Ultra Gear Review: Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin 5 Vest

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Running for 5-7 hours at a stretch is a great way to test gear, try fuel, and practice mind games.  Chaffing, blisters, running in the mud, running in the rain, running in the sun, numb feet, upset stomach, nasty gels, delicious bars, magic tape on my calves, duct tape on my shoes- you name it I've experienced it over the years!

After a thousand kilometers up and over mountains this winter, I have found what works for me for this type of training.  Gear is extremely personal, however, and the only way to know what will work for you is to try it yourself during your training!  Experiment with gear, food, timing, pacing and everything else between during your training runs - this is just as important as the mileage itself.  And part of the fun!

Read on for the first post in a series, covering the gear that I have been playing with during my Miwok 100k training so far this year:).

Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin 5 Running Vest

I AM IN LOVE.  Yup.  But I will be the first to admit that I was still a skeptic this time last year.  $180 for a running pack?  'Come on', I thought, 'How amazing can it be!?'.  Well folks, after trying it out for myself, I finally ponied up and bought one about a month ago.  And I can honestly tell you that although it may seem overpriced, it is actually worth every penny(time will tell if it is durable, however).  I tried one on last year, and the chest pocket water bottles threw me off.  I don't like carrying water on my chest- just feels weird after so many years training, working and racing with a pack on my back.  This spring I clued in that the pack also comes with a bladder.  So, about a month ago, when my old pack called it quits, I decided to try it on again...I ran around the store...it really did feel like a second 'skin'.  I went for it.  We went for a 6 hour run on our very first date.  I know I know- maybe I jumped into things a bit quickly.  But we hit it off so well and wanted to spend the whole day together.  We have been inseparable ever since.  Seriously!

Deets:  Salomon Vests are literally like  a second skin.  Their stretchy 'sensi fit' material wraps right around your body resulting in nearly zero movement up down or side to side while running.  You think your current pack is comfortable...and then you take this one for a spin and you realize how much movement is actually taking place with other styles of running packs.  

The second best feature is the endless pockets.  All shapes and sizes and all within reach for little arms and tired, wet, clumsy fingers during long runs.  A zipper here, a pouch there, a pocket over there.  Your gear is spread out around your torso, rather than loaded in one spot on your back, which creates a sensation of weightlessness.  Absolutely brilliant.  

The third feature that has made this vest stand out from the crowd, are the two 500ml soft flask water bottles that are designed to fit into the chest pockets- so you never have to remove your pack if you choose not to.  Easy access allows you to view how much water you have left and refill as needed which can make for speedy transitions through aid stations/during races.   Many people swear by these little chest water bottles.  If you are like me, however, and prefer not to run with a second pair of boobs in front, you have room for 1.5 litre bladder in the back of the pack (separated and insulated sleeve even!)- for a combined total of 2.5 litre carrying capacity.  

The fourth awesome feature is the shape/design which allows for comfortable movement.  Many traditional running packs have straps and buckles that run between the body and arms as well as around the waist/across the chest, setting the stage for evil chaffing, friction and rubbing.  The Skin Vest is cut away from the body under the arm pits and does not have an annoying waist strap, both of which allow for welcome freedom of movement and comfort.

You would think I am sponsored by Salomon with such a glowing review, wouldn't you?  I wish!   Nope- just a born again running vest convert trying to share the light.  Are you drinking the kool-aid yet?  If you don't want to fork out $180 for one of these beauty's then I suggest you never try one on.  Save yourself the dough and chafe on.  

Where to get it:  Extreme Runners, Courtenay, $180.  

Up Next: Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Soft Ground sneakers...

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