Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack Review

Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Hydration Pack Review

First Impressions:

High quality looking vest. Love the new front dump pockets I’m seeing. It has a smaller footprint than I thought it has based on the pictures I’ve seen. Then I picked it up the new Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set and examined it closer…

…as usual the materials used by Salomon are of the highest quality. The attention to detail appears to be there. It’s got some nice stretch to it and the open mesh construction looks great. Weight-wise it feels spot on. OK, so how does it perform?

Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack

Presenting The (updated for 2017) Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack.

Now for more details. In this review we’ll break things down in to five areas:

  1. What’s good: the new, differentiating, or simply well designed or built features or aspects of the product.
  2. What’s decent: the features or aspects that are OK but not particularly new or differentiating.
  3. What could be improved: tweaks or improvements that could be made to make the product better.
  4. When to use it: the situations or scenarios where the product excels.
  5. How it compares: my current go-to competing products and how this compares.

I’ll try to be as succinct as possible. After all, you’ve probably got more running you can do today!

What’s good about the Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set pack?

  • The fit. It’s the best fitting vest, with sufficient storage for big days in the mountains, I have worn to-date given how high up it rides and how stretchy the fabric is – it’s just a really dialed in fit. It comes in four, unisex sizes ranging from a 27” to a 49” chest size.
  • Awesome updates. If you used a previous version of the Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack, or an earlier 12L version, the 2017 version includes a few great updates. This includes larger front dump pockets and bungee cords to hold the soft flasks up even when they are empty.

Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack

Like the lighter-weight S-Lab vests from last year and this year the Advanced Skin 5 Set includes updated front ‘dump’ pockets with plenty of front access capacity.

Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack

The soft flask pockets now have stitched in bungee cords to keep the included 500ml soft flasks from falling down.

  • I know, I’m a broken record but I really prefer products that are not overbuilt and this race vest includes all the things you need and nothing extra. Also, while it’s tough to tell from the pictures the back of the vest actually has four pockets. Two larger full rear storage option for a bladder or plenty of clothes, a tiered pocket in between these two that allows for a bit more organization, and a lower kangaroo pouch on the bottom that can be accessed without taking the vest off.

Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack

The back of the vest is streamlined so it fits close to the body.

Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack

Tiered rear pockets allow for plenty of storage that stays close to the body to minimize bounce. Salomon advertises up to a 1.5L bladder works with this pack but I managed to squeeze in a 2L bladder with no issues.

  • Front access. From the front you can access any of the pockets on each shoulder strap, of which there are three on each side, either of the side pockets, the kangaroo pocket on the back, and pull an article of clothing out of the top of one of the back pockets – perfect.

Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack

Plenty of front access storage on each shoulder strap.

Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack

Secure, side zippered pockets are accessible while wearing the vest as well.

  • Durability for the weight. The attention to detail on Salomon products is usually top notch and the Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack is no exception. I have no worries about the durability of this vest assuming you keep it away from sharp objects.
  • Pole storage without taking the vest off. While I don’t think the tried and true 4D Pole System is perfect I really appreciate that you can secure poles without taking the vest off. It’s pretty quick once you get the hang of it. (note: there are a handful of YouTube videos out there that demonstrate how to use the pole loading system should you want a demonstration)

Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack

The 4D pole loading system lives on.

  • The value. The MSRP on the Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set vest is $155.00. Considering the fit, high quality materials, storage, etc. I think it’s a solid value compared to its competitors.

What’s decent?

  • The included soft flasks. While the two included 500ml soft flasks do not leak, they have a small opening making it nearly impossible to load up with ice cubes.

Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack

The included soft flasks are comfortably soft without friction points and well-made but I wish they had a larger opening to more easily accommodate drink mixes and ice cubes.

What could be improved?

  • The sternum strap hook attachment points. I believe the way the sternum straps connect on one side has been updated for 2017. While minimal and intuitive to use good luck fumbling with these hooks with cold hands or when wearing gloves. Thankfully, you shouldn’t have to take the vest off too often I hope given how accessible everything is as discussed previously.

Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack

The sternum straps are challenging to hook and lock with cold hands or with gloves on.

  • The ability to use other soft flasks or bottles. You can pretty much only use the longer, slimmer Salomon soft flasks (manufactured by Hydrapak) with this vest. It would be nice if the pockets accommodated other options. (Edit: I was able to force the 600ml Hydrapak Ultraflask XL in the soft flask pockets but it was a bit of a challenge.)

When to use it?

  • Anytime you want or need to wear a running pack. It’s a versatile pack that is minimal enough to only carry soft flasks or load up for big days in the mountains.

The Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack is a do it all type of vest.

Similar vests to compare with the Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set:

  • Nathan VaporKrar 4L (review here). This is probably the most direct comparison. I’ll spare the details and say that the Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack is a clear winner in this head-to-head battle.
  • Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra Packs (either last year’s version or the Ultra 5 or Ultra 8 this year). The S-Lab packs are much lighter and cost less but bounce more when loaded up I experienced. I’m giving the nod to the Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack unless you don’t plan to carry water. If you don’t use a vest to carry water I would choose the Ultra 5 or Ultra 8.
  • Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 3.0. The UD Jurek vest has more capacity, is lighter, breathes equally well, has a front pole storage option, and costs $25 less. What it doesn’t have is as much storage accessibility while wearing it as the Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack. Tough call but I prefer the fit of the Salomon.
  • UltrAspire Spry 2.0. I’m guessing this vest flies under the radar and I’m not sure why. It’s a great option when you need just a bit more storage than shorts or a waist belt can provide. It has an elastic sternum strap that really expands, breathes really well, and fits great. Plus, it retails for $70 – what a value! I wore this vest last year at the Flagstaff Skyrace and loved it. It has less storage than the Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack but it also bounces more when loaded up. It’s a bit of an unfair head-to-head comparison as I see them as having different use cases. However, if I am forced to only have one vest I would choose the Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack.

So, the $155 question – should you purchase the Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Pack?

In a word, yes. Assuming you don’t need a larger capacity vest this is the best do-everything vest on the market today in my humble opinion. (Note: while it’s advertised as 5L of storage it really swallows up plenty of water, food, and gear. It feels like it can store more than the advertised 5L)

Questions, comments, or feedback on this pack? Please share! And thanks for reading!

Purchasing Information

If you’re interested in purchasing this pack, please first check availability at your local, independently owned running specialty store. They need your business and are a great resource for the community.

If that’s not an option, please consider using this link for the Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Hydration Vest – 305cu in Black/Matador, M/L. (It’s an affiliate for URP’s Amazon page and will drop a few nickels into the till. Thanks!)

Meet Your Gear Editor: Ben Zuehlsdorf

I am an avid running gear junkie. When I’m not smelling new shoes I’m usually running or racing around the local trails in Marin County, California or talking shop with the San Francisco Running Company community of friends. I was once a road marathoner but now have transitioned almost exclusively to the trails and racing ultras the last few years.

Disclaimer: This pack was provided to URP/Ben for testing purposes. All words and thoughts are ours and no compensation was offered or received.

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