A few years back, swayed by the advice and experiences of several of my fellow mountain running ladies, I switched over to the Salomon Adv Skin 12 hydration pack for long days on the mountain trails, and it was love at first wear. Snug and stretchy in all the right ways, easy to adjust the fit to smooth the ride of any load, and able to swallow more gear comfortably than I thought possible — it has really been my favorite all-day and -night pack for running, ultramarathons, and pacing.
But not every day is an ultra day, and some races have such perfectly spaced aid stations that it’s nice not to feel compelled to pack the kitchen sink. Apparently, designers at Salomon agreed, because the Salomon Adv Skin 5 ($140) hydration pack has all the fabulous functionality of the 12-liter version, but with less overall capacity.
The unisex Adv Skin 5 is the mid-range line from Salomon, so it’s not quite as lightweight and breezy as the Sense Pro line of packs, but its durability and expansion capabilities are top-notch. It’s easily a daily run pack, and with the right aid-station spacing and weather profile, and minimal required gear list, it can be appropriate up to 100 miles.
Since we love this pack so much, the iRunFar team has named it the Best Small-Capacity Hydration Pack in our Best Hydration Packs for Running guide. We’ve also written about this pack’s bigger sibling in our Salomon Adv Skin 12 review.Shop the Salomon Adv Skin 5
Salomon Adv Skin 5 Construction and Fit
Salomon uses the Sensifit construction to create the familiar snug but accommodating vest fit common to their hydration packs. The Salomon Adv Skin 5 is a unisex pack and comes in sizes XS to XL, which includes chest sizes from 32 inches up to 45 inches. At a 34A chest size, I am in the middle of the XS and the lower end of the S size range, and it’s definitely the right decision to have sized up.
This pack seems to run proportionally smaller per size range than the 12-liter version from a few years ago, so if you’re between sizes, go up a size. There’s no way the XS would have fit comfortably.
Every fabric used with the exception of the water-resistant bladder liner is stretchy, which means the pack conforms to the body and the load exceptionally well. This minimizes bouncing and shifting regardless of how fast or slow I’m moving, and it’s the standard by which I judge all other packs. The sternum strap is also very easy to adjust on the fly and is not restrictive to breathing at all.
The links can be moved up or down on the pack, but I found them perfect right from the beginning. I did find I needed to adjust the tension of the straps away from the bottom angles when I first received the pack, because it was out of balance and created some chafing along my ribs at the bottom of the pack. Once I shifted the tension up through the strap system, the discomfort resolved.
The large-pore hexagonal mesh against the body has a waffle-type squish, which creates a little more airspace between the pack and the body, theoretically improving airflow and moisture-wicking. It’s a little more abrasive feeling to bare skin, but it feels perfectly fine with a thin technical shirt beneath, and it doesn’t create extra pilling on shirts.
I’m not one to run in less than a short-sleeved shirt, so it’s not a concern for me. Front soft flask sheath pockets and the stuff pockets overlying these and along the sides of the pack are constructed with a finer pore stretchy mesh, which allows items to slide in and out very smoothly and air to easily pass through.
The edge around the entire pack is reinforced with a softer ribbing, reducing the likelihood of chafing, which is particularly helpful along the neck and upper shoulders. The rear pocket has significant expansion available with the stretchy tight weave material similar to what you find on the exterior of Salomon’s Sense Pro packs. It rides flat against the body when unloaded but can easily fit a bladder or an extra soft flask, a thin puffy, a headlamp, and several other items with wise loading.
Furthermore, even if I don’t have anything in the back of the pack to offset soft flasks, phone, and a few snacks in front, it still rides smoothly without bouncing or maneuvering weirdly around. Nailing that balance with comfort, load, and stability is difficult to do, but Salomon has done it.
While there are no extra bungees crisscrossing the back for strapping a jacket to the exterior, Salomon did a really innovative thing with the bungee cords that are present elsewhere. There are small webbing loops along the sides of the back of the pack as well as small loops at various reinforced points along the sides and front of the pack. With some creativity and forethought, each bungee can be relocated so you can dial in your preferred method of carrying poles and other items on the exterior.
It’s not that other packs haven’t had this option, but if you’re someone who tends to use the pack as is, it’s not always obvious. This option is actually highlighted on the website as a feature. So, I dabbled with attaching poles in various places and settled on vertically in front on either side of the soft flasks, but it was interesting experimenting with the poles in a variety of spots by simply changing which loops my bungees were attached to — no rocket science required.
The only strange thing about this 5-liter pack is the construction of the single-layer bladder divider. You choose whether to put the bladder next to the waffle weave against the skin and have the water-resistant layer between the bladder and your other gear items, or place the bladder outside of the divide to protect it from your skin but be against the gear.
Either way, that thin non-stretchy layer of material just may be the hottest and most sweat-inducing material I’ve ever had incorporated into an otherwise very breathable pack. I’m not sure how else to describe it without resorting to hyperbole, but I’d much prefer a removable bladder pouch like is common to many of Salomon’s large volume hydration packs so that when I’m not using a bladder (most of the time), I can enjoy the breathability of the pack the way I believe it was intended to be enjoyed.
Salomon Adv Skin 5 Storage and Hydration Options
The storage and hydration options on the Salomon Adv Skin 5 are well-sized and perfectly dialed.
The two front soft flask sheath pockets are designed for the included long 500-milliliter Salomon HydraPak bottles, which slide in and out easily unless the front pockets are totally full — a little creativity with the “full bottle shimmy” is required to get them to settle all the way down if so.
I do find that when the bottles are in that two-thirds full range, sometimes they slide up a bit and flop around — not yet squished enough to fit down under the elasticized opening, but not full enough to “be still.” Bungees attached near the sheath opening can encircle the bottles just below the lid to keep them secure.
One of my favorite features of this pack is the giant stuff pockets overlying the soft flasks. It’s just like the 12-liter version, and my whole hand can fit in them — no dexterity required! The stuff pockets are for all the calories, a headlamp if the adventure will run into sunset, my phone, and myriad things. On the left side, the huge stuff pocket has a zip pocket lying smoothly over top — this is where the really important things go — key, pills, special save-the-day fuel.
The right-side stuff pocket includes a very strange flip-phone-sized pouch attached only at the top, like a vertical hammock. I’ve never quite known what to put here, so I mostly just fumble clumsily with it while pulling out fuel. The reason I’m so enamored with these pockets is that it’s one of the few packs that have 12-liter style pockets on a 5-liter pack. It’s like all the bennies of a big pack with none of the “oops-I-overpacked” weight.
The back pocket is sized for a not included 1.5-liter bladder which, as mentioned above, can fit on either side of a divider keeping it snug against the back. A bladder hanger allows the bladder to stay in place regardless of fill status.
Strangely, there isn’t a hose “tunnel” from the top of the pack over the shoulder, so if your skin is sensitive to hose chafing at the neck, you’ll want to plan for this with a collared shirt or other barrier. There is a hose loop on the right side of the sternum strapping system to keep the hose secure in the front.
With the bladder against your back, a large outer pocket overlays the back and has an extra, wallet-sized mesh pocket at the top with a key fob holder in place. It’s a great idea, but it doesn’t have a confidence-inspiring closure, so I usually use that pocket for extra snacks or soft items I may not need and keep the wallet at the bottom of the back.
The large pocket is stretchy and swallows all the things. Windy early summer days above treeline mean there’s an extra buff, gloves, soft flask, thin puffy, and my small emergency kit stuffed in there. Hot summer runs in the foothills mean there’s as little back there as possible. Either way, the pack rides like a dream.
The last pocket is quite brilliant for a jacket or extra layer, and it’s accessed from either side and runs like a kangaroo pocket at the bottom of the back of the pack. I’ve used this for a wind or rain jacket, a thin hooded fleece, an extra full soft flask, or just more food. It’s a great concept but does require some shoulder flexibility if you use it for smaller items. For a loosely rolled jacket, it’s ideal.
Salomon Adv Skin 5 Overall Impressions
Overall, I love the Salomon Adv Skin 5, and other than needing to eliminate the sweat-it-out bladder divider, it’s about as perfect as it can be. The expansiveness and style of the stretchy pockets allow it to function across a wider range of distances than packs of similar size. It’s worked well for two- to seven-hour adventures for me, and this past summer, I crewed a runner using it in the last 35 miles of a burly 100 miler, when required gear was at a minimum and the need to lighten the load was key.
She had more than enough space for everything she needed to finish strong. I love the fact that the functionality of this 5-liter pack is so in line with the 12-liter pack from the same Salomon product line, right down to pole attachments and giant, hand-sized buffet pockets. I’ll be running with this pack for a long time.
To learn more about this pack, see our Best Hydration Packs for Running guide where we named it one of the top hydration packs.Shop the Salomon Adv Skin 5
Other Versions of the Salomon Adv Skin 5
A women’s-specific version, the Salomon Adv Skin 5 women’s running vest, is available. The biggest differences are the non-standard shape of the narrow-mouth soft flasks with the long straws, as well as the size and shape of the front soft flask sheaths and stuff pockets — including the zipped pocket.
I much prefer the unisex style of this pack because of the standard soft flasks that are compatible with my filter tops and so many other packs, and the larger size of the stuff pockets. That being said, I’m glad they are offering a women’s version for those who prefer the variation.
Call for Comments
- Have you run in the Salomon Adv Skin 5 or any of the other packs in this range? What were your thoughts?
- Would you use this pack for an ultra or for shorter efforts?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]