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

Only 6% Of People Know How To Achieve Their Fitness Goals

Thanks to Julien Speed at Starfish Communications for the following information. The statistics, based on a sample of just over 1000 runners, paint a fairly grim picture when it comes to knowing how to achieve our fitness goals and, I have to admit, for a long time my running was firmly entrenched in the long slow run category, with no variation other than an occasional sprint for the bus!

“Only 6% of people know how to achieve their fitness goals

New research commissioned by TomTom GPS sport watches has revealed that fewer than one in ten runners (just 6%) feel they have the in-depth knowledge they need to achieve their fitness goals – and nearly half of runners (42%) simply rely on friends who also run for training advice.

With New Year traditionally a time for self-improvement and setting goals, the study of over 1,000 runners found that weight control was the primary motivation for running and overall fitness improvement was listed top. It found that increasing weekly mileage was a common goal amongst runners, with 61% of runners aiming for a personal best at least once a week.

“Most people give up on their New Year Resolutions by January 10th, so knowing how you are performing against your goals can be a great way of keeping you motivated,” says a TomTom spokesman. “Tracking tangible results, such as how far you have run, seems to be the key to success.”

But less than half (45%) of runners use smart technology, such as the TomTom Multi-Sport and Runner GPS watches, to track and log runs. Amongst those that do, distance is the most popular piece of information to receive for achieving goals.

However, only 32% of runners follow a training plan such as interval or hill training, with 50% simply using time or distance as training targets . This is despite the fact that high intensity interval training burns 43% more calories per minute than low intensity steady state cardio.

The research also found that 19% of runners cited mental health as their main benefit to continue running, indicating their goal was to alleviate stress and feel more positive about themselves.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) run for overall fitness improvement, and over half say they run for weight control.

Yet fewer Britons set fitness targets than in any other country – just 61 per cent, compared with 82% in Spain, 75% in the US and 70% in France and Germany.

Note: 1,022 runners were randomly selected, and asked a series of questions about their running habits. The survey targeted male and females (50:50 ratio) between the ages of 25-50 years old, who all run at least once a week.”

Ultra Tales Issue 14

Issue 14 of Ultra Tales has just been released and, unfortunately, this will be the last issue of the popular ultramarathon ezine. After 3 years, 14 issues and 40,000+ downloads, editor Paul Ali has called time on what must be a considerable undertaking for each issue, so that he can reclaim his time and focus on his own running commitments.

I’m sure I am not alone in having enjoyed reading each issue and, in particular, the numerous articles detailing the experiences of ultramarathon runners from the front to the back of the pack.

Thanks also to Paul for including my interview with Jez Bragg, fresh from his FKT on New Zealand’s 3054km Te Araroa trail, back in Ultra Tales issue 10.

As well as a brief round up of Ultra running events and news the issue contains event reports from the following races Spartathlon, Cotswold Way Century, Longmynd Hike, Downlink Ultra, Stort 30, Druid Ultra, Winter 100, Piece of String Fun Run, Kalahari Extreme Marathon, Carrick Cracker, Saltmarsh 75, Beacons Ultra and the Hill Ultra.

Ultimate Direction FASTPACK 30 Vest/Backpack

If you’re anything like me, you will be keeping a keen eye on new product, fresh for 2015. As I plan my return to ultramarathons, having now signed up for the D33 and The Highland Fling, I am keeping an open mind with regard to which pack I will be using in training and on race day.

The Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30 Vest/Backpack, coming soon to www.ultramarathonrunningstore.com, may be overkill for shorter events and events with aid stations but it looks like just the ticket for multi-day events and/or long, self sufficient days in the hills.

“The UD Fastpack 30 backpack is meant for adventure. Perfect for bagging peaks, day hikes, or travel. The Ultimate direction Fastpack 30 takes inspiration from our Signature Series, with its vest like fit and front access pockets for a water bottle or storage. There is easy access to water, maps or your smart phone on the front, the stretch pockets on the sides will hold almost anything, and the huge rear stretch pocket allows gear to be quickly stowed or used as needed. The main compartment forgoes zippers in favour of a waterproof roll top closure, allowing this backpack to tightly secure everything from 20 to 31 litres.

The Fastpack 30 is water-resistant, with a reinforced bottom panel for extra durability, and the low-profile daisy chains with trekking pole and ice axe loops complete the package. Unique to the Fastpack 30 is our InfiKnit construction: the back panel and shoulder straps are made from one piece of custom-made fabric, which eliminates contact with all seams. A smooth ride, compressible storage and plenty of pockets makes the Fastpack 30 a great addition to your pack collection.”

Features

  • Patent-pending Infiknit harness is a continuous, seamless back panel and shoulder strap system to prevent abrasion and discomfort
  • Large, main roll-top compartment expands from 20L to 31L
  • Rear stretch-mesh pocket with low-profile daisy chain system
  • Water bottle compatible front pockets also fold flat to store other items
  • Dual adjustable sternum straps and side straps for stability and fit
  • Integrated side compression Z-straps for varying load capacities
  • Removable foam back panel for comfort
  • Available in 2 sizes

Specifications

Volume Capacity: 1220 – 1892 in3 / 20L – 31L

  • Weight: 24.8 oz. / 703 g
  • Height: 24.4 in. / 62 cm
  • Width: 11.4 in. / 29 cm
  • Depth: 10.4 in. / 26.5 cm

Sizing At Chest (Unisex)

  • S/M: 24 – 40 in. / 60 – 102 cm
  • M/L: 32 – 46 in. / 81 – 116 cm

Materials & Design

  • InfiKnit Harness
  • Mono Hex Mesh
  • Cool Wick Air Mesh
  • 340g Power Stretch Mesh
  • 210T Nylon Mini Rip Stop

New packs are due soon from UltrAspire, Ultimate Direction (Wasp & Wink) and Salomon, so there’s certainly plenty to look forward to.

Note that www.pixelscotland.com hopes to have reviews of the new Salomon packs in the near future.

Barefoot Running Magazine, Issue 13 (Autumn/Winter 2014)

The latest Barefoot Running MagazineIssue 13, Autumn/Winter 2014,  is now available including my reviews of the Suunto Ambit3 Sport and The North Face FL Race Vest.

“IN THIS ISSUE: We talk to impressive ultra runner, Patrick Sweeney, David discusses athleticism and the nature/nurture debate, we give you tips on reading the road and how to do a deep squat, delve into the details of the amazing life of Louis Zamperini, find out about the fabulous children’s charity “Kids Run Free” and offer you the opportunity to win a pair of the popular Swiss Socks.  Plus, the usual musings and info from our column writers, product reviews, letters, Q & A and more…

Run, Walk, Cycle Scotland