The Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Set is a remarkably comfortable vest that carries plenty of gear for long ultramarathons. I carried it through the Leadville 100 for this review.
Trail runners often need to carry a considerable amount of gear on long outings. Running in the mountains of Colorado, I carry at minimum a light running jacket, Buff, gloves, water, phone, and snacks on every trail run over about 6 miles.
To carry this gear, I need a comfortable running vest, and as of spring 2019, Salomon makes my favorite model you can buy right now.
Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Set Review
Of all the gear I test at GearJunkie, friends ask about running vests a lot, with the most common question being, “Which one should I buy?” And it makes sense — running vests are personal. It’s also hard to predict how they’ll feel after many miles while standing in the aisles of your favorite retailer. Here, I’ll break down my impressions of the Salomon Skin 12 Set to help you decide if it’s right for you.
Comfort: This is my top consideration in a running vest, and it’s where the Advanced Skin 12 Set excels. The vest rides almost unnoticed, hugging my back, shoulders, and chest. It does not bounce, even when loaded with a full pack of gear, water, and food. As the headline notes, I ran the Leadville 100 in it with zero chafe. I can’t ask for much more.
Gear Accessibility: A good vest should allow you to access your critical gear very quickly, and the Skin 12 Set works well in this regard. Large pockets on the shoulder straps easily carry a smartphone, gels, other food, and even a small jacket or headlamp. It puts the critical items at your fingertips so you don’t need to stop to remove the pack. Larger items can ride in the back for access at aid stations or while walking on the trail.
Simplicity: I need a pack that is easy to operate when my brain is in autopilot 70 miles into a run, and the Skin 12 Set is very simple to put on, take off, and fill with water.
Hydration: For me, getting water into my mouth is a primary job of the pack. This one is sold with soft plastic flasks. I don’t really like them, so I don’t use them. Fortunately though, this vest is compatible with the brand’s hydration bladders, which I already own. I dropped mine in and routed the hose, so I was able to get the hydration solution I prefer.
I entirely realize this sounds counterintuitive to being my favorite vest. But for me, when running hundreds of miles, making a small alteration like this is totally reasonable. The hydration reservoir adds $35 to the investment. Mine has lasted for about six years now, so it might be time for a new one.
A Note On Durability: I’ve run at least 150 miles so far in this vest and have had zero problems, but I do want to note that some other customer reviews have called out durability problems. Mine has been fine, but it’s worth considering that this pack uses lightweight materials and some users have reported broken buckles or torn mesh.
Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Set: Design
For those wanting more details, Salomon designed this pack for runners who need a decent amount of gear but also require comfort for moving fast. It has one large internal pocket with a bladder hanging system compatible with a 1.5L bladder (not included). The shoulder straps each have three open pockets and one zippered pocket. Most of them are large enough to hold a cell phone or even a light jacket. They will hold everything you need for instant access.
The inside of the vest is arguably the most important. It’s what touches your skin and shirt, and it’s what makes it comfortable. The Salomon uses a very open mesh that breathes well. On hot days, my back will get sweaty under the vest, but to me it’s pretty reasonable to expect that the gear in the back will contribute to some back sweat building up. Overall, it’s a nice light, breathable vest that doesn’t bounce or jostle while you run.
A few other details: It includes a safety blanket and an emergency whistle. It has reflective details and is PVC free.
From my personal experience with quite a few vests, Salmon’s Skin 12 Set hits my sweet spot. And while I’m sure there are dozens of other good models on the market (just check the starting line of any trail run), I’m very happy with this one at the moment. If you’re in the market for a running vest that can carry everything you’ll need for an aided 100-mile run, the Advanced Skin 12 Set is a great choice.