March 14, 2015

Salomon S-Lab hydration pack mini-review & lessons from Josh Cox

Waking up this morning and getting out of bed was a thing. A hard thing because I had that first touch of am I sick? going down and wasn't sure if I should really be sticking to the 13 miles on my schedule today. But it seemed to be above the neck. You know the above-the-neck rule, right? Sick above the neck = run, sick below the neck = don't run.

After talking to Josh Cox at the Kids Connection fundraiser dinner last night (thanks, Resolute Running for hosting!), I'm even more aware that one of the get-your-run-done motivating factors he mentioned (have a run buddy!) was pretty much the only thing that pushed me out of bed this morning. What if my friend Sally was the only one to show up? What if a pack of wild bears attacked and left her bones with that other ominous pile of bones that we pass every time we take the power line trail at Red Mountain? Things you think about right before you press snooze for the third time. 

Also, much less important than my friends getting eaten by bears that may or may not even exist in Birmingham, I had my new Salomon pack to try out. Going from the most basic Camelbak on earth to the most complex Salomon pack in existence is going to take a few runs to get used to.

Salomon S-Lab Adv Skin3 12 Hydration Pack

Things I immediately liked:
  • Collapsible bottles in the front
  • Don't have to get the bottles out to drink -- chin to chest, bite bottle, drink
  • Emergency whistle
  • There are some straps that you can pull to shorten the pack, did not know that before today
  • Perfect phone pocket on the side -- and it did not bounce
  • One billion easily accessible pockets
  • So that last one was an exaggeration
  • But really there are a ton of pockets with and without zippers
  • Lightweight
  • Fits well, no bounce

Things I didn't like:
  • Needs an owners manual to explain what all the different straps and hooks are for
  • Emerging hot spot on my front left, from the strap
  • Collapsible bottles sink into their pocket when not completely full
  • Very chemical tasting water from my bottles, even though I washed them before first use
  • The two straps that hang down and can shorten the pack -- so where do those go exactly when you aren't using them? I shoved them into pockets, but otherwise, they just hang loosely and hit you in the face hole a lot. 

So far the hydration pack likes outweigh the dislikes. I ran 13 miles and didn't experience any chafing on the hot spot, but it felt like it might eventually. Maybe I just need to toughen up my collarbone skin. Lash it with some birch leaves like I'm at the Russian banya. Wait, do they do that to toughen things up or to relax?

No hair was brushed in the making of this photo.

Also, in case you are reading this and I never write another full review, if you are a small-framed human, you can now order this hydration pack in XXS. That's a men's size XXS, so it does not come to you as a size appropriate for your third grader. It fits chest measurement 29-31". And now for more possibly unnecessary details that one of you cares about. My bra size is 32B, but my actual chest measurement (measuring right under the boob-line) is 30. So I was really nervous that for some reason having girl chestiness, albeit minimal, added to the mix would make this pack too small even though I officially measure in the right spot. Nope, it fits perfectly. This is a new size that they are just now offering, so take advantage of it. Other petite people of the world have told me that this pack was too huge for them, and I wonder if this new size would have helped. 

Back to Josh Cox. He just happened to name drop that he is buddies with the lead singer of Death Cab for Cutie, you know no big deal. AND besides coming out with a new album and going on tour, their lead singer is an ultra runner prepping for a 12-hour race.

One of my favorite trail running songs just happens to be a Death Cab song, Soul Meets Body.

I want to live where soul meets body
And let the sun wrap its arms around me 
And bathe my skin in water cool and cleansing 
And feel, feel what its like to be new

I love when my music people turn out to be running people. Music makes running happy. Also running makes running happy. 

Back to Josh, who did more than just talk about his cool musician friends. But he did establish some serious street cred with that.

Picture taken after the fundraiser dinner with Josh Cox, US 50K record holder. 

Some things I learned from Josh Cox 
(maybe things he said, or maybe 100% inferred)
  • Bad races are not a waste. You still had a great workout, and your body doesn't know the difference between a good workout and a race. So take it and grow from it.
  • Sign up for your dream race now! And there's your incentive to get started training.
  • It's not your goal that's important. The important part is all the steps you take to the goal. In running life that equals your everyday runs. You put all the pieces of the puzzle together before race day begins.
  • When you aren't feeling like putting one of the pieces in your goal's puzzle (i.e. going for a run), just start to put your shoes on. Putting on your running shoes will lead to stepping outside. Stepping outside will lead to walking down your driveway. Walking down your driveway will lead to running a mile. Running a mile will lead to finishing your planned mileage. If You Give a Runner a Pair of Mizunos, ya know. 
  • Even though goals are important and motivating, the most important thing we have is our relationships. Family, friends -- that's the stuff. Don't let your goals get in the way of the stuff.
  • Missing a world 50K record by seven seconds equals .22 seconds per mile. No, he hasn't really thought about it. Oh, and it's ok to sometimes wish you had done something differently. Like seven seconds differently. 
  • Record-setting road runners wish they were running trails all the time. Wait, maybe that was one of those inferences I referenced above. 

That was just a nugget of the learn-iness we learned from Josh, who adds engaging and funny to his well of running talents. Since I know for sure [shakes head and mouths, no I don't] that Josh is reading this right now, I want you to know that it's ok if you name drop us Alabamians to your CA friends. They will be impressed. 


What do you use to hydrate on your long runs? I went from going from fountain to fountain, to a belt, to a handheld, to my Camelbak, to the new Salomon. 

If your friend was in a running slump, what advice would you give her/him? I would try and talk them into running a race together. Or trying trail running if they haven't!


  1. I love the honesty of your review! I use an orange mud vp2. I love it. I do think that fully stuffed they look funny though.
    Very cool you got to meet Josh Cox! I like his attitude.

    1. I need to check out those packs! That is the second time this week that I've heard someone mention them.

  2. Looks like a nice pack! During marathons and 50K's, I've used my Camelbak, a belt or a handheld bottle. I may be doing an ultra next month and I'm trying to decide which one to use then.

    1. I need to try using my pack during a marathon. Never have before, but it seems like it could potentially save time and energy at the aid stations.

  3. I normally use a fuel belt and just started using a handheld. Yes. I just started running some trails. I kinda like it so far.

    1. I thought I had seen a pic of you up at King's Chair! That's how it starts:)

  4. I hate bringing my own water, and haven't found a holder that doesn't annoy me:/ I usually just plan my long runs around parks with water fountains;) Not the smartest thing since a couple of times the fountains weren't turned on and I became pretty dehydrated:(

    1. Oh yes, the inconsistent fountains are no bueno in the summertime!

  5. I have never used anything like this but find it really tempting ...

    1. It's so great for anytime you're going to be outside for a long time!

  6. You are the only ladies review I have found on this pack! Are you still liking it? Do you feel like the size is good still? I am 5'2", 120 lbs, 34B ish and am debating between XXS and XS/S but can hardly find any reviews!

    1. Hey! Just seeing this comment! I may have already emailed back and forth with you, but yes, absolutely if I were you, I would go XXS. Plenty of stretch, but not chafing for me so far. And our measurements are almost identical.


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