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 Wilson Used 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 Studzinska Tested on fully self supported solo running trip across Serra de Tramuntana. Can’t recommend more.
Sito Castello perfecta para la Everest Trail Race.
Robert Kampczyk Cool 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…
- Comfortable fit
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
Elastic Power mesh
Fast wicking fabrics
70D Nylon Double Ripstop, Waterproof 500mm
70D Nylon Triple Ripstop – Silicone coating, Waterproof 500mm
Pack weight (lb oz) : 17.073
Pack weight (g) : 484
Pack volume (l) : 20
Pack volume (ci) : 1220