The other week I was invited to test out the Salomon S-Lad advanced Skin 3 12set. With winter on the way I have found myself starting to carry more and more kit to help tackle the cold and dark. In the past I have always stuck to my Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra 2.0 vest and my 15 year old Lowe Alpine bum bag. One of the most appealing aspects of the S-Lab Advanced Skin 3 was that it comes with two 500ml Salomon soft flasks. These can be stored at the front of the pack and will shrink as you drink. The hard bottles on my SJ Ultra have never caused me any real issue, but I was keen to see and feel if there was any real difference.
On first impressions the amount of straps and toggles on the S-Lab Advance Skin 3 can look a little confusing. I did find that I was pulling and adjusting things I shouldn’t be for the first few miles when testing. Luckily instead of using side tightening straps, the pack uses ‘Elastic Power Mesh’ (super stretchy material) that conforms to the shape of your body. Providing you get the right size, this stretch comfort helps to minimise bounce. The pack is available in four different sizes 2XS, XS/S, M/L, XL (I wore an XL). The lack of seams and soft trim used on the inside of the pack prevents any real friction or chafing on longer runs. Even at full capacity, 12 litres, the pack does not feel as though it is turned into an anaconda and is trying to squeeze the life out of you. It also manages to avoid the bulky feeling of a rucksack.
The S-Lab Advanced Skin 3 does stand out above other hydration packs when it comes to ease of use. Some packs require you to dislocate your shoulder to reach for the mars bar in your side pocket. I was overcome with joy when I realised that I could actually get my phone out of the side zip pocket to take a picture of the sun set without having to stop and take my pack off. Going up Hall’s Fell on Blencathra I was amased at how easy I could reach for my mars bar from the very back kangaroo pocket. The stretchy material allows you to hold an awful lot of kit without having to put it in the zip able main compartment.
The hydration system of the two 500ml soft flasks works very well. With both flasks full I felt balanced, and there was no sloshing. The material used at the front is slightly thinner than at the back, yet there were no pressure points or any discomfort. It is also possible to crane your neck down at drink without having to remove them from their pouches. As you can imagine this does look rather odd. Luckily Salomon does sell bite valve straws that can be attached to the flasks. I now use soft flasks on every run as they fit into every pack or bum bag I have came across and when they are empty they fold down to nothing.
In my opinion the only real down side to the pack are the pole straps. I like the fact that they are included with the pack, but I believe they should come as an optional attachment. If you are not going to use them they flap all over the place and can get in the way. For those who are going to use them, the poles can be rigged into place without having to take the pack off. You just need to practice, a lot!
As I feared I now want to buy one for myself. If you are in the market for a hydration pack for running, you cannot go wrong with the Salomon S-lab Advanced Skin 3 12set. Despite it being a top of the range piece of equipment aimed at ultra marathon runners, it is simple enough to use for occasional runners. Pick one up and give it a go, you won’t regret it.
12 October 2016 by Jacob Tonkin
5 Peaks Challenge in the Lake District to be completed in 5 hours Challenge
10 Peaks Challenge in the Lake District to be completed in 10 hours.
Julie Carter will be joining us for an evening talk on THE ART OF ADVENTURE