ‘bag-like’ zipped compartment with a stretchy mesh zipped pocket on the front.

This has been done away with in subsequent versions of the pack, with both the v2 and v3 packs employing the stretchy mesh for the main zipped pocket.

A further noticeable difference between the v1 pack and its successors is the positioning of the zips. On the v1 packs, the zips run horizontally, something that I have always found to be slightly awkward.

In subsequent versions of the pack, however, the zips runs vertically, something which is far easier to work with on the move. Employing both hands, with one hand around the back and holding the bottom of the pocket (picture that – hopefully makes sense!), I find that it is much easier to quickly and securely load and unload the pockets.

With regard to the size of the v3 pockets, I can quite happily store an iPhone 6 in a fairly chunky OtterBox case, all wrapped within an XS Exped waterproof bag in one of the side pockets, giving me easy access to my phone for calls/texts/camera.

It’s a bit of a squeeze, but the material used in the construction of the pack easily accommodates the phone and its coverings, once you get the knack of navigating into the opening of the pocket, past the zip.

Initially, in an effort to keep faffing to a minimum, I chose not to use an Exped bag. However, using the OtterBox case alone, I noticed condensation appeared on the case, which I can only assume was down to a combination of the positioning of the pocket, my sweating, and the cold temperatures. Keen to avoid a ‘water damaged’ phone, I quickly added the Exped bag into the mix.

V2 and v3 of the S-LAB packs have a ‘stash’ pocket on the bottom rear of the pack. With a bit of practice, this provides access to ‘stashed’ items such as a jacket, gloves, buffs etc. The stash pocket doesn’t employ a closure mechanism, but the stretchy mesh ensures that the contents are tightly held.

My only concern would be that I dropped something in the process of stashing it without noticing, and being none the wiser until it was too late.

The original v1 pack offered some flexibility with the front pockets, which could accommodate a range of items thanks to their size and pull tie closure.

The front pockets of the v2 and v3 packs are geared specifically to holding two 500ml soft flasks and, as such, are not quite as flexible. However, it does provide an almost perfect solution to the storage of fluids.

Sticking with the front of the pack, one of my pet hates on the v1 was the detachable pocket that utilised a Velcro attachment mechanism. I’ve found in the past that Velcro can be a destructive thing, especially when in close proximity to technical t-shirts, and, as such, try to avoid it where possible in favour of other attachment and closure methods.

The v2 pack did away with this removable pocket, replacing it instead with 2 smaller stretchy pockets on the upper part of the vest straps.

The v3 pack refines this slightly, with one of the pockets now being zipped, offering a bit more security than the fold over flap afforded by the previous version.

One huge improvement as far as I am concerned in the v2 and v3 models is the removal of what I call the ‘non pocket’ that can be found in the v1 pack.

What initially appears to be a pocket on the upper right strap is, in fact, just the back of the actual pocket, but with a gap between it and the strap. In the space of a few weeks, I accidentally lost a bank card which I placed in this seemingly secure location and then, admittedly stupidly, lost the only form of nutrition I was carrying, sport beans.

Overall, the use of space on the v2 and v3 packs is a considerable improvement on the v1 pack, with an assortment of pockets underneath and to the side of the soft flask pockets, space which just wasn’t utilised on the v1.

Fastening

I’ve always found the front fastening mechanism of the S-LAB vests to be ‘fiddly’ and there’s definitely a knack to it, which I unfortunately appear to forget whenever it comes to trying to quickly remove the pack!

This mechanism employs thin plastic rods at either side of the pack, with clips on the end of elastic located in the upper and lower chest areas, that hook on to the plastic at the most appropriate closure location for your build.

The v3 pack does away with the plastic rod and, instead, replaces this with cord which, I have to say, has so far proven much easier when it comes to fastening/unfastening.

My initial concern was that this wouldn’t be as robust as the plastic rod in the long term but there’s no evidence of that at this, admittedly early, stage.

Overall

My v1 pack has been a workhorse pack to me over the past few years and, whilst the v2 and v3 packs are considerably lighter, they don’t feel quite as robust as the v1. Having said that, until I put the v3 through a season of training and racing, I can’t really comment either way. Further, it begs a question with regard to how long do you need a pack to last? Whilst my v1 pack is still in great condition, it has dated, especially where the use of soft flasks are concerned.

Overall, there’s a huge jump from v1 to v3 and it’s definitely worth investing in one of the new Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 12 SET 2015 and Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 5 SET 2015 packs, especially if you are a fan of the soft flask approach to hydration.

The difference is less noticeable if you have a v2 pack already.  However, there is a weight saving of 50g and 35g on the 12 SET and 5 SET packs respectively.

Specifications

Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 12 SET 2015 Backpack

Hydration

  • 2x 500ml/17oz. soft flasks included (with Hydrapak Blaster valves)

Pockets & Compartments

  • 2x Stretch mesh soft flask hydration pockets (with 2x 500ml/17oz. soft flasks included)
  • 1x Zipped pocket (above one soft flask pocket)
  • 1x Stretch mesh pocket (above other soft flask pocket)
  • 2x Stretch mesh pockets (under each soft flask pocket)
  • 2x Secure mesh side pockets (vertical pocket with horizontal open top)
  • 2x Side Zipped Pockets (horizontal with vertical zip)
  • 1x Rear Double Access Stretch Pocket (‘kangaroo’ pocket – access with either hand)
  • 1x Rear Zipped Pocket (for secured storage)
  • 1x Battery Pocket
  • 1x Bladder compartment – with included insulation sleeve (Salomon 1.5L bladder fits)

Security

  • Reflective
  • Whistle included
  • Safety blanket included

Load Management & Comfort

  • Sensi Compression – for greatest stability on the go
  • Twin Link – for adjustable and stretch fit
  • Bindingless Construction – for soft touch and fit
  • Powermesh Sensifit – for stretch fit

Other

  • Soft trims
  • 4D Pole holder
  • 2x shoulder bungees

Dimensions

  • 42 x 20cm

Weight

  • 270g / 9.62oz

Sizing

  • XS/S : 31 – 38 inch chest
  • M/L : 38 – 43 inch chest
  • XL : 43 – 46 inch chest

Storage Capacity

  • 12L

Water Capacity

  • 1L (using 2x 500ml soft flasks included)
  • 1.5L Bladder (not included)

Materials

  • Elastic Power Pesh / Stretch Knit / 3D Air Mesh / 4 Way Stretch Mesh
  • PVC, Bisphenol-A free

Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 5 SET 2015 Backpack

Hydration

  • 2x 500ml/17oz. soft flasks included (with Hydrapak Blaster valves)

Pockets & Compartments

  • 2x Stretch mesh soft flask hydration pockets (with 2x 500ml/17oz. soft flasks included)
  • 1x Zipped pocket (above one soft flask pocket)
  • 1x Stretch mesh pocket (above other soft flask pocket)
  • 2x Secure mesh side pockets (vertical pocket with horizontal open top)
  • 2x Side Zipped Pockets (horizontal with vertical zip)
  • 1x Rear Double Access Stretch Pocket (‘kangaroo’ pocket – access with either hand)
  • 1x Rear Pocket (open top)
  • 1x Battery Pocket
  • 1x Bladder compartment – with included insulation sleeve (Salomon 1.5L bladder fits)

Security

  • Reflective
  • Whistle included
  • Safety blanket included

Load Management & Comfort

  • Sensi Compression – for greatest stability on the go
  • Twin Link – for adjustable and stretch fit
  • Bindingless Construction – for soft touch and fit
  • Powermesh Sensifit – for stretch fit

Other

  • Soft trims
  • 4D Pole holder
  • 2x shoulder bungees

Dimensions

  • 33 x 16cm

Weight

  • 225g / 7.93oz

Sizing

  • XS/S : 31 – 38 inch chest
  • M/L : 38 – 43 inch chest
  • XL : 43 – 46 inch chest

Storage Capacity

  • 12L

Water Capacity

  • 1L (using 2x 500ml soft flasks included)
  • 1.5L Bladder (not included)

Materials

  • Elastic Power Pesh / Stretch Knit / 3D Air Mesh / 4 Way Stretch Mesh
  • PVC, Bisphenol-A free

Run, Walk, Cycle Scotland