Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra 8 Vest Review

Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra 8

The Salomon S/Lab Sense 8 vest is the vest that I am currently using in races and training.  I have at least one race in this (at the time of posting) and I have logged a couple hundred miles in it.  There is a lot to love about this vest and Salomon has done a pretty good job with it.  

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My vest also has an FBomb logo, this is not standard on Salomon vests or gear.

Pros

So lets start with what I really like about this vest.

  • The accessibility of the storage.  It's easy to get in the water bottles in the chest and access the other storage while on the run.  
  • The pockets are flexible and stretchy, so you can stuff a lot of things in them and it won't bounce that much.  I have used it to stuff hat and gloves, as well as trash from my FBomb packs.  
  • The vest is light.  The material makes it feel like you're wearing a shirt...it doesn't feel like you're wearing  a vest.  
  • Pocket/storage placement.  There are so many different pockets and storage options and they are located in places where it's easy to reach and access while running.  Even the pocket on the back is easy to store a layer/light jacket or an additional soft flask/gels/snacks.  
  • Large rear pocket can accommodate larger layers or smaller hydration bladder.  I have used a 1.5L bladder, but I could also feel it...maybe 1L might ride a little better.  

 

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Cons

There really isn't a whole lot that I don't like about this vest, but there are some minor issues.

  • Cell phone storage can't accommodate large cell phones (think IPhone 7/8 Plus sizes or similar Galaxy sizes).  Also that storage is not waterproof.  (not a deal breaker considering the majority of hydration vests out there do not have a waterproof pocket for electronics)
  • Salomon products are high quality, but they are the skinny jeans of running gear and clothing.  Everything runs slim...think heroin chic.  Again, not really a big deal, but as a husky runner, you might want to get a size up.
  • The tightening loops are not adjustable and can be tricky to cinch down.  I'm also concerned with how durable they will be.  I have to double loop mine to get a tighter fit and it's putting a lot of stress on the plastic piece that you loop around.  This really might be my only valid "Con" or issue/concern with the vest.  Because the material of the vest is "stretchy", I would like to move the location of the adjustment points a little higher.  It would make for a little better ride, but this is just personal preference.  
IPhone 7 in the cell phone storage pocket.  It will zip close, but it is a tight fit and hard to access while on the move.  It is also not waterproof.  

IPhone 7 in the cell phone storage pocket.  It will zip close, but it is a tight fit and hard to access while on the move.  It is also not waterproof.  

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Conclusion

The Salomon S/Lab Sense 8 is a great hydration vest.  It is on the expensive side retailing around $170.  Being a little late in the season you might be able to find it for a little less.  The downside to the vest, for me was the lack of being able to adjust the chest closure, but I have also figured out a work around for that.  It hasn't showed any signs of breaking, but I am concerned with the durability of the plastic piece that holds it together.  Time will tell on that one.  Not having waterproof storage for a cell phone isn't really a big deal.  There really aren't any hydration vests out there that offer that as a feature.  I just use a zip lock bag and that works fine.  The size of the cell phone pocket isn't really an issue either because there are so many storage options on it. 

There are a lot of reasons to like this vest and for me, it would work for experienced runners and racers, as well as those getting into ultra-running/trail running.  I don't think it would be a smart investment  with obstacle course racers though.  It is definitely light weight, but because of that, I don't know how well it would stand up to the demands of crawls, sliding, rolling, etc that happen during an OCR.  

All things being considered and if I used a binary rating system, with 1 being yes and 0 being no, this would easily be a 1.

https://www.salomon.com/us/product/s-lab-sense-ultra-5-set.html?article=393812

 

 

Ultimate Direction Hard Rocker Vest Review

Before we get started, this vest is the 2017 Hard Rocker vest which they no longer make, but it is basically the same as the current models of the Mountain Vest 4.0, as well as having the same fit and concept as some of the other current vests, minus a pocket or feature.  I believe that this review will serve well for those looking for reviews of current product models.

Ultimate Direction Hard Rocker Vest

I have logged a lot of miles in this vest, between training and races.  In fact, it was the first race vest that I ever used and I wore it in my first three ultra races.  There's a lot to love in this vest, while having a lot of room for improvement.  

 

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Pros

  • This vest has a lot of storage.  The front of the vest has a lot of room for small gels, snacks, and tech.  The side pockets are flexible and can hold accommodate an IPhone 7 Plus.  Rear pack can accommodate lots of layers/gear (13L), as well as hold a hydration bladder.
  • Adjustability.  This pack is easily adjustable and was easily able to accommodate a husky runner, such as myself, with multiple layers.  The rear pack can also cinch down to expand or compress the contents.  I have used this pack filled with a variety of gear and empty.  When cinched properly, there is not bounce or excess movement.  
  • The water bottle location on the front is great for drinking on the run, with the long straw or without. 
  • The adjustable chest straps can move up or down to accommodate different sizes or fit preference.
  • Additional storage on outside of the rear pack makes accessing an extra layer fairly quick and easy without needing to take the pack off.
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Cons

  • The nylon material around the water bottles is not flexible, so getting water bottles in and out is not easy, especially when it's cold.  
  • The storage under the water bottles on both sides is hard to access when the bottles are full and not very user friendly when running.
  • With all of the storage, there is no waterproof storage, which would be nice for phones, car keys/key fobs, or other electronics.  

Conclusion

There is a lot to love with this vest and Ultimate Direction vests in general.  This vest has a ton of load carriage capacity and it gives the user a lot of options in terms of adjusting the fit and ride.  The flaws that I found with this vest were, most notably, the ability to access pockets while on the run and while in the cold.  This could easily be fixed if the material was changed to something with more give or if it was the same as the material used on the side pockets.

If you are an urban runner, not running a lot of miles where extra gear is needed, or an obstacle course racer, I would pass on this vest.

If you are running races where you are required to carry mandatory equipment/clothing, adventure races,or running longer distances outside of the reach of civilization,  I would put this vest on my short list.  I also have found this to be really useful hiking because of it's light weight and carrying volume. 

When I began ultra-running, this vest was great because the carrying capacity gave me the confidence that I could make it to the next aid station without running out of water or fuel, or in case I got lost (which has happened a few times).  As I have run more races, I realize that I don't need as much "stuff" as I thought I did when I first began.  With that being said, this is a really nice vest, which could be made better by changing a few small things.  

You can find this vest (on clearance) for around $130, which is a really good deal for it.  The current models which are closest to this are the Adventure 4.0, Mountain 4.0 and Ultra 4.0, which range in price from $130-$170.  

https://ultimatedirection.com/

I do not have an affiliation with Ultimate Direction and the above link is only a link to their website.

 

UD Hardrocker Vest at the end of Ultra #2

UD Hardrocker Vest at the end of Ultra #2