Monday, June 3, 2013

The Batu Dam Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Trail Run

Don't let the title above fool you. It wasn't a trail race that I took part in but more of a test/fun trail run cum gear testing for my spanking new Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 hydration vest. After all, what better way to test trail running gear than to actually go for a trail run, right?

Don't be fooled by the serenity. This place is crawling with leeches!
Sunday saw me waking up in the wee hours of the morning to meet up with Jamie, Yvonne and CY to head out to the trails of Batu Dam. The alarm buzzed me into the land of the living at 4.30am and after glancing at the wife who was snugged cozily under the sheets, I was questioning my sanity for actually getting up before the worms even got out of their cozy little holes in the ground. Even my dog who was tucked under her blanket gave me a weird look probably thinking what an idiot I was.

After the usual routine of getting ready was completed, I lugged my container full of gear, which was prepared the night before, down into the car and drove to the meet point in Mont Kiara. The thoughts of testing the Salomon hydration vest and the prospects of a new trail route was the only thing that stopped me from heading right back to bed.

Who brought the salt?
We were all on time at the meet point. CY and me were discussing who was going to drive when Jamie lugged his gear into Yvonne's car. We looked at each other, smiled wickedly and dumped our gear into her car. Looks like she volunteered to drive ... LOL! Well, you can't expect minions to drive now, can you?

The drive to Batu Dam (never knew such a place existed in the first place) took us about 30 plus minutes or so. Once we reached the general area, it was a hunt for the entrance which was closed. Then we had to rely on Yvonne's previous knowledge of the area to find another way in which led us to the Riverstone Eco Resort. One of the locals we asked earlier told us they only let people into the dam in the evenings which I thought was rather stupid. Who the heck wants to run so late in the jungles? Oh well, not my place to judge idiots ... hahaha!

The 200 metres 'flat' start ...
After gearing and showing off my Salomon hydration vest, we make a beeline for the trails proper. Things looked nice, easy and flat for the first 200 or so metres until we came to the first incline. Of course, we just had to complain. If I recalled correctly, someone mentioned the route was flat, so what the heck was an incline doing here? Nevertheless, like the obedient minions that we were, we trudged along gamely. You must remember though that one of us had run a 20km plus run the day before, albeit a very screwed up one, so the complains were justified ... hahaha!

I wasn't lying about the incline, look how high up Jamie is ...
To be honest, the trail was not too bad. I was enjoying the alternative of FRIM. We went along merrily, joking, wheezing, panting, gossiping and generally making fun of everyone and everything. Then we came to a fork in the trail and took the wrong one which lead us to a dead end. Well, suffice to say, it was more of a test run from then on cos Yvonne was taking us the reverse route from her previous trip and wasn't too familiar with it. You know la how everything looks strange backwards.

Wonder where Robinson Crusoe is ...
Nevertheless, we continued on through muddy stretches which were leech infested. I could practically see them wriggling about trying to pounce on our feet. They were probably happy to have four gullible idiots prancing around in their backyard offering a buffet spread of yummy feet for them to feast on. I guess the liked CY's and mine more than Yvonne and Jamie's cos between the two of us we accumulated a total of 17 leeches compared to their 7. Thank god for pink salt from the 'pink sea' ... hahaha!

Just before the attack of the leeches ...
Though we didn't make it to the dam due to time constraints and the many obstacles in our way, we did come across a nice little stream that felt oh so refreshing to dip our muddy and leech bitten feet into that we just wanted to stop there and laze around in it. I mean, who can resist a stream of cool, clear and refreshing water? Of course, photo ops were aplenty there.

All that was missing was the picnic basket
Our run got to the end just about 500 metres or so from the stream when our path was completely blocked by fallen trees. There was a tiny hole we could have squeezed through but because of time constraints we turned around and headed back. The journey back was quicker seeing as how it was more downhill. Picked up a few more leeches on the way down.

The sequel to MJ's Thriller.
Pic courtesy of Jamie.
To be honest, it was an enjoyable run even though it was on the short side. Getting lost and doubling back was part and parcel of the run. I won't say I enjoyed the leeches though. It made Pacat trail look like a kindergarten! Got back to the car and took great pains to clean up properly (or as best as we could out in the open wilderness) cos being the nice guys that we were (ahem, ahem) we didn't want to mess up Yvonne's car too much and finally headed back to civilization.

Our resident trail maniac Choon Yuen in action ...
Now for the main purpose of the run, to test out the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 hydration vest. It was my first time using it and I must say it was one value for money buy. As soon as you put it on, it feels like a part of you, as if you have your racing vest on rather than a backpack. The vest is designed so that the shoulder straps wrap snugly around your rib cage and is adjustable at the front via two elasticated straps that can be positioned for best fit, particularly for the ladies. No annoying and uncomfortable 'fixed' straps across your chest.

The adjustable chest straps.
Made of lightweight mesh fabric and despite the fact that it feels and looks thin, the vest is pretty solidly built. The vest comes in two versions, the 5L and the 12L capacity. Unfortunately, they only sell the 5L capacity ones here. Despite the small looking size, the capacity is actually pretty amazing. The material stretches to accommodate stuff and you can really fit quite a sizeable amount of stuff in it.

The two draw string pockets on the front ...
The front of the vest consists of two draw string pockets that can hold extra bottles of fluids. The Salomon soft flasks fits in there nicely but your normal 500ml bottle should also be a decent fit. The pockets do give you the option of increasing the capacity of the bladder which comes in the form of a 1.5L Hydrapak. The pocket doesn't necessarily need to hold extra bottles of fluids, they could hold many other essentials like gels, power bars and whatnots. Mine had a soft flask in one and my mobile phone in the other.

The removeable zipped pocket. Notice how it blocks the pocket below ...
The left side of the shoulder strap comes with a zipped pocket that is attached to a Velcro for easy removal to access your phone, cash or other essentials though I wouldn't recommend putting anything of value in it cos there is a chance it might get snagged by a branch and get ripped off. I filled mine with gel packets during the run.

The right hand size consists of a small expandable mesh pocket that could take in stuff like lip balm, sunblock, keys or some loose change. The rear of the vest consists of one main zipped pocket which is accessed from the side. It looks big enough to fit in things like a small first aid kit, a headlamp, raincoat, gloves and with room to spare even. What I thought was really cool is that Salomon created an open space or loop between the rear pocket and the vest which could be used as a storage space for a blanket or even waterproof jacket on the outside of the vest. Clever touch if you ask me.

I love this added touch that can be used for a blanket or rain jacket ...
The vest comes with a 15L capacity bladder that is housed in its own sleeve which keeps the liquid cool and it really does what it advertises. My water was still cool for a good 5 hours plus. The bladder feed pipe runs from the bottom of the vest which is attached to the external shoulder strap. It's a little different from the norm of having the pipe running of the top of a vest.

The side zipped pockets that can fit your ID, gels, compass, etc ...
On the left and right hand sides of the vest are two small yet stretchable zippered pockets to hold more gels, a compass or other essentials. Finally, the vest comes with a whistle and elastic cords which allows attachment of trekking poles on the outside of the vest.

The main rear side opening zipped pocket ...
To summarise, the vest did all it was advertised to do. It fit like a second skin, didn't move around or even bounce around no matter how much I twisted my body to avoid branches and stuff during the run. The unique way the bladder compresses as it depletes reduces the sloshing sounds while running. It's lightweight and extremely breathable. It's easily one of my best buys for this year. A word of caution, make sure you pick the right size vest as you don't want to get a bigger unit and have it moving all around when you run. It needs to be snug to be able to fit comfortably.

Adjustable load lifter strap to distribute the weight ...

Pros
Fits like a second skin.
Lightweight and breathable.
Lots of pockets for storage.
A fuss free 1.5L bladder that is easy to use and re-fill while on the go.
Removeable chest pocket (comes with a spare)
An internal hidden pocket with a thermal blanket provided.
Adjustable chest straps.

Cons
Pricey, really pricey!
The removeable Velcro pocket tend to get in the way of the pouch directly underneath.
Fragile looking chest straps and plastic clips.

The Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Hydration Vest can be found at most World of Sports or World of Outdoors outlets retailing at RM699.00. Members of WoS and WoO can get an additional 10% discount on top of whatever discount is being offered (if any). If you're really into trail and ultra running, I highly recommend the vest.

12 comments:

  1. ROFLOL at you starring in MJ's Thriller MTV!!!!!

    SO ENVIOUS of your hydration vest by the way!! *sigh* My shoes already cost a bomb, how will I afford to purchase the hydration vest??

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    1. femes speed demon just had to podium a few more times to get enough prize money to buy one. Or get sponsored. heh heh

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    2. @Yvonne - Hahaha ... Thriller 2: The Attack of the leeches!

      Urmmm, you bought that shoe quite a while back one, new quota open up already so can get the vest la ... LOL!

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    3. @Lina, you have a good point you know. One or two podiums should do it ... LOL!

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  2. the vest is not costly....but cost a big fat bomb. hehe

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  3. interesting vest, need to consider having one soon, should start saving for it from now on, or waiting for this year bonus perhaps? Awesome review Nick!

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    1. It's a good buy but check out Jamie's blog for some reviews of vests too. He's got some pretty good stuff too.

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  4. Nick good choice on the bag/vest, great mind think alike..hehe

    The best hydration bag ever (coz i got the exact same model :p)

    However i prefer the Skin Pro 10+3 for my 100km trail if it's more than 20 hours cutoff and in cold weather, it's bigger and i need more room for jacket, headlight, spare batteries, shade, buff, dried food, medi-kit etc.

    My S-Lab 5 is used for training and shorter cut off time race.

    p/s You are all set with trail gears, see you soon at Nuang :)

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, great minds think alike ... LOL!

      I'm still doing the shorter distances for now so this should be okay. Maybe later when I'm an ultraman like you, might consider a bigger capacity one :D

      Looking forward to Nuang after the SCKLM.

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