Salomon Sense Pro 5 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Easy to access storage, lots of pockets including useful zippers, great fit and adjustability
Cons: Included bottles create a pressure point against the ribs, coarse mesh against the neck
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Salomon Sense Pro 5
|Price||$159.95 at Backcountry|
Compare at 3 sellers
|$139.95 at REI|
Compare at 2 sellers
|Check Price at REI|
Compare at 3 sellers
|$159.95 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
$99.95 at REI
|Pros||Easy to access storage, lots of pockets including useful zippers, great fit and adjustability||Durable construction, comfortable fit, versatile features||Amazing pockets in arm's reach, carries a lot of gear||Comfortable, great fit, tons of easily reachable pockets, versatile||Ample storage, simple and successful design, approachable price|
|Cons||Included bottles create a pressure point against the ribs, coarse mesh against the neck||Runs slightly large||Some stiff materials on the chest, pole carry is hard to execute while moving||Expensive, must buy hydration bladder separately||Lower quality bladder, minor pain points over longer distances|
|Bottom Line||Designed by and for the fastest trail runners in the world, this vest has the fit and features to race fast||Durable materials and ample storage combine with a comfortable and secure fit to make this pack ready for the mountains||A comfortable and capable choice for big mileage when gear accessibility is mission-critical||A comfortable fit and exceptional pockets make this among our favorite packs on the market||An entry-level hydration pack for trail running with ample storage at a great price|
|Rating Categories||Salomon Sense Pro 5||Ultimate Direction...||Nathan Pinnacle 12L||Salomon ADV Skin 12...||REI Co-op Swiftland 5|
|Hydration System (15%)|
|Volume to Weight Ratio (15%)|
|Specs||Salomon Sense Pro 5||Ultimate Direction...||Nathan Pinnacle 12L||Salomon ADV Skin 12...||REI Co-op Swiftland 5|
|Weight (with included hydration vessels)||8.1 oz||11.7 oz||13.6 oz||13.4 oz||13.9 oz|
|Included Liquid Capacity||1L||1L||1.6L||1L||1.5L|
|OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!)||0.62||0.88||0.88||0.90||0.36|
|External Storage?||Yes, kangoo pockets||Yes, bungees||Yes, kangaroo pockets||Yes, kangaroo pockets||Yes, bungees|
|Type of Water Storage||Two 500mL soft flasks||Two 500mL soft flasks||1.6L hourglass reservoir||Two 500 mL soft flasks (included), plus reservoir sleeve (reservoir not included)||1.5L resevoir|
Our Analysis and Test Results
At just over 8 ounces, the Sense Pro 5 has a highly capable feature set for being a streamlined race vest. The general critique we have seen for this vest is that the updated soft flasks with the rigid bottoms create discomfort against the ribcage, and the mesh used around the neck can cause chafing. We agree with this feedback, but we don't think these two points discredit the performance of this vest. Salomon has nailed the pockets on this version of their race vest. While we judge the pack by the hydration system that comes with it, soft flasks are easily available. If the included flasks are irritating, consider swapping them out — we think it's worth it for the quality of fit and feature-rich performance.
Salomon uses stretchy elastane fabric in the side panels, pockets, and front of the Sense Pro 5 to create a hydration pack with a snug, shirt-like feel, even when loaded with trail supplies for a full day of running. A simple elastic cinch cord zig zags across the chest with five attachment points, all of which can be adjusted with a single clasp. The combination of stretchy materials, expandable pockets, and a simple drawstring harness make this hydration pack very comfortable, regardless of weight and gear placement.
During a 25-mile test run, while pacing at the Vermont 100, the hard bottoms of the included soft flasks noticeably rubbed against the ribcage, causing irritation and soreness. We account for this design flaw in the section on the hydration system, but as many reviewers have called out this same issue, we want to mention it here too. This vest is otherwise an exceptionally comfortable design.
One other critique is the coarse mesh material used throughout the interior of the shoulder straps and across the neck of the vest. While this material is used strategically in these areas to provide support and manage weight load, it is more abrasive. If the fit is incorrect, this mesh can rub against exposed skin above the collar of a shirt and cause some chafing. Our tester is 5'10" and 160 pounds, and the medium was a great fit and did not have this issue. Softer fine mesh is used across the inside of the vest along the back, and stretchable mesh is used across the flanks. These materials don't have the same friction against the skin.
While this hydration pack is designed for sub-ultra distances, attachment points for various trekking pole carrying options and plenty of storage make it capable of going much longer. For a sleek, refined design, the Sense Pro 5 meets all of the requirements for the biggest days out on the trail.
Reflective banding, zippered pockets, and a storm whistle offer safety elements when the weather takes a turn. The front zippered pocket is big enough to comfortably store an emergency communication device such as an inReach, while the back panel pocket can fit a first aid kit and rain layers with ease. Reflective webbing is used on the front and back of the pack, while large reflective design accents decorate the sides and a large reflective Salomon logo graces the center back of the vest.
This vest does not have a waterproof pocket of any sort, so additional precaution is required when bringing a phone or dry layers into the mountains. While the Sense Pro 5 is much lighter without the addition of heavier water-resistant fabrics, this limits the versatility of environments it is equipped for. Additionally, the lightweight stretchy fabric is more delicate and can get caught up on bushwhacking trail-finding excursions. As for a trekking pole carry, elastic straps can clove hitch to webbing tabs along the shoulder straps or the back of the pack for securing poles. This vest is also compatible with Salomon's quiver system, but we did not test that feature as it is sold separately.
After years of testing Salomon packs, the included soft flasks for the Sense Pro 5 stand out as a mistake. The design intention is clear: soft flasks with a harder structured bottom are easier to slide into the hydration sleeve quickly while racing through aid stations. However, the included flasks rub painfully against the lower ribcage where the structured bottom of the bottles come in contact with the body. The Speed 42 soft flask in question is included in Salomon hydration packs designed for speed and shorter distances, but the pressure that the molded bottom puts on the ribcage is noticeable even at shorter distances.
Salomon soft flasks are longer and thinner than most other brands, which positions the bite valve closer to the mouth for uninterrupted access to hydration while running fast. Thin and stretchable materials on the shoulder straps allow Salomon to use the entire length of the shoulder strap for both the hydration sleeves against the body and pockets placed on the outside of the hydration sleeves. If these pockets are overfilled (which takes a lot of food or a bulky item like gloves), then the soft flasks are harder to insert. We had no issues with this, even when we tested this vest with the standard soft flask offering.
One of our favorite elements of this hydration pack is how well an additional soft flask fits in the kangaroo pocket, accessed from the side but positioned across the lower back of the vest.
Volume to Weight Ratio
Material choices and a sleek design keep the weight of this vest at a ghostlike 8.1 ounces. While only built to carry 5 liters of gear and supplies, we had no trouble filling the Sense Pro 5 with all of the mandatory gear and food required for an event such as the 100-mile UTMB race in the Alps. We could fit as much gear in it as some other vests that advertise 8-10 liters of storage capacity. Volume is challenging for us to measure, so we typically take the brand's word; however, usable space is very easy to get a sense of in the field. For this reason, we scored the Sense Pro slightly higher than the ratio indicated.
While pacing at the VT 100, we comfortably fit two full soft flasks in the hydration sleeves, a spare soft flask and long sleeve shirt in the kangaroo pocket, a rain layer, buff, change of socks, spare headlamp, and sunglasses in the side pockets, phone in the front zippered pocket, and 600 calories in the form of gels, fruit snacks, mini snickers, and Stroop waffles in the front pouch pockets. The balance of the gear was easily managed by the snug stretch of the elastane materials, and there was still plenty more room for additional layers if needed.
While the driving reason that the Sense Pro 5 received an award is the design and functionality of the pockets, the volume-to-weight ratio of this vest is perfect for racing and sets it apart from the competition. This vest functions as well empty as it does filled to the brim with gear, and that is a testament to the design and material choices. It is worth noting that if you routinely overfill this hydration pack, it will likely stretch out faster — surely one of the reasons Salomon recommends a 5-liter capacity.
We love them. This vest sets a high bar for perfect pocket placement and options. Even with long hydration sleeves that position the soft flasks conveniently close to the mouth, Salomon managed to place small pockets above the soft flasks on each shoulder strap, one with a quick access overlap flap and one with a zipper that works great for trash storage. On the outside of the hydration sleeves are stretchy expandable pockets that work great for food storage and gear storage. These pockets can be accessed from the top and from the sides, making accessibility easier for differing user preferences.
One large zippered pocket is situated on the left shoulder strap in front of the expandable gear pocket, offering a secure storage solution that works well for a phone, inReach, paper map, and other essentials. These pockets throughout the shoulder straps offer extensive storage options for readily accessible essentials.
Across each flank is a side pocket that continues all of the way through across the lower back. We refer to this pocket design as a kangaroo pocket, as it stores a lot of gear but remains accessible while on the go. Again, the secret sauce for success here is Salomon's highly stretchable fabric. Lots of gear can fit into this kangaroo pocket, expanding the carrying capacity of this sleek pack and keeping more layers and backup bottles in reach.
There is a large rear pocket accessed from the top of the vest, and we found this most useful for storing layers and additional supplies. While it is still relatively easy to pull a rain layer out of this pocket, stuffing a layer back in is more challenging. Despite not having a waterproof pocket, the Sense Pro 5 scored a perfect 10 in our judging of the pocket design, as this hydration pack is designed for faster, shorter races. We won't dock a product for not having a feature that is in contrast to the intended use.
Should You Buy the Salomon Sense Pro 5?
This is the right pack for some runners, even if it means upgrading the soft flasks to a more comfortable version. The price point is pretty steep, and the higher stretch fabric will inevitably stretch out and change the fit, so the Sense Pro isn't for everyone. This is an excellent option for trail runners looking to race shorter distances that want a high-performing vest. If this resonates with you, trust us, the pockets and functionality are amazing.
What Other Running Hydration Packs Should You Consider?
The conforming materials and lightweight design make the Sense Pro 5 fit like a second skin — one that comes equipped with many useful pockets and features. Other vests that scream fast at the speed of sound include the Patagonia Slope Runner Endurance 3L and the Raidlight Revolutiv 3L V2. While these packs offer slightly different features, they're designed to move like a heat-seeking missile through mountainous terrain.
— Jeff Colt
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