21 November 2013

Backpack for a long mountain ultramarathon?

This time of the year is usually about long-slow distance volume training and in Sweden this has to occur mostly in the darkness and persistent cold November rains. A light in the dark is therefore that this time of the year also is much about planning for the next race season, entering lotteries and looking at vacation and travel plans. Another light is the process to complement the equipment for the next season. As I am planning to run PTL there are a number of things I need to buy for next season. One of the first things I am looking to buy is a new backpack. I have previously been using Salomon’s Advanced Skin S-Lab Hydro 12 set for all my longer ultras. I love this pack and it is a really smart bag where you can fit a lot so it worked fine for Tor des Géants, even though I had to be really disciplined when packing before and during the race. For PTL it will be too small for me, however, and I have therefore started to look for a bag with a capacity of around 20 liters. I still do want a light race bag, the Salomon Skin S-Lab Hydro 12 comes in at only 320 grams (11.3 oz) so an absolute upper limit for the pack would be 600 grams. I also preferably want a bag with easily accessible good side and outside pockets and a good hydration solution, either through an internal hydration sleeve or good outside pockets for flasks. The contents should be easily accessible also in the main compartment, preferably not only through a top opening. Ideally, I should also be able to use it for my daily running commute to and from work so it should fit a laptop. I am today commuting with an old Marmot Urban Hauler, it has good space and is weighing in at only 340 grams but not stable enough to run in uneven terrain so for longer trail runs it would cause chaffing.

I have done a fairly comprehensive search on the net and also talked to fellow runners and the list below contains most packs under 600 grams that I could envision could be used for a longer alpine ultramarathon. I have certainly missed some packs, and your tips if that is case are of course appreciated. Most bags are designed with running in mind, but only a few are really intended and tested at races. Quite ridiculously, as I am normally not at all into fashion, I am also a litte bit concerned about the appearance of some of the packs – frankly speaking some are really ugly. I have still not made up my mind what backpack to choose, not a single pack appears to fulfill all my criteria. The packs that I am considering most are Inov-8 Race Elite 24, Dynafit X4 Pro, Marmot  Kompressor Plus or Lowe Alpine Lightflite 25. These are all light under 425 grams and have some good features. Quite interestingly, some of the most used racing packs, like Raidlight’s Ultralight Olmo 20 and WAA Ultra Equipmentäs Ultrabag 20 are some of the heaviest in the list. They might have other advantages, however, and since I have not tested any of these backpacks further advice and tips from you are very much appreciated.    

List of backpacks under 600 grams

Pictures of the backpacks


  1. I was wondering why you didn´t include the Montane Anaconda 18, but it seems to just supercede your weight criteria. It is really comfortable, holds both fluid system and poles (if you want to). Also the (now discontinued) Salomon XA20 would meet weight and fluid criteria if you can find it. I have only seen it in the stores, but is the Inov8 backpack really compatible with a hydration bladder?

    1. Many thanks! Great comments! I agree, the drawback with Inov-8 Race Elite is really that is a stripped down pack and it has no internal sleeve for a hydration bladder. I looked at Montane Anaconda, it looks great but is just outside the weight range I used as a cut off. Other good slightly heavier packs are for instance Raidlight's Runner R Light and Norrona's Bitihorn Backpack. Salomon XA20 I think only had a capacity of 16 liters so did not meet the volume requirement in the list. I have still not made up my mind what pack to get - surprisingly difficult decision.