A year of running around with this vest on my back and I feel we’ve bonded sufficiently to give you an overview of my experience of this handy piece of kit.
To set the scene, I predominantly use this pack on trail runs around the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, and the longest run I’ve worn it for so far is around three hours (soon to change when my ultra training ramps up, let’s hope). This is the first and only hydration vest I have owned – other run hydration experience for me being limited to my handheld Ultimate Direction flask (review here), and good old fashioned drinking out of a tap at the beach, which a slobbery dog probably used before you… Yes, I have some closet germ fear issues.
Overall, I’ve found this vest to be one of my favourite running accessories. First things first, it is really handy for carrying water – which can be transported in one or two collapsible soft flasks (included in the purchase) and/or in a bladder which sits in the back of the vest (not included in the purchase, although an insulation sleeve and a whistle and foil blanket are – go figure). For the most part, I leave the bladder at home and just use the two soft flasks. They’re easy to access at the front of the pack and easy to take out and refill. I’ve heard a few complaints about how the flasks drop down into the pockets, which is true – but not a deal breaker for me. Since I bought this pack, Salomon have released a couple of new designs of flask which might prevent this and have also added a couple of loops to the pockets on the newer vests, designed to hold up the flasks. I’ve also heard of flasks bursting, but after a year of use, mine are still going strong (and long may that continue).
If you prefer to use the bladder, you’ll need to purchase one if you don’t already own one – I ended up buying the Salomon 1.5 litre soft hydration reservoir which works perfectly and fits into the insulation sleeve provided with the vest. My (husband’s) Camelbak bladder (which I tried to steal initially) was just too giant to squash in comfortably, but I reckon you could still fit a 2 litre bladder in there.
In addition to your water, the vest is also really handy for carrying other “stuff” you may want while you’re out on the trail. For me, this generally includes my GoPro; my iPhone; a compression bandage in case of an unlucky snake encounter and some nutrition – gels, fruit, a Clif bar, whatever. In addition, there are three small zip pockets which can be used to securely stash some cash or keys. You could pop spare head torch batteries in there too, but beware the pockets aren’t waterproofed in any way. Living in Queensland, an extra layer is very rarely needed, but there’s no doubt you could shove some extra clothes into either the big pocket which runs beside the bladder pocket, or into the “kangaroo” pocket across the back. I definitely lean towards carrying things in the front of the vest, as especially after a CrossFit session, my arms aren’t always feeling as flexible as Mr Stretch and reaching back into the kangaroo pocket can feel a little contortionist like. That’s not to say I can’t reach – but I imagine it’s a consideration for some of us who don’t keep up with our yoga practice as much as we perhaps should.
One of the concerns I had about this vest, often running in hot and humid conditions, would be that it would be wayyy too hot as an additional layer. There’s no doubt, I’m on the sweatier scale of sweaty when it comes to running around, but because you can secure the pack neatly against your body with the adjustable straps at the front and a lot of it is constructed of a lightweight mesh, I actually don’t find myself feeling that I’m overheating because of it. Overheating – yes, but not especially worse as a result of the pack.
Other features to consider:
- the pack allows for your hydration bladder hose to be fed either below your arm or over your shoulder. To be honest, every time I come to use the bladder I find myself a little confused about which loops the hose is meant to go through, but I may be alone there… am I?
- there’s definitely a fair amount of webbing that can flap about, and one of these I believe is related to pole carrying. I have never yet run with poles and do constantly find myself tucking a particular strap under the shoulder as it tries to slap me in the face on each run. Again, not a big issue and perhaps something not quite right in my set up (…which I’ve just discovered is actually the case, doh).
- the webbing at the front allows for total flexibility in how tight you’d like to secure the pack across your chest. I’m personally a big fan of tight straps and no bobbing about. The pack comes in three sizes and for me, the XS/S works well – I’m 5’4 on a good day and a UK women’s size 10/12.
- this is a really lightweight pack, but has also worn exceptionally well so far. It’s definitely one of the more exy options as far as hydration vests go, but for me – quality is quality and I don’t begrudge paying more for a super well designed, long lasting piece of kit.
- I was worried about the pack rubbing my skin and it was a while before I ventured out with it wearing just a singlet/vest as opposed to a t-shirt. I shouldn’t have waited – I’ve not had any chafe issues from it at all.
If you need to carry more mandatory kit for a longer race, Salomon offer a more roomy 12 litre version of this pack. I’ve recently purchased the newest version of this and will review it once it has gone through the test of an ultra in September. My immediate impressions of it are that the additional pockets on the front are fantastic, but I’m not such a fan of the plastic loops used to secure the front straps. More on that later this year!
All in all, IMHO this is definitely a worthwhile investment if you’re looking for a lightweight, flexible hydration solution. You can view the specs of the latest packs on the Salmon website here.
Happy running xx