When it comes to running hydration vests, Salomon has things nailed down. I find the stretchy, T-shirt-like designs to be some of the most comfortable on the market, thanks to the body-hugging fit, which minimizes bounce without a proliferation of annoying buckles and compression straps. In fact, amid the mound of women-specific hydration vests I’ve tried over the years, Salomon’s unisex S/Lab Sense Ultra 5 vest became the one I’ve used most.
So when I caught wind that the French brand was coming out with a women-specific vest called the Advanced Skin 8 Set, my ears perked up.
I checked out the new model in the flesh today at Outdoor Retailer and was pleased to find that most of the things I already love about existing Salomon vests are staying the same—with a few key changes.
The most notable point of difference is in the bottles. The women’s Advanced Skin does away with the classic tall, narrow soft flasks Salomon has used in the past, in favor of shorter, wider bottles designed to fit better under the bust, as opposed to awkwardly lying over it. The new bottles are also angled at the bottom, to better fit against the rib cage. Additionally, the women’s vest has a rear vertical zippered pocket that’s not on the unisex versions, and it has softer, slightly more substantial fabric than the stretch mesh on the previous unisex Advanced Skin five- and 12-liter packs.
Both the women’s vest and the unisex five- and 12-liter Advanced Skin packs get a new chest-closure mechanism that adjusts two different clasps with a single quick-release tab, rather than making you tighten each strap individually. It’s an improvement over the existing version of that vest, which used thicker nylon webbing that hooked into loops on either shoulder strap. The family of vests also gets a new, softer fabric that’s slightly more substantial than the stretch-mesh seen on the original Advanced Skin series.
Otherwise, the women’s vest differs only minimally from the unisex versions, which are also getting updated—and that’s a good thing. They still have the side zippered pocket that’s perfect for storing an iPhone securely, the dual front pockets that fit soft flasks and snacks, and two rear pockets (one bladder-compatible, with a removable insulation sleeve).
All in all, Salomon’s new women’s vest seems to add key functionality while retaining all the elements that made the old, unisex versions so great for people of all sexes and shapes.