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.
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.