So I have been running with pack since February. I have completed a lot of runs with the pack, both on the road and trail. The distances have varied from short (6 miles) to long (30+). I have completed one race, the Way to Cool 50K wearing the pack. I figured I could finally give the pack a review. Here we go:
Salomon is a European company, so for us Yanks, the fit runs on the small size. I have the largest sized pack they offer the M/L. The pack fits snug, but it’s supposed to. Even though the pack is snug I have yet to be chafed or been rubbed raw by it. If I were larger in the chest and shoulders the fit could be an issue. I’m just shy of 6”3”, 176-180lbs for reference. If they ever made a size large I would try it out to compare the fit.
The “pack” is actually more of a vest. The body is made of a reinforced padded and breathable mesh. The pack rides higher on the body than other packs I’ve worn. For comparison I’ve run in Nathan, Gregory and Camelback’s. I like this aspect because I feel freer around my waist. So on technical trails I don’t notice the pack like I have with others that ride low.
The beauty of the fit is that you slip it on, clip two front straps and you’re good to go. Since the body of the pack is one piece there is no other adjusting needed after an initial fitting. With a full bladder and stuffed pockets you might have to adjust the straps a little.
With the snug design of the pack there is minimal to no bounce even with a full bladder. I have run two tempo runs with the pack at sub 7mpm pace without it bouncing all over the place.
The two front draw string pockets can be stuffed with a ton of gels, etc and closed on the fly with ease. Even stuffed the pockets don’t bounce or shift while loaded. I liked the wide mouth design of the pockets which made access while running a breeze. I haven’t tried it, but from Internet photos the pockets can hold small water bottles. I have not tried this, but as it warms up I’m going to.
There are two removable zipper pockets that Velcro on above the draw string pockets. I have yet to use them or need them. The pack also comes with a space blanket and whistle.
The rear main pocket and side waist pockets are a tight mesh weave with a zipper closure. The side pockets are on the small side, but stretch well if you want to stuff them.
The drinking tube is routed into the pack body so it is not as exposed as other drinking tubes. It also has a reinforced sleeve around the plastic tube. This also prevents the tube from flopping around or being in the way. The drink tube links in to the Source bladder by a clip. When you unhook it the bladder will not empty.
The water bladder is 1.5L and made by Source, it is the best bladder I’ve ever used. It is square in shape. It opens at the top and uses a fold over clip design so opening and filling is easy. When you open it you can pinch the flap into a funnel. This makes drinking from it easy when you want to top yourself off before you top off the bladder. Cleaning and drying is easy since it opens the width of the bladder at the top. I can stick my whole hand into it to wash it out.
The bladder rests in a removable sleeve that has a “tin foil” liner to help keep things cool. I don’t know if it works, but it looks high-tech and appeals to the nerd in me.
I tend to know what I’ll need on a long trail day. As such I never seem to use all the space given in running packs. Winter long runs and 30+ mile backcountry runs are when I fully use pack space. For the runner who likes to take a lot of gear, the S-Labs pack space could be a bit limiting.
The lack of straps makes the pack fit more like a piece of clothing than a pack. Some people might not like this; I see it as a strong point. You put the pack on like you would your shoes or shirt and just go. The lack of straps also reduces the pinching I’ve gotten from other running packs when I try to snug them up better.
I have run a little while using just one or none of the front straps. While not as snug a fit, you can run with it this way if something broke on the trail.
To me this pack is made for racing with its snug minimal design. But it is just as good on my weekly long run. You can take what you want and not feel bogged down. Taking the pack off to re-fill and put back on mid-race is quicker and easier than any other pack I’ve used.
Its true test will come in a few weeks when I run the Grand Canyon R2R2R. If the pack can take what I need to get through that run I’ll never want another running pack.
If you hate packs, this could be the pack that changes your mind about them. This is the first pack that I've run in that dosen't make me feel like I'm running with a pack on.
The bad news,
This baby will set you back $180.
I also just saw a posting at iRunfar.com that a higher capacity model is being tested overseas. Here are some photos: