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Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set Pack

Cy Whitling reviews the Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set for Blister Gear Review.

Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set

Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set Pack

Volume: 15 Liters

Stated Weight: 297 grams

Blister’s Measured Weight: 348 grams

Stated Features:

  • Light, form-fitting pack designed for versatility
  • 15L main compartment designed to carry essentials for a wide range of outings
  • Soft 1.5L bladder with 4D insulated sleeve, hose, and rocket valve included
  • Salomon Sensifit stretch construction combined with Twin Link adjustable straps allows for personal sizing with pack variability
  • Versatile stable gear carrying system makes it easy to attach trekking poles, a helmet, or other large accessories
  • 2 front soft hydration elastic pockets designed for Soft Flasks or Bottles
  • 2 stretch front pockets for storage of small essentials
  • 2 mesh zipped side pockets for secure storage
  • Soft trims for comfort in full range of motion
  • 4D trekking pole holder for easy and convenient storage
  • Safety whistle on chest strap
  • Internal helmet loops

MSRP: $150

Reviewer: 6’, ~170 lbs

Test Locations: Teton Canyon, Teton Pass, & Grand Teton National Park, WY; Leavenworth, WA

Days Tested: ~30

Intro

Salomon’s Skin Pro 15 Set pack is a bit of a category bender. From the front, it looks like a traditional running vest, since it’s got the heavily-pocketed mesh straps, elastic suspension system, and body-hugging profile of a trail running vest. But the main compartment on the back offers 15 liters of storage, a trekking pole carry system, and a decidedly “backpack-y” silhouette.

This disregard for traditional categories is also reflected in Salomon’s description of the pack. They say, “The one-size-fits-all Skin Pro 15 Set is a light, slim fitting pack that’s versatile enough for mountain running, hiking or biking.”

I’ve previously tried running in a few different biking and hiking packs with little success, so I didn’t put too much stock in this assertion. But the Skin Pro 15 Set did look optimized for running, and my tendency to overpack and bring too much camera gear everywhere I go meant that I was searching for something with this kind of capacity that would still stay comfortable and not bounce around while running.

Cy Whitling reviews the Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set for Blister Gear Review.

Cy Whitling in the Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set, Enchantments, WA. And a goat.

Fit

The Skin Pro only comes in one size, and it uses Salomon’s Sensifit design. The main shoulder straps are adjustable for length with toggles near the bottom, and the two front straps have a total of 7 available attachment points. I used the Skin Pro with the shoulder adjustments at close to their biggest point, but it has a wide enough range that I think most people should be able to make it work.

Features

The Skin Pro 15 Set has a lot going on feature wise, but at first glance, many of them just look like a mess of elastic cords running around the outside of the pack. There’s a set at the bottom of the back, as well as on each shoulder. These make it easy to secure a helmet, trekking poles, or extra layers. They’re easy to access, and they’re also easy to cinch down over most loads.

The Skin Pro comes with a 1.5 L Hydrapak bladder. I really like the Hydrapak bladders — they don’t put any weird taste into the water, and they are generally easy to use and leak proof. The sleeve for the bladder also includes a removable insulated sleeve with a hole for the hose. I was surprised at how big of a difference this insulation makes. My water is noticeably cooler in the Skin Pro 15 than in my Mammut running vest where there is just a thin layer of material between the bladder and my back.

The hose routs out through the right side hip pocket and up to two loops near the right shoulder that keep it easily accessible.

Initially at least, this hose routing was by far the most frustrating thing about the pack. The first three times I used it, I ran into issues with the hose either kinking or coming unplugged from the bladder. I’m not sure why this was (I’ve never had any issues like this with any other pack) but it was frustrating to have to pull the bladder and sleeve out and reroute everything when I stopped getting water through the hose. I think it has something to do with the fact that the hose has to route out of the insulated sleeve, and then through the bottom of the strap and up to the shoulder, making it easier to kink or yank out of the socket when using it roughly.

However, by my fourth run wearing the Skin Pro 15 Set, I had it figured out and haven’t had an issue since. Basically, I just had to take more care when initially routing the hose through the pack. You need to set it up with the correct amount of slack to be able to reach the valve with your mouth, but not so much that it flops around, this way you don’t put any unnecessary stress on it to kink it.

Pockets

At first glance, the Skin Pro 15 Set looks pretty complicated, but the pocket layout is actually fairly simple. The main compartment (where the bulk of that 15 L is located) is large. I can easily fit in that main pocket my Sony A7II in a padded case, a raincoat, an insulating layer, a med kit, a film camera, food, a headlamp, a SteriPen, and a knife.

The one downside to that huge pocket is that things have a tendency to move around, and there is no convenient compartment to stick items like keys, a wallet, or sunglasses. Instead, I end up sticking sunglasses in one of the front strap pockets, and my wallet and keys in a pocket of the camera bag.

There are two stuff pockets on each strap, perfect for glasses, gels, a buff, permits, chapstick, etc.

Cy Whitling reviews the Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set for Blister Gear Review.

Front view of the Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set

Two larger mesh pockets are located toward the bottom of the straps and wrapping around to the back. The left pocket is zippered, while the pocket on the right just has an elastic rim so that the hydration hose can route through it. These pockets are accessible on the go, and they are perfect for stuffing a jacket, a map, or extra food. They are also big enough for a point-and-shoot camera, and they do a good job of keeping it accessible and ready whenever you want it without taking off the pack.

There is also a small sleeve at the back of the pack for the hydration bladder.

On-Trail Performance

One of the primary reasons I wanted to review the Skin Pro 15 is that, while I like trail running, I like taking pictures of trail running way more. So I needed a pack that could haul my Sony A7II miles into the backcountry without slowing me down to the point that my partners were nowhere to be seen (or photographed). Of course, this sort of load also applies to anyone trying to run with enough gear for ultralight overnight trips, and it’s entirely reasonable to get enough gear into the Skin Pro 15 Set to spend a (maybe not the most comfortable) night in the backcountry.

However, there are plenty of packs that afford this sort of volume. But the important thing about the Skin Pro is how well it carries its load. Running puts a unique set of stresses on a pack, and if you’ve ever tried running in a rigid backpacking pack, you know it’s not very enjoyable.

The Skin Pro is anything but rigid. Most of it is elastic, so it stretches and conforms to the body and stays put, rather than bouncing around. It feels more like a vest than a pack, since the load is distributed over the upper body, with no weight on the hips. This means that I can load it down with a camera plus more than enough gear for most day runs, then go out and run 15-20 miles without hating myself.

Of course, if you’re not running, this pack isn’t super comfortable when carrying heavy loads (which is precisely why traditional packs incorporate hip straps). But if you’re running or hiking with a light load, the Skin Pro is perfect; it moves with the body well, and I notice it a lot less than a traditional day pack.

Solomon also says the Skin Pro works well for mountain biking. It does seem like it would work fine (other than the fact that your friends might make fun of how you look in it), but I don’t think it really would offer many advantages over a traditional hydration pack or a fanny pack while biking.

Who’s It For?

If you’re only going to be hiking slowly, then it makes sense to go with a traditional daypack — it will be more durable, will carry weight better, and will have more volume.

And if you’re running with just food and water for the day, a smaller vest will suit you better, since you won’t need the added volume of the Skin Pro 15 Set — it weighs more, and there’s more space for your stuff to bounce around in.

But if you’re looking to move faster than is comfortable in a traditional pack while also carrying a fair amount of gear, the Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set is hard to beat.

Durability

So far I’ve not been easy on the Skin Pro 15 Set. I’ve crawled far into a cave with it; scrambled up and then fell down a steep couloir; and done more bushwhacking than I’d like, and I have yet to cause any damage. I’ll update this review if anything does come up.

Update 7.18.17

Last summer I summed up my review of the Skin Pro 15 Set with this line: “The Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set is a running vest with the capacity of a day pack.” Since then, I’ve used the Skin Pro 15 Set for a myriad of adventures and, upon revisiting my review, realized that I’d undersold it. This pack does its job very well, and that job encompasses a very wide range of uses.

Cy Whitling reviews the Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set for Blister Gear Review

Cy Whitling in the Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set.

Initially, I was just using the Skin Pro 15 Set as a running vest, packed with a headlamp, small camera, rain jacket, water, and snacks. However, through the end of last summer and this spring, I find myself just stashing more and more stuff into it. It easily fits a day’s worth of food, a first aid kit, a mirrorless camera, and a GoPro, along with the aforementioned gear. It’s also easy to strap even more gear onto the outside, and slip more food into the front stuff pockets. This thing is listed as a 15L capacity, but it fits as much gear as some 20L ski packs I’ve used, and it carries surprisingly well fully loaded.

And limiting the Skin Pro 15 Set to just running is a mistake. I found this out when I used it for an adventure race. During the bike portion of the race, I realized that the Skin Pro 15 Set has more capacity, carries better, and is more breathable than any bike hydration pack I’ve owned. Really, the only knock against it as a biking pack is that your cooler friends might make fun of you for how it looks.

Cy Whitling reviews the Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set for Blister Gear Review

Cy Whitling in the Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set.

The Skin Pro 15 Set has also eliminated any need I may have had for a day hiking pack as well. Get over its slightly sports-bra appearance, and you’ve got a really great day pack. It has room for extra layers and food (or beers, a book, and a beach towel), a well-insulated hydration sleeve, and the ability to carry an ice axe or trekking poles. All in a very breathable and easy to carry package. And if you happen to come across a big gradual descent on your hike, the Skin Pro 15 Set does a great job of staying comfortable if you decide to jog, something most day packs don’t do.

After another 20ish days in the Skin Pro 15 Set, I’ve had zero durability issues, and I’ve found myself reaching for it for more and more missions. It’s a well-designed, very versatile, high-volume, comfortable pack. And that means there are a lot of situations where I’m happy to have it hugging my back.

Bottom Line

The Salomon Skin Pro 15 may seem a bit confusing: is it a vest with the volume of a pack, or a pack with the structure of a vest? But for missions that call for running with a large amount of gear, the Salomon Skin Pro 15 provides enough volume in a very comfortable package.

1 Comment

  1. peterdidthat July 26, 2017 Reply

    Thanks for the review.
    1) Does it shrink down/contour well/hug you well when you’re not using the full capacity? ie. is it all stretchy fabric?
    2) Any comparison points to Ultimate Direction’s PK Adventure Vest 3 or Fastpack 15?

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