The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra 5 Set Review

An efficient, lightweight running vest capable of supporting you for short outings.
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Price:  $155 List | $116.21 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Compact, light, comfortable, minimalist
Cons:  Storage space, reaching pockets
Manufacturer:   Salomon
By Brian Martin ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 20, 2018
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63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 14
  • Comfort - 30% 7
  • Features - 15% 4
  • Hydration System - 15% 7
  • Storage Capacity - 15% 4
  • Pockets - 15% 6
  • Weight - 10% 10

Our Verdict

Once you get the fit adjustments sorted out, the Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra 5 Set is a pretty comfortable and efficient running vest. This vest is really at home on short outings or when frequent resupply options are available. You definitely can't fit everything you need for even a half day of running. While we like this vest overall, the fit adjustments on the chest bungees were baffling and unnecessarily complicated, and while there are many pockets, you are pretty limited in how much you can put in them before the vest becomes uncomfortable.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Compact, light, comfortable, minimalistComfortable, great fit, tons of easily reachable pockets, very versatileComfortable, lots of storage, great pocketsTons of storage, comfortable, expandableExcellent hydration system, great storage and pockets
Cons Storage space, reaching pocketsExpensive, must buy hydration bladder separatelyNo trekking pole attachment, expensiveBulkyItchy material, tight fit
Bottom Line An efficient, lightweight running vest capable of supporting you for short outings.The best running pack on the market, with excellent pockets and a comfortable fit.A comfortable, plush running pack with room for all your favorite gear. This thing is on another level.The highest expandable capacity for gear and water among the running packs we tested.Great storage and hydration with a less comfortable fit.
Rating Categories S/Lab Sense Ultra 5 Set Salomon ADV Skin 12 Set Nathan VaporHowe 2.0 12L Ultimate Direction FKT Salomon ADV Skin 8 Set
Comfort (30%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
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6
Features (15%)
10
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4
10
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8
10
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7
10
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9
10
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8
Hydration System (15%)
10
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7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
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9
Storage Capacity (15%)
10
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4
10
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9
10
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9
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10
10
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8
Pockets (15%)
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6
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9
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9
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9
10
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9
Weight (10%)
10
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10
10
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8
10
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6
10
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5
10
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7
Specs S/Lab Sense Ultra... Salomon ADV Skin... Nathan VaporHowe... Ultimate Direction... Salomon ADV Skin 8...
Weight (oz.) 6.8 oz 11.9 oz 13.2 oz 14.5 oz 12.0 oz
Carrying Capacity (liters) 5 L 12 L 12 L 18 L 8 L
Included Liquid Capacity 1 L 1 L Yes, front storage pockets, backpack 0.6 L Yes, many external pockets
External Storage? Yes, Kangaroo pockets, front storage pocket, 2 zip side pockets Yes, "Kangaroo Pockets" One 1.6 L bladder Yes, bungees, many external zip pockets Two 0.5 L soft flasks
Type of water storage Two 0.5L soft flasks Two 0.5L soft flasks (included), plus bladder sleeve (bladder not included) 1.6 liters One 0.6L bottle included 1 liter
Pole Holders? Yes Yes No Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

Ideally, the running vest you select will be so comfortable and hassle-free it will help you run further faster. While the Sense Ultra 5 is a pretty functional running vest, there were several things along the way that almost made it more of a hindrance than a companion during our testing process.

We don't want to sound like Debbie Downer, because this vest was quite comfortable and functional. For such a small and lightweight package, it held a lot of water and fuel, and our issues with reaching the side pockets are partly due to the inflexibility of the lead gear tester.

Performance Comparison


The Sense Ultra was snug and secure even when running hard.
The Sense Ultra was snug and secure even when running hard.

Comfort


To start with the negative first, the fit adjustments were oddly difficult to move. Every other vest we tested has either rails or clips that allow the chest straps to be adjusted up and down easily. The Sense 5 has clips that seemed impossible to adjust, easy to lose, and even harder to reattach. We weren't able to adjust them quickly.

This adjustment system is unnecessarily difficult. We're not sure if our testers hands are too big or his brain too small  but at any rate  adjusting the chest bungees was a tall order.
This adjustment system is unnecessarily difficult. We're not sure if our testers hands are too big or his brain too small, but at any rate, adjusting the chest bungees was a tall order.

On the positive side, once you get the straps adjusted (and the blisters on your fingers repaired), the vest is extremely comfortable. It efficiently distributes the weight of the two soft flasks and snacks you have on-board.

Features and Design


This is a minimalist running vest, and as such it doesn't have a ton of features crammed onto it. It does, however, come with a whistle. As we mentioned in the comfort section, parts of the design are a bit frustrating, specifically the fit adjustments.

Hydration System


Supporting the minimalist design of this vest is the two soft flask hydration system. The bottles are simple, lightweight, and our tester didn't have any issues with them leaking while running or in the car on the way to the trailhead. It's important to note; there isn't an option to expand the water capacity with this vest. If you need more than the two 8oz soft flasks, this might not be the best option for you.

For the minimalist weight and features of this vest  it does hold a good amount of water and food. The soft flasks are easy to drink from on the run and have enough shape/structure to fill up easily. Still trying to get that clip attached...
For the minimalist weight and features of this vest, it does hold a good amount of water and food. The soft flasks are easy to drink from on the run and have enough shape/structure to fill up easily. Still trying to get that clip attached...

Storage Capacity


It would be unfair to criticize the storage capacity of this vest too much as it is a minimalist design and isn't made to haul the kitchen sink. The stretch pockets do allow a fair amount of storage. We crammed a running jacket, snacks, and water fairly comfortably for our morning runs. It's easy to overload this vest causing a few problems, the most noticeable is the neck lining digs into the lower neck/upper back area when this vest is overloaded.

Easy access to your jacket or extra food is a nice touch. Virtually no weight added having a kangaroo pouch but the storage capacity was definitely beefed up.
Easy access to your jacket or extra food is a nice touch. Virtually no weight added having a kangaroo pouch but the storage capacity was definitely beefed up.

Pockets


There is one main compartment on the back, two large stretch pockets on the front and two zippered underarm compartments. Also, you get one stretch pocket above the right soft flask capable of holding a tube of electrolyte tabs or maybe a baggie of Ibuprofen. For such a minimalist vest, there are quite a few pockets of varying size.

Both sides of the vest are equipped with stretchy zip pockets capable of holding a handful of gels or snacks. All things said  there is a good variety of pockets on this vest.
Capable of holding a key or even a gel or two  the upper zipper pocket was a nice touch.

Weight


At 6.8 ounces, it is incredibly light. If being ultralight and compact is a top priority, this vest isn't a bad choice. In fact, for events and races where resupplies are frequent, and the weather doesn't necessitate you bring extra layers, this lightweight vest is a fantastic option.

By far the lightest vest we tested (shown here being weighed without its included soft bottles). If looking for something on the minimalist side  this is a pretty good choice.
By far the lightest vest we tested (shown here being weighed without its included soft bottles). If looking for something on the minimalist side, this is a pretty good choice.

Best Applications


When speed, weight, and minimalism are top priorities, this vest will dominate. If you're considering this vest as your primary running vest and want it to be the "Jack of all trades," you might be disappointed. You can't expand the water storage and are quite limited on being able to pack along a jacket and lots of food. Probably the best scenario with this vest is an event with loads of resupplies along the way.

Value


It's hard to say this vest is good value. It is a functional, lightweight vest, but for the price, there are many vests available that score higher in nearly every metric and are more versatile.

Conclusion


This minimalist vest is comfortable and efficient. The price-tag, however, doesn't quite line up with what you are getting. Unless weight and efficiency are of the utmost importance, trumping comfort and versatility, check out some of the vests that offer a bit more in the way of functionality and expandable food and water storage.


Brian Martin