Tag Archives: Backpacks

Salomon XA 20 M Backpack Review

Updated version of Classic AR pack

Salomon packs have been extremely popular in recent years particularly their 20 litre version, now called the XA 20 M. The classic U-shaped zip access remains from previous versions and that’s a good thing as accessibility into the pack is very good. Over time, with regular overstuffing, the water resistant zips can get a bit tired, but you probably need a bigger bag then! Inside the main compartment there is a small mesh zip pocket at the top and some fine mesh covered water drainage holes at the other end. A small horizontal zip on the front of the pack accesses a deep pocket and externally to that is a stretch mesh pocket, but unfortunately not stretchy or big enough to fit a helmet . Hydration bladders slot into a separate zip accessed bladder panel with a couple of velcro loops at the top to accept all manner of vertical bladder types. A bladder hose can be fed through either shoulder strap at your preference, however, it’s a tight squeeze if using a hose with a 90 degree bend. Also on the shoulder straps are clips to securely attach an optional extra chest pouch.

Salomon XA 20 M Pack
Salomon XA 20 M Pack

The back is well padded with the Airvent Lite system of expanded foam, which does add comfort, if a little bulk, but at very little weight, so gets the thumbs up. The waist belt is a wide mesh with a real enveloping fit. A buckle clips in the middle but adjustment is made at either end of the strap which has the effect of really hugging the pack in tight to the hips. With a well fitting shoulder harness yoke the bag is extremely comfortable in use. An interesting touch is the zips on the deep hip pockets which are reversed and open forwards to prevent the pullers catching on bushes and splaying open. Personally I’ve never found conventional zip direction a problem and I found accessing pocket contents a bit more difficult this way. Side bottle pockets are easy to use on the go and hold bottles securely. Side compression straps cinch the lower pack in tight for stability, but an external bungee cord tucked into one pocket just confuses. There are a number of loops through which the bungee cord can be passed in whatever configuration the user likes, but it’s not long enough to stash a helmet under and just seems like an afterthought. This lack of external carrying capacity is the only real drawback to an otherwise excellent bag.

Adventure Racing Packs

Choosing the right pack for adventure racing is
almost as important as choosing footwear. For one to two day races like
the Rat Race Urban Adventure, Polaris Challenge, Open 24 etc, where a
reasonable load needs to be carried, then a 20-25 litre pack is what
most racers are going to need. Key factors in choosing a pack are the
volume, ease of access, comfort, stability, lightweight, hydration
bladder compatibility, volume adjustment or compression, and on the
move accessibility.

Terra Nova Laser 20

Some things to look for are hip belt
pockets, adjustable chest strap, external bungees or mesh to hold
helmet or shoes, easy access side bottle pockets and a comfortable
harness that doesn’t dig into your neck. It’s unlikely that you’re load
will be heavy enough to require much padding on shoulder straps and you
may wish to look for optional removable back padding to reduce weight.
Often packs have ‘breathable’ mesh panels to keep your back cool but
rarely do they work well enough to make them a significant buying

A more important consideration is fit and comfort. A bag that bounces around when running is going to cause chafing and discomfort so look for back hugging packs that hold tight but allow you to move your arms and torso without restriction. I recently reviewed a range of packs for the UK Adventure Sports Mag July edition which I’ll publish here in due course.