Review: Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Set Pack

by Charles Thursday, April 18th 2013

Over the past couple of years I have become more excited about running and moving quickly in the backcountry has become something that I enjoy/dream about/work towards. If - like me - you want to move fast/run on the trails and still carry a bit of gear and extra water with you the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Set Pack is an option worth considering!

The author taking a break on the Pontatoc Ridge Trail with his Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Set Pack.

Fit: The Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Set Pack is a 'vest' style pack. It is designed so that the shoulder straps wrap around your rib cage and the pack bag/weight is higher and closer to your center of gravity than it would be in a traditional pack. This combination helps the pack stay comfortable and stable when running (be careful not to fit this pack like a traditional pack - getting a larger size than you need WILL cause excessive bouncing). Once you find your size the consensus from our staff is that it feels great and has minimal bounce when running! An important part of the feel of the pack comes from the stretch built into the harness. This is the first pack that I have used with significant stretch in the harness and I was skeptical at first - but I have to say that it really works - the pack stays pleasantly snug/secure without restricting my movement/breathing.

In this side view you can see the pack harness/shoulder strap wrapping around the ribs - quite different from the shoulder straps on a 'traditional' pack and an important detail that helps keep the pack stable and comfortable on the run. The side pocket is holding a pair of light fleece gloves.

We have had questions from women about whether the fit/style of this pack will work for them - while no pack/style is going to work for everyone we recently had a number of our female staff try this on-trail and it worked well for almost all of them!

Emily with the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Set Pack on the Ventana Trail during a demo run - the pack worked well for her!

Storage: The pack's main storage pocket has a single vertical zipper and is made of a stretch fabric. I can fit my first aid kit, Montane Slipstream GL Wind Jacket, Montane Featherlite Wind Pants and just a bit more. 

The main pocket - the vertical zipper is a change from the 2012 version of the pack and allows easier access to your gear. Note my Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp fitting nicely into the right side pocket.

Wind Jacket and Pants along with a small first aid kit fit comfortably in the main pocket - the stretchy material certain allows you to fit more in (and holds it securely - a great detail!), but it does get challenging to add too much more...

There are also quite a few smaller pockets to take advantage of including: two chest pockets (water bottles, Salomon Soft Flasks, camera, extra storage), an optional pocket that attaches with velcro to the shoulder harness (great for gels), two side zippered pockets (slightly awkward to reach, I use them for headlamp and gloves since I only need those occasionally/infrequently) and a small inner pocket (the pack comes with a emergency blanket in this pocket). By taking advantage of all of the pockets this small pack can carry quite a bit!

There are plenty of pockets on this pack to take advantage of - here the chest pocket has 2 8oz. Salomon Soft Flasks and the zippered pock has a gel and several Saltstick Plus Caps.

Hydration: A 1.5 liter Salomon/Hydrapak reservoir in a lightly insulted sleeve is included with the pack. The reservoir slips into a pocket next to your back. The insulated tube runs from the bottom of the reservoir, under your arm and along the shoulder strap. This configuration helps put the bite valve in a great 'ready-to-use' position. The reservoir is very easy to get in and out of the pack while leaving the hose in place - a great feature at an aid station but also nice for everyday cleaning and filling.


This pack has a list of small features/details not even touched on in this review - but to me the most important feature is the amazing fit/feel/carry - certainly something special. At a glance the small amount of storage space may seem too restrictive - but after using this pack for more than a year I have been surprised by how much I can do with it by taking advantage of all the pockets and being very thoughtful about what gear I take with me.



-I like the bite valve that comes with the pack but I switched it out for a Camelbak Big Bite Valve on a Camelbak Hydrolink Filter Adapter - this configuration is slightly bulky but I like flow from the Camelbak Big Bite Valve and the Hydrolink Filter Adapter gives me an on/off valve and makes it very easy to take the bite valve off for easier cleaning.

-The Emergency Blanket that comes with the pack is great and very compact - if you loose/destroy yours we have found that the 1-person Heatsheets Emergency Blanket is slightly larger but fits nicely into the same pocket.

-The 2 front chest pockets are small for most 'hard' bottles - but two 8oz Salomon Soft Flasks or one 16oz Soft Flask fit into the pockets very nicely and are a great way to add some extra water (it takes a little effort to get the two 8oz Soft Flasks in - easier to do before you put the pack on).

-The first two pictures in this review are of the 2012 version of the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Set Pack that I started using in March of 2012 - I like the changes made to the 2013 version (different mesh for the harness, different chest pocket material, vertical zipper on the back) but functionally the 2012 and 2013 versions are very close.

Gear | Gear

Hiking Report: February

by Jeremy Davis Friday, February 1st 2013


February in Tucson and in Southern Arizona tend to be a great time to get outdoors to play in your favorite venue.  Whether it is hiking, biking, trail running or simply just getting outside to enjoy the weather and awesome landscape to relieve the stresses of our everyday lives.  One of the things that we most often forget is that we have so many areas and trails nearby to get outside that take no time at all hit the trail.  This is the focus of the article this month for a variety of reasons to include, limited time to hit the outdoors, and sticking to the lower elevations to stay comfortable with the varying weather conditions February can bring.

Tip:  Watch the weather!  Staying low in the valley has many excellent advantages though the low lying areas hiking trails typically are in drainages from high above.  Though this can bring some wonderful experiences to see the water flow over the desert floor, it can create hazards for the hiker and walker.  So, keep abreast of the weather in the Tucson valley, but also watch the weather in the mountain ranges.  February has the ability to throw you a curve ball with respect to weather and rainfall, so be aware.  This information can be obtained by simply looking at the mountain ranges for rain clouds, but also take into consideration the weather that happened in the past.  If it rained the day before your adventure, perhaps water will be flowing and keep you from completing your hike because of water crossings.  The other thing to consider is the snow melt from high above.  We have had some nice snow on our mountain ranges, but as the temperatures warm up water will be flowing in the drainages.  Much like always in the desert, conditions can change, so make sure when heading up the trail that you have the appropriate clothing and gear.

Gear:  When heading out and reviewing what your potential conditions might be for your adventure, always make sure you are ready for the worst case.  If there are no clouds, no need to take a rain jacket but keep in mind your length of time out in the wilderness.  One of the items you may want to consider when heading out to make your adventure more comfortable might be Gaiters for your footwear.  If you have trail running shoes, take a look the Salomon S-Lab Gaiters.  If you have low to mid hiking boots, you may want to consider the Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiter.  Each of these keep the sand, rocks and basically crud out of your footwear so you don’t have to stop and shake out sand or rocks.  If you don’t have a daypack already or you think you may want to explore a new one, check out the new Camelbak hydration packs or Osprey day packs.  These are made to hold hydration reservoirs and a small amount of gear to make your day hike great.  As always pack a headlamp like the Black Diamond 110 Lumen Revolt.  Pack food appropriate for the length of you hike and perhaps some power food to keep handy if you need extra energy.

Destinations:  To keep with the theme in February and staying close to home because we have little time to get away, here are a few of our recommendations of varying lengths and difficulties specifically in the Catalina Mountain Range.  These trails are close to home and great for short hikes, longer day hikes and even trail runs.  If you have not been on the Pima Canyon Trail, you are in for a great time and beautiful landscape.  There may be some water running this time of year, so please be careful and dress appropriately.  Another area to explore that often gets overlooks by “hardcore” adventure folks is the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.  This area gets a great deal of traffic, though there are some wonderful areas that you can find yourself in that are easy to get to and great for pictures.  There is water likely running in this area this time of year and the trails cross the water in various spots, so again be careful not to get in the water and do not cross if the flow to too great.  Trails at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area that are recommended would be Seven Falls and Sabino Canyon Trail.  The Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is a fee area though is worth the cost and would recommend the annual pass so that you can enjoy the entire year.  If looking for additional ideas locally or trail descriptions of the above trails, please visit our staff at either of the Summit Hut locations.  Enjoy, and see you on the trail or in the store.

Activities | Events | Gear | Hiking Report | Trails

Sycamore Reservoir Trail

by Charles Wednesday, January 16th 2013

Have you hiked on the Arizona Trail? If not you might be surprised to learn that there are great opportunities to experience a day hike on the AZT that are only a short drive from Tucson! One of my favorite sections of the AZT is the Sycamore Reservoir Trail.

Looking down into the Sycamore Reservoir area - the stripe of green marks Sycamore Canyon with the most prominent green area marking the Sycamore Dam and Reservoir.

This hike starts from the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site just over 7 miles up the General Hitchcock Highway. The Recreation Site is named for Dr. Gordon Hirabayashi who was imprisoned during WW II for resisting the relocation and internment Japanese Americans - a conviction that was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1987. A sidewalk between two foot bridges near the entrance will take you past a several signs with information about the history of the area.

After turning into the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site take the dirt road past the campsites and restrooms to one of the parking areas near the corrals. The trail begins from the south side of the parking lot - a sign near the beginning of the trail shows the surrounding area and trails - standing in front of the sign you are on the Molino Basin Trail and the Arizona Trail! Follow the trail to the right and down the hill to a signed junction with Soldier Trail - the Molino Basin Trail continues to the right. At just over a mile you will arrive at Shreve Saddle - at the saddle the trail becomes the Sycamore Reservoir Trail and you enter the Pusch Ridge Wilderness.

Shreve Saddle - Arizona Trail sign and gate blocking access to an old road. Beyond this point you are in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness

From the saddle the trail heads steadily downhill - note the junction at 2 miles (it can be slightly confusing on the way back...). At 2.2 miles there is a sign and trail leading off to the left - the trail to the left is an unofficial route that will take you on a short side trip to the dam that was constructed to create Sycamore Reservoir. The reservoir was created to provide water for the Prison Camp - the dam traps water from both Sycamore Canyon and Bear Canyon. While it I don't think anyone would currently describe the area behind the dam as a reservoir the dam does, at times, provide water for an impressive seasonal display of green! Of course, use caution around the old dam.

The dam is hidden by the trees - while the hillside is often green note the change in the right side of the picture form September of 2011 (Green!) and December 2012...

After returning to the main trail you will soon cross Bear Canyon and then notice Sycamore Canyon on your left. At 3.1 miles a large cairn on the left marks the junction with the Bear Canyon Shortcut trail (useful if you are heading to Thimble Peak). At 3.5 miles the trail reaches its end at a junction with the East Fork Trail (the AZT continues down into the Sabino Canyon area - see Dave Baker's AZT entry from this area in 2008) and the Bear Canyon Trail (which will take you to Seven Falls). From this junction there are great views – look carefully and you will see the Palisade Trail winding down to its junction with the East Fork Trail! There are quite a few hiking options from this junction - but one of the simplest is to return the way you came.

The author with Sycamore Dam in the background - be very cautious if you decide to go off trail and scramble to the base of the dam - steep cliffs, loose rock and slippery footing...

Season: Fall, winter and spring.

Water: There is often water near the dam and sometimes in both Bear and Sycamore Canyons. Purify before drinking. As always, it is best to bring plenty of your own.

Difficulty: The hike to the junction with the Bear Canyon Trail and East Fork Trail is just under 7 miles (round trip) with close to 1,000 feet of total elevation gain - moderately difficulty.

Maps: Green Trails Recreation Map - Santa Catalina Mountains.


Hiking Report: January

by Jeremy Davis Monday, December 31st 2012


As I write this, December 31, 2012; Tucson and the surrounding mountain ranges are being pelted with rain and snow.  As I look from the Summit Hut door to the North, The Catalinas are being blanketed with snow to about 4000 feet.  What a spectacular place we live and know that conditions can change on a dime.  Enjoy being outside.

January in Tucson becomes the envy of many across the country, and conditions are perfect for playing in the outdoors. However, if you are anything like most of us, you love having the opportunity to head up into the mountains and play in the snow and ice at least a couple times a year. With weather these days as I write this, snow is falling in Catalinas and the mountains are absolutely beautiful from our Tucson valley. Here are some tips and suggestions for enjoying the outdoors in the new year!  Of course alway be careful as conditions on the mountain ranges can change by the minute, so be prepared!

Above photo of Guthrie Mountain

Tips: As with any adventure in the Desert (whether it be in the snow or in the heat), you must be prepared to bring water.  Many folks don't realize this, but you can dehydrate just as quickly in the cold as you can in the heat.  Also when venturing outdoors in our mountain ranges in the winter time, make sure to pack the appropriate clothing with layers.  Make sure to pack and nice warm puffy jacket in your pack as you head up.  You will be thankful when you stop walking and are able to keep youself warm at your rest times.  Of course, ensure that you let someone know where you are going and when you might be back and always bring a headlamp in case your are out later than you expect.

Gear: If you're hitting the higher elevations, after we've had some rain and snow, a pair of snowshoes makes the inaccessible accessible again! And not only do we sell snowshoes for the whole family, we also rent snowshoes! If you're not worried about snow, but you might encounter some ice, products like the Kathoola Microspikes and a pair of Leki Trekking Poles, will help you stay on your feet.

Sunset on Potatoc Ridge Trail

Destinations: If you're looking for a nice snowshoing adventure, heading out any of the trailheads along Catalina Highway just after a nice snowfall will offer great views and a great experience. Another awesome winter experience, although only recommended for those comfortable with winter backcountry hiking, is the trek to the summit of Mount Wrightson. Wrightson is the highest peak in southern Arizona and is likely to have ice and snow from the first winter storm, well into March. This is a trip where trekking poles, microspikes AND snowshoes are just about a requirement in winter. Lower elevation destinations such as Milagrosa Canyon offer pleasant temperatures. However, be aware that water levels may be higher than normal depending on recent rain and snow-melt.

Some General Resources to keep handy: 

-Seasonal road/day use closures went into effect Dec. 17 - Road Closures (the list of roads is in this is nice – who can remember?) – also has some notes about lower elevation open recreation sites.

-Calling (520) 547-7510 for General Hitchcock Highway conditions/closures or better yet are the community updates on or 

Hiking Report | News

The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!