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Salomon ADV Skin 12 Set Review

The best running pack on the market, with excellent pockets and a comfortable fit
The ADV Skin 12 Set  2019
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $165 List | $164.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, great fit, tons of easily reachable pockets, very versatile
Cons:  Expensive, must buy hydration bladder separately
Manufacturer:   Salomon
By Brian Martin ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 13, 2020
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85
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 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 find the Salomon ADV Skin 12 Set to be the best hydration pack available. Salomon retained everything we like about the past version of the pack and managed to make it more comfortable and functional with its most recent update. This pack is very comfortable and keeps bounce down to the bare minimum. Not only do we feel like this pack has been improved from previous versions, but its price has also dropped significantly since the last iteration, making it that much sweeter. 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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Our Analysis and Test Results

Topping the charts in nearly every test we threw at it, the ADV Skin 12 easily beat out the rest of the competition for our Editors' Choice Award. 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. Of all packs tested, this represents the most refined, comfortable, and well thought out. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to a friend, which is our highest compliment.

Performance Comparison


The ADV Skin 12 is at home running in deserts as well as high alpine environments. This pack was designed for all-day comfort and the ability to haul everything you need for the day.
The ADV Skin 12 is at home running in deserts as well as high alpine environments. This pack was designed for all-day comfort and the ability to haul everything you need for the day.

Comfort


Making a slight deviation from previous models of the ADV Skin 12, there are more adjustments on the sides/back, and surprisingly the result is a more comfortable and less bouncy fit. The chest straps are noticeably thinner than previous iterations, and if we're honest, they are a bit more challenging to adjust. Once adjusted, however, the tension is easily tweaked on the fly to keep the pack snug and comfortable.


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. Small hands seem to help manipulate the small clips, but we wonder why Salomon opted for this challenging clip system. If we ignore this small frustration, however, this pack is incredibly comfortable even after hours on the trail.

The clip has to be inverted and the tiny thread fed over the hook. While the concept is easy enough  our testers' fingers struggled to get the thin cord over the hook.
The clip has to be inverted and the tiny thread fed over the hook. While the concept is easy enough, our testers' fingers struggled to get the thin cord over the hook.

The comfort of the soft flasks was also noticeable when compared to other packs in our review. Having the water weight up front seems to make the vest stay put vs. riding down your back, which is typical of vests that utilize hydration bladder style reservoirs.

The thin lacing system of the ADV Skin 12 can be finicky  but we love having our water in soft flasks up front.
The thin lacing system of the ADV Skin 12 can be finicky, but we love having our water in soft flasks up front.

Features


Of all the packs we tested, this one stands out as being one of the most feature-rich.


The ADV Skin is uniquely focused on having items such as food, a light layer, gloves, salt tablets, or whatever is stored in the see-through mesh front and side pockets easily accessible. While other packs may provide more space overall, the design of this one puts more items within arms' reach, resulting in having to stop and re-situate supplies less. You can even pack along collapsible hiking poles comfortably, though that will require stopping and removing the pack to attach or remove the poles.

Dual cinch straps allow you to keep the load secure in the large back pocket. This design feature is critical for your sanity if the sound of bars and wrappers bouncing around for hours bothers you. Our testers loved how the vest-hugging effect of this model kept pack bounce to a bare minimum.
Dual cinch straps allow you to keep the load secure in the large back pocket. This design feature is critical for your sanity if the sound of bars and wrappers bouncing around for hours bothers you. Our testers loved how the vest-hugging effect of this model kept pack bounce to a bare minimum.

The highlight of the design on the ADV Skin is how accessible everything is. The layout puts 1000ml of liquid in a comfortable drinking position and enough storage to have a day's worth of food at arms' length. While many of the hydration packs we tested can hold plenty of food and water, the issue is often that nutrition ends up out of reach, necessitating a stop and reload.

All of the pockets situated on the front of the ADV Skin 12 are easily accessible. While other vests have ample storage  often the pockets are positioned in difficult to access places.
All of the pockets situated on the front of the ADV Skin 12 are easily accessible. While other vests have ample storage, often the pockets are positioned in difficult to access places.

Hydration System


While several aspects of the ADV Skin 12 have changed over the past few years, the hydration system hasn't. There are two 500ml chest-mounted soft flasks included with the pack and an insulated sleeve in the back that will accept a two-liter bladder. You can remove this sleeve and put in an even bigger water reservoir if you are really thirsty.


Over the years, we have tested many soft flasks and true to form, these are difficult to stuff down in their little home. That said, once they're in there, they are stable and don't bounce around, which is a trade-off we're willing to accept. If you can fill the bottles without removing them from their pocket, that is ideal as they can be frustrating otherwise. This problem isn't isolated to the ADV Skin 12 as it seems to plague any vest that opts for soft flasks. The issue with refilling soft flasks while they're in the vest is that you will inevitably get the vest wet. This isn't a problem in the blazing heat of Arizona, but in cold, dry climates, you will have to endure the battle of wrestling the flasks back into their pocket.

To borrow a phrase from Wesley Snipes' character Blade  filling a soft flask is like "trying to ice-skate uphill". Either you fill it while it's in the vest  getting the vest wet OR you are burdened with having to stuff it back in its pouch. While the Salomon soft flasks are among the easier to reload into the pack  they still aren't simple.
To borrow a phrase from Wesley Snipes' character Blade, filling a soft flask is like "trying to ice-skate uphill". Either you fill it while it's in the vest, getting the vest wet OR you are burdened with having to stuff it back in its pouch. While the Salomon soft flasks are among the easier to reload into the pack, they still aren't simple.

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, unlike the harder plastic bottles of other models. 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.

The ADV Skin 12 soft flasks offer the easiest hydration delivery of all packs tested. The flasks are unobtrusive and easily inject hydration whenever you need it.
The ADV Skin 12 soft flasks offer the easiest hydration delivery of all packs tested. The flasks are unobtrusive and easily inject hydration whenever you need it.

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 two-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 does have 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 also to hold more nutrition within arms' reach — something worth considering when deciding how much storage space you really need.

Our basic emergency kit  jacket  ibuprofen  tape  bandaging  and some food easily fit into the main rear compartment of the ADV Skin 12. This allowed us to reserve the easily reachable front pockets for items we are constantly using such as food and our iPhone which we use for media/Strava and heart rate monitoring.
Our basic emergency kit, jacket, ibuprofen, tape, bandaging, and some food easily fit into the main rear compartment of the ADV Skin 12. This allowed us to reserve the easily reachable front pockets for items we are constantly using such as food and our iPhone which we use for media/Strava and heart rate monitoring.

While the excellent fit, layout, and usability of the ADV Skin 12 comes at a bit of a weight cost, it still outperforms all other packs on the whole. Weighing in at 13.3 ounces, it lands somewhere in the middle of the testing field. It's important to note, 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.

There are three main compartments on the back of this pack. One has a sleeve for a hydration reservoir  another is a huge stretchy zip compartment  and the third an open pouch that runs the length of the back. This allowed for multiple layers  tons of food  and water.
There are three main compartments on the back of this pack. One has a sleeve for a hydration reservoir, another is a huge stretchy zip compartment, and the third an open pouch that runs the length of the back. This allowed for multiple layers, tons of food, and water.

Also critical for those out there counting the grams, this weight 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 is easily the best vest we tested. The past version had zippered pockets along the flanks, which were a bit difficult to access. The new version migrated these pockets to be easily accessible on the front of the pack.


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. Things we didn't necessarily use often but didn't want to leave behind, such as our jacket, headlamp, first aid, and gloves, all fit comfortably.

The main zippered compartment on the back of the pack is cavernous. We fit a jacket  extra nutrition  headlamp  gloves  thin hat  and other odds and ends. When not in use  the elastic straps visible in the picture cinch down and keep the compartment snug.
The main zippered compartment on the back of the pack is cavernous. We fit a jacket, extra nutrition, headlamp, gloves, thin hat, and other odds and ends. When not in use, the elastic straps visible in the picture cinch down and keep the compartment snug.

The layout and usability of these pockets sets 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.

Value


Although this product is expensive, we find it to be quite a good value. There are intangibles which 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, but there are more expensive models available that aren't as good. It is by far the most comfortable and highest performing pack we tested. 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 can't possibly recommend one more than the Salomon ADV Skin 12 Set, our Editors' Choice Winner. There isn't a running environment where we wouldn't use it, from long urban runs to big days out in the mountains. 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.

No matter what application you need a running vest for  the Adv Skin 12 will be able to handle it.
No matter what application you need a running vest for, the Adv Skin 12 will be able to handle it.

Brian Martin