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Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN 12SET Review

S-LAB ADV SKIN 12SET
Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $185 List | $138.71 at CampSaver
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, great fit, tons of easily reachable pockets, very versatile
Cons:  Expensive, must buy hydration bladder separately
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Salomon
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Wednesday

Our Verdict

Simply put, the Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN 12SET is the best hydration pack for running. Our head tester has used many other models over the years, and this one tops them all. We love this pack and are totally confident that you will too! The Sensifit mesh construction provides the best fit of any pack we tested and is easily the most comfortable - the most important quality to a good pack. We love the soft flask hydration system as well as the incredible amount of easily reachable pockets. Since it is the highest rated product in our review, and by far our favorite hydration pack to wear while out on a run, we are happy to give it our Editors' Choice Award.

Updated Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN 12SET - October 2016
Salomon has updated a few features on this product without major changes to the overall design. Updates include dropping the "3" from the name, new collapsible flasks, and some color changes. Keep reading to find out more.


RELATED REVIEW: The Race to Find the Best Hydration Pack for Running

up to 5 products
Score Product Price Weight Carrying Capacity External Storage?
92
Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN 12SET $185
Editors' Choice Award
14.6 oz 12 L Yes, "Kangaroo Pockets"
86
Nathan Vapor Air 2L $150
Top Pick Award
14 oz 7 L Yes, bungees
74
Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 2.0 $130
13.3 oz 7 L Yes, bungees
72
Patagonia Fore Runner Vest 10L $129
15.8 oz 10 L Yes, external sleeve
71
CamelBak Ultra 4 $115
19.6 oz 2 L No

Our Analysis and Test Results

New Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN 12SET vs. Older Version


Salomon dropped the "3" from the name as this year's model is the fourth edition. In addition to the name change, this hydration pack comes with new flasks that shrink as you drink, as well as updated carry options. The color has also been updated to Black/Red.

Check out the side-by-side comparison below, with the latest version of the S-LAB ADV SKIN 12SET pictured on the left and the older version shown on the right.
S-LAB ADV SKIN 12SET


Here's a summary of the key differences between the (new) S-LAB ADV SKIN 12SET and the previous version:
  • Name Change — Salomon dropped the "3" from the name.
  • Collapsible Flasks — New flasks that shrink as you drink.
  • Color Change — Color has changed to Black/Red.

As we have yet to test out this latest development on our backs, the following analysis reflects the older SKIN3 version.

Hands-On Review of the S-LAB ADV SKIN3 12SET


The Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 12SET was the top scorer in four of our six metrics: Comfort, Features, Hydration System, and Pockets. It uses stretchy mesh paneling to conform to your body without necessary adjustments, making it the least bouncy and most comfortable pack in the review. We loved that it included pole holders, a thermal shielded sleeve for the optional bladder to slide into, and an emergency blanket, all things that make it a great choice for ultra distance races.

The dual soft flask hydration system was comfortable and very practical, converting us by the end of the test period to be our favorite hydration system. And we can't say enough about the pockets, especially the kangaroo pocket. Located on the back of the pack, this giant, stretchy pocket is easily accessible from both sides and provides quick stuff space for clothes, snacks, and other gear. Overall this was by far the most well thought out pack in the review, and it comes highly recommended from our team of testers.

Performance Comparison


Hydration packs for running are a key accessory for long runs in the mountains when food  water  a camera  map  and of course rain clothing are all required.
Hydration packs for running are a key accessory for long runs in the mountains when food, water, a camera, map, and of course rain clothing are all required.

Comfort


Instead of using side tightening straps, this pack has stretchy form-fitting breathable mesh. This ingenious design creates a better fit and offers more comfort than any of the other hydration packs we tested. Additionally, the soft flask hydration system made our testers feel well balanced, and the soft flasks themselves created no pressure points, like with the hard bottles of the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 2.0.

Water bottles on the front of the body helps create balance against the gear loaded on the back of the pack  and leads to less fatigue  especially in the lower back  over long distances. Here climbing peaks in the San Juans with the Editors' Choice winning Salomon pack.
Water bottles on the front of the body helps create balance against the gear loaded on the back of the pack, and leads to less fatigue, especially in the lower back, over long distances. Here climbing peaks in the San Juans with the Editors' Choice winning Salomon pack.

Features & Design


The Salomon S-LAB had amongst the most versatile feature sets of any of the packs we reviewed. Key features included a heat shielded bladder sleeve (although you must buy a bladder separately), the option for either top or bottom threaded bladder hose, a whistle, an included emergency blanket, pole holsters, a headlamp battery pouch, and breathable mesh construction everywhere. We love all these things, however, we have to admit that even after watching multiple videos online, we still can't figure out how the pole holsters work. We just stuff the bottoms into the kangaroo pouches.

The pole straps on the Salomon hydration pack are a challenge to figure out but pretty easy to implement once understood. The poles can be rigged into this position without taking the pack off.
The pole straps on the Salomon hydration pack are a challenge to figure out but pretty easy to implement once understood. The poles can be rigged into this position without taking the pack off.

Hydration System


The included hydration system is dual chest mounted soft flasks. We liked this because the flasks are pliable and conform to the body, meaning no pressure points. They also balance the weight out nicely while the pack is loaded with gear, and with two of them we can have different drinks. The drinking system is interesting. The tops of the flasks have bite valves, and it is possible to just crane your neck down, bite the valve, and suck liquid straight from the flask without needing to pull them out of their pouches. For a male this both looks and feels weird, and many jokes were cracked in the company of others, but hey, it's easy and works well. The flasks have a 500mL capacity for each (total capacity for two is only 1 liter). We didn't like that they had the lowest liquid storage capacity of any pack we tested by about half, and that the mouths of the flasks are very small, making it hard to add drink mix.

The front of the chest soft flask setup. The nipples of these bottles are within easy reach of the mouth  meaning it is not necessary to remove them from their pouches to drink from them. This setup is far more comfortable than hard bottles rigged the same way.
The front of the chest soft flask setup. The nipples of these bottles are within easy reach of the mouth, meaning it is not necessary to remove them from their pouches to drink from them. This setup is far more comfortable than hard bottles rigged the same way.
The heat shielded sleeve for a bladder (not included). This top loaded pouch is great for storing a jacket or other clothing when not using a bladder. Also shown is the main zippered pouch  which is not super large.
The heat shielded sleeve for a bladder (not included). This top loaded pouch is great for storing a jacket or other clothing when not using a bladder. Also shown is the main zippered pouch, which is not super large.

Storage Capacity


To store extra clothing and gear there is one main back pouch that is zippered, and another pouch open at the top that sits against the back. This pouch is meant to hold the bladder if you are using one, but we mostly used it for a spare jacket. We aren't exactly sure what combo of storage measurement Salomon used to come up with 12L of storage space, and we found it harder to store bigger clothing items in this pack than others. We wish it had bungees like the Nathan Vapor Air 2L.

Pockets


The S-LAB ADV SKIN3 12SET was easily the winner when it came to awesome pockets. We especially loved the kangaroo pouch, which is essentially one giant elastic pocket that resides on the back but stretches to the sides and can be stuffed with just about anything from either side. So versatile and handy! Besides that, the pack has two elastic soft flask pouches, 2 gel pockets on front, 2 front accessory pockets, 2 side food pockets, 2 medium side zipper pockets. Overall, it has a ton of usable options!

The kangaroo pouches are the best feature of this pack. Huge expandable pockets  accessible from either side wrap around the back of the pack and are big enough to hold multiple clothing items or just about anything else.
The kangaroo pouches are the best feature of this pack. Huge expandable pockets, accessible from either side wrap around the back of the pack and are big enough to hold multiple clothing items or just about anything else.

Weight


With all of the included accessories and flasks this pack weighed 14.6 ounces out of the box. This was heavier than Salomon advertised, and not quite as light as the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 2.0. That said, it still feels really light on the back - in part due to its excellent comfort and fit.

Best Applications


Any running application would be great, however, this pack is specifically designed for long and tough mountain ultras in Europe where they make you carry all sorts of required gear and clothing. Its versatility is amazing and we can't think of a long run where it wouldn't be appropriate.

Value


At $185, and not including a bladder, this is one expensive product. However, we know that sometimes you have to pay the most to get the best, and we think that in this case you get what you pay for. Although our Editors' Choice winner is expensive, we think you'll love it so much that you'll be happy you spend the money.

Conclusion


If you are in the market for a hydration pack for running , we can't possibly recommend one more than the Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 12SET. We can go so far as to say that in a couple years of product testing of all sorts, we think this in one of the most innovative and refined pieces of gear we have tested - of any sort! Pick one up and you won't be disappointed.

Running with our Editors' Choice winning hydration pack in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. It doesn't get better than this!
Running with our Editors' Choice winning hydration pack in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. It doesn't get better than this!

Other Versions & Accessories


S-Lab Adv Skin3 5SET
Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin 3 5 Set Racing Vest
  • Essentially the same pack with less storage capacity
  • Suited to shorter endurance races
  • $160

Soft Reservoir 1.5L
Salomon Soft Reservoir 1.5L
  • Optional bladder and hose that fits the pack
  • 1.5 L capacity
  • $40

Soft Flask
Salomon Soft Flask
  • Replacement or additional soft flask
  • 500 mL capacity
  • $16

Andy Wellman
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