Monday, July 31, 2023

Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 Running Vest - a new benchmark for shorter races

Article by Marcel Krebs 

Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 Running Vest (available in Europe for 160€)

Introduction

Recently it has become a little quieter around the S/Lab product line from Salomon. From the S/Lab, Salomon creates high-performance solutions that are developed in close cooperation with Salomon athletes and especially in the shoe area, where models are even specially manufactured for individual athletes and their foot shape, such as the Salomon S/Lab Ultra for François D'Haene.

S/Lab running vests had even disappeared completely from Salomon's online store for a few months. So I was all the more pleased when the first athletes showed up at the Golden Trail Series races in spring wearing a new S/Lab running vest, which on closer inspection turned out to be the brand new Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 running vest.


Pro:

  • Excellent fit

  • Improved softer materials especially around the neck area are extremely comfy

  • No bounce

  • Very light & breathable 
  • Fits almost like a singlet leaving large parts of the back exposed for motion and ventilation
  • Looks sharp and “race ready”


Cons:

  • Zip pocket moved to the right side which makes it harder accessible for most of us

  • Lower back pocket would be more versatile with zippers at the openings


Stats
Back Length: 38 cm
Dimensions: 25 x 38 x 1 L x W x D in cm
Volume: 3 liters
Weight: 90 g
Weight including accessories (2 x 250ml flasks): 140 grams


Tester: 

Marcel is an avid trail runner from Germany who is increasingly discovering road racing. He just smashed his PR on the half marathon distance in Berlin (1:32) and his Marathon PR in Hamburg (3:17). Besides this, he loves racing on the trails in events like the UTMB World Series culminating in the finals in Chamonix (OCC).

In addition to his fascination for running shoe innovations, Marcel is also enthusiastic about technical gadgets of all kinds. Follow him on IG for the latest news on his testing pipeline and much more (@running.analytics).

First Impressions and Fit

Right after the new Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 running vest was officially introduced  I got the opportunity to test it intensively. 


When unpacking, the first thing that catches your eye is the bright "racing red", which is characteristic of the Salomon S/Lab product line. The color scheme directly conveys a motivating competition feeling. I like this very much. But even those who prefer it in a bit more subdued color will get their money's worth as Salomon also offers the S/Lab Pulsar 3 running vest in a black and white colorway.



The 3 in the product name stands for the capacity of the vest in liters. On the front, there is space for two 250ml Soft Flasks (included and a change from the prior 500ml flasks). 


Your 500ml soft flasks will no longer fit in the new shorter front pocket design (see below) but should in the upcoming 6L version longer pockets.

Salomon also said goodbye to the Speed Flasks and now again relies on the classic Soft Flasks in the S/Lab vests, after the hard bottom of the Speed Flasks had pressed uncomfortably on the ribs of numerous runners. Although I myself did not have these problems, I preferred to use the classic flasks with soft bottoms, especially during longer competitions, because they are definitely more comfortable to wear with the small time savings advantage that the Speed Flasks offer when inserting them into the vest only playing a significant role in very short races. Therefore, I consider this step by Salomon completely reasonable.


On the other hand, I do not think that the decision to relocate the zip pocket, which is also on the front, to the right side is as logical. 

The zip-pocket on the right keeps your belongings like keys, ID-cards etc. safe. It also easily holds your smartphone. This holds true even for larger models like the iPhone Pro including a cover as you can see in the picture above. In the past, this was located on the left side across the different model series, so it was conveniently accessible for the typical right-handed user, about 90% of the population. 


In addition, there is a large pocket on the front left and right in front of the soft flask, where gloves, gels, caps, etc. can be stowed and easily accessible.


On the back are two more storage compartments. The upper compartment is intended by Salomon for stowing, for example, a light windbreaker or a midlayer.

[the vest almost fits like a singlet and is extremely breathable; it leaves large parts of the rear exposed for motion and ventilation]


The lower compartment is intended, for example, for carrying an additional 0.5L soft flask according to Salomon. 


However, since the lower compartment is also accessible from the side, a jacket that you want to access quickly on the go is also very well stored here. There is at least a latent risk that a heavier item like a full, large soft flask will slip out of the side, although I did not have any problems with this during my test runs. Nonetheless, zippers on both sides would make this compartment even more versatile without adding any significant weight (just use the same zippers as at the front pocket).

 

Performance

During my test runs, the reduction in the capacity of the soft flasks on the front is immediately noticeable in a positive way with regard to the wearing experience.


This is especially true for shorter (training-) runs without an additional large Soft Flask on the back, as in these cases the vest is quite "front-heavy" loaded. In the past, this often led to problems in the neck area for many runners. These issues occurred  because models such as the Salomon Pro 2 running vest were loaded in the front with 2 x 0.5L soft flasks and not infrequently a smartphone, while the compartments on the back were empty. This increased pressure and friction on the sides of the neck. 


Fortunately, this phenomenon is not observed in the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 running vest. On the one hand, this is due to the lower weight of the soft flasks, which are now only half the size.


On the other hand, the now significantly softer material at the seams is also positively noticeable when running. 


Even with the upper body exposed, the S/Lab Pulsar 3 running vest is extremely comfortable and is therefore also an ideal companion for very hot temperatures. In addition, the thin and extremely breathable material and the high-quality workmanship are positively noticeable in this context.


Unlike the running vests of the "Active" as well as the "Pro" model series, the flasks in their pockets  have been traditionally attached lower in the S/Lab vests. In the past I found this to be annoying, because it made it difficult to drink on the go, so I preferred to reach for the models of the Pro and Active series. Salomon justified this at the time with the fact that the pros would drink less often and one therefore prioritized the reduction of bouncing over easier accessibility higher up. An argument that convinces me, however, only conditionally, because the fit of the other two models is also excellent and bounce is reduced to a minimum. 


All the more fortunately  I can report that the flasks of the new Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 running vest now sit a bit higher up again. Not quite as easily accessible as in the Pro and Active variants, but still so that the Flasks are more easily accessible even on go.  although by lifting them a little from below.

The zippered pocket opens and closes well on the go, although the shift from the left to the right side is not really sensible from my point of view and makes accessibility unnecessarily difficult for right-handed people (and that's about 90% of the population). 


Accessing the compartments on the back also works surprisingly well on the go, but nevertheless requires a certain amount of mobility - especially accessing the upper compartment. Since the bottom compartment is also open on the side, access here is very easy. Both to an additional large soft flask and, for example, a windbreaker or a rain jacket.


Conclusions & Recommendations

In conclusion, it can be said that the wait for the new Salomon S/Lab running vests was definitely worth it. 

The new S/Lab Pulsar 3 running vest offers an excellent fit paired with excellent workmanship and breathability. Construction-wise, the ideal purpose is primarily shorter and faster competitions and training runs, where a volume of 3 liters is completely sufficient. Runs with half-empty flasks and sub-optimal fit are thus a thing of the past. So if you're looking for a running vest for this purpose, you won't find a better solution on the market right now. 

This is all the more true because the vest also offers devices for attaching the proven Salomon Pole Quivers. So you do not have to do without carrying poles even with the more minimal Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 running vest. 

For all those who want to participate in competitions with a little more extensive mandatory equipment or simply in training longer on the road and want to take more drinks and equipment, Salomon will offer the S/Lab Pulsar running vest in a 6L variant. 

This is not officially confirmed yet, but this model was already worn by Courtney Dauwalter in a high-profile way during her victory at the Western States 100 Endurance Run. 

Those who prefer a little more padding as well as a higher fit of the Soft Flasks will reach for the Active product line, which is more geared to mass sports, or to corresponding variants of the Pro line, which is located between the S/Lab and Active series. 

With the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 running vest, Salomon has taken another important step towards building a Pulsar product line and it will be exciting to see what new releases Salomon has in store for us next.

Comparisons


Salomon Sense Pro 2 

The Pro 2 carries two 0,5l Speed Flasks and offers one compartment on the back which requires lots of mobility to be accessed during the run. It’s probably the most airy vest out right now but be aware to not overload it at the front as the seam at the neck is made of a comparatively firm and scratchy material. The S/Lab Pulsar 3 vest in comparison is clearly more comfortable and well balanced, so definitely get the latter for shorter runs, especially as they are almost evenly priced - at the moment. 


Salomon Sense Pro 5 

The Pulsar 3 pack has the more accommodating fit around the neck area. Nonetheless, this often is not as important as with the Pro 2  as the Pro 5 often is also back loaded so its balance is much better. Pro 5 comes with a large compartment at the back and allows to carry significantly more stuff than the Pulsar 3 including mandatory equipment for most 50k. The upcoming S/Lab Pulsar 6 will probably offer the best of both worlds. But this has to be determined and confirmed in an upcoming review as soon as this pack is available.


Salomon Active Skin 5

More robust and a little more comfortable than the Pro 5. Flasks also sit higher at the front in the Active line compared to the S/Lab Pulsar 3 which i consider more comfortable for drinking during the run while the positioning at the Pulsar 3 is optimized for running performance & zero bounce. Instead of an either or, both packs complement each other nicely. Active Skin also offers useful ad-ons like a little garbage pocket.


The Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 Running Vest is available from Salomon in Europe HERE


Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.


Catalog photos: Salomon.com

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23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I need a 6,8" smartphone pocket with a zipper at the front. For regular training this is more useful than race focused gear without this.

Marcel said...

Hi Anonymous, you can easily put it in the front zip pocket. as the flasks are only half the weight there should not be an balanced weight issue even if you not back load the vest.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, seems its the only option for most vests. I will go to a store soon and try some vests. It's hard to judge sizes and how tight and secure a vest would hold the phone just by looking at photos.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the move to 250ml flasks. Due to the material these often become a large proportion of the overall weight of the vest. Whilst slightly unbalanced, I'd much rather take one 500ml (balanced by a phone / gels / whatever on the opposite side). It also takes half as long to fill up at an aid. Normal nutrition advice is 500ml/HR. That means a 2*250 vest lasts you for a 1-2hr run tops, and in a 1-2hr race you coulalmost certainly get away without wearing a vest at all (it's not like you'll get any mandatory kit in here). If you just want 1* slightly awkward 500ml, the race belts are lighter and move less.

Marcel said...

@Anonymous: I get where you are coming from regarding flask sizes. For me also the 3L version has many possible usecases especially when you also have to store keys, a few gels a jacket and/or an additional 500ml soft flask. Nonetheless, there will be a 6L version available pretty soon which should meet your requirements even better.

Marcel said...

@ "first" Anonymus: yes, you should definitely try them on. Also consider hereby if you are planning to wear a jacket below it etc.; if you are heavily front loading the vest, tend to the smaller size as it keeps the vest further away from your neck, but this is more of an general sugguestion; the S/Lab Pulsar vest 3 does a very good job at preventing those issues from occuring.

Anonymous said...

How does it fare against the S/Lab vests of old? (Sense Ultra 2L/5L)

Mike P said...

The vest looks very similar in function to the UltrAspire Basham which I have used in many races, up to 50 miles if there is enough aid station access. The Basham vest has no front bottle pockets but the rear lower back pocket holds 500ml with zero bounce.

Anonymous said...

Salomon replied that they won’t have the Pulsar 3 and 6 available in the US? Is that true? Really wanna get one, since the last two Sense Pro models tear up my neck and collarbone areas!

Marcel said...

@Anonymous, yes, the Pro can be nasty at the neck - especially if primarily front-loaded; we do not have information regarding availability in the US but will try to get this information from Salomon asap. therefore, we can neither confirm nor disprove the information you got for the very moment.

Anonymous said...

I don't know anyone who would use a vest for short runs where 2x250ml is sufficient. Any belt will carry the same, with better weight and balance management, and for cheaper. Outside of pro sponsored athletes who get it for free, or very specific use cases, I can only but not recommend it. Especially at that price.

Mike P said...

I disagree- there is definitely a use case, especially for those that don't like a waist belt. I've tried all of them and they're just too bouncy and don't work for me. I find a very light vest to be much more comfortable. It can be an issue of body type, running style, or just plain personal preference.

As I mentioned earlier, I've used my Basham vest up to a 50 mile race where there was sufficient aid station support. I only carried a 16oz bottle in the rear pocket. Putting my nutrition and other small items in the other small pockets kept the weight balanced around my torso. For me that's the least bouncy setup I've found for myself over many years of testing. It's definitely a valid option in comparison to a waist belt or a handheld.

Marcel said...

@Anonymous: I am with Mike P here. Just returned from a 2h recovery run in mild temperatures and thunderstorms forecasted. For those settings the vest is ideal as you can take your jacket too beside 2x250ml of water, your keys and gels. and i would also had the chance to take an additional 500ml soft flask in the lower back pocket which sums up to 1l of water without bounce. It's also very well ventilated. The belts i tested so far (and i tried almost all of the i guess), in an ideal setting hold 250ml soft flasks only with a tolerable level of bounce. The ones with less bounce often also come in several but fixed sizes, so you can't adjust them depending on changes in body weight, thicker clothes etc. which leads to unpleasant pressure on the stomach and/or a to wide or too narrow fit. Therefore, i clearly prefer the vest.

Anonymous said...

Hey Marcel, this vest sounds great. any update from Salomon on the US release?

Marcel said...

@Anonymous: Happy to hear that you like it too. We reached out to our US as well as our EU contacts but unfortunately no information regarding the US release yet. As soon as we have an update, we will edit the review accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Thanks!

Also, how does the sizing compare to the Adv Skin and the Sense Pro vests?

Marcel said...

re sizing: Medium (M) in all of them

Mike P said...

Sophia Laukli just won Sierre Zinal wearing this vest

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this great review! Well done!
Do you have any idea when the 6L version will be released?

Marcel said...

@Anonymous: Thanks for the positive feedback! As far as the 6L version is concerned, there is no release date communicated so far. In fact, new products pop up without any announcement on a regular basis in the Salomon online shop without prior notice, like the Ultra 10 vest a few days ago. As the 6L is already worn a while ago by Pros like Courtney, it should not take long, but that's a mere guess.

Richard said...

Really enjoyed your review which got me to get the vest as my first one ever. I also ordered the adv skin 5 but the material at the collar seems very scratchy, so its going back.

Just wondering, where do you store your jacket, when you take an additional flask in the back pocket? the uppder pocket seems very small. I wish it would be a bit bigger. cant barely fit a 150g bonetti rain jacket in there.

Marcel said...

@Richard: Glad to hear you liked the review and enjoy the vest. The Pulsar is indeed much more accomodating at the neck area.

I store my jacket in the top-pocket, indeed. It fits my Scott RC windbreaker as well as my Arc'teryx pretty well which are ~100g. Bare in mind, it's a racing vest for shorter distances which also prioritizes breathability, especially at the back which would be reduced if the pockets would cover a larger area. The upcoming Pulsar 6 should be an ideal addition as soon as it is released: it has larger pockets at the back as you wished for and also features two 0,5l soft flasks at the front.

Anonymous said...

When available in US?