Salomon XT Advanced Skin 5 S-LAB Pack vs. Ultimate Direction AK Signature Vest/Pack

Salomon XT Advanced Skin 5 S-Lab Hydration Pack was available in the market (USA) in February 2011 but I was able to purchase it through a friend in Hongkong last May 2012. It costs me $185.00 and up to this date, this item/product is not yet available in the Philippine market.

Since it is a Salomon product, it was used by Kilian Jornet in his previous Champion Finishes at the yearly Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc 166K Race (UTMB) and met the requirements of the necessary hydration vest and pack for a runner joining the said event. It has an insulated 1.5-Liter water bladder & tube; thermal blanket; whistle; trekking pole strap; and lots of zippered pockets where the bigger pocket at the back can fit a light jacket/windbreaker. It has also two big pockets on each of the front straps which are not symmetrical in placement where additional water bottles could be secured.

With the 1.5-Liter water bladder on the back portion plus additional two bottles in the front pockets, I could carry 2.5 liters of liquid in my trail runs using the said hydration pack. The other 2.5-Liter space is allocated for the zippered pockets where I can stash a light jacket/windbreaker, foods/energy bars, headlight, and gels.

The whole pack weighs at 21 ounces or 593 grams, without the emergency blanket and two bottles for the front strap pockets. But when it is worn with the necessary contents in its pockets, it keeps a very snugged fit to the body with the weight of the pack more concentrated on the upper back/shoulders. The fit to the body can be adjusted by two elastic straps that connect the two shoulder straps.

After more than one year of using it in races and training runs, I can say the following:

1. It is a very expensive buy as compared to the newer hydration vests available in the market.

2. The whole pack (without the accessories & contents) is heavy as compared to other hydration packs/vests.

3. After not using the pack for few months, the zippers on the pockets got stuck and I could hardly open the pockets. Dried sweat and dirt might have contributed to this condition but it took me sometime to figure it out on how to loosen the zippers. If one of the zippers will be broken, it will be the end of this pack.

4. Sometime, I have a hard time “hooking” the two elastic front straps on the edge of the other shoulder strap.

5. There are times also that I would hit the edges of the two bottles placed on the front straps’ pockets with my moving arms while running. Instead of trying to clip my moving arms towards my torso while running, I would open up my elbows outwards in order not to hit the bottles.

Front View Of The Salomon Skin S-LAB Hydration Pack

Front View Of The Salomon Skin S-LAB Hydration Pack

The front view of the hydration pack would show the two elastic straps with a hook (colored red) on each end. It shows also the two pockets on the shoulder straps which can accommodate 20-oz. or taller water bottles. It is observed that the two pockets are asymmetrically positioned with one another. The pockets are not upright but slightly slanted under the armpits.

Back View of the Salomon Skin S-LAB Hydration Pack
Back View of the Salomon Skin S-LAB Hydration Pack

The back portion of the pack shows the big letters of the brand Salomon. The whole pack sits on the back much higher than any of the other brands of hydration pack/vest which a big advantage of this product. There is no “bouncing” feeling of the pack on the body when one is running.

The last advantage of wearing this item is to send a Big Fashion Statement to the other runners, not as a fast and strong runner, but as somebody who can afford to buy what is not available in the local market!

The Ultimate Direction’s Anton Krupicka (AK) Signature Series Hydration Pack/Vest is a “sold-out” item in the USA starting last November 2012 and the next orders available on their Website/On Line would be available on January/February 2013. But Andre Blumberg who joined in last year’s Taklang Damulag 100-Mile Endurance Run (TD100) gave this hydration pack/race vest as a gift last December 2012. Since then, it was my favorite choice in my weekend long runs in the mountains.

This product is being manufactured in the Philippines (but not available yet in the local market) in a place near the Starting Area of the yearly Bataan Death March 102K & 160K Ultra Marathon Race in Mariveles, Bataan. The price is $89.00, a way lot cheaper than the Salomon’s Advanced Skin 5 S-LAB Hydration Pack.

It is the lightest and most “minimalist” hydration pack/vest in the market which weighs 6 ounces/170 grams without the bottles. The pack comes with two 20-oz bottles only. There is no water bladder but the back part of the pack can accommodate a 1.5-Liter water bladder.

Fornt View: Ultimate Direction Anton Krupicka (AK) Signature Series Hydration Vest

Front View: Ultimate Direction (UD) Anton Krupicka (AK) Signature Series Hydration Vest

There are two small zippered pockets on the lower back portions of the pack and lots of more small pockets (4 pockets in all) on the front of the pack. I seldom use the zippered pockets on the back of the pack that can accommodate some energy gels but I prefer to use those small expandable pockets on the shoulder straps for my small camera and gels. I have no problems with the zippers even if the whole pack is dirty for using it almost every weekend without washing it. Most of the pockets’ openings are secured with Velcro strips which are very easy to open & close.

Back View: UD Anton Krupicka Signature Series Hydration Vest
Back View: UD Anton Krupicka Signature Series Hydration Vest

I have never used the back pocket of the pack for a water bladder but I got very favorable feedback from other runners who do such. According to them, it gives them a good balance and nice snugged feeling of the pack with 2 bottles in front and a water bladder on the back. The pack has an elastic rope/string with a hook on the back part which can secure a light jacket or a poncho or a windbreaker.

As compared with the Salomon Hydration Pack, I don’t have any problems with the UD AK Hydration Race/Vest with regards to the movements of my arms while running. The placement of the bottles on the front straps does not even create any “chafing” on my chest or nipples. Even the snap locks on the straps on my chest could be easily “linked” easily even with my eyes are closed.

So, to choose which one is better among the two hydration packs, the Ultimate Direction’s AK Hydration Pack/Race Vest is a winner!

Keep on running!