Salomon S/Lab Ultra Set 5
Weight: 123 Grams/4.34 Ounces
Fit: True to size
Max Storage Volume: 5L
Best Features: Excellent material stretch, tons of front pocket storage, every storage compartment is within reach while on the move.
Room for Improvement: Harness system is hard to attach while on the move, soft flask elastic band anchor is a bit weak, lacks a trekking pole holster.
The S/Lab Ultra set is a sleek, minimalist vest intended for racing, but also performs well in the mountains. What sets this vest apart is the large catch-all pockets in the front. These pockets fit everything from sunglasses, gloves and buffs to nutrition for as much as 14-hour efforts. It carries all this without feeling overly bulky. It has several zippered pockets that securely hold loose items. The chest zipper is perfect for IDs, credit cards and keys. The two rib side pockets fit a smartphone and small medical kit without irritation.
The vest is not intended to support the use of a bladder, but it is possible to fit one in the back pouch without too much discomfort.
After several uses, the elastic bands that hold the soft flasks in place began to show wear on the anchors. This was easily fixed with a bit of shoe goo.
There are two larger storage pouches in the back; the smaller of the two, situated on the lumbar is perfect for a light jacket. Provided that you have some flexibility, it is easily accessible on the move. The larger pouch is unique amongst racing vests. The material stretches, seemingly to infinity, but it provides enough compression so that things don’t bounce around, even extra soft flasks, should you decide to bring extra hydration.
Anecdotally, this vest actually came in handy on a recent weekend epic. While scoping the Maroon Bells Traverse, a committing scramble in Colorado linking two 14,000-foot peaks through what could be classified as running through cat litter and loose rocks, I tried packing my kit with a few vests marketed as mountain running vests, but none of them could store a helmet comfortably.
The S/Lab Ultra Set 5 stored the helmet with ease. Additionally, the inner material of the vest provides excellent ventilation and eliminates most of the fear of chafing; although for anything over 30 miles, some type of anti-chafing product will come in handy, because at that point…you’re just asking for it.
—Tim Nooney placed third in the Grand Mesa 50 Miler and runs 80 miles per week, typically with a new piece of gear that Trail Runner makes him take along and review.