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Monday, June 11, 2012

Salomon XA Pro Skin 10+3 - finally a pack for runners

I'm constantly amazed at how sports/outdoor gear has evolved over the last 25 years. I still remember my early teenage years when we went running or cycling in cotton shirts. Only one kid in my road cycling team, his father was the local dentist, used to have a fancy Greg Lemond LOOK shirt made of 50% synthetics fabrics. We were all envious of him. However, at that time odor resistance was not a feature of these fabrics. Shirts made of them would stink like hell after one day of use.

One area where we haven't seen much improvement over the last years are backpacks for runners. Actually, a couple of years ago there was only a handful of companies (Inov-8 and Raidlight have to be mentioned here) offering packs specifically for this audience. All of these early running packs were basically slimmed down hiking packs with a traditional design. I always disliked the hip/waist belt of these packs. In order to avoid bouncing one had to pull all straps tightly. I always find this very restrictive. I also often damaged my shirts by rubbing of the waist belt.

Now we enter a new era: the Pro Skin and Advanced Skin running packs by Salomon. I'm really blown away by these. And apparently not just me since it was really difficult to get hold of one. These are almost sold out for this season (at least in Germany). Initially I wanted to get the more expensive Advanced Skin 12 pack, however, the only model I could get was the slightly slimmed down Pro Skin 10+3. For differences you check Salomon's homepage or other reviews. I just want to focus on my specific aspects, e.g. mountain running and commuting.

Overall impression

Wow!!!!!! Perfect!! Just needs some minor tweaks in the next iteration

Test conditions
  • urban environment, paved surfaces, all weather conditions, runs up to 1 hr, twice a day.
  • mountain/trail running, all weather conditions, runs up to 4 hours.
  • "Freight": usual long distance trail running gear (including poles). For commuting only fresh underwear. My 15'' would not fit. 
Positives
  • The fit!!! Even packed fully there is absolutely no bouncing. The chest straps allow a great custom fit. No waist belt!! I went for a 4 hour run that span climbing to summits. The pack was really a part of my body. Edit 28.06.2012: I must correct this statement. If packed fully with heavier items (for example groceries) it would bounce quite a lot.
  • The pack's water bladder. With other packs bladders would often bounce annoyingly. Not with this pack.
  • The two front pouches, which are actually intended for bottles, are great for storing cell phones or other gadgets. However, ...
  • It seems quite odor resistant which is important for a commuter.

Negatives
  • ... these front pouches could have been made out of waterproof fabric. On my ascends sweat would work its way through the shoulder strap and through the fabric of the pouch. Keys and cell phone were drained in sweat. Running up mountains is a sweaty business, the pack designers should be aware of this. My current solution is to put my stuff into small plastic bags. However, this is quite annoying with my cell phone. I access it regularly during my longer runs (GPS, mp3, radio, calling up my wife that I'll be late, ...).
  • Most other reviews on this family of packs complain about the 4D pole holder system. For me poles are a must when descending. Pure fun! I do not use them uphill. Therefore, I was really disappointed the system and I have to agree with the other reviews. The pack was provided with a manual for the system. Unfortunately, my pack is different to the manual and to the pictures shown on Salomon's homepage (see pictures below). The top strap that attaches to the right should strap is different. Now I do not know if I have a "newer" or "older" model, I just know that if I follow the manual it won't work properly. Solution now is to simply put them into water bladder compartment. This works for me since I do not race. I always change shirts on the summit anyway. However, I would find it annoying if I ran on a more up and down terrain.






Salomon homepage product illustration of pole holder system vs. my pack:










2 comments:

  1. Great review!

    Are you still using this pack for commuting, or did you find something that you like better?

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    Replies
    1. Since it is summer I do all my commutes by bike at them moment. And I work a lot from home these days (I love those lunch break runs up the mountain). However, if it was winter I'd still use it.

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