For years I persisted with hydration pack after pack and for years I was left chaffed, frustrated and above all, massively out of pocket. My latest purchase, which I spent another £65 on was made because it alleged that it’s cutting edge technology promised to solve all of the common issues a runner might encounter on a 50+ mile race…throughout the last five frustrating and chaffing years I have been considering buying a Salomon S-Lab pack, the reason I hadn’t was simple, I thought it was too expensive and no pack could justify the cost (£150 on the Salomon website at the moment)
The result of this typical Scottish frugalness was a total spend of £265 on various different packs that just left me disappointed and sore.
For me 2016 was going to be my return to ultra running, I had run ultras every year but nothing that had truly challenged me or pushed me so with this in mind I signed up for the West Highland Way Race which is 96 miles across the entire route. I once again bought a pack I thought was better value than the Salomon one and found myself three months into 2016 again frustrated and let down. In April of this year I was fortunate enough to be given some kit from Salomon to trial and review, the kit included the S-Lab Adv 12 pack that I’d been lusting after for years!
As soon as the pack arrived I couldn’t wait to try it on, the instant difference between this and all other packs I have bought was the fit, it was so snug and wrapped itself around my body (I’m a 38″ chest and have a M/L size) I decided to trial it by running around my back garden for a few minutes, it felt good but I thought I should probably get out on the trail and give it a proper test.
I headed up the Pentland Hills in Edinburgh on a cicrular 16 mile route following the Pentland Skyline, the course has over 6,000ft of ascent so would test the pack for comfort and also convenience for hydration and eating.
One big benefit that this pack has over the other ones I’ve tried before is that the Soft Flasks are located on the front of the pack…see the image below…I have found that by having the flasks here it’s easy to access your water/energy drink without actually having to remove the bottles or break stride to take a drink, they are also very easy to refill and take in and out of the pouches they sit in.
My only issue with using Salomon’s Soft Flasks is that once you’ve taken a couple of drinks from them they slip into the pouch and can be fiddly to reach, once you get used to this it gets easier. Apart from this small issue it’s a good system that will ensure you remember to drink regularly on your long races/training runs. You can sometimes hear water sloshing around but considering it’s on the front of your chest it’s still quieter than all my other packs. If you need extra water the pack does accommodate a bladder, while it doesn’t come with a bladder but does come with a bladder pouch that will help hold your bladder of choice inside and keep it cool which was a nice touch.
You can tell that the materials used to create the pack are of the highest quality, you can also definitely understand when you use it that Salomon has worked closely with top athletes to design the S-Lab range. The pack has very few seams and stitching to minimise chaffing and it is made of a very stretchy mesh material which moves with your body so you almost forget that it’s there.
The pack is available in three different sizes, the 3l, 5l and 12l. For me only the 12l pack would be big enough for the type of races that I do but it’s great to have different options and I reckon the 3l could be a great pack for a marathon distance, especially a road marathon so you don’t have to bother with aid stations as they can sometimes be crowded and an accident waiting to happen.
For the 12l pack that I have there is plenty of storage, on the 12l pack there are two zip closed pouches at the lower back of the pack that are easy to reach around and grab a gel or food from without stopping running or breaking stride. There is a larger area of the pack which again is closed by zip, it is surprisingly spacious for a pack that weights only 285g and I’ve been able to comfortably fit everything in this pack that I needed for a 42 mile training run (although I did have to pick up more water from a (fast) running stream in the Scottish Highlands)
One thing I noticed is that there are no waterproof places within the bag so if you plan to run with a gadget/phone you’d have better hope for dry weather and carry it or get a waterproof pouch for it because unless you don’t sweat the pack will get wet and so will the contents of the pack, I almost lost a phone and only a hairdryer (my Wife’s not mines!) saved it from dying all together.
When it comes to actually putting the pack on, I have already said that it’s a great fit and I think that a big part of this comes down to the fastening system at the front, there are plastic clips on either side of the back at regular spacings, there are four material straps at the front with their own clips, you clip the plastic parts together and pull the chords tight, it’s really easy to use but does require some practice, again I am so pleased that there is no chaffing or even movement with this fastening system.
After waiting so many years and wasting so much money on other packs it’s been wonderful to finally try out the Salomon S-Lab Adv 12 Set, I can safely say that I will now never buy another pack other than the S-Lab range because from my experience it’s just not worth it.
The West Highland Way Race is next week (18th June) where i’ll really put the pack to the test and my own mind and body and it’s good to know that there’s at least one piece of kit I don’t have to worry about letting me down.
- STRETCH FIT Ultra form fitting, stretch material with stretch sternum straps create a tight but comfortable fit that lets you breathe
- LIGHTWEIGHT Lightweight materials and streamlined design keep weight down.
- VERSATILITY Enables different hydration solutions, and works great for running, hiking, cycling, etc.
- PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS
- PACK WEIGHT (LB OZ)11.64 oz
- DIMENSIONS42 x 20 cm
- PACK VOLUME (CI)732
- PACK VOLUME (L)12
- PACK WEIGHT (G)285
Sizing Chart (According to Salomon.com)
- 29 7/8-31 1/2
- 31 1/2-38 1/4
- 38 1/4-42 7/8
- 42 7/8-46 1/2