Monday, December 29, 2014

Review: 2015 Salomon S-Lab Sense Set Run Vest. Supremely Functional Minimalism

Saved maybe the best of 2014 for last. The Salomon Sense Set  and Sense Ultra run vests are now in wider release for 2015. The Salomon Sense vests are form fitting water and gear carry vests that really are more clothing than pack.  The Sense Set and Ultra Sense with its added drop in rear mesh pocket at the hip and kangaroo mesh pocket between the shoulder blades immediately caught my eye at Outdoor Retailer Summer 2015 as one of the key innovations on display (preview here)

Supremely functional Sense Set carries 2 x 500ml of water in supplied soft flasks and has 6 other stretch pockets that adapt to loads. The Sense Ultra adds a drop in rear mesh pocket at the hip for a jacket or a couple more soft flasks   as well as a kangaroo mesh pocket between the shoulder blades. You can carry as little or as much as you wish with zero bounce and an adjustable snug stretch fit.  For the first time I have finallyfound a carrying solution that I truly forget I have on.  I have now run about 25 miles with the Sense Set on trails.

The picture below illustrates a "heavy" but by no means full load:

  • 2 full 500ml (16 oz) flasks (flasks are supplied with vest)
  • an iPhone 6 securely placed in one front drop in pocket, nordic gloves in the other
  • a rescue blanket and blocks and gels in one zip pocket, a North Face Better than Naked jacket in the other zip pocket
  • rescue whistle (supplied and attached to vest) 
  • small drop in shoulder pocket for trash, zip pocket for key.

Salomon S-LAB Sense Set

Once loaded the vest fits like... a vest and not a pack.  Salomon calls this SensiFit. It is unlike any other carrying solution I have tried and I have tried them all: belts, packs, hand held, even the earlier Salomon race packs. The materials are super light and breathable and I expect durable if my experience with the similarly minimal materials of the Sense Short are any indications.
Salomon S-LAB Sense Set

Salomon S-LAB Sense Set
Salomon Sense Set- more like clothing than pack.

How does one drink? Just bend your head down and sip. Or pull the vest up and sip. The bottles never need to leave the vest to drink and even when low water is easy to pull through the valves.

I have rarely had to adjust the 2 elastic straps on the front as the load changes and the elastic straps have not stretched loose on the move. Unlike previous Salomon straps and red hooks and loops are softer and far easier to snap on and off.

The pictures below taken the very first day I had the vest on for a run illustrate one area where improvements might be made or practice using is required. The flask pockets are very snug and if you either overfill your flasks or don't really push them in hard they won't go in all the way as shown here. I did not get them all the way down in the pockets. Those planning on refilling at aid stations should practice reloading and not overfill.

Salomon S-LAB Sense Set

Once I took a decent gulp I just jammed the bottles down further and by the second run I had it figured out.

This marvel was designed in collaboration with Kilian Jornet who is very particular and innovative in his gear choices. The Sense Short is another marvel of minimal functionality and comfort (review here) There are 2 versions of the Sense Set: the one illustrated here and the Sense Ultra with a rear kangaroo pocket.  I paid UK 80 or about $130 US for the Sense Set (US retail for Sense Set should be $120 with Sense Ultra $130)  via Castleburg Outdoors who has the exclusive limited release.

For all runs on road or trail where approximately a liter or 32 ounces of water is called for along with basic nutrition, phone, and maybe some light extra clothing the Sense Set is a fantastically functional choice.  If you need to carry less than a full load the Sense will in no way be a burden. Carry as much or as little as you want. For those who alpine ski or snowshoe, worn under a ski jacket or shell the Sense can be a great option for you as well. No bump on the back of the chairlift and water kept warm. One could even wear it in conjunction with a bigger pack.

S-LAB Sense Set in action at Antelope Island UT

S-Lab Sense Set and Sense Ultra are now available in the US. Get yours from Running Warehouse, Backcountry, or REI at the links below. Your purchases support my blog! 

Click here to purchase Sense Set or Sense Ultra from Running Warehouse or from at the links below. Your purchases support my blog. Thanks!

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