Saturday, February 12, 2011

First Review: Salomon XT S-Lab Advanced Skin Hydration Pack- A Second Skin it Truly Is

I previously posted about the Salomon XT S-Lab Advanced Skin Pack I saw at Outdoor Retailer .  The pack looked like an incredibly well thought out and engineered solution to hydration and gear carry while running long distances on trail or road. It was designed with help from Kilian Joret one of the best ultra runners in the world. Gear Zone just got them in stock and I purchased one. After my first long run I am extremely pleased with this (pricey) piece of gear.

Today I took it on a 18 mile plus run in Park City, Utah. My route took me from Willow Creek Park to the Park City Rail Trail and then onto the incredible groomed multi use trails in Round Valley . 85% perfectly groomed snow trails, rest roads. See my Park City winter running post for general map details.

My first impressions:

Not just marketing speak when Salomon calls this an Advanced Skin. The chest area is wide open with just 2 elastic straps.  Easy breathing. The shoulder harness curves sharply towards the lower back eliminating all bouncing and side to side movement. Even with the full 1.5 liter bladder the sensation is unlike any pack I have worn. Stable, snug, and without any rubbing, at least over my two light wool layers.

In addition to the 1.5 liter bladder I carried a windbreaker. The 2 zip pockets to the right and left are a bit small and hard to reach

Note front fit. Where's the Pack?  Arms never rubbed or bumped pack. Easy reach pockets (white) in front : I put my phone in one and gels in the other 

Hydration System:
The Source hydration system is very easy to fill and remove. Quick disconnect in middle of lower back. Not a screw or push on valve but an actual mechanical release by button push which seals off the bottom of the bladder.  Pull the bladder in its insulated (back side only) sleeve out. Roll open and fill.

The insulated hose goes under the arm and up towards the mouth. A dirt guard covers the nozzle.  The Source literature says that the insulation serves 2 purposes: keeps water cooler in heat and from freezing in cold but also prevents build up of microbes in the harder to clean hose. In fact if you only use water there is no need to clean the hose or bladder after use.

To get water bite lightly and suck. Again a mechanical valve which opens on bite and closes when released. No leaking during my run. The dirt guard slips over the nozzle and prevents accidental pressing on the valve. Worked like a charm.

The 2 holster pockets on the front are most useful. I used one for my phone/GPS and the other for my gels. They are large enough for water bottles.  Given their angling towards the middle of the chest I don't think my arms will bump them but have to test. They secure with a pull.  The 2 rear zippered stretch pockets are small and a bit hard to reach on the run. 2 additional zip stretch pockets are supplied. They attach to the top of the front shoulder straps by velcro. I was going to use them for my phone but worried they might come off due to the cords running underneath. If they are secure, a clever touch as one can just rip them off to get at whatever is inside. The pack is also supplied with an emergency blanket and whistle.

Price and Availability: $180. Spring 2011

Shoe du Jour:
North Face Single Track. A fine shoe for snow running and mixed road non technical trails .

I was well hydrated and fed during the entire 3:20 run. Never had to fiddle or break stride to get at what I needed. Finished the run strong.

Mountain Trails Foundation  and Rick the groomer and trails master (below in action)  for incredible trails.  Hundreds were enjoying Round Valley on the run, at a walk, on nordic skis, snowshoes, even on mountain bikes on a beautiful sunny day in Park City.

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