It wasn’t long ago that I had found my perfect Hydration Vest. However, you know as well as I do that things change and keeping an open mind is paramount. I had recently come across a reinvented vest from Salomon in the hopes that I could find something a bit lighter that sports a lower profile than my everyday wear. Enter the ADV SKIN 5 SET, a sleek, low-profile, lightweight vest from the team at Salomon. Not only is it very light, but it also looks good too.
This year’s Killington Ultra Beast had me searching for new gear. Not that there is anything wrong with my “go to” gear, but I am always looking for new possibilities. Besides, there are plenty of Salomon advocates on social media that sing their praises, die-hard fans. With Salomon held in such high regard, it was a decision I made without much in the way of persuasion required. The ADV SKIN 5 SET looks AWESOME, and it claims to have everything I need in a vest.
See, the ADV SKIN 5 SET is something of a minimalistic vest. There isn’t much to it. With that, it seems like many of the products that Salomon produces don’t have too much in the way of sides or appetizers. You get your protein, carbs, grains, veggies, etc. all in one simple package. If you were to find your way on over to Salmon’s page for the SKIN 5, you would get the same vibe. There is nothing but the details, no fluff, no marketing hype, nada. Just some images and some specs.
They start you off with a “Need-To-Know” and some basic product details. For those of you that are curious, the need-to-know states simply: Keep it simple. When the essential items are pared down to a minimum, you can forget the idea of a bag. With the ADVANCED SKIN 5 SET wrap your extra gear around you, front and back, and whip it out while you’re moving. Let your body move and breathe unhindered, so your mind’s free to focus on the game.
The finer details?
Pack weight (lb oz): 10.93 oz
Dimensions: 36 X 20 cm
Pack volume (ci): 305
Pack volume (l): 5
Pack weight (g): 310
Referent size: M/L
Strangely enough, Salomon’s web page for the vest has its weight listed at 310g, but the vest itself has 225g stamped on it.
If you are into reading the data and trying to make comparisons, this vest is nearly 200 grams lighter than the Nathan VaporCloud and nearly 330 grams lighter than the Geigerrig Tactical Rigger. That makes this the lightest vest in my arsenal. However, the SKIN 5 SET boasts 5l (305 cubic inches) of storage space, less than half that of the VaporCloud; however, much of that storage space in my VaporCloud goes unused anyway. The SKIN 5 Set is made from lightweight materials, MotionFit, and SensiFit. Unfortunately, there is much detail available as to what MotionFit and SensiFit are, but a lot of the Solomon lineup features the same ingredients.
Salomon ships the vest standard with just two soft flasks. Although the vest has room for a bladder, one isn’t included. Given the high cost, I would expect that they could include one, but we all know where expectations land us. Either way, each of the two soft flasks can hold 17oz/500mL of liquid and compress as you drink from them. When full, they take up quite a bit of space up front and drinking from them requires you to bend and contort in odd ways. Ultimately, they aren’t easy to remove when running and you have to lift the vest up towards your mouth to sip. It definitely looks weirder than it feels… and it feels weird.
If you plan on running a longer race, let’s say something along the lines of a Spartan Ultra Beast as mentioned above (or some true ultra running), running with only the flasks may not be enough. At least, that was my expectation, so the purchase of an accessory, a Salomon soft reservoir, would be required. Now, it seems that many manufacturers out there take advantage of the hard work other companies have put in like Hydrapak, and Salomon is no different. Their Hydrapak branded reservoir differs from others in its color and its drinking tube’s bent accessory; otherwise, it is the same bladder you can get anywhere else… probably at a discount.
As if we were only here to discuss reservoirs and flasks, let’s talk about the vest. The vest, as mentioned, is extremely lightweight just 225-310g (still confused). There isn’t much wasted. With other vests, there are a bunch of doodads and doohickies (like a whistle on the VaporCloud) that add up to more weight. Not so much here. The vest wraps around you like a snug shirt and holds itself in place with two crossing chest straps. Each is strapped with a single hook going through some thickly stitched looping. At first, this seems like a novel and profound idea, that is until you are running, have to take the vest off, and then try to put it back on. More on that later though, as well as the reason why you might have to do that.
Each side of the vest is identical, with two small exceptions, a zipper pocket on the right shoulder strap and a velcro pocket on the left. Both the front left and front right of the vest have a pocket for the soft flask, a larger open pocket, then a roomy zipped pocket that wraps around to the back of the vest where the reservoir would be. Each flask pocket sports an elastic loop with a pull tab to help keep your soft flasks from being lost on the course somewhere. Additionally, when full, the soft flasks are tight so don’t expect them to move anyway.
Each open pocket is ROOMY! You can fit plenty of Air Heads, Sour Patch Kids, and goodies of all sorts for quick snacks. The drawback to using this pocket for snacks is that you will likely lose them. There isn’t much in the way of security. I lost a couple of packs of Sour Patch kids during the swim at Killington.
That leads us to the zipped pockets. These pockets are GRRRREAT (Tony the Tiger reference), almost. The zipper is on the front (side) of the pocket, not the top which makes them more accessible, but when running, you will find it extremely difficult to unzip and grab your snacks. I found myself undoing the chest straps, pulling the vest off, grabbing my snacks, then fumbling around like a dog with boots on trying to get the hooks through the loops, all while running, to secure the vest. BAD Salomon, bad!
Around back, the ADV SKIN 5 SET provides two large pockets with an opening at the bottom to loop a drinking tube through should you fill one with a reservoir. These holes at the bottom mean that there isn’t really anything you can use this space for other than some clothes storage or a reservoir. In other words, wasted space. Oddly enough, the SKIN 5 SET ships with a thermal sleeve for the reservoir it doesn’t include.
Running in the SKIN 5 is awesome, I repeat “running.” The vest is so light and airy you barely notice it’s there, that is until you have to drink from it. If I were a road runner, an ultra (real ultra, not Ultra Beast) runner, or something along those lines, this vest could be a good option, at least the way it feels… drinking is still a nuisance.
One thing I did notice while on the mountain at Killington was that carrying a bucket sort of kills the straps and hooks. The bucket tends to catch them and stretch them or unhook them all together. This hasn’t been a problem on my Nathan VaporCloud, and I have even found myself, at times, using the straps to help carry the weight!
Overall, I have to say that I had high hopes for this vest. I fully expected to wear it and fall head over heels in love with it based on the way it felt parading around my kitchen. The vest is light and feels great to wear. If I had never worn the Nathan VaporCloud, I could probably say this vest was excellent. However, given its price tag and its issues, I feel comfortable saying that the VaporCloud is a better option.