So I splurged a little and got myself the hydration pack the pros use, the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Set. Catchy name, I know. But I’m already very impressed with it. Empty, it weighs basically nothing. It fits more like a vest than a backpack, hugging very snugly around the upper torso, with no pressure at all on the stomach.
I took it for a quick 20km trial run down to Heritage Park and back. Firstly, I was very pleased that despite a light training load over the winter I still have the fitness to pull of a half-marathon just for the fun of it. And secondly, I found the pack very comfortable. With any kind of water-belt, I start getting stomach cramps after a while, because of the pressure on my abdomen. The Salomon pack fits so well it’s almost unnoticeable.
And unlike packs designed for hikers, all the equipment pouches are at the front, so you can easily grab your gels or iPod without breaking stride. This has been my major complaint with my other pack; the fact that I have to take it off to access food.
And finally, the hydration system itself works well, and I like the under-the arm layout of the tube. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether the ultra-light construction results in less durability.