As the packing theme for my recent trip to Europe was all about multi-purpose gear, I brought along the Salomon XA 20 backpack to use for everything but the more technical alpine climbing days. This lightweight pack was versatile enough to carry the essential gear required for an agenda filled with hiking, biking, trail running, and rock climbing.
Weighing just 16 oz., the Salomon XA 20 backpack offers 20L of storage space in a single main zippered compartment. Three kangaroo pockets (two mesh) on the front of the pack can hold extra gear such as a light jacket, climbing shoes, or water bottles. Two zippered hip pockets are perfect for storing your cell phone, GPS, camera, or other gadgets.
On multi-pitch rock climbing days, the ultralight pack easily fit two pairs of approach shoes, water bottles, snacks, and an extra layer for a full day out on the rock. The pack did not impede my harness access, arm movement, nor bonk into my helmet when climbing.
For day hikes, trail running, and biking, the pack provided more than enough room for extra layers, snacks, water, wallet, camera, and even a swimsuit and towel. As I found the Salomon 4D Pole System a little too awkward to use, the two front mesh pockets came in handy for storing my collapsible trekking poles when I needed to stow them on scrambling sections of the trail. Parts of the 4D Pole System however, were useful for clipping my climbing helmet to the outside of the pack on approaches to a climb.
The padded and ventilated back panel zips open in order to externally house your hydration bladder. Hydration ports run up and out through both shoulder straps so you can choose a preferred side for your hydration hose.
The sternum strap sits conveniently on a railing system, enabling you to adjust it up and down, as you like. Quick release buckles at the top of the shoulder straps allow you to attach Salomon accessories such as a flask and bottle holder, or a custom front pocket system that adds an extra level of easy access volume for adventure racers or ultra runners.
Made from ripstop nylon, the XA 20 pack is easily washable. After 5 weeks of use, my ultralight pack needed a little freshening up so I threw it in the washing machine on the delicate cycle and it came out good as new.
The Salomon XA 20 backpack comes in a variety of color combinations for both a men and women, retailing for $80.