This Salomon model is the top scorer in four of our six metrics: Comfort, Features, Hydration System, and Pockets. It uses stretchy mesh paneling to conform to your body without necessary adjustments, making it the least bouncy and most comfortable pack in the review. We loved that it includes pole holders, a thermal-shielded sleeve for the optional bladder to slide into, and an emergency blanket, all things that make it a great choice for ultra distance races.
The dual soft flask hydration system is comfortable and very practical, converting us by the end of the test period to be our favorite hydration system. And we can't say enough about the pockets, especially the kangaroo pocket. Located on the back of the pack, this giant, stretchy pocket is easily accessible from both sides and provides quick stuff space for clothes, snacks, and other gear. Overall this is by far the most well thought out pack in the review, and it comes highly recommended from our team of testers.
This hydration vest is truly everything we were looking for. It's comfortable, secure, simple, and has expandable water storage. It's a master of all trades.
Instead of using side tightening straps, this pack has stretchy, form-fitting breathable mesh. This ingenious design creates a better fit and offers more comfort than any of the other hydration packs we tested.
Additionally, the soft flask hydration system made our testers feel well balanced, and the soft flasks themselves created no pressure points. When we added a 2-liter vest we were pleasantly surprised with how the vest remained comfortable. There is a certain amount of movement and bounce that is unavoidable with the addition of 4.4lbs into a form-fitting running vest; the ADV 12 handled it with poise.
While this isn't the most adjustable vest, the existing adjustments are easy to use and the soft flasks make it extremely comfortable with relatively little bounce while running.
Features & Design
This Salomon has the most versatile feature sets of any of the packs we reviewed. Key features included a heat shielded bladder sleeve (although you must buy a bladder separately), the option for either top or bottom threaded bladder hose, a whistle, an included emergency blanket, pole holsters, a headlamp battery pouch, and breathable mesh construction everywhere. We love all these things. However, we have to admit that even after watching multiple videos online, we still can't figure out how the pole holsters work. We just stuff the bottoms into the kangaroo pouches.
The fit adjustment straps on this vest, unlike other Solomon vests, is intuitive and easy to use. The two "V" straps along the chest are girth hitched along the rail, making them simple to detach, move, and reattach. It isn't a hard and fast rule, but a good guideline that the more simplicity in the system the better and this is a great example.
The V straps can be girth hitched nearly anywhere along the front of the vest. Our testers appreciated how easy it is to adjust the fit.
The hydration system is dual chest mounted soft flasks. We liked this because the flasks are pliable and conform to the body, meaning no pressure points. They also balance the weight out nicely while the pack is loaded with gear, and with two of them, we can have different drinks. The drinking system is interesting. The tops of the flasks have bite valves, and it is possible to just crane your neck down, bite the valve, and suck liquid straight from the flask without needing to pull them out of their pouches. This is good because getting the flasks in and out of the pouches can be awkward.
This both looks and feels weird, but hey, it's easy and works well. The flasks have a 500mL capacity for each (total capacity for two is only 1 liter). We didn't like that they had the lowest liquid storage capacity of any pack we tested by about half and that the mouths of the flasks are very small, making it hard to add drink mix.
The soft flasks and ability to add up to a 2-liter bladder make this one of the most versatile vests. The soft flasks are lightweight and easy to use. As with all soft flasks, stuffing them in the pockets could be a frustration. It was worth it, however, once they were loaded up.
The ability to expand the water storage by 2 liters with a bladder is a huge bonus. This makes this vest suitable for running any distance your body can take you. Even with minimal resupplies, you can go far with the water storage available to you.
To store extra clothing and gear, there is one main back pouch that is zippered, and another pouch open at the top that sits against the back. This pouch is meant to hold the bladder if you are using one, but we mostly used it for a spare jacket. We aren't exactly sure what combo of storage measurement Salomon used to come up with 12L of storage space, and we found it harder to store bigger clothing items in this pack than others.
The Ultimate Direction vests definitely have an edge up on overall storage capacity. However, the ADV Skin 12 Set seemed to be a bit more secure and bounce less when loaded down as it really compresses everything against your body.
The stretchy mesh pockets can hold more food and equipment than you probably need! The see-through mesh also makes finding what you're looking for quick and easy.
This model is easily the winner when it came to awesome pockets. We especially loved the kangaroo pouch, which is essentially one giant elastic pocket that resides on the back but stretches to the sides and can be stuffed with just about anything from either side. So versatile and handy!
Besides that, the pack has two elastic soft flask pouches, two gel pockets on front, two front accessory pockets, two side food pockets, two medium side zipper pockets. Overall, it has a ton of usable options!
With all of the included accessories and flasks, this pack weighs 13.9 ounces or 394 grams out of the box. It feels really light on the back - in part due to its excellent comfort and fit.
The weight on the scale doesn't include the two soft flasks. Not bad for a vest that can haul everything you need for some serious mountain outings.
Any running application would be great, but this pack is specifically designed for long and tough mountain ultras where they make you carry all sorts of required gear and clothing. Its versatility is amazing and we can't think of a long run where it wouldn't be appropriate. Not only is it capable on long runs, but its ingenious pockets and use of stretch material also make it compact enough to be appropriate for shorter runs.
At $175, and not including a bladder, this is one expensive product. However, in this case, you get what you pay for. Although our Editors' Choice winner is expensive, we think you'll love it so much that you'll be happy you spent the money. If you consider the price of many of the other vests we tested, this vest is $25-$30 more. Through this lens, it is quite a good deal as the comfort, features, and capabilities of this vest dwarf much of the competition.
No matter what application you need a running vest for, the Adv Skin 12 will be able to handle it.
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. We can go so far as to say that in a couple years of product testing of all sorts, we think this in one of the most innovative and refined pieces of gear we have tested! Pick one up and you won't be disappointed.