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Salomon ADV Skin 12 Set Review

A top-notch running pack, with excellent pockets and a comfortable fit
Salomon ADV Skin 12 Set
Photo: Salomon
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $165 List | $160.00 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, great fit, tons of easily reachable pockets, versatile
Cons:  Expensive, must buy hydration bladder separately
Manufacturer:   Salomon
By Jeff Colt ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 14, 2021
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85
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 12
  • Comfort - 30% 9
  • Features - 25% 8
  • Hydration System - 15% 8
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 8
  • Pockets - 15% 9

Our Verdict

Once again, we recommend the Salomon ADV Skin 12 Set alongside the best of the best hydration packs available. Salomon set the bar high with this pack, and very few others can rival it when it comes to comfort. This pack is very comfortable and keeps bounce down to the bare minimum. We recognized it with a Top Pick Award for distance, but it runs really great even for short adventures. Whatever you're going to use a running hydration pack for, this second-skin hydration setup is going to make your experience better.

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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $160.00 at REI
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$89.95 at REI$23.98 at Amazon
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Pros Comfortable, great fit, tons of easily reachable pockets, versatileAmazing pockets in arm's reach, carries a lot of gearMinimalist, lightweight, accessible pocketsAmple storage, simple and successful design, approachable priceAffordable, carries water and gear well, simple design
Cons Expensive, must buy hydration bladder separatelySome stiff materials on the chest, pole carry is hard to execute while movingDoesn't carry heavy items well, some unwanted stretchLower quality bladder, minor pain points over longer distancesLower chest strap isn't placed well, no front pockets, hard to secure properly
Bottom Line A top-notch running pack, with excellent pockets and a comfortable fitA comfortable and capable choice for big mileage when gear accessibility is mission-criticalThe best race vest on the market with form fitting stretch so it can store more gear comfortablyAn entry-level hydration pack for trail running with a great price and ample storageA versatile pack for lower intensity activities at a solid price point but lacking front access pockets
Rating Categories Salomon ADV Skin 12... Nathan Pinnacle 12L S/Lab Sense Ultra 8... REI Swiftland Hydro 2L Hydration Backpack
Comfort (30%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
4.0
Features (25%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
4.0
Hydration System (15%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
5.0
Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
4.0
3.0
Pockets (15%)
9.0
10.0
9.0
7.0
4.0
Specs Salomon ADV Skin 12... Nathan Pinnacle 12L S/Lab Sense Ultra 8... REI Swiftland Hydro 2L Hydration Backpack
Weight (with included hydration vessels) 13.4 oz 13.6 oz 7.9 oz 13.7 oz 14.5 oz
Carrying Capacity 12L 12L 8L 5L 2L
Included Liquid Capacity 1L 1.6L 1L 1.5L 2L
OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!) 0.90 0.88 1.01 0.37 0.14
External Storage? Yes, kangaroo pockets Yes, kangaroo pockets Yes, back pouch pocket Yes Yes, mesh storage pockets, bungee
Type of Water Storage Two 500 mL soft flasks (included), plus reservoir sleeve (reservoir not included) 1.6L hourglass reservoir Two 500mL bottles 1.5L reservoir 2L reservoir
Pole Holders? Yes Yes Add on No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

While the ADV Skin 12 scored remarkably well in every category, it was edged out this year for the number one spot — though we still recognize it as our top choice for distance running. The material is breathable and just tacky enough to grip comfortably, giving you an almost completely bounce-free run. Salomon didn't skimp on the features or storage capacity of this vest either. Collapsible pole attachment points, multiple points of fit adjustment, see-through pockets, an insulated water reservoir pocket, and enough storage for an all-day romp in the woods make the Skin 12 suitable for some serious running. Over the last five years, this pack has set the bar for excellence, and we still wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to a friend, which is our highest compliment.

Performance Comparison


We felt more confident in the high alpine wearing the ADV Skin 12...
We felt more confident in the high alpine wearing the ADV Skin 12, almost like superhero confident, with a quick draw of all sorts of superpower features.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Comfort


Unlike the other stretchy wrap-fit vests we tested, the ADV Skin 12 has more adjustments on the sides/back in addition to the bungee zigzag front strap. These additional adjustment points appear to be a refined design from earlier models and likely prevent any change in fit from the pack material stretching out over time. We found that all three adjustment points were really easy to work with, which, we admit, had us a little dumbfounded. How can this vest make quick adjustments so easy when many other vests make it an act fit for a contortionist?


That initial adjustment of the chest strap clips up and down the rail is one of the only issues we have with the ADV Skin 12 design. Small hands seem to help manipulate the small clips, but we wonder why Salomon opted for this challenging clip system. We must have fumbled for close to 10 minutes and notice no significant weight savings by electing to use these miniature dexterity puzzles. If we ignore this small frustration, however, this pack is incredibly comfortable even after hours on the trail. Once those darned clips are in place, the tension of the front strap is easily tweaked on the fly to keep the pack snug and comfortable.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Having two other points of adjustability on a pack that already koala-hugs the torso might seem excessive, but we found the back strap to really batten down the hatches as we ran through scree and rocky, root-ridden trails. The side strap has a different role, tightening across the ribcage and dramatically altering the suspension, reducing any bounce. It's worth noting: you can tighten that strap too tight and clench your ribcage, a recipe for chaffing.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Features


Salomon does a great job of making their packs simple but capable of being made more complicated based on the customer's wants. Extras can be added on, and some are even included with the pack.


The ADV Skin focuses on having priority items such as food, a light layer, gloves, salt tablets, or phone stored in accessible pockets on the chest and sides. A favorite feature of our team is the see-through mesh used on the front and side pockets, eliminating the guessing game and making for fast transitions at aid stations. While other packs may provide more space overall, the design of this one puts a lot of items within arms' reach, resulting in having to stop and re-situate supplies less.

Highly stretchable mesh makes for quick-stuffing and grabbing of...
Highly stretchable mesh makes for quick-stuffing and grabbing of snacks, but the ADV Skin adds the feature ofbeing able to see what you are grabbing.
Photo: Jeff Colt

We had average success and trouble with the trekking pole carry system, but the ADV Skin has attachment points for Salomon's pole quiver, a separately sold item that seems to be the best pain-free option for storing and grabbing your poles on the go. Included with the vest was an insulated sleeve for a hydration bladder, a nice feature for four-season hydration success. There are also soft foam pads stitched into the pack's soft flask sleeves that keep the contact points of the bottle away from the body.

Little features like these soft pads that prevent chaffing add up...
Little features like these soft pads that prevent chaffing add up and make for a very comfortable ride.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Hydration System


While several aspects of the ADV Skin 12 have changed over the past few years, the hydration system remains constant, with some simple updates to the soft flasks. There are two 500mL chest-mounted soft flasks included with the pack and an insulated sleeve in the back that will accept a 2-liter bladder — however, no hydration bladder comes with the pack. The 2-liter insulated sleeve is removable, and if you do want to use a bladder, the vest will likely accommodate a 3-liter reservoir if you are really thirsty.


Over the years, we have tested many different soft flasks and often struggle putting them back in their respective homes. The ADV Skin 12 addresses this pain point in a couple different ways: kangaroo pockets under the soft flask sleeves, so snacks are spread out and not in the way of the flask's smooth entrance, elongated soft flasks, and lid-loops to keep the flasks in place once there. That said, if you are running with a very full pack, the soft flasks are still 500mL flimsy tubes that won't slide past a phone.

Elastic loops keep the soft flasks in place. New and improved tops...
Elastic loops keep the soft flasks in place. New and improved tops from Salomon are easier to use, but have different threading from previous bottles so keep track of what's what.
Photo: Jeff Colt

The positioning of the soft flasks on the ADV Skin 12 is excellent. They are within reach for easy hydration without being obtrusive. The tapered design of the bottles allows them to lay flat against your chest, making them almost unnoticeable. Through all of the hydration systems we have tested, the soft flasks seem to be the easiest to manage even when considering the occasional need to finagle them back into their pockets after refills.

Elongated soft flasks seem to snake into the pack's hydration...
Elongated soft flasks seem to snake into the pack's hydration sleeves a tad easier. The ADV 12 includes an insulation sleeve if you have cold (or really hot) objectives planned.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Volume to Weight Ratio


The storage capacity of the ADV Skin 12 is excellent, while the weight of the vest remains low, making it one of the top scorers for this metric. It has all the storage you would likely need for a day-long run in the mountains. Our entire base kit could fit into the rear zippered storage compartment, even leaving room for a 2-liter water reservoir add-on. This allowed us to stash tons of nutrition in the accessible pockets up front, along with the two included 500mL soft flasks.


The ADV Skin 12 has ample space, but it is unlikely that you could fit enough gear for an overnight fastpacking mission. That being said, when we loaded this pack to the gills with equipment, we found it to be more comfortable than larger options and those packs that provided bladders — something worth considering when deciding how much storage space you really need.

We really loaded this pack, and voila, it all fit comfortably.
We really loaded this pack, and voila, it all fit comfortably.
Photo: Jeff Colt

While the excellent fit, layout, and usability of the ADV Skin 12 comes at a bit of a weight cost, the volume numbers we use are what brands list. For vests constructed with high-stretch materials, the listed volume likely suggests the limit of the vest without impacting the integrity of the fabric. We haven't cracked a good way of measuring volume with porous fabrics. Suffice to say, we could fit a lot in this pack. Most notably, the high level of comfort experienced when wearing this vest far outweighs its physical weight. The evenly distributed weight, bounce-free fit, and pocket placement make it feel as feathery as any vest we tested.

This vest performs and fits when it is at full capacity and when it...
This vest performs and fits when it is at full capacity and when it is empty. So you could just have one vest, capable of doing it all.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Also critical for those out there counting the grams, this weight (13.4 ounces) includes two 500mL soft flasks but no hydration reservoir as there isn't one included with this vest. Adding a two-liter bladder will add about 4-6 ounces of weight.

Pockets


When it comes to well-thought-out and purposefully designed pockets, the ADV Skin 12 performs — tested, tried, and true. The past version had zippered pockets along the flanks, which were a bit difficult to access. The latest version migrated these pockets to be easily accessible on the front of the pack, though beyond having zippers, we haven't noticed any added utility as we use this area for food storage, and now some of our food is behind a zipper.


The handy see-through pockets are one of our favorite features. In addition, this newest version has a huge stretch zippered pocket on the back of the pack, which allows for a vast amount of storage.

The zippered pocket is the same shape as the kangaroo pocket behind...
The zippered pocket is the same shape as the kangaroo pocket behind it, sensible if you want clear separation between gear and food or different food options.
Photo: Jeff Colt

The layout and usability of these pockets set this vest apart. We never felt like we had to do some shoulder or wrist contortion to fish a bar out of one of the front pockets, something that can't be said of every vest tested. Often it feels as if the runner is expected to conform to the vest instead of the vest conforming to the runner. The pocket layout of the ADV Skin 12 is an excellent example of the latter. Salomon nailed it.

The main rear pocket is not accessible while running, but separating...
The main rear pocket is not accessible while running, but separating gear that you don't anticipate using still leaves loads of space for storing the important things, like extra fruit snacks.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Value


Although this product is expensive, we find it to be quite a good value. Some intangibles can be difficult to put a price on, especially 30 miles into the backcountry with only the supplies on your back. The ADV Skin 12 is not cheap and likely is not as durable as some other large vests, but for the ultramarathon runner who needs performance or for an adventure-seeker who wants to pack for a full day, this vest has lots of value. It is by far the most comfortable pack we tested that performs at the highest level. If it is in your budget, we don't think you will be disappointed.

Conclusion


If you are in the market for a hydration pack for running, we stand by 5+ years of endorsing the Salomon ADV Skin 12 Set. There isn't a running environment where we wouldn't use it, from long urban runs to big days exploring Moab's slickrock. There is ample storage for three liters of water, extra layers, and tons of food, all packed into an extremely comfortable vest. There's a reason you see so many of these vests bobbing around at the start of ultra races; they get the job done even when the job is hundreds of miles. We can go so far as to say that in a couple of years of product testing of all sorts, we think this is one of the most innovative and refined pieces of gear we have tested. Pick one up, and you won't be disappointed.

See that mountain? This vest will take you there.
See that mountain? This vest will take you there.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Jeff Colt