The INSTINCT XX 20L pack is a new addition to the stage/ multi-day racing scene and finally, dare I say, this pack begins to address many of the failures experienced in other packs.
It is in summary, the best pack we have used.
To clarify, this pack was provided free to test and this is not a paid review or advertisement. You can read and view some initial videos here.
The only way to test any pack like this is in a ‘real’ scenario for male and female. So, Abelone Lyng and myself set off for a 3-day fastpack covering 65km carrying all we required.
We both carried a pack, and the INSTINCT had more than required for one person. You can see in the photo above the majority of contents but in addition to the above was a 2-person tent, merino top and leg base layer, down jacket, hat and gloves. Also, 3 Firepot meals and additional snacks. Total weight, inc the pack was approx 6.5kg with 800g water.
See a time-lapse of packing below:
HERE are the pack contents itemised with weights and links.
There are several key features to the instinct and depending on the adventure you are undertaking, you would pack the bag differently. For our 3-day trip we needed a tent, but as an example, if doing a race like Marathon des Sables, you would have no need for a tent and this would free up considerable space for the food requirement of six or seven days.
The pack has a maximum capacity of 24L and compresses to 18L by rolling down the top of the pack and compressing it. We recommend you view the videos here. This is extremely useful in self-sufficient races when you basically ‘eat’ the contents of the pack and therefore the pack reduces in size, weight and volume.
Here is a review video which gives a real-time review of the INSTINCT XX 20L.
Both Abelone and myself found the pack arguably the most comfortable we have used and tested and it stands out in several areas:
Flexibility and adaptability.
The ability to reduce the pack size as per requirements.
The ability to segregate items in different areas – top pocket, main pocket, two mesh pockets, zipper pockets.
The front of the pack is the best we have tried not only for two hard bottles but the ability to use four bottles or use two bottles and use the other pockets for storage.
The fit is excellent and while extremes of size, both large and small cannot be accounted for, in general, we feel that the pack will work with most body sizes and shapes.
Movement while running is minimal but not zero. It is the best we have used.
There are many small features – zipper pockets, elastics, the external carabiner fitting and so on that make the pack a pleasure to use.
With full weight (8kg) you soon realise if you have the Instinct packed incorrectly and it is worthwhile playing and spending time with different configurations. What works for one, may not work for another, so, find what what works for you. Certainly, what I personally thought would work for me initially, did not work and I had too much movement in the top pocket. When I re-packed, the improvement was considerable.
The one size fits all and elastic side does provide incredible flexibility and comfort and both Abelone or myself found no hot spots or irritation.
Packed correctly, the ability to access what you need, on the go, is superb. Ultimately, fine-tuning the pack to an individuals need is part of the process of what makes fastpacking fun. However, the crossover of fit, packing and individual needs between Abelone and myself was seamless and we could easily swap and change at any time with just an adjustment to the chest and elastic side straps making for a perfect fit.
How to fit the pack?
Notably, there are features to the pack that we did not use or mention:
Large zipper pocket that will take a 2 to 3ltr bladder that will occupy the length of the pack between the back pad and the main compartment. This pocket could also be used to segregate clothes, for example, clean and dirty.
Removable top pouch that we did not use that can also be used to secure a helmet if required – useful for snow/ climbing adventures.
Three different areas to secure poles.
Ice axe and shovel friendly with attachment points.
The XX allows : – 2 x 750ml+ bottles/softflasks in front – 2 XL vertical front zip pockets – 2 zipped shoulder pockets – 2 XL mesh front pockets – 3 fixing options for poles (front/back) – Ice pick on back – Shovel fixture – Easy backside carrying of sleeping mat or other objects (ex: tent) – Independent 3L water bladder pocket – X-Large 2-in-1 overlapping stretch mesh pockets on lower backside
KEY FEATURES : – Large back door = instant access to main compartment and easy viewing of internal items – Independent roll-top pocket for increased storage – Removeable top pouch carries smaller items (first aid kit, knife, etc). A stretch mesh pocket over the top allows instant access to jacket storage or a solar battery panel
Is the INSTINCT perfect? No, it’s not, but it comes pretty darn close… I guess the question that I have is the zipper on the main compartment? If that fails, this would cause huge problems, however, it is a special zip, reinforced and extremely durable, I have no reason to think this would fail. The pack may be compromised on fit with small men or women, however, in general, based on myself and Abelone, we can see it fitting most body shapes.
Ultimately, for both of us, the INSTINCT XX 20L is the most complete and flexible pack we have used. It’s great to look at, it is really well thought out, it provides multiple options and flexibility and without doubt, has the best bottle holding and capacity of any pack I have used. The option to compress the pack to 18L means it can also be used for long single-day races, such as UTMB, when the need for mandatory kit is high.
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Packs for a multi-day race or a running multi-day adventure were once the domain of Raidlight. Of course, other brands ventured into the arena but it was only really the arrival of WAA that made everyone start to stop, look and see what else existed.
Packs are personal.
I think a pack becomes even more personal when one requires something to be comfortable for multiple days and also when carrying 6.5kg or more.
Salomon have now extended their ‘vest design’ to the S-LAB PEAK 20 and in doing so, they will turn the head of many a runner and make them question, is this THE pack for them for their next multi-day adventure or race.
Shape, gender, size, height and so many other variables dictate if a pack is comfortable or not and this depends on you, so, when looking at this pack I try to be impartial and when possible I always try to cross reference with a female perspective. The plus of this pack is it comes in S, M, L and XL so no compromising to be made. I am 38/40 chest and I have a medium which fits perfect.
If you are heading to the mountain for an overnight adventure, I am pretty sure the Peak 20 will work for you. However, would the pack work for a race like Marathon des Sables, Grand to Grand, Everest Trail Race or one of the 4 Desert races when one is completely self-sufficient for multiple days?
Let’s look at the packs highlights:
1 main compartment with a full length zip (double slider) that open up allowing easy access and organisation of what is inside.
Fabrics that wick and are quick drying.
Three sizes – S, M and L.
Soft trims so no chafing.
Sensifit is a Salomon buzz word that ultimately means it should be the Rolls Royce of bags when coming to fit and comfort.
Front hydration pockets x2 (designed for 500ml soft flasks).
Adjustable front straps for customized fit.
Zipper pockets – It has 2 large pockets on the front, 2 expandable pockets on the shoulder straps and 2 top zipped mesh pockets.
Will take a bladder.
Ability to carry poles or ice axes.
Lightweight at 484g +/-.
This pack will work for an overnight adventure, mountain marathon race or an adventure when an excessive mandatory kit will be required. But, the big question for many will be, can this pack work for a 6-day self-sufficient race?
In a word – Yes!
Simple reasons why:
Yes, it can hold 2 x 750ml of liquid at the front
Yes, it has 4 pockets on the front that will allow immediate access to anything you will need whilst running a stage.
Yes, it can hold another liter to 1.5 liters on the rear in two external pockets.
Yes, it can hold everything you need for 6-days self-sufficiency.
The pack has a 20L capacity (typical for Marathon des Sables and comparable with the competition from Ultimate Direction, WAA, Raidlight, OMM and others) and has one large external zip on the rear that works two ways so that you can zip down or zip up depending on preference. Once open, it’s possible to access the pack easily and arrange contents. Internally there is a small mesh panel so that you divide the large compartment in two – a good thing for maybe an overnight jaunt but not required for a multi-day adventure.
It’s light, very light! It has a vest style that echoes and follows on from the designs from Salomon’s other models.
The front of the pack has two stretch pockets for soft-flasks or bottles. On top of these pockets sitting a little lower are two large pockets with zips that hold a surprising amount. On top of the shoulder straps are two stretch zip pockets that provide additional storage.
On the sides of the vest are adjustable cords that pull the pack closer to the body or allow the pack to be looser.
On the top of the rear of the pack above the zip, is a central cord pull. Pull this and the yellow cord that wraps around the pack pulls tighter and compresses the contents. Great when the pack is full to make everything tight and secure but especially useful as the days pass when racing and the pack contents become less.
The pack tapers and as you can see from this side-view is narrow at the bottom and then opens up wider as one gets closer to the top. On both sides is an open topped stretch pocket that will take a bottle or other items.
The pack has thin blue padding that does not sit inside the pack but on the outside and underneath the mesh back. The is ingenious as it has been designed so that it can be removed.
It is held in place by small metal buckles that attach to web loops. I removed the padding and used my sleeping mat inside the pack as my padding. Ingenious – not only do you save weight but your mat doubles up as protection when running and sleeping.
The two-way external zip is great to allow access to upper items or lower items in the pack without having to un-zip the whole pack. Importantly, when un-zipped it’s easy to access the inside and arrange items. An internal mesh panel can be used to split the pack into two halves. For some this may be useful but if like me you use the sleeping mat inside, you can only have one large compartment. It’s a great space and like any pack, you will want to play around with how you pack your contents to find the correct balance. As a tip I recommend you leave your sleeping bag out when packing. Put all the contents in and then add the sleeping bag filing in all the empty spaces – you will be amazed how a lightweight down bag will compress.
The external cord the wraps around the pack is designed to be pulled tight and compress the contents. This is adjusted on the rear of the pack just above the zip.
Simply hold the buckle and pull the cord. The cords pulls tight and compresses to make the pack smaller and tight – perfect! You can make this even tighter by pulling the cords on the side and then taking up the the slack by the top adjustment. This on days 3, 4, and 5 will be just incredible at making the pack smaller and smaller as contents are used up.
On the shoulder straps, the yellow cord is also present under the two shoulder zip pockets. Pull the cord here and take up the slack and you pull the top of the pack closer to your back.
On the sides of the pack between the bottom rear and the front lower pockets there is a yellow cord on each side – again this allows you to pull the bottom of the pack as close to your back as you require.
In a nutshell, this level of adjustment is just perfect and is the best of all packs I have tried.
The front of the pack is classic Salomon vest design but with some differences. Fitting to the torso comes via 3 straps. Two go right to left and one goes left to right. These attach via a black plastic hooks to a yellow cord.
They can be moved up or down and they can also be made tighter or looser. In particular, this will be useful for lady runners who need to adjust the pack to fit around their chest. It’s a method that works and the on-the-go adjustment is welcome.
There are two stretch pockets that are designed for soft-flasks. This for me caused concern as I was under the impression that they would only hold 500ml. Not so! These pockets will take the Hydrapak SF750 soft-flasks and you can drink from these without the need to remove them.
Prefer straws? The Hydrapak 600ml bottles with straws will fit.
Prefer hard bottles? This is where I needed to think outside the box… OMM make very slim 500ml bottles and they fit like a glove.
Have no fears, you can carry enough water up at the front. Also, lets not forget the two external pockets. In my tests, I had 2x 500ml OMM flasks on the rear too. So, at a minimum you could carry 1litre or 2litres with 2 bottles on the rear. At a max you could carry 3litres with 1.5 up front and 1.5 at the rear.
UPDATE on the bottle situation. I finally obtained 2x 750ml Raidlight bottles with straws and they fit like a glove to the front pockets!
The two pockets that sit below the bottles are a real welcome addition. They are easy to get at. They have great capacity, trust me, you need no more additional space up front, especially when one considers the two additional sip pockets on the shoulder straps. These pockets are less spacious but they will take a phone, snacks or other essentials.
There is an attachment system for poles that comes over the right shoulder. I personally though would probably attach to bungee cords to the front of the pack so that I can place the poles across my chest when not in use.
Fit is sweet and with all the adjusters you can really get this pack close to your torso. It fits like a piece of clothing and there are no rough edges – all the seams are soft. Salomon actually say that the pack may be worn against the skin and it will feel like apparel.
At 484g it’s light.
This pack is still under test and things such as longevity, strength, weaknesses, durability and so on have not been tested as it’s too early to say.
However, what I can say is that this is the best pack I have tested for running when the contents are heavy and I require 20L capacity.
I have long been a fan of the Ultimate Direction Fastpack as I loved its simplicity and no nonsense approach to the task of carrying many items and weight. The Salomon S-Lab Peak 20 has now become my new favourite.
It’s not without flaws – what pack is? The yellow cord compression works like a dream but it can be a little tricky to set up – it’s a small price to pay though.
The front bottle pockets almost certainly require soft-flask use or using the OMM 500ml bottles. I personally would always caution against soft-flasks for a multi-day, if they puncture, you are screwed. However, the Hydrapak soft-flasks are more durable than much of the competition and they have never let me down. The 600 or 750 versions work with the vest – perfect.
We will follow up with some action shots of the pack and an overall summary from a male and female perspective in the coming weeks, for now, this pack gets an ‘A’ for awesome.
Photo below is copyright Ricky Gates – he’s currently using a prototype Peak 20 with front pack. Interesting!
You can read Ricky’s specs and the contents of the pack on his Facebook page #transamerica
In use at Everest Trail Race, November 2016
Paul WilsonUsed one on the spine race. It was ace. Did most of my training with an ultimate direction fast pack then seen got the Salomon pack. Which proved to be far better.
Jana StudzinskaTested on fully self supported solo running trip across Serra de Tramuntana. Can’t recommend more.
Sito Castelloperfecta para la Everest Trail Race.
Robert KampczykCool bag. Like it because my complete Photo Equipment can insert.
What Salomon say:
Ideal for alpine running, superlight mountaineering or fast hiking, the streamlined S-LAB Peak 20 set uses our trail running knowledge to move fast in the mountain, with stretch fit and complete stability. With convenient access to the 20L compartment, both the pack and the load are easily compressed for maximum stability under partial load. It includes front storage solutions for two 500ml soft flasks and essentials and possibility to carry poles, ice axes…
Soft Twin Link
Compression quick lace
Top and bottom sensi load lifter
Pockets & compartments
2 front soft hydration elastic pockets
2 front zipped large pockets
2 shoulder expandable pockets
2 top zipped mesh pocket
4D Pole holder
Opening & closure
Wide front opening with double sliders
The 2016 Lanzarote multi-day training camp really got underway today with a full day of activity. This morning was a 4-hour run or hike over some very specific terrain that provided every participant a full-on appreciation of what terrain they may encounter at a race such as Marathon des Sables.
Mitch Keene, on the training camp with his wife, said post run:
“It was great to experience the sort of terrain that we are likely to come across when we get to the real event. To understand what it is like to run in some deep sand. It was also great camaraderie on the run. It’s good to know that there is going to be people around you who are in the same sort of position as you are and learning from them. And then there is just some basic stuff like understanding that wearing very short socks is a bad idea when running in the sand. So really simple stuff that you think you know when you set off but don’t. The whole learning experience is phenomenal out here and I really enjoyed it.”
The morning session took a relatively flat run out over very mixed terrain (sand, rock, lava, dunes) in three groups. Elisabet Barnes leading the runners who are able to hold a faster and more consistent pace. Niandi Carmont leading the runners who will run and occasionally walk and then Marie-Paule Pierson leading a small group who intend to walk the whole event. Ian Corless moved from one group to the next.
“It’s nice meeting people who actually want to talk to you while you are running. I have found it quite difficult taking up running again on my own and going to events on my own,” said Leon Clarance. “People are usually polite but today people were actually chatting about their own experiences and it was nice to meet some likeminded people.”
At the coastal resort of Famara, everyone turned 180-deg and the re-traced along the coastline but this time taking in the small mountains and hills that back on to the sea in this area. At times rocky and technical, everyone had a real insight into the complex terrain that one may encounter in a multi-day event. At the summit, one or two runners experimented with foot care and treatment; a key element of successful multi-day competition.
“It’s ben a real eye opener,” said Alan Guthrie. “I have been behind with my training and today I managed my longest session for some time in some very specific terrain that directly relates to my chosen event; Marathon des Sables. It’s been a tough session but I have loved every minute of it.”
Post run stretching relaxed tired muscles and 2-hour break was followed with a talk and discussion called, ‘What goes in the Multi-Day Pack?’
And just when the runners thought it was time to relax and chill-out an ‘optional’ 20-30min shake out run fired everyone up for one last effort, making the day a very successful and tiring one. Evening drinks, relaxing chat and good food was extremely welcome. Tomorrow we have a structured group walk in the Timanfaya National Park in a series of volcanoes followed with a talk on nutrition and hydration.
Many thanks to MyRaceKit, Raidlight, OMM, PHD, inov-8, Scott Running and Berghaus for the support.
If you would like to take part in a multi-day training camp like this, dates have been set for 2017 and it’s possible to book HERE
Episode 98 of Talk Ultra is a packed show, we speak with Mike Wolfe about his epic Crown of Continent Traverse with Mike Foote. Shirt Leventhal, ladies winner of Atacama talks about racing multi-day races and Sarah Cameron tells us how cycling made her a excel at running. The News, Up and Coming Races and Niandi co-hosts.
00:01:35 Show Start
Help Nepal – Nepal images ‘FACES of NEPAL’ – order a print and all funds donated to Nepal charities HERE
TRAINING CAMP in Lanzarote with Elisabet Barnes 28th Jan to Feb 4th HERE
1 – Ellie Greenwood 7:58
2 – Jasmin Nunige 8:04
3 – Anne Lise Rousset 8:24
1 – Benoit Cori 6:44
2 – Nicolas Martin 6:47
3 – Tofol Castanyer 6:48
RAID DE LA REUNION
1 – Antoine Guillon 24:17:40
2 – Sebastien Camus 24:41:50
3 – Freddy Thevenin 25:17:48
1 – Nuria Picas 28:11:14
2 – Emelie Lecomte 28:12:32
3 – Andrea Husser 28:38:53 and on the last show we mentioned that she won UTAT
Episode 97 of Talk Ultra has an interview with Andy Symonds about his return to running and top results after prolonged injury, we speak with Remi Bonnet rising star of the VK and SKY distance and Mariepaule Pierson is back from Atacama and tells us all about it. We have Talk Training, the News and Speedboat Karl.
00:01:30 Show Start
Help Nepal – Nepal images ‘FACES of NEPAL’ – order a print and all funds donated to Nepal charities HERE
TRAINING CAMP in Lanzarote with Elisabet Barnes 28th Jan to Feb 4th HERE
LANTAU 2 PEAKS
1 – Remi Bonnet 2:14:07
2 – Manuel Merillas 2:24:29
3 – Tadei Pivk 2:26:39
1 – Yngvild Kaspersen 2:42:04
2 – Laura Orgue 2:49:58
3 – Maite Maiora 2:51:19
UTAT 105km/ 6500m +
1 – Andy Symonds 13:41
2 – Julien Chorier 14:20
3 – Omar Bouhrim 15:32
1 – Andrea Huser 15:47
2 – Francesca Canepa 19:34
3 – Geraldine Leroy 23:08
Other races are 68km, 42km and 26km
Max King 2-years in a row wins $30,000 – F***!
CROWN OF THE CONTINENT TRAVERSE
Mike Wolfe and Mike Foote run an incredible 600-mile FKT from Missoula to Banff. We will have both Mike’s on the next Talk Ultra to tell us all about it. Read HERE
LAKE TAHOE FKT
Krissy Moehl 47:29 new record by 2-hours Read HERE
1 – Brian Rusiecki 20:24
1 – Amy Rusiecki 23:36
FLAGSTAFF SKY RACE ULTRA
1 – Dan Kraft 5:49
2 – Gabe McGowan 5:54 ?
3 – Josh Arthur 6:00
1 – Ashley Erba 6:47
2 – Meredith Edwards 7:39
3 – Jen Benna 7:47
FLAGSTAFF SKY RACE SKY
1 – Martin Anthamatten 3:59
2 – Joe Gray 4:06
3 – Tim Parr 4:39
1 – Megan Kimmel 4:29
2 – Kristi Knecht 5:04
3 – Corinne Malcolm 5:12
TNF CHALLENGE WISCONSIN
1 – Tyler Sigi 5:55
2 – Dylan Bowman (went of course) 6:28
3 – John Knudson 6:49
1 – Molly Culver 8:10
2 – Christine Murphy 8:18
3 – Emily Kratz 8:22
LAKES IN A DAY
1 – Kim Collison 9:12:07
2 – Marcis Gubats 10:27:48
3 – Stuart Dickson 10:49:05
1 – Helen Leigh 11:00:10
2 – Sabrina Verjee 11:29:59
3 – Lucy Spain 11:58:48
02:11:42 TALK TRAINING
TALK TRAINING – BASIC STRENGTH TRAINING read the document HERE
I am fortunate to travel to many races and work as a photographer and journalist. In 2015, I traveled to South Africa with Nikki Kimball and Olympic rower, James Cracknell for the Richtersveld Wildrun.
It was an incredible experience and I have to say, a highlight of my year. I recently wrote in an online article for AVAUNT Magazine (HERE):
“The simple act of running, placing one foot in-front of the other as a method of transport takes us back to our roots, our basic instincts. In search of a place to sleep, to hunt for food; it is about being in the wild, surviving and fulfilling a primal need.”
In 2016, the race goes one step further and becomes ‘Transfrontier.’ The race will now pass over the Orange River and in to Namibia.
After two years the Richtersveld Wildrun™ has become known as one of the toughest, most scenic and unique trail running stage race events on the South African trail running calendar. In 2016 however, this iconic event takes on a new shape to become the first cross-border trail running event in the world; extending to a linear 200km, five day crossing from South Africa to Namibia through the heart of the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have unlocked a truly unique opportunity to experience both sides of such a unique and powerful place – and to finish a long day at a natural hot springs in the middle of the wilderness is unbelievable!”said Owen Middleton, MD of Wildrunner, the events company behind the Wildrun™ events.
The new route will maintain the best of the first three days of the original edition, including the Vyf Susters, Hellskloof Pass, Armmanshoek, the Tswayisberge, Springbokvlakte and the iconic Tatasberg boulders. On day 4, the route will veer of its original course and cross the Orange River at De Hoop into Namibia and the untouched southern section of the Fish River Canyon. This 50km day will take runners into a wilderness that is completely inaccessible by vehicle and rich in wildlife such as Hartmann’s mountain zebra, kudu, gemsbok, springbok, Namibian wild horses and giraffe.
After a long, tough day, runners will spend the evening in the canyon at a natural hot spring, before taking on the final day of roughly 25km to finish at the /Ai-/Ais Hot Springs Resort and wrap up a powerful and truly unique experience.
Race dates are 13-17 June 2016 and entries open midday October 21st
Roland Vorwerk, marketing manager of Boundless Southern Africa, one of the driving forces behind the success of the event, said they are very happy to support this new cross-border trail running event.
“This new route contains even more highlights than the original Richtersveld Wildrun™, and promises to give participants a challenging but spectacular trail running experience.”
If you need inspiration, check out the film from 2015 below.
Episode 93 of Talk Ultra has an interview with lady on fire, Megan Kimmel. We also speak to Harald Zundel about running long and super hard races. We also speak with Greg Donovan about running the 4 Deserts Grand Slam and the Big Red Run in Australia. Speedgoat is with us and we have some new music and new logo!