Salomon - Advance Skin 12 Set (New Version) Detailed Overview
Salomon - Advance Skin 12 Set
We're going to take a detailed look at the changes to the new (Spring 2019) Salomon Advance Skin 12 Set Race Vest.
There are some elements to the vest which haven't been altered hugely. The sizing of the pack is still in line with previous models. Alex (our model in the pictures) is ~6ft tall and is probably what you would call medium build - He's wearing the large size in the images. Funnily, the Advance Skin 12 Set is still a 12 litre pack! However, the locations of some pockets/zips have been moved around. The vest still comes with 2 x 500ml soft flasks. These are the more oval-shaped flasks with slightly smaller apertures than the 500ml flasks with the hardened cone on the bottom. Pros of these flasks are that they lay flatter against the body where as the rounded ones, unless carefully placed can dig in a little. The con of the flatter flasks is that they aren't as easy to fill as the opening is smaller... swings and roundabouts!
On the front of the vest Salomon have used a new tensioning system across the body, it still works with an elasticated cord which is tensioned using an easy to use (with and without gloves) button spring. Similarly to all Salomon race vests it is possible to customise where the points of tension are (See photo B). It is a little fiddly to release the clips in order to move them around but you wouldn't want them coming undone by accident and once they're in place there isn't any need to move them. It's possible to reverse which side you fasten/unfasten the vest from. I find it easier to have the clipping side on the left as I'm right handed. Personally, I find this new clipping system easier to use than the previous model where I found it tricksome when wearing gloves or having cold hands. All in all, it's not difficult to adjust the tension whilst on the move and there is plenty of 'play' in the system for when you're wearing lots of layers.
Photo B - Tensioning system fastening points
Thankfully Salomon have kept the deep joey pouch (no idea if that's what they're supposed to be called (Photo C)) pockets on the front of the vest, one on either side. These things just seem to keep expanding. Although the Advance Skin vests are quite stretchy in their overall body they are more fixed when compared with the S/Lab vests. Again, there are pros and cons to this. The pro being when you load the joey pouches to the hilts they don't bounce quite so much the negative being it's not quite as soft, stretchy and body mapping as the S/Lab material. If I were using one for a longer race I'd go towards an Advance Skin 12 and for shorter races an S/Lab 5 Set. I'd do this to reflect the amount of kit I'd be carrying and therefore the weight in the vest.
An additional front zipper pocket has been added over the joey pouches (See photo C). I don't think this increases the amount you can load the front of the vest but they do give you a secure storage option in an accessible place. Somewhere to keep your compass, keys or generally smaller items you really don't want to lose! They're clear to see and the cord zipper is easy to grasp making access simple.
Photo C - Joey-pouch
Photo D - Zipper over the top of the joey-pouch.
The final addition to the front of the Salomon Advance Vest 12 is the nifty, moisture proof smart phone holder (Photo E). To some this might seem like an unnecessary add-on however as someone who has a iPhone that dies at the first sign of any cold this pocket keep the wind chill off of the phone, keeps it close to you body and doesn't let it get damp. I'd still be inclined to try and keep a BUFF or something over the top of it on very cold days but as more and more of us carry our phones I think this is a good update.
Photo E - Nifty smart phone holder on the Salomon Advance Vest.
Under your armpits.
When I first saw the new Advance 12 Set last year I was a little disappointed to see the removal of the zip-pockets under each arm pit. I'd always used these for gels, compass and gloves. They were relatively easy to access and safe. I can now see that the new zipper pockets on the front compensate for the loss of the under armpit pockets. In replacement of these Salomon have extended the rear thru-pocket which runs from either side all the way around the back. How functional this pocket is probably depends on your shoulder flexibility. For all but the most muscle bound of us you should be able to access it with the pack on. If you can then it is really useful, if you can't then maybe you should work on your stretching instead of begrudging Salomon! Photos F and G show entry to and the thru nature of the pouch. You can easily fit a waterproof top in here, it's bigger than the old versions' rear pouch and I was able to get a waterproof jacket and trousers in there.
Photo F - Entry to rear thru-pouch
Photo G - It goes all the way thru!
The main storage compartment on the rear is accessed through a vertical zipper on the right hand side of the vest. I'm not 100% of it's capacity however Photo H gives a good indication of it's size. The fabric on either side of the static central panel is stretchy, this combined with the elasticated cord on either side enables smaller loads to be carried without them jostling around. The elasticated cord tension can be adjusted when wearing the pack as the control point is located neatly in the under armpit pocket. It can be seen in Photo H hanging out of the pocket.
Similarly to the old Advance Skin Vests there is a compartment between the back panel and main storage area where a water bladder can be hung, the vests come with an insert to keep the bladders cool. Personally, I think in the UK this is totally unnecessary and I'd much rather carry my water on the front in the soft flasks. However, I'm assuming for hotter climates runners might use this extra pouch and insert.
Photo H - Main compartment, elasticated compression cord and tightening point visible under the armpit.
This version is, in the most part made of lighter materials. In particular the back panel it more breathable and softer. Photo I shoes the open nature of the material.
Photo I - main back panel material.
Extra pockets - I'm a little upset to see the removal of the small zipped pocket which used to lie on the front of the shoulder. This was great for keeping GPS tracking devices which are mandatory for longer races and very popular for Sky Races. There are still pockets on either side but these are no both now bungee pockets which I personally would only be happy keeping a BUFF of my gloves in. One of these is visible on Photo J. Interestingly, on the new ladies Advance Skin 8 Set there appear to be an extra stow pocket just above the shoulder blade which would fit on of these GPS trackers perfectly. I can't find anything on the Salomon website about this but I'm confident that's why it's there.
Pole holders - There are 2 methods of carrying poles with the Advance Skin 12 Set. Depending on your preference it's possible to stow a single pole either side on the front of the vest. The poles would be positioned to the outside of the main joey-pouch. I was a little concerned they'd get in the way of swinging arms but are surprisingly well tucked in and didn't affect me at all. The alternative is to stow them on the rear, similarly to how skis can be carried across the back. The benefits to the front loading are the ease of access and stowing but there is the potential for them getting in the way. Alternatively, on the rear they poles are stowed out of the way but are more tricky to attach and release.
The other option is to source yourself a pole quiver. This attaches to the pack of the pack but makes accessing and stowing the poles much easier than using the elasticated cords.
Photo J - Shoulder expansion pouch and elasticated cord on both the front and rear used for stowing the top of your poles.
All in all the new Salomon Advance Skin 12 Set is a solid race vest and would be suited to those who are after a vest that can 'do it all'. The ability to alter the volume on the rear and lightness of the vest means it could easily be used or shorted races where you have to carry minimum equipment and equally if you are wishing to take some spare layers, extra food and your poles it's more than capable of carrying this in comfort.
It's best with vests to try them on, they're all sized and similar to your shoes they fit and suit different people. If you're adamant this vest is for you it's available on our web store with free shipping however if you're local then please pop in to Front Runner and you'll have the chance to try on this and many other vests to work out what is actually right for your need and body shape.
This overview was written by Steve Franklin. He's used the Salomon Vests for races such as the Annecy Maxi Marathon, Scafell Sky Race, Trofeo Kima and many others so is able to objectively look at the products and highlight the pros and cons.