Tag Archives: Salomon

Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set Pack Review

After using the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set pack for several months now, I feel it’s time for a review. I bought it back in January(?) and I’ve worn it for 20 hours doing R2R2R, at the Treviso marathon, (I know that’s weird), Hell’s Hills 50 Miler,  and dozens of multi hour training runs. It’s gotten to the point that I feel weird if I run without it. Bottom line: I really like the pack.

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Official product image via salomon.com

First and foremost: fit and comfort. For me,  the pack fits beautifully. It’s like wearing a vest vs carrying a “backpack.” That is a huge difference. The vest style design eliminates the sore shoulders that result from a backpack style pack. At my last race, even after 9 hours, my shoulders felt fine. There is more surface area than most other packs, which means more pockets and places to stash things. This increased surface area helps distribute weight. The elastic material along the outer edge pulls the pack load closer to your body. This helps the pack stay put and keeps stuff from bouncing around. And one of the things I like best is there aren’t any loose strap ends flapping about.

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Official product image via salomon.com

It comes with two 16 oz soft flasks, but get this – IT DOES NOT COME WITH A BLADDER.  (Yet it does come with an insulated sleeve for a bladder.) This really confused the heck out of me, why sell a hydration pack without a bladder?

So I bought a Camelbak 2L bladder. I filled it with water and tried to put it in the insulated sleeve… It wouldn’t fit. I believe the sleeve is made for a 1.5L bladder. Not the end of the world, just throw the bladder in the pack without the sleeve.

Then I ran into another snafu. Some official looking photos (not on the Salomon website) show the hydration tube running out the “tail” and under the vest. However this requires a bladder with a spigot that routes sideways rather than upwards. Again, not the end of the world, just route the tube over the shoulder.

It was at this point I wished the pack had come with “instructions” or a small guide. (There’s a small illustration for how to secure trekking poles, but that’s it. ) Or better yet, these details made clear on the website.  That way I could have known to buy a 1.5L bladder with a sideways spigot.

I haven’t attempted to use the soft flasks because I think it would be more troublesome trying to reinsert a soft flask vs a hard bottle. That could be a mistaken assumption, but I’ve been using two 21 oz Camelbak bottles and that’s been great. It’s nice because I can have water, a liquid nutrition, and a sports drink. The only thing I need now is to find bottles that have the long straw so that I don’t have to remove the bottles…

There are pockets galore! It’s a little overwhelming at first what to do with them all, but eventually you’ll figure out your system. Most of the pockets are easy to get at. The zippered pocket on the side opens easily with one hand, but you need another hand to hold the bottom of the zipper to zip it up. No big deal. The big open rear pocket is tricky to get into without taking off the pack.  And although it feels sketchy to have the rear pocket secured only by the tension of the elastic, I’ve yet to have anything fall out on during a run.

Lately I’ve been running during the hotter parts of day. The pack is constructed with mesh material and breathes well. However, sweat easily migrates through the mesh, so make sure whatever you carry in those pockets is sweat tolerant. If you carry your phone, you would be wise to keep it in a Ziploc baggie. The evaporated sweat also leaves a visible salt residue which is a visual reminder that the pack needs to be washed.

At $185, (WITHOUT a bladder) I cried when I bought this, however it has been worth every penny. REI recently started carrying the pack, so if you’re a member you’d get $18.50 back on your dividend.

Finally, the name is in desperate need of shortening or simplifying. Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set just does not roll off the tongue easily. Or at all. Someone asked me about the pack and I couldn’t remember the name. Maybe Salomon can work on the name for the next version.

Salomon XR Mission Trail Shoe Review

Are you looking for a new trail shoe?  I just got a pair of Salomon’s XR Mission shoe, and they’re pretty dope.

Your next pair of trail shoes?
Your next pair of trail shoes?

During the holidays, my dad and I were at a military BX and he spontaneously offered to buy me a pair of shoes as a present. The selection wasn’t the greatest, and I normally research things I’d like to purchase. I don’t buy things on a whim.  but a new pair of shoes is a new pair of shoes!

I’ve had good luck with New Balance and there were a pair of New Balance that had lugs that looked like they would provide wicked crazy traction. But when I tried them on, they cinched up weird, so that was a no-go. Kind of a bummer, but it wasn’t meant to be.

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I picked up the XR Mission shoe. I’d never read any reviews about them and I’d certainly never owned a pair of Salomon’s before. They looked stylish, but more importantly, sturdy and solid. The laces were weird – I’d never seen this “system” before. The price wasn’t outrageous. Hesitantly, I tried them on…. They fit like Cinderella’s trail shoe. I’ll take ’em!

(This is the second time I’ve had the Cinderella experience. The first time was with a pair of Brooks. Unfortunately, it was not a happy ending. I ended up carving off parts of the sole.)

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Initial impressions

First and foremost, the fit is perfect. The toe box feels spacious. I can wiggle my big toe easily. The collar feels pleasantly snug. When I cinch the speed laces, the shoe feels secure. The shoe feels balanced.

Initially, I wasn’t sure about how I felt about the laces. It seemed like a good idea, but what you were supposed to do with the dangling pull? I ended up loosely tucking it under the other laces; that seemed like a terrible solution. I thought this was a serious design blunder.

However, I just now found out through the magic of Youtube that there’s a pocket in the tongue to store the pull! Somehow, I missed that.

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Can you spot where the pocket where the fastener is?

The pocket makes a world of difference. With the loose end  tucked away, there is nothing that can get snagged and trip you up. Everything is one smooth unit.

Weight-wise, they feel similar to my Cascadias. However, if I wiggle my feet wearing the Cascadias, the weight feels concentrated in the sole like a big lump. It doesn’t move well. When I wiggle my feet wearing the XR’s, the weight feels evenly distributed, the shoe actually feels balanced and lighter as a result.

The sole under the forefoot and the heel of the shoe flares outward toward the ground. I believe this is part of what gives the shoe such great stability.

The soles flair outward and provide greater surface area to steady your landing.
The soles flair outward and provide greater surface area to steady your landing.

Performance on the trails

Socks can make a big difference on how your shoes perform. Blisters can be a nightmare. Sockwise, I run with a pair of thin weight Injinji’s under a heavier Drymax trail crew sock.

I broke in the XR’s  with with back to back 20 milers training for the Bandera 100K. Not a smart way to break in a completely unknown shoe, but sometimes often I do dumb stuff. (I was excited to test them out.) After the first run, I had a huge blister in the same spot on both of my big toes, obviously due to the shoes. The second run wasn’t as bad.

I had a few other runs after that, but the next big run was the Bandera 100K. I wore them the entire race. They were totally comfortable and more than capable on the course.

There were no problems where I’d blistered previously. But during the race, I thought my baby toe toenail was falling off. Only after the race did I fully remove both socks. The toenail was actually fine. The irritation I had been feeling was a huge blister on the inside of the toe! I attributed that to an Injinji sock malfunction.

The XR’s don’t have a rockplate, but I plowed through plenty of rocks without any problems. They provided plenty of protection underfoot from the 8 billion rocks on the Bandera trail. It makes for a much better run when you have confidence in your shoes.

The XR’s aren’t as nimble as my New Balance Minimus, but they are  more agile than my Cascadia’s. On the uphills, they have really good traction. I felt like I was  wearing a pair of comfortable 4×4’s. I haven’t  seen how they perform in mud, but I have high expectations.

I came across a website called ZOZI.com selling two discontinued  colors (in all sizes) for $55, which is quite a deal. Otherwise, they  typically retail around $65 – $75.

Overall, I’ve been quite pleased with these shoes. So if you’re in the market for a new pair of shoes, or have some cash burning a hole in your pocket, or you’re a shoe slut, or whatever, check ’em out.

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Full disclosure: Salomon is not a sponsor, nor did they provide free shoes for this review. But boy would I ever love to have them as a sponsor and/or receive free shoes to review.  YOU HEAR THAT, SALOMON?