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 piece of gear, there are several things along the way that almost made it more of a hindrance than a companion during our testing process. Don't get us wrong, this vest is still quite comfortable and functional. For such a small and lightweight package, it holds 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.
The Sense Ultra is snug and secure even when running hard.
To start with the negative first, the fit adjustments are 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 Ultra has clips that seem 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.
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.
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.
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...
Volume to Weight Ratio
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. With 5L of storage space, Salomon managed to keep this vest to 6.8 ounces, making it incredibly light and scoring quite high for volume to weight ratio. 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 is easy to overload this vest, however, 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.
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.
The S/Lab is 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.
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 sizes.
It's hard to say this vest is good value. It is a functional, lightweight vest, but for the price, there are many options available that score higher in nearly every metric and are more versatile.
When speed, weight, and minimalism are top priorities, the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 5 Set
will dominate. But 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. 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.