INSTINCT XX 20L Multi-Day/ Stage Racing Pack – REVIEW

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.

Our 65km route.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Removable top pouch that we did not use that can also be used to secure a helmet if required – useful for snow/ climbing adventures.
  3. Three different areas to secure poles.
  4. Ice axe and shovel friendly with attachment points.

Specs:

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

COMFORT  & PROTECTION : 
– Entirely made of Cordura© Nylon 6.6 ripstop
– 3mm perforated EVA padding in back panel
– 3D mesh shoulder straps/back panel for ideal sweat dissipation

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.

Quite simply – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Website HERE

Price 225 euro

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AZORES and JORDAN 2020 with ULTRA X and MYRACEKIT

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.

AZORES

The ULTRA X Azores 125 is 2-day event  in 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.

Enter here https://tickets.trumin.com/ultra-x-azores-2020 £295.00

JORDAN

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.

Enter here: https://tickets.trumin.com/ultra-x-jordan-2020-deposit Deposit is £300.00

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.”

 

Roll on 2020, some new trails and experiences.

Contact ULTRA X https://ultra-x.co/

Contact myRaceKit https://www.myracekit.com/

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Multi-Day Racing – It’s not complicated

It’s Not Complicated…

Let’s get one thing clear, multi-day racing is simple, it is often over complicated and this creates too many questions and too much confusion.

Let’s hark back to Patrick Bauer’s pioneering days and simplify the process, just like he did. Over the years I have interviewed and chatted with many runners in bivouac and after racing who have done just that, they had applied simple logic and worked out what would work for them. 

Yes, they had taken advice, looked at websites, processed information but importantly they had found out what worked for them. They realized early on that they were an individual and as such, they needed a personal approach to multi-day racing and not a generic one. Not all multi-day races are the same, some are completely self-sufficient, some are semi self-sufficient and others are supported where all you need is transported for you.

When you break a race down, particularly a self-sufficient race, key things are really important:

Pack

Must fit and be comfortable when loaded. Have enough room (but not too much) for all your equipment and provide easy access to fluid. You must also make sure that your race number is visible as per race rules. Think about additional pockets, such as a waist belt for snacks.

Sleeping Bag

Lightweight, packs small and warm enough. I would always recommend a sleeping bag and jacket as it offers more flexibility, reduced weight and reduced pack size. Popular sleeping bags year-on-year are PHD, Yeti and OMM. Read HERE on how to choose a sleeping bag.

Clothes

You just need what you will run in. However, a spare pair of socks is often commonplace and many runners have one or all of the following: a warm base layer, a lightweight down jacket or waist coat, buff and maybe long lightweight pants. Remember, you have to carry everything, so, it’s all about getting the pack as close to minimum weight. At MDS that is 6.5kg plus water.

Sleeping Matt

It’s optional but a good nights sleep is important and usually those who do not take one wish they had. It provides comfort and importantly an insulating layer between you and the ground. Two options exist – inflatable and roll out solid foam. The choice is yours. The inflatable ones offer more comfort, more flexibility in packing but with poor admin, you do run the risk of a puncture. I’ve used inflatable for many years with no issue. A solid foam Matt will last the week with no risks of problems but they roll large and need to sit outside the pack.

Shoes and Gaiters

Shoes (more below) are personal, just make sure they have a good fit, appropriate drop for your needs and suit your run/walk style with enough durability for you. I say ‘you’ because someone like Rachid El Morabity can complete the whole of MDS race in say 21-hours whereas most people won’t even do just the long day in that time – his shoe shoe choice will and can be very different to what most of us need!

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