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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With a New Year looming it’s finally great to announce that in May 2019 I agreed to join forces with ULTRA X and myRaceKit to work with them in promotion of two events on the 2020 calendar:
Azores April 23rd to 26th
Jordan October 3rd to 11th
ULTRA X have had a great 2019 with events in Sri Lanka, Jordan, Mexico and the Azores, in 2020 they move forward:
Sri Lanka – March
Azores – April
Jordan – October
Mexico – November
Bolivia – tbc
China – tbc
ULTRA X have brought a new experience to the multi-day world offering race entry at accessible prices, easy registration, a global series, a community and club for all and uniquely, they a proposing a ULTRA X World Championship that will take place every 2-years, starting in 2021.
Although new to the multi-day world, ULTRA X had significant growth in 2019 and now with the help of myRaceKit, specialist equipment supplier for multi-day races, 2020 looks set to be a great year.
Rebeca from myRaceKit is an accomplished ultra-runner, here at the 2019 Marathon des Sables.
Many will know myRaceKit through two-times Marathon des Sables and multi-day specialist, Elisabet Barnes. Elisabet was the owner of myRaceKit until she sold to the new owner, Rebeca Ehrnrooth, Elisabet remaining as a shareholder.
Moving in to 2020, myRaceKit are the exclusive equipment partners for ULTRA X events including pre-race weekends. At the Azores and Jordan races, Elisabet Barnes and Sondre Amdahl will fly the myRaceKit flag amongst two hotly contested races with runners from all over the world attending.
Elisabet and Sondre training in Lanzarote in 2019. They will return again, January 2020.
The ULTRA X Azores 125 is 2-day eventin April and is designed as introduction to the multi-day format. It is the first half-distance race Ultra X have offered. The Azores are truly spectacular situated 1000-miles in the Atlantic Ocean. Close to Portugal, this tiny archipelago of islands offers incredible trails along volcanoes, through amazing green valleys and past stunning lagoons.
Taking place on the island of Sao Miguel, nicknamed “the Green Island”. It is one of the nine volcanic islands based out in the Mid Atlantic. Governed by Portugal, this wild and remote archipelago is characterised by dramatic landscapes, fishing villages and green pastures. The climate of the Azores is very mild for such a northerly location, due to the marine influence, temperatures remain around 20c all year-round.
Racing takes place over 2-days, with 83km to cover on day-1 and 42km to cover on day-2. It’s not an easy challenge! Included in entry is accommodation during the race, race entry, rationed water, medical team, ground assistance and a medal at the finish. The race is self-sufficient, so runners must come prepared to survive for the duration of the race.
Ultra X Jordan (previously the Wadi Rum Ultra) takes participants through the land of Lawrence of Arabia. The mystical course takes competitors through historic sites, into dramatic Wadis and over magnificent sand dunes.
Wadi Rum’s nickname is ‘the valley of the moon’ and you will see why.
Its landscape, characterised by unique towering rock formations will truly blow you away, as will the challenge. As locations go, this place is unrivalled in its beauty.
A 5-day race, the race will cover daily distances of 46km, 50km, 70km, 46km and finally, 38km. As will all ULTRA X races, the event is self-sufficient, so, runners need to carry food, clothes, sleeping bag and all they need for the event. Rationed water and a tent is provided.
Speaking to Sam Heward from ULTRA X in October, I expressed how happy I was to be joining in 2020:
“It is great to see that Ultra X are creating new races, in new locations around the world. Ultra X 125 Azores is something a little different with it being just a two day race, this will appeal to many as a mini adventure and an opportunity to test themselves before stepping up to a 5-day format. I have heard much about the Azores and it’s a place I am keen to visit and explore.”
This is Episode 109 of Talk Ultra. We speak with inspiring adventurer and I2P ambassador Ray Zahab about his amazing Antarctica 2 Atacama expedition. We also speak with an amazing Australian lady, Mina Guli, who ran 40-marathons across 7 deserts on 7 continents in 7 weeks. We also have a little pre-MDS chat and Speedgoat is here.
It’s a different show this week as Ian is in the Sahara at Marathon des Sables and this show was recorded in advance and then programmed for release.
RAY ZAHAB In February 2016, Ray Zahab (CAN), Jen Segger (CAN) and Stefano Gregoretti (Italy) set out on a unique and challenging expedition that spanned 100 degrees celsius on the thermometer. The team journeyed from -50°C (-58F) to +50°C (120F) over 1,500km, on mountain bikes and foot, crossing both Baffin Island in Canadian winter, and the Atacama Desert in Chilean summer. Website HERE
MINA GULI From 1 February to 22nd March, 2016 Mina did something nobody in the world that has ever done before – she ran across 7 deserts on 7 continents in just 7 weeks. She did it for one reason – to raise awareness about the water crisis. To show the world in pictures and in images, what the water crisis looks like, and to highlight the fact that left unchanged, our water use will increase unsustainably – to a point where by 2030 we will have a 40% greater demand for water than supplies available. Website HERE
The 2013 edition of the Marathon des Sables is a self-sufficient race in the South of the Moroccan desert, the event will take place from 5th to 15th April 2013. For the 18th consecutive year, it will be run under the patronage of his Majesty King Mohammed VI.
Since its creation in 1986, the Marathon des Sables has attracted over 13,000 competitors over 27 editions. From humble beginnings, the race is now the most prestigious multi-stage race in the world.
The 2013 Marathon des Sables will see 1,091 entrants toe the line. With 45 different nationalities and a strong presence from France and the UK, the 28th edition will be a memorable one.
Taking place in South Morocco, in the provinces of Errachidia and Tinghrir the race will cover 223.8km over 5 stages. It will encompass some of the most beautiful terrain in the Moroccan desert. Eagerly awaited by one and all, the dunes, ergs and dried-up wadis will delight the thousand or so entrants from the fifty plus countries across the globe.
5 April 2013: Leave country of residence for Morocco (UK entrants leave on the 4th) – Arrival in Ouarzazate, bus transfer to the 1st bivouac.
6 April 2013: Administrative, technical and medical checks – Day to acclimatise.
From 7-12 April 2013: Race in progress. (The self-sufficiency begins from breakfast on the 1st leg).
12 April 2013: Prizing ceremony in desert.
13 April 2013: Charity leg for UNICEF– Transfer to Ouarzazate.
14 April 2013: Day of relaxation, festivities.
15 April 2013: Return to country of residence.
Patrick Bauer affectionately describes the Marathon des Sables as a big circus. It’s like moving a city everyday… just look at what is involved.
Race management : This team comprises more than 100 people including a race HQ, race marshals, controllers, timekeepers and ranking compilers. Since 2010, the official ranking has been achieved using a “transponder” for all the competitors.
Supervision : 400 people: technical, logistical and medical skills, 100 vehicles, 2 helicopters, 1 CESSNA plane, 4 dromedaries… and the active support of the Royal Armed Forces: 21 lorries (6×6) and 40 men to supervise logistics.
Medical Assistance : A team of 50 people under Dr Frédéric COMPAGNON, DOC TROTTER supervises the runners as much on a medical level (care of feet, resuscitation…) as a mental level, both of which fail sometimes in front of the toughness of the event and the hostility of the climate.
In the 27th SULTAN MARATHON DES SABLES, 3 tonnes of gear was transported and the medical team used : 5km of Elastoplast, 2,700 second-skin patches, 125 litres of disinfectant, 230 litres of drip solutions, 15,000 compresses, 2,800 pairs of surgical gloves,…
115 volunteers on the course itself
400 support staff overall
120 000 litres of mineral water
270 berber and saharan tents
100 all-terrain vehicles
2 “Squirrel” helicopter and 1 “Cessna” plane
6 “MDS special” commercial planes
1 incinerator lorry for burning waste
4 quad bikes to ensure environment and safety on race
52 medical staff
6.5 kms of Elastoplast, 2 700 Compeed, 19 000 compresses 6 000 painkillers, 150 litres of disinfectant
4 editing stations, 5 cameras, 1 satellite image station 10 satellite telephones, 30 computers, fax and internet
1984 :At the age of 28, Patrick Bauer decided to make a journey into the Sahara. His objective was to traverse 350km’s of uninhabited desert, on foot, alone and without any possibility of encountering a single village, oasis or watering place. Totally self sufficient, Patrick entered the desert with a pack weight of 35kg containing all his water and food. The journey lasted 12 days and it was the starting point of what has now become the MARATHON DES SABLES.
1986 : The creation of the first MARATHON DES SABLES in the Moroccan Sahara. The 23 pioneers who took the start never imagined that their footprints would mark the start of a legendary event, which today has become unmissable on the schedule for major adventure sport meets.
1989 :170 competitors take the start of the race and the rest is history.
I caught up with Patrick Bauer at the MDS UK expo in late 2012. You can listen to that interview (lasts 13 minutes):
1,090 competitors aged 20 to 76 are expected to take the start (definitive number on 6 April following administrative and medical checks) representing 45 different nationalities: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Latvia, Luxembourg, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of El Salvador, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States.
The participants are men and women with various and varied profiles (Doctors, farmers, coppersmiths, pilots, builders, chefs, servicemen and women, students, professional athletes and retired persons…).
The 2013 MDS Challengers for the overall win
The Female contenders for the overall win :
Laurence Klein 2012 MDS
Laurence KLEIN (FRA) – 1st woman in 2007, 2011 and 2012, European 100km Champion.
Meryem KHALI (MAR) – 2nd woman in 2012. N°1082:
Megan HICKS (USA) – 2nd woman in 2009.
Simone KAYSER (LUX )– 3 victories in the MDS.
The Male contenders for the overall win :
Salameh AL AQRA (JOR) – 1st in 2012, 2nd in 2008, 2010, 3rd in 2009, 2011.
Mohamad AHANSAL (MAR) – 4 victories and 2nd place 9 times.
Samir AKHDAR (MAR) – 6th in 2011, 7th in 2009.
Rachid EL MORABITY (MAR) – 1st in 2011.
Aziz EL AKAD (MAR) – 2nd in 2009 and 3rd in 2008 and 2012.
Christophe LE SAUX (FR) – 6th in 2012, 1st Guyan’trail 2011 and 2012.
Anton VENCELJ (SLO) – 4th in 2010, 8th in 2012.
Abdelaaziz TAYSS (FR) – French Cross-Country champion 2008 and 2011
Vincent DELEBARRE (FR) – 9th in 2005, 1st UTMB, Réunion, Templiers, etc
Martin FIZ (SP) – World Marathon Champion in 1995.
Carlos GOMEZ DE SA (POR) – 4th 2012 and 8th in 2008, 4th UTMB 2012.
Marco OLMO (ITA) – Top 10 in the MDS, 2 UTMB victories.
Antonio Filippo SALARIS (ITA) – 7th in 2012.
In 2013 I followed two runners in the build up to the 2013 Marathon des Sables. Tobias Mews placed 21st overall in the 2010 race and Stuart Rae is toeing the line for the first time in 2013. Each interview alternated on episodes of Talk Ultra but they have been joined together in one episode (lasts just under 1 hour)
1st leg – 37.2k Undulating terrain, interspersed with small ergs representing 5km of small dunes (dunettes).
2nd leg – 30.7km 3 djebels with 10 to 25% gradients – exceptional panoramic views.
3rd leg – 38km 2 djebel sections, 2 dried-up lakes and lots of sand.
4th leg – 75.7km a total of 13km of dunes and around 30km of sandy terrain.
5th leg – 42.2km the final leg is a marathon with ergs, regs, a dried-up lake and wadi beds…
Total Distance – 223.8km
One of the key aspects of the Marathon des Sables is what kit to take? Here is a list of ‘mandatory’ kit. Of course, you need to add to this food requirements, cooking equipment and any additional luxuries.
Distress flare: For use in the event of an extreme emergency. A range in excess of several dozen metres once activated.
Knife: Equipped with a metal blade, it’s obviously useful in the bivouac and it can be of service when useful in the bivouac and it can be of service when running too.
Compass: Surpassing both intuition and signposting, the compass is the marathon runner’s signposting.
Whistle: Slowed by problems with your health or astray of the initial route, it enables other competitors or the organisation to be alerted to your whereabouts.
Lighter: An important ally after a day’s running, whenit’s time to make a fire to heat up your meal.
Anti-venom pump: Even though it’s rare to have an unpleasant encounter with a snake, the anti-venom pump is compulsory and can enable action to be pump is compulsory and can enable action to be taken quickly.
Antiseptic: As the days go by, all kinds of injuries can crop up, even during the race sometimes. So whilst awaiting assistance from a Doc Trotter, antiseptic can be important prior to linking up with the medical team.
Sleeping bag: To be carried for seven days, ideally it shouldn’t exceed 400g and should be suitable for temperatures of between 5°C and 10°C. Indeed, the nights are cold in the desert.
Survival blanket: In the event of serious problems, the survival blanket enables you to protect yourself from both the cold and sun. It weighs in at no more than 60g.
Signalling mirror: If lost, someone competing in the Marathon des Sables will want to signal his or her presence. Playing with the sun and a mirror may be an alternative prior to using a distress flare.
Salt tablets: Not exactly pleasant tasting, they are nonetheless essential for avoiding dehydration.
Glow sticks: The perfect marker during the long leg.
Headtorch: once night falls or when wandering around the bivouac, the headtorch is essential.
I will be reporting from the 2013 event as the race unfolds and providing I am able to gain adequate access to internet, I will update my website, Facebook and Twitter with reports and images as often as possible. So please keep checking!