Salomon S Lab Sense Hydro Set Review- hand held hydration redefined

As mentioned in previous posts (here and here), Salomon are introducing their innovative hydration system called the Sense Hydro Set. The system is based on Hydrpak’s “soft flask” technology and an integral “glove” designed by Salomon to hold the soft flask. This collaboration between Salomon and Hydrapak has produced a comfortable, highly functional hand-held hydration solution that is likely to change hand-held hydration into the foreseeable future.

Design

The design utilizes a simple pair of  “gloves” (although you can use just one if you so desire) that slips over the fingers and thumb and nestles into the gripping area of the hand. The palm side of the glove is comprised of a highly breathable mesh palm fabric area and two elastic bands. The elastic bands serve to hold the soft flask in place while running (or hiking). To further secure the flask, a small adjustable elastic loop is provided which is intended to loop around the base of the nipple of the flask to keep the nipple upright and in place to facilitate easy consumption of liquids (or fuel). The images below show one of the “gloves” on a hand. The “backside” of the glove has a nice terrycloth fabric area for nose wiping, etc.

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Salomon S Lab Sense Hyrdo Set glove as viewed from the backside showing the fit, the elastic loop and adjustment pull, and a nice terrycloth fabric area for nose wiping.

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The palm side of the glove showing the two elastic bands for holding various size soft flasks and the end of the the elastic loop for securing the nipple end of the flask.

I found the glove to be very comfortable and it seems to breath well although I have not had these on a run in warm weather as of yet. I expect the glove to be no more bothersome than any other currently available hand-held system. The only concern that I have relates to how the nature of the fit might change when the glove becomes fully saturated with sweat. Only testing will determine this.

The soft flasks are simply and easily inserted underneath the elastic bands and adjusted as to exactly where you would like the flask to reside for running. The flasks are easily manipulated because your fingers and thumbs are free due to the design of the glove. Shown below are images of the 247 ml (8 oz) flask in place. The flasks are surprisingly secure, feel quite comfortable, and have a soft, form-fitting feel.

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The Sense Hydro with the 237 ml (8 oz) flask inserted.

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The Sense Hydro with the 237 ml (8 oz) flask inserted.

I have also tried the 500 ml (17 oz) size flask as well. The images below show the glove with this size flask inserted. This is a seemingly large object but the gloves do a reasonable job of securing the flask when full. Salomon do not suggest that the 500 ml flask be used with the gloves and this may be due to some compromised running characteristics associated with this size flask as it empties. More on this later.

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The Sense Hydro with the 500 ml (17 oz) size flask inserted- it is a rather long object but the glove does a reasonable job of securing the flask.

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With the 500 ml flask in place- it is a lot of water, particularly if you have the pair on.

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Another view (along the axis of the arm) of the glove with the 500 ml flask in place.

Flasks

I have posted about the soft flask in the past here. This season Salomon and Hydrapak offer three sizes of soft flask, a small 148 ml (5 oz) size, a 237 ml (8 oz) size, and a large 500 ml (17 oz). As noted above, only the 150 ml and 237 ml sizes are noted by Salomon as compatible with the glove system. I have found the 500 ml size to fit surprisingly well into the glove and stay secure when full but, based only on limited runs, this size seems to be perhaps just too big and as it empties it flops around uncomfortably. I do not recommend this size flask for the Sense Hydro system. It is apparent that Salomon will be offering a new hydration vest next fall (called the Sense Hydro Set 5 and 12, which are updated 5 and 12 liter versions of the current S Lab vests) that is specifically designed to accept the 500 ml flasks in two pockets high up on the left and right of the front of the vest. This is most likely the intended purpose for the 500 ml flasks in the Salomon hydration system.

The following images show the three flask sizes. Also for this season, measuring lines have been added which will be useful for mixing fuel with water in situ.

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The three sizes of soft flask currently available- 500 ml (17 oz) left, 237 ml (8 oz) middle, and 147 ml (5 oz) right.

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Measuring lines have been added to the flasks this season and should facilitate in situ fuel mixing.

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The three flask sizes with a (small) hand for scale.

Sizing

The Sense Hydro glove comes in three sizes (s.m, l). The “size” is based on a circumferential measurement of the hand across the palm at the base of the fingers, excluding the thumb:

small: 17-18.5 cm (6 3/4″-7 1/4″)

medium: 18.5-19.5 cm (7 1/4″-7 3/4″)

large: 19.5-21+ cm (7 3/4″-8 1/4″+)

The medium size fits my (normally size small) hand where the measurement was 8″. This, of course, is not consistent with the data provided by Salomon. You probably want to try these on before you decide what size is correct.

I also found that the medium size fits fine over a thin running glove, so there is no reason for a different size Hydro glove for most runs. The large size fits nicely over my warm winter gloves for really cold running- however, I seldom go long on such cold days so there will not be much use of this size.

Running Impressions

As noted in prior posts, I have been running with the soft flask throughout the summer and fall of 2012 and have 900+ miles of use with them. This use has been without the S Lab Sense Hydro “glove”. I found that it was not particularly bothersome to just hold the soft flask in my hand whilst running and I suggested that the “glove” system that Salomon was about to bring to the market may not be anything but cumbersome. Well… I was wrong! The Sense Hydro system is a true advance in hand-held hydration.

Some may be concerned with the “limited” volume capacity of two 237 ml (474 ml/16 oz) flasks for runs in excess of 16 km (10 miles). In running through the summer and fall, I have primarily used the 237 ml size flasks for runs as long as 35 km (20 miles), although as the temperature declined through the fall I found I could use the 147 ml size regularly for similar length runs. Also noted previously, my use of water has declined significantly since reading Dr. T. Noakes recent book Waterlogged and I direct you to his book and my post and others for further information. Suffice it to say that, for me, a pair of the 247 ml size is good for about 3 hours of running (consuming at about 150 ml/hr), even in 90F peak heat. I found the soft flasks to be outstanding in control and functionality and they were also very comfortable in the hand.

I have been out for about 120 km (75 miles) of running with the Sense Hydro glove system and I can say that I am already a convert. Although I thought that the soft flask hydration on it’s own was very functional and comfortable, adding the Sense Hydro glove has made this hydration system even better. The comfort is very high and the freedom that the gloves allow for your fingers and thumb make all the difference in versatility with respect to scrambling and other such activities (e.g. nature breaks).

Refilling is much easier than I imagined as the flasks slide out quite readily and they can be filled and reinserted in less than 30 seconds. All without any drama.

Some might counter, without ever trying it out, that this product is “hand-held hydration ill-defined”, as the nature of the product is enough different from the mainstream that it is somewhat off putting. I too had this response to the soft flask technology at first, but once I started using the flasks and now, the flasks with the “glove” system, the advantages became clear, at least for me.

Price

$60. The set comes with a pair of gloves and one 237 ml (8 oz) flask. I would have thought that Salomon could have at least supplied two flasks for this price. The set can be found for much less than list at around $40 which is more in line with a reasonable price.

Bottom line

The Salomon S Lab Sense Hydro system has redefined hand-held hydration. From comfort to function this system is a true step forward.  I can highly recommend this product for any distance runner, trail or road.

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5 responses to “Salomon S Lab Sense Hydro Set Review- hand held hydration redefined”

  1. @thelifeitri says :

    Thanks for the review. Looking at how the glove wraps around the gripping part of the hand, wondered about rubbing or abrasions under the side stitching during long runs? Have you needed to put any type of lubricant (bodyglide) to avoid blisters? Also, how tight does it fit?

    • Le Manchot says :

      Hi,

      No issues with chaffing so far but I have not had these out for any long runs yet. Based on initial use, it is not expected that there will be any issues with chaffing, however only use will tell.

      The glove is snug, not tight yet it holds the flask quite securely.

  2. Matthew Smith says :

    I’ve been using the soft flasks as well since the summer, but in much more limited use. They were restricted largely to either gel or Perpetuem. I’d stick them either in my pack or the front pocket of my Salomon Exo shorts. I liked them for Perpetuem because like you said, much better to control flow. For gel, I also liked the ability of not having to consume a full gel at one time. I find it disrupts my momentum and I prefer to “sip” them. (a bonus, no sticky fingers from opening and fiddling with the stupid packets, and I prefer buying large containers of gel to keep costs down). However, water was always reserved for the hydration pack or a bottle (given my original assumptions about volume of water needed). This winter, my runs haven’t gotten much longer than 3 hours, so I’ve stuck with just one 237 ml flask in my pocket and it’s felt very good. I’m interested to see how/if this changes with the warmer weather. But like you, I’m making a conscious effort to consume less. The one drawback I see to the soft flask is in very hot conditions. In a race last year, I had to pour water over my head every 15 minutes to keep cool and I think the higher-volume bottles are best-suited for this use case. It’s definitely an isolated scenario and may alter my approach for any races in extreme heat, but otherwise, I also believe that Salomon are again matching new gear with new research, staying ahead of the curve.

    When I saw pics of the gloves in the fall at various shows, I thought they looked like a completely unnecessary piece of gear. However, your reviews always seem spot-on for me, so I think I’m going to have to give these a shot! Thanks for the review.

    • Le Manchot says :

      Hi Matt,

      One suggestion on keeping cool during a hot race- I, and many others, have successfully used ice in a hat. In warm weather many aid stations have ice so you can partially fill up a hat with ice and put it on. The ice slowly melts and does a good job of taking your temp down, at least for me. The ice usually lasts for 15-20 minutes and is a bit of a shock at first, but it sure feels good when you are really hot. The Salomon XA (or XA+) hat works great for this purpose, as it has a shape that is conducive to keeping the ice in place. The Salomon compact hat does not work as well for his purpose. If you haven’t already, give it a try in training and see if it works for you- I see a lot of racers using the method.

      • Matthew Smith says :

        That’s a great tip. I have seen (and read) about this technique, but haven’t tried it – seems to make a tonne of sense. I’ve only got visors, but given the heat last summer, this is worth the experimentation. Cheers!

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