As one of the winners of the campaign #JouwTrailNaarMontafon I received a Salomon giftbox full of trail running gear, among which was a race vest. This is a type of backpack specially intended for trail running because of its tight fit and minimalistic features and the fact that it closes at the front of the chest. Salomon has several different race vests, including the S/Lab Sense, S/Lab Sense Ultra, Advanced Skin and Agile. I received the Advanced Skin 5 Set in the color black/red with a volume of 5 liters. The vest came with two 500 mL soft flasks, an emergency blanket, and an insulating bladder sleeve.
I have used the vest now several times at different runs, varying from 1 to 4 hours, mainly in warm weather conditions. The vest is large enough to pack two filled 500 mL soft flasks, a rain jacket, emergency blanket, some gels, a mobile phone and solid food like a couple of bars. If you pack more, the backpack becomes uncomfortable to me and starts moving more while running.
I also used the race vest with a 1,5-liter water bladder in the hydration compartment in the back: this works perfectly as well. However, personally, I prefer using the drink system with the soft flasks in the front. This feature ensures that I drink more during my runs as the flasks are right underneath my nose and therefore easy to reach. When I pack a drink belt, for example, I have to reach behind to get to the bottle and because this is unpractical during runs I will more easily decide not to drink.
A downside of using the flasks at the front is that I found the soft flasks difficult to get into the pockets. This means that I do not take the flasks completely out of the pockets when I need a refill at an aid station. Not very practical, but comparable to when you need to refill a water bladder which is strapped in a separate compartment. On the other hand, the fact that the flasks can be difficult to get into the pockets means that they are secure and do not bounce much while running. Also, the pockets have elastic bands attached to them which can be slid over the top of the flasks for extra stability.
Wat gaat er in het vest?
As well as in the front as in the back, the race vest has multiple pockets of different sizes. Most of the pockets do not have a zipper and are therefore ideal to grab something quickly without having to fiddle around. Because the vest fits tight enough and the pockets are stretchy, no stuff will fall out during the run. At the front and at the sides there are pockets with a zipper. Unfortunately, these are not large enough to fit a larger smartphone (my iPhone 5 did fit but iPhone 8 does not). I store my phone now in the pocket in front of the soft flask pocket and that works well. However, I would prefer a pocket with a zipper for my phone. The pockets with zipper can be used to secure away keys or money.
The race vest is ventilated by a meshed fabric at the back. For optimal temperature regulation Salomon has used the following techniques: Elastic Power Mesh, Fast wicking fabrics, and 3D Airmesh. The mesh is made out of elastic jersey which makes the ventilation not optimal because of the thickness of the fabric. Personally, the lack of ventilation does not bother me because once my back is wet during a run, I do not notice it any longer. Also, the vest dries fast after use. I compared it to the ventilation of the S/Lab Sense Ultra race vest which is built from lighter fabric. The ventilation in this model was significantly better.
The fit of the vest is perfect and can be adjusted by the straps in the front which can be secured at different heights. The vest is light and minimalistic and can even be worn on top of a sleeveless top without rubbing on your shoulders. The strapping system in the front works well and can be easily adjusted while running.
This in contrast to the S/Lab Sense Ultra, which required the straps to be locked into place by securing them exactly in the holes of a little plate. I do find that there are a bit too many straps on the Advanced Skin which can easily start flapping around and therefore need to be secured tightly before a run.
There is an emergency whistle at the front of the vest which is very handy as it is often part of the mandatory material in a race (which you can easily forget…).
On the back, there are two loops, one at the top and one at the bottom. These loops can be used to carry poles. Because I do not run with poles, I have also not tested if the pole system works well with the vest.
Advantages: drinking systems with soft flasks at the front of the vest, many pockets which can be reached easily, lightweight, good fit which can be easily adjusted, vest comes with handy extras.
Disadvantages: effort to get the soft flasks into their pockets, no pocket with a zipper which fits a larger smartphone, ventilation system is not optimal.