Hiking in the Maroon Bells last year I encountered a couple of runners coming off a pass and noticed one of them wearing an incredibly cool looking Salomon pack. I just caught a glimpse and when I arrived home looked around online to find out what it was. My best guess at the time was that it was the then newly released Salomon XT Advanced Skin S-lab pack. I couldn’t really justify another pack since I’d recently purchased the Nathan Endurance and the hefty $180 price tag of the XT made the decision easier, but couldn’t resist when given the opportunity to test one of its smaller less flamboyant cousins; the Salomon Skin Pro 3.
Out of box appeal of most Salomon products is just plain sexy and the Skin Pro 3 is no exception. This 10.7oz (weighed out of box) with 50oz hydration system looks great. And it delivers. It’s a small pack with a number of smart features built in. It comes in two colors; red and green. If you are from New Mexico and you understand the significance of red and green, you’ll know I went with the green cuz I’m a green chile guy! Small features like the built in whistle, removable insulation sleeve for the bladder, reflective hits and 4D pole system are what makes Salomon so popular; they think of ways to give the most bang without adding a ton of weight., e.g. the 4D pole system is a six inch strap with a squeeze clasp and loop at one end and can be used to attach a helmet, a pole or just about any other light weight item you might need to secure.
The pack has a large rear main pocket along the backside that will hold food, a small jacket and a couple odds and ends. There are two elastic pockets for bottles or food along each side of the main rear pocket. On the left front chest strap there is a small zippered pocket large enough to hold one gel or a couple very small items and on the right front chest strap there is an elastic pocket with room to store 1-2 gels.
What I like
Unlike my Nathan Endurance pack, adjusting this pack so it fits right takes very little time. The Nathan fits well, but takes more work to get it perfect. There are two velcro pads build into the top of each shoulder that take seconds to adjust. The front sternum straps are made of a thin elastic fabric with two small hook closures that are easy to connect to the opposite side of the pack. I liked them specifically because they didn’t rub on my heart rate monitor the way most chest straps do. Not a huge deal but Salomon thought through a better way to design the chest strap.
The hydration bladder is 50oz and comes with the same style fold and slide closure that the Nathan packs have. I found the Salomon version easier to use and additionally there is a quick-disconnect so it’s easy to remove the bladder for cleaning without having to unthread the hose from the pack.
I had no unwanted motion with this pack. It fits higher up on the torso than any of my other packs and fits snuggly around the arms. Its close to body profile keeps weight from getting too far from the line of gravity so rotation and bounce is almost completely eliminated. Whereas with my Nathan pack I notice the faster I go the more bounce I get, with the Skin Pro, it’s snug at all speeds.
One of the other really nifty features is the bladder hose. It comes out the bottom of the back and is guided up towards the front of the chest strap by three small guide loops. This puts the hose and mouthpiece right at mouth level when needed rather than over the shoulder. It’s a much smoother design than any other hydration pack I’ve worn. However, it’s not without its issues.
What I don’t like
Out of the box the hose stays very snug in the loop enclosures and so the distance from mouth to mouthpiece is pretty close. However, once broken in, the mouthpiece slides down to the last loop and any excess tubing gets fed out the last loop so there’s more hose at the bottom. When you need a drink, it takes both hands to pull the hose back up high enough to reach the mouthpiece. This is actually more of a pain than I anticipated. It takes two hands to coordinate because of the way the hose is fed through the loops. It’s definitely something I’d like to see Salomon address with the next version.
Construction! Although Salomon products look great, I’ve been disappointed with the quality of their materials and sewing. I’ve had extremely bad luck with one version of their running tights that I will not buy again because the sewing was so poor. I went through two pairs of running tights in two months and returned them to REI, only to find that the three that they had in stock were already faulty in the same spot I’d had problems with (stitching).
So I am very cautious how I look at Salomon products because they are so expensive and don’t always hold together well. This pack was no exception. On the first run the stitching around the top edge of the elastic pouch on the front chest strap tore out. Other than that, however, two months and a ton of miles later, this pack has held up to all the demands I’ve placed on it.
Design flaws include creating a pack that will carry enough water for 3-5 hours but not putting any substantial food storage system within reach. The two pockets in the rear take an enormous amount of shoulder flexibility and dexterity to get access too. I’ve ended up stopping and taking the pack off to get food out because it’s just easier. The front pockets will only hold three gels at most and if you use them for gels, anything else you might want to have at your fingertips is relegated to the rear compartment. For this reason, I’d probably never race with this pack unless I carried food elsewhere.
One of the folks I run with told me that Salomon makes compatible accessories for their packs however the product information card says this pack is not compatible. The Salomon website isn’t super clear but it might still work to buy an accessory pouch. It’s a pack that would be a great deal more powerful if calories could be stored without having to turn into a pretzel to reach them.
My final complaint is a fit concern. When I have the pack loaded for a long run and put it on, there is a pressure point along my clavicle where the chest straps encounter the velcro sleeve. Over the course of a couple long weekend runs, these actually bruised and made it very uncomfortable to wear the pack for a few days. I’ve played around with fit and can’t seem to get it to “ride” differently but that may be an issue with my clavicles and not the pack.
What’s the BOTTOM LINE?
For mid-short training days (3-5 hours) this 10.7oz pack with 50oz bladder will carry everything you should need. Apart from the pressure point along my clavicle this pack fits like a glove and I don’t even notice it’s on. Salomon’s put in some nice design features that let you know they’ve been listening to feedback and runners for what they want.
Honestly, there’s not a lot wrong with this pack. Yes, I just wrote six paragraphs describing glaring flaws as I see them, but none of those flaws (outside maybe the food accessibility) is large enough to stray from this pack. I’ll find ways to get around the food issue because I like the fit and design of the pack more.
If you are “bigger” built person, I’d recommend trying this out in the store first. I’m 5’10” 145lbs and the pack fit me great out of box but for larger frames, it may not work.
Have you worn the Salomon Skin Pro 3 pack? What are your thoughts on it?
What pack system are you currently using and why do you like it?
– Jason Taylor
You can purchase the Salomon Skin Pro 3 running pack at Running Warehouse (Shoes, Packs, Clothes, Lights, and more…plus 2-day free shipping!).
Posted on 14 Jun 2012
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