The Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab Hydration Pack just might be the coolest piece of gear I own.
I recently read an article about the most efficient way to carry water while running. It compared hydration packs to handheld water bottles. I have used handhelds for a while, and have grown accustomed to them, but according to the article, I was wasting energy. It had been years since I carried water on my back, but I was compelled to give it another try.
I began researching, and soon discovered Salomon‘s latest hydration pack, the Advanced Skin S-Lab. Of all the products I compared, it was by far the most expensive. It retails for $180, and I was reluctant to make the purchase, but finally decided that if it enhanced my running experience, it would be worth it.
The pack arrived, excuse me, vest, and I was a little surprised to find water bottles were not included. Odd, considering there are two pockets on the front specifically designed for them. There was however a safety blanket tucked into an inside pocket of the water bladder compartment.
I tried the vest on, and tinkered with the adjustments. I had ordered the MD/LG, and with a little tightening of the two front straps, it fit snug on my 6’1″, 175 lb. frame. There are other cords on the vest to further customize sizing, but I found them a little complicated, and didn’t notice much difference when adjusted. Once on, I trotted around the house admiring myself in every mirror. I hoped my wife would not ask how much it cost; She did.
My first impression was this thing is cool. It is too cool. When wearing it, you cannot help but look like a serious runner. If I ever wear it in public, I had better show some speed or miles to justify owning it.
On my first real run with the vest, I was pleasantly surprised how secure it was while running. Even with 1.5 liters of water in the bladder, I hardly noticed it on my back. It did not move at all. There was however that annoying sloshing sound I remember from years back.
My only other complaint would be the flow valve. I had to tilt my head towards the ground slightly to reach it. Which felt a little awkward while running. When I finished my hour-long run, I had no signs of chafing or hot spots. It was a perfect fit.
I was searching for a good hydration pack for long-runs, and I could not be more pleased with the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab. Anything under 15 miles I think I’ll stick to my handheld, but anything longer, including day hikes, I’ll be using my Salomon.
Since posting this review, I have had the opportunity to wear the Salomon vest on a 39 mile run in a 110° heat.
For the race I removed the bladder and just carried two 20 oz bottles in the front pockets. In the back compartment, inside a ziplock, I carried an iPhone, a small pill bottle containing first-aid gear and a spare pair of socks.
Here’s the genius. At every aid station along the run I had the volunteers fill the back bladder compartment full of ice. I would also fill both water bottles with a combination of ice and water. The water bottles were held tightly under my chest muscles, and drastically cooled the area. Then, with the bladder compartment full of ice, my entire back was also kept incredibly cold. The cooling effect is amazing. The ice in the back easily lasted the average of 3 miles between stations.
I’m not sure this was the designers intention, but by using it this way, I kept my vital organs cooled for hours. It almost felt like cheating.