We have been testing the Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra 8 Set Vest for a good 6months, and we fell in love with how balanced and intuitive this vest is. It can carry almost anything and weighs next to nothing. No other vest has a comparable range of comfort. When it's empty, we forget we are wearing it, while it can secure goods easily. It is constructed with highly stretchable materials. This vest is probably the best lightweight vest out there that can work for both races as well as long runs.
The vest is super comfortable, being lightweight means you can hardly feel them. This may be the only vest we tested that got more comfortable the more we put in it. While the material does most of the work, the vest only includes two points of adjustment across the sternum, so ensuring you have the correct size will make a big difference.
This vest will be a 10/10 for comfort for some folks, but the initial fit and adjusting the fit may be a nonstarter for many others. While we applaud simplicity throughout this design, it appears there was no interest in making the sternum straps adjustable on the go.
We were all smiles out on the trail, testing the Sense Ultra 8 with our kit and snacks. One caveat is, we wouldn't advise putting any heavy, dense items, such as a camera, in this vest. It offers enough stretch that those items will surely bounce around, diminishing the fit and comfort of the vest.
The Sense Ultra 8 keeps it light and simple but includes attachments for a quiver to store poles. Overall, we found the included features to all have a real function, and for this, we are thrilled. A whistle comes attached just above the left hydration flask sleeve, but it is clove-hitched on to be removable, and the whistle is easy to move as the cord is thin. Whistles are required for many races and are a good tool to have in the backcountry. Reflective accents are also present in multiple areas on the Sense Ultra, which boost your nighttime visibility.
Three zippered pockets keep valuables stowed safely and while there is no waterproof part of the vest, accessing our rain layer took no time. One of the most innovative features of this design is the pole storage system.
The final feature we want to emphasize is the materials used. Three different weight meshes are used in the interior of the vest, with the lightest mesh incorporated across the flank to offer more stretch. The pockets and body of the pack feature different amounts of a stretch as well so that expansion occurs where it is most needed to maintain balance in the pack.
This vest owes the success of its hydration system to the two included 500mL Speed soft flasks. A reinforced bottom makes sliding it into the flask sleeves much easier than other designs. You might be wondering if these soft flasks are better; why not just use them with other vests? To be blunt, we do. But only Salomon designs the hydration sleeves of their vests as perfect matches for these bottles.
The hydration system on the Sense Ultra works in harmony with the other pockets and features of the vest, such as the large kangaroo pockets on the chest.
The flasks are included with this vest. A small elastic loop built into the vest slips over the lid of each flask, holding it in place and preventing it from bouncing out or sliding down. By supporting the flasks at the top, the bite valve is always in the correct position, plus the bottle doesn't migrate down to the bottom of the pouch, where it would interfere with the kangaroo pocket. This vest is compatible with a hydration bladder, but we wouldn't recommend it, considering how stretchy the back material is.
Volume to Weight Ratio
Weighing in at 225grams with both soft flasks, the Sense Ultra 8 sits among the lightest vests we've ever tested. A lot can fits into this pack, and we were able to comfortably fit more gear into the Sense Ultra than any similar light vest. The Sense Ultra 8 carries gear like Santa's sack — you can just keep stuffing more into it. Still, while we love the number of layers we can bring on mountain missions, there are limitations to what the stretch fabric can hold. Some of the packs we tested that are more geared toward fastpacking could actually carry bricks and manage to haul heavy loads. This would not be the case for this vest. It manages light, bulky, stuff-able items, but heavier dense items would lead to a stretch scenario we want no part in.
If you want to run fast and light, just bringing along the necessary water and a couple of snacks, this vest is the perfect fit. Well balanced and super light.
With ten pockets, two hydration sleeves, and a small mesh sorting pocket, how did they keep this vest so lightweight
On the shoulder straps, there are two pockets positioned up high. The right pocket has a zipper and works well for carrying keys, a headlamp, or electrolyte tabs. The left pocket is a simple stuff pouch that we used to store gloves. Below these pockets are the main sleeves for the soft flasks. These pockets place more gear and food in easy reach and are the most useful pockets on any pack we tested.
If you are in the market for a new race vest, this is the choice option. Take note that this vest likely won't be as durable as some of the others we reviewed, as the materials are susceptible to stretching out and, with little adjustability, if that happens, it will be too big.
We fell in love with this vest at first wear, and days on the trail reaffirmed our feelings that this is the best race vest we've encountered. From a simple and secure hydration system to the incredible balance of all of the pockets when loaded, the Sense Ultra 8 performs as a tool that makes longer distances easier and faster. Reflective banding and a highly packable material make this vest great for speedy urban runs, while the 8+ litres of storage capacity makes it fit for longer runs in the backcountry. We advise trying on two sizes and if you can size down slightly, do so. Comfort and capability make this one of our all-time favourites.