Review: Camelbak Fourteener 24

As run commuters, we often borrow products from other specialty areas, such as camping supplies, bike commuting accessories, or travel gear, and piece those items together to make the perfect setup for running to work. The Camelbak Fourteener 24 is marketed as a hydration backpack for hikers and has many of the features we look for in a good running pack, so we decided to try it out and see how it performs on the run.

Note: The model we tested was the 2017 version. Camelbak has since redesigned the pack and added some features that the 2017 model lacked.

Test Model

Camelbak Fourteener 24 (2017 model)

Size: One size fits all

Carrying Capacity: 24L, 1,280 cu. in.

Cost: US $150

Mods/Add-ons: Reflective patches, Nathan Orion strobe,

Hi-Vis Rain Cover (X-Small)

Performance and Evaluation

I have run approximately 120 miles with this pack so far, and I have found it to be one of the better large-capacity running packs on the market. The straps and waist belt are comfortable. The back padding allows for great ventilation. I can easily pack larger winter jackets and clothing in addition to all my other gear, so if I want to go out for lunch or ride transit home, I am ready for the weather. It does bounce around slightly even when all the straps are fully tightened, however the design of the suspension system distributes the movement in a way that is much less noticeable than on other backpacks. The added hydration system is perfect for long run or bike commutes on hot summer days, and is an essential addition if you plan to run an ultra-marathon or longer trail race with it.  Bonus: it doesn’t hold any bad smells, even after many miles and lots of lost sweat.  Let’s look at some of the features in more detail.

What I Liked

Carrying Capacity

Great Ventilation

Overall Comfort

Low Smell Factor

What I Didn’t Like

Straps loosen with movement

Only one, small, usable quick-access pouch

No rain cover

Backpack Details

Front

There is a LOT of front storage on this pack. The front zippered pouch is large enough to store two standard size water bottles and also includes smaller zippered and mesh pockets for storing small accessories like keys, wallet, pens, or flash drives. The back of the entire pouch is detached from the pack and serves as additional storage for things like a pair of shoes. They straps can then be tightened to hold everything firmly and keep it from falling out as you run. Underneath the front pouch are two loops for lashing additional gear, such as hiking poles or a rolled up jacket, and they can be tucked away into little pouches when not in use.

At the top of the pack is a zippered, fleece-lined pouch for carrying sunglasses, cell phone, earbuds, or work IDs.

Sides

There are large, stretchy pockets on both sides of the pack that can hold a phone, water bottle, or other hand-sized item. The pack’s external compression straps cross over the pouches, and when cinched down, will hold any items inside pouches tightly in place.

Main Compartment

There’s not much to say about this aside from the massive amount of space.

Back Panel

The back panel includes three raised areas as part of Camelbak’s “Integrated Ventilation” system. I did not think I was going to like the running feel of this at first, as most packs that include ribbed or raised areas tend to slightly rub my back or are just generally downright uncomfortable. However, I was very surprised that the system is not only comfortable, but the ventilation system works much better than another favorite design of mine – Osprey Packs Airspeed system.

Suspension System

Straps

The shoulder straps are generally unremarkable. In addition to the standard lower buckles used to tighten the pack against your body, there are upper buckles as well, to change the top angle of strap to better fit on your shoulders. The straps are fastened together horizontally with a single sternum strap, and once everything is cinched down and tight, the pack is tight and comfortable to wear.

Waist band

The waist band is wide and almost entirely padded, save for the area where the buckles fasten together. On the right side, there is a small, zippered pouch. It’s not quite large enough to hold a phone, but is perfect for a wallet or a set of keys. On the run, the waist straps tended to loosen and I had to re-tighten them every 10 minutes or so.  The waist band was quite comfortable overall, and created no noticeable chafe or irritation on the run.

Hydration System

The Fourteener comes with a sizable 3-liter reservoir. The entire system is pretty standard, with tube holders on the shoulder straps and a bite-valve mouthpiece. The bladder is quick to open and easy to fill.

Conclusion

This bag is probably overkill for most run commuters, but it really is fantastic. I prefer the Camelbak Fourteener over my all-time favorite Osprey Rev (discontinued) and another great – the Osprey Manta. The carrying capacity is insane, and I have lost items inside this pack more than once, only to find them again days later at the bottom of the front pouch. The additional space is perfect for those fall/winter transition days where the morning is perfectly comfortable for running in tights and a short sleeve shirt, but the afternoon lunch break or transit ride home requires a heavy winter jacket. Or, you decide to pick up a bag of groceries on the way home. Don’t worry – they’ll fit.

Additional Pictures

By |2019-08-28T09:14:21-04:00August 25th, 2019|Categories: Gear, General|0 Comments

Review: Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15

The Ultimate Direction Fastpack series is loved by fastpackers, trail runners, ultra-lite hikers, and bike commuters alike. It’s a very versatile pack that seems like it would be great for run commuters and comes in several sizes to meet all our needs. Whether you carry clothes, lunch, a laptop, and additional gear, or only a few personal items, there is a Fastpack for you (including a women’s-specific model). This week, we take a look at the Fastpack 15 (unisex).

Test Model

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15  (2018 model)

Size: Unisex Medium/Large

Carrying Capacity: 22L, 1,281 cu. in.

Cost: US $120

Performance and Evaluation

Following the style of memoranda in the military, here is the bottom line up front: This is a great piece of kit.

I had studied many options for a new backpack, and I selected this model because of prior good experience with the brand. I have decided that it is better to be a regular customer, once you have become familiar with and developed trust in the products of a specific company, especially if you are wearing the item, rather than trying this and that, with the risk it will fit or it will not. I have owned two vests by Ultimate Direction. They were both well made and durable. I gave one away to a friend of mine after about 50 half marathons, and I replaced it with a version that cinches up slightly tighter. That is my only criticism. UD straps, other than in this case, do not tighten quite as much as might be ideal. I was aware of that potential modest negative, offset by the positives. For the record, this particular model has straps (front and side) that pull taut. (For reference, I am 5-9 and 175 pounds, wearing a men’s 42 suit and a 17-33 shirt, and my pack is the larger of the two available sizes).

The most important news I have to share about the Fast Pack 15, however, does not appear anywhere else –  even on the manufacturer’s website. It fits a 15-inch MacBook Pro (2018 model) perfectly, meaning snugly, as if the sleeve had been designed for just that unit. I was unsure from my research. I even spoke with a customer service representative over the phone, who said he thought the device would be a tiny bit too tall. I am glad the guy turned out to be wrong, because I am able to bring a laptop on the run commute now. He was responsive, indicating he would share with the team that a smidge more room would be advantageous. I wrote back after my discovery, to assure them the dimensions were fine. (The other variations in the series with the same name do not share the same features, in particular the sleeve. It may be this year’s model will be replaced in any event.)

There are critics on the internet who disapprove of the very concept of running with a computer. They lead lives different than mine. I work; I work at a job that involves a computer; and I like to run for my commute. That involves running with a computer. I formerly resorted to a tablet, an iPad, and that is acceptable, but the laptop form factor remains the more effective option, with it’s existing software and my personal workflow. If we are similar, then I recommend this superlative choice. For that matter, if I were running recreationally, I likely would reach for this pack as well. I simply wouldn’t lug the laptop. The sleeve is unobtrusive. You would not be bothered if you never availed yourself of the signature feature. Be warned though that the back has a moderately rigid panel. If that is bothersome, consider an alternative.

I am a minimalist in philosophy and by practice. When I am not running to work, I carry more because I expect to use more. I have, for example, a breast pocket wallet, business cards in a case, a toothbrush and toothpaste in a drawstring bag with hand sanitizer and eye drops, a monocular and a tiny magnifying glass, pen and paper, and so on. On travel, I typically have noise cancelling headphones and a digital camera. All of that stays at home when I run commute. I keep a toiletry kit in my desk drawer at the office. In reality, unlike fantasy novels, the laws of physics limit us: a vessel that has X by Y by Z dimensions can hold only X by Y by Z volume, with whatever allowance is made for elasticity; there are not sacks hiding infinite expanses.

The materials are first-rate, but lightweight. The construction is highly competent. The zippers, a point of failure on bags, are medium weight, and seem sturdy. There is a simple handle at the top. There is a corporate logo in big lettering down the back. That is normal, albeit not to my taste.

What I Liked

Laptop compartment (fits MacBook Pro 15)

Quality construction

Excellent design allows good fit

What I Didn’t Like

Minimalist style inherently means not much can be carried

Backpack Details

Shoulder Straps

The shoulder straps have multiple pouches, three that zip and a fourth for a water bottle.

Main Compartment

The design is good. This is not for an around the world journey or even a domestic flight. Although the capacity is more ample than advertised (21 liters rather than 15 liters), it is not by virtue of thickness. The room comes from height. The main section opens down the center with zip featuring two sliders and then further from the top, courtesy of hook and loop fasteners; it is a roll top, fastening securely on each side to a plastic clasp.

The compartment has room beyond the laptop sleeve. It isn’t much space. There is a zippered inner pocket for a power adapter and cables. I put loose items that are larger but not large enough to avoid the risk of falling out unnoticed into a separate drawstring bag.

Backpack loaded with Macbook Pro 15 and clothing (shirt, t-shirt, socks)

Conclusion

To tell the truth, I loved this backpack on first sight. I was not disappointed in testing on the first run. My comparison is an ultra-lightweight backpack by Marmot, which I was fond of, enough so to buy an extra. It was and remains excellent for general use, and I would not hesitate to endorse it as formless as it is. The unique selling proposition of this UD offering is the transportation of the laptop. There was no significant bouncing thanks to the straps having considerable travel. There is a bit of heat on the back. I am no engineer, but I have enough common sense to suspect it would be impossible to avoid some friction and trapped sweat between my back and the backpack.

Run commuting takes effort. That extends beyond the physical exertion. It obliges a person to plan. The Ultimate Direction Fast Pack 15 facilitates the process. I have a short list of favorite things. This has earned its place there.

By |2019-08-12T19:21:04-04:00August 12th, 2019|Categories: Gear, General|0 Comments

Backpack Failure, Repair, and Replacement

I am a long time Deuter fan. I have been run commuting with a Deuter backpack for close to 10 years. When the shoulder strap of my Race Exp Air unexpectedly broke right in its middle this past Fall, I contacted Deuter to see what, if anything, could be done for my backpack. I thought that if their customer service was as good as their equipment, I should receive a quick answer. A few months later, I am still waiting for that answer.

I did some research on the Internet to see if anyone else had had the same issue as me with this backpack, but found nothing.

Honestly, I was not looking for much – I just wanted to know where I could get my pack fixed. I was willing to pay to get it done. But the answer never came. To contact the company, I used the form available on their website: https://www.deuter.com/DE/en/contact.html

So, at the end of last year, I bought myself a new run commuting pack: an Osprey Synchro 15.

I selected it for three simple reasons: it comes with a very nice rain cover, it is the right size (15 liters) for run commuting, and it has probably one of the best water bladders on the market: the Osprey Hydraulic Lt. I very seldom need a water reservoir when I run commute, but it is definitely nice to have if you ever decide to run for reasons other than making your way to and from work. And, at $128 (Cdn) for both the pack and the water bladder, the price was more than right.

So far, I like the pack, but I will run at least a thousand more kilometers with it on my back before I express a final opinion.

Still, I could not resolve myself to throwing away my Deuter Race Exp Air. As a last resort, I took it to a shoe cobbler, that specializes in outdoor gear: http://www.atelierhorspiste.com/en/home. I had no hope. If something could be done, great! Otherwise, I had my new Osprey.

To my surprise, my Deuter pack came back as good as new. Isabelle from Atelier Hors-Piste was able to replace the shoulder strap mesh material with some new fabric. To make sure it would not look odd, she even did both straps.

Now I have two backpacks to run commute every day of the year, which is not a bad idea now that I am actually experiencing it. The only sad part to this story is the lack of service I got from Deuter when I needed it.

By |2019-02-10T12:43:08-04:00February 11th, 2019|Categories: Gear, General|0 Comments

Review: GORUCK GR1 Backpack

In looking for the best run commuting backpack, I stumbled upon GORUCK. Their GR1 is considered by many people to be the ultimate everyday backpack. So can the backpack that can do anything also run commute? Let’s find out…

Test Model

GORUCK GR1

Size: 20 inch

Carrying Capacity: 26L, 1,587 cu. in.

Cost: US $395

Backpack Details

So GORUCK is the brainchild of this former special forces veteran who is smiling like a maniac in every picture. Seriously, the energy on the GORUCK site is tangible.  He puts his dog, Monster, on like half the site! But, he is freaking adorable.

If you want to learn how to do web design, just look at www.goruck.com .  The design is brilliant, clean, crisp, it won me over.  If a purse company had a site with this kind of energy I would have bought one and would be trying to use it as a run commuting man bag.  It’s the ultimate salesman for Goruck!

These bags are meant for rucking.    Which is basically walking around with a heavy pack.  They sell weights to put in them from 10 lbs to 45 lbs (I have a 45 lb one that I have been playing with).  And, if that’s not enough, they also host GORUCK events which are basically SEAL Team/boot camp events. Think of them as team building events for badasses.

So for run commuting they are overbuilt in almost every way, stress points tested to over 400 lbs.  They also come with their “Scars Lifetime Guarantee” – basically if the bag breaks while using it, they will repair or replace it for free.  Forever bag? OK, I’m listening.

During the initial unboxing, I was a little underwhelmed. The bag is all 1000D Cordura – it is stiff and boxy, just like a brand new pair of Rainbow sandals are stiff flat boards that age into beauty and comfort like this…

I’m told the bag eventually molds to you, the plastic frame sheet conforms to your back and the straps shape to your shoulders. These are the beastly straps.

Thick and almost over padded, but surprisingly comfortable.  The pack feels like you are giving a koala a piggy back ride.  And if that doesn’t sound awesome to you then you are insane!

Here is one of the interesting things that is counter-intuitive to a running backpack.

The back has zero ventilation.  The koala will get your back a little sweaty.  But because it’s 1000D Cordura it doesn’t absorb the sweat, it just runs off.  So it’s weirdly comfortable. I’ve run to work several times with it already in the hot, humid, Charleston weather and it’s been fine.  All backpacks give me back sweat so it doesn’t bother me at all. Also the 1000D is basically rain proof. There are reviewers who do shower tests and the inside stays dry.

The bag opens up like a suitcase fully if you want.  It makes packing it super easy. I can fold my clothes big and flat like they are going in a drawer. In usually roll my clothes to fit in a regular bag. In fact a few days ago I got my free scrubs delivered to me at work and there was still enough room on the run home.  That’s my regular junk, my scrubs I wore that day, my towel and toiletries, 5 pair of scrubs and two scrub jackets! It’s the TARDIS of backpacks. It says 26 liters but it carries more. Magic!

The inside has zippered compartments.

The bag opens up like a suitcase fully if you want.  It makes packing it super easy. I can fold my clothes big and flat like they are going in a drawer. In usually roll my clothes to fit in a regular bag. In fact a few days ago I got my free scrubs delivered to me at work and there was still enough room on the run home.  That’s my regular junk, my scrubs I wore that day, my towel and toiletries, 5 pair of scrubs and two scrub jackets! It’s the TARDIS of backpacks. It says 26 liters but it carries more. Magic!

The inside has zippered compartments.

There is an elasticized pouch on the back of the bag which will hold 3 Nalgene bottles side by side perfectly.

There is an elasticized pouch on the back of the bag which will hold 3 Nalgene bottles side by side perfectly.

There is a section of MOLLE webbing at the top back inside of the bag that can be used for whatever you need. Look up MOLLE pouches and you will see how easy it is to customize this bag. There is MOLLE on the outside front and sides.

The back padding hides their “Bombproof” laptop carrier.

The back also has the removable frame sheet which you can take out to make a floppier bag or replace with a stiffer one. This is what makes it so comfortable. I can throw in soup cans for lunch and run without then smacking me in the kidneys for 5 miles.  It also helps the pack stay flat and flush against your back.

The outside slash pocket is a miss for me.  It’s way too deep and if the pack is full then it’s a tight squeeze to get things in and out.  And it’s deep, all the way down to the bottom.

That’s my own patch I put on it.  A runic compass, so I don’t get lost. I think it’s broke.

However, it contributes to the bags clean lines, so I’m torn. I would like a Jansport-style zippered pouch, but I love how flat the bag rides on your back. The koala hugs you close.

There is a saying in mountain biking “Strong, light, cheap. Pick two”.  So, basically if something is strong and light, it’s not cheap. If something is cheap and strong, it’s not light.  This phrase is attributed to the founder of Trek Bikes who further said that his main concern was that equipment should be strong and durable first. Then, try to make it as light as possible without making it weak. Cost is the last concern. As a run commuter, I get caught up in light gear. But, often times light is not durable.

The GORUCK GR1 excels at durable. Smash it, bash it, it’s 1000D Cordura! It’s overbuilt everywhere.

I mean just look at the stitching on the straps and handle.  Oh almost forgot there is a Velcro access for a hydration bladder.

So, the GR1 is a tank, but like a tank it’s heavy. GORUCK says it’s 3.2 pounds. For comparison, the Under Armour Storm backpack here is 1 pound 3 ounces and they both fit about the same amount of stuff.

It is strong as shit, but heavy AF.  And here is what could be the deal breaker; the price.  $395. That’s not a typo. But, they do offer 25% off for firefighters, police, teachers, students, EMS, military, veterans, and government employees.  You probably know someone that will qualify to make the bag $300. Still steep, but I gotta to tell ya, I haven’t looked back yet. I’m loving this thing. It’s the Cadillac of backpacks – over built and super comfortable. They have a 21L version called the Rucker that is pretty much the exact same pack without the laptop compartment and it’s $265 before the discount and $199 after discount, which is better. The Rucker has a thicker, stiffer non-removable frame sheet and has a little bit of difference inside.

http://news.goruck.com/gear-news/gr1-vs-rucker/

That’s an article comparing the two bags.

I really don’t know what to say. GORUCK’s site pumped me up and all the other reviews I read online convinced me to try it and the bag itself has made me fall in love with it. It shouldn’t make sense. It’s not feather-light but it makes up for it by being almost indestructible and just molds to your body like a nice pair of leather shoes. It’s just a soft, comfortable suitcase that you can run with.

They make other smaller bags, too, so check out their sizing and comparison pages to learn more.

https://www.goruck.com/rucksacks/compare-rucksacks/

https://www.goruck.com/ruck-sizing-guide/

Definitely check out their site. Seriously. It’s almost a cult, but I drank some of the Kool Aid (which is safer, since they drank Flavor Aid at Jonestown) and I’m a convert. I plan on getting a Rucker next.

Thanks for reading! Grabbing my GR1, ’cause I’m late for work and I gotta run…

By |2018-10-23T15:01:04-04:00October 16th, 2018|Categories: Gear|4 Comments

Review: Proviz REFLECT360 Running Backpack

Run commuting in the cold, dark days of winter can be challenging. If you keep normal hours, you often start and end the day in darkness. Footpaths are often not as well-lit, which make running on the road itself safer, but that renders you vulnerable to passing traffic who can’t see you. In an effort to make myself as visible as possible, I looked for the brightest backpack I could find, and strangely enough found it in the black backpack produced by ProViz Sports.

ProViz Sports are a UK-based company that specialise in highly reflective gear, using 100% CE EN 20471 certified reflective material to produce clothing and equipment designed to highlight users in low-light areas. They chiefly focus on cycling and cycling products, but recently produced a backpack tailored to running (and run commuters): the REFLECT360 Running Backpack.

Test Model

REFLECT360 Running Backpack

Size: Small

Carrying Capacity: 10L, 610 cu. in.

Cost: AUD $95/US $70

Add-on: None

Performance and Evaluation

It’s worth noting here that I travel light as my work clothes are on site, so I tend to go for bags 15L or smaller. As of writing I have covered over 100km with this pack, carrying my lunch, spare clothes, phone, stethoscope and important documents. The average weight for my setup is about 2 kg or 4 pounds.

I really liked the feel of this backpack. When packed well and adjusted correctly, the bag sat really snugly against my torso, and didn’t feel too loose or too tight. Despite the lack of external straps to tie down the main compartment, there was minimal bounce, which I think again throws back to the design of the backpack, which is quite compact. The back of the backpack is ventilated, and while there are no panels separating the backpack from your back, it is made of a firmer material which holds its shape quite well. I have had minimal issue with sweating or heating up so far.

The backpack has held up over sun, wind and rain, without getting too wet or soggy. It apparently can resist a 1500m water column so I guess you could go deep sea diving without wetting your belongings. But jokes aside, once it rained three times on route to work (that’s Melbourne weather for you!) and I arrived soaking wet with bone dry belongings.

The backpack has shoulder straps, waist straps and sternum straps. It has a central compartment, a smaller front compartment, two side pouches and two mesh side pockets. It did not come with a hydration bladder, although there is an option to insert one, which you have to buy separately (I did not).

The chief pulling point is the reflective fabric that covers most of the back of the backpack, several stripes across the front straps, and the stitching of the backpack itself –  something I didn’t even realise until I reviewed this article. I don’t claim to be an expert on reflective material, but it certainly does reflect the light from streetlights, car headlamps and even torches very well, even more so than the neon-colored fabrics that make some some other bags. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t reflect the glare of indoor lights or sunlight, which means that you won’t blind your fellow co-workers or other commuters, should you decide to take this pack out in the daylight. One amusing thing, though: I’ve also discovered that you can use the reflection of the ceiling lights on the fabric to turn on sensor-operated faucets from quite a distance, making this a useful party trick if you’re the sort of person to have parties in the bathroom.

Reflective material aside, the quality and design of the bag really impressed me. I’ve used several run packs over the 15 or so months, and it became clear very early on that this bag was designed with run commuters and cyclists in mind. For one thing, there is very little excess strappage. The loose ends of the waist straps are designed to be tucked into side pockets, and the sternum straps had very short loose ends, which did not bother me at all. The shoulder straps and waist straps are nice and wide. Another serious plus point for me were the zippers. The AquaGuard® zippers open and close smoothly without catching no matter how contorted the bag is, which makes it really easy to access stuff from the waist straps on the go.

I have a few minor issues with the bag. The mesh side pockets are quite shallow. They look like they’re designed to hold water bottles but I didn’t dare to put any in them, for fear of the bottles falling out during the run. They probably would hold small (150ml) water bottles, but I don’t think the standard 600ml drink bottles sit very well. I mainly used the mesh pockets to hold small items such as my headlamp. Secondly, there is no compression strap over the main compartment, which means that you have to really pack your bag well. Also, the waist strap pouches, while quite roomy, could not fit my gigantic iPhone 6+, but I don’t really hold this against the pack because I’ve never found one that could! Also, it only comes in black, but this doesn’t bother me.

What I carry on a typical day

What I Liked

Very visible

High-quality design

Water resistant

Breathable material

What I Didn’t Like

No tie down straps

Side pouches still can’t fit my ginormous phone

Minimal front access pouches

Shallow mesh side pockets

Summary

This is a decent run pack, with only minor issues that I think are more of preference than necessity, and would fit the run commuter with minimal luggage wanting to run at any time of the day, all year round. It definitely lives up to its claim of being visible, but also functions well as a backpack for people serious about getting to work on foot.

By |2018-08-20T13:39:05-04:00August 20th, 2018|Categories: Gear|1 Comment

Review: OMM Adventure Light 20 Backpack

The Best Run Commuting Backpack Ever?

OMM (standing for Original Mountain Marathon) is a brand well-known to UK and Euro trail runners, but it has yet to become popular in the US, which is a pity. I would go so far as to say this is a ‘best-kept secret’ of running packs. The OMM 20L may be the best run commuting backpack ever, and for those so inclined, it doubles as the best multi-day trail running pack ever, too! It is relatively cheap, hugely comfortable, robust, thoughtfully designed, and has tons of storage room.

For these reasons, no doubt, it has been the backpack of choice for the winners of some epic races: this year alone Eion Keith was wearing it when he won the notoriously grueling Spine Race in England – 268 miles non-stop over snowy English high country in mid-winter. Elspeth Luke wore it to run 1100k over Scottish mountains in record time. And it’s not just for cold-weather conditions: Aussie pro racer Samantha Gash wore it to run the 4 Deserts races across –as the name implies–four of the world’s serious deserts. Many athletes use this pack at the 6-days, 250km stage-race in the Moroccan desert, the Marathon des Sables.

So, how does such a hardcore pack work for everyday run commuters who just want to run an hour to work through suburban streets? Brilliantly, that’s how!

Test Model

OMM Adventure Light 20

Size: One size fits all

Carrying Capacity: 20L, 1220.5 cu. in.

Cost: US $70.19, GBP54, EU78.95

Add-on: Dry-bag, 20L

Best for:

  • Run commuters who carry larger loads on most run commutes

  • One backpack for both a daily run commute pack in the city and for epic runs/races such as the Marathon des Sables!

  • Run commuters with shorter torsos

Performance and Evaluation

Outstanding performance in a wide range of conditions. The OMM 20L is very comfortable, and performs brilliantly as a daily run commuting backpack when carrying medium to large loads. Also performs at the extreme level when used as an adventure racing pack on multi-day or stage races such as the Marathon des Sables. It says something about the versatility of this pack that many runners have used it in stage-races in the climates of both the Sahara Desert in temperatures up to 50C, and in the British winter in high mountain snow in temperatures that drop to -10C. Clearly, the OMM Adventure Light can handle extremes.  It will easily handle whatever you can throw at it on a daily run commute.

For those who often run commute with a very small load, such as a shirt and thin slacks, it is possible to cinch down the OMM Adventure Light 20 tightly by running a thin elastic cord through the eyelets on the front designed for that purpose. There is no cinching cord included for this purpose, however. The front buckle strap does pull the pack quite tightly together on a vertical axis, but not horizontally.

While this pack is certainly one of the least obtrusive full-size packs to use even when carrying a small load (ie. it is not ‘too much’ pack as others would be), I’d go for a smaller pack if you really aren’t going to carry much ever. A mostly-empty pack is just unnecessary now that there are so many smaller packs on the market which are designed to be comfortable with smaller loads. I have not tested the smaller OMM packs (13, 10 and 8Ls), but if their quality is similar to that of the Adventure Light, it would definitely be worth giving them a try.

Sometimes, it rains. We run commuters have to run in rain at times, as Kyle discusses in his classic ‘How to RAIN commute’ post.

To guard against sweat seepage or sudden unexpected rainstorms, a precaution is to always put your clothes into a dry bag — which will also compress them — before loading them into the main compartment. Or, there is the option of a small, external rain-cover instead.

As mentioned above, the main compartment and the waist-belt pockets of the OMM 20L are made from a very light material that appears to be water repellent. This makes sense, given that it is designed to be used in adventure/nature races, where rain and water are common. This material does work. A few times when I thought it wasn’t going to rain I didn’t bother to use a dry bag and got caught in brief showers. My clothes remained dry. However, in prolonged rain or heavy downpours, water would soak through onto the contents.

 

 

 

What I Liked

Comfort

Lightness

Size

Pocket distribution/design

Thoughtful overall design

Price

What I Didn’t Like

The location of the closing clip for the main compartment

Backpack Details

Front

The closing clip for the main compartment is at the bottom edge of the front of the pack, vertically. This is unusual. It took me ages to get used to, and for weeks I kept trying to open the pack using the plastic buckle that is situated on the top lid of the pack, where the clip is found on most bags. I’m still not convinced the bottom edge is a great location for the opening clip.

Sides

On the lower half of each side of the main compartment is a mesh pocket with elasticized top edge. They are water-bottle pockets, and have been designed with great consideration for the needs of adventure runners, for whom hydration is essential.  The pockets are deep, each amply holding a 600mL bottle. This is true even when the main compartment of the pack is full. The other brilliant thing about their design is that they are angled slightly backwards, so that the top of the water bottle is tilted fractionally towards the direction you are facing. This makes it easier to pull the bottles out and put them back in, while running. The bottles don’t jump out of these pockets even when there isn’t much in the main compartment of the pack. Overall, excellent design and performance.

Main Compartment and Top Access Pouch

The main compartment is basically a cylindrical sack with a drawstring closure. Over this fits a hood that buckles down with a strap that runs vertically down the front of the backpack and clips to the lower quarter of the front of the pack (the ‘weird’ strap described above). The main compartment holds a LOT of stuff. You could easily get a medium-thickness winter coat in here along with shoes, clothes and lunch.

As you can see in the photo above, there is a zipped pocket on the top of the hood that covers the main drawstring compartment of the pack. This zipped pocket is almost the same width across as the hood itself, so it can hold a wallet and phone, or even a small Tupperware container, easily.

Back, shoulder straps and waist belt

The padding on the OMM Adventure Light 20 is generous, light and comfortable. It is also positioned where you need it and not where you don’t. The back is kept firm and self-supporting by a removable foam pad that sits inside the main compartment in its own sleeve. This pad is so light, and helps keep the overall structure of the pack so comfortable, that after I tried running once with the pad removed I resolved never to do so again — it’s simply more of a gain to have the foam pad in there.

There are two identical pockets on either side of the waist belt. Both pockets close with zips. They are large enough to fit a smartphone, and there is some flexibility as the lower half of each pocket is made of a mesh that stretches slightly. I found these pockets to be very useful for carrying my phone, food snacks, and accessories like gloves, hat or headlamp.

 

Hydration System

The OMM Adventure Light  20 does not come with a hydration bladder or bottles. As discussed above, the side bottle pockets are perfectly designed and executed for their purpose. With both bottle pockets carrying 600ml — or 750ml at a pinch — bottles, this would give you 1.2L – 1.5L fluid. You could also remove the foam back pad from its dedicated sleeve and put your hydration pouch in there. There is no other pocket in the main compartment to hold a hydration bladder, and unless you had a completely full load it would slosh around a bit if in the main area.

Conclusion

A top-drawer backpack for adventure running AND run commuting!

Additional Pictures