While I was preparing for my last ultra, I spent a fair amount of time looking for a just the perfect hydration and food carrying system. What I had found is that I often didn’t want to slow down to get into a pack on my back and that fanny-pack with a hydration bladder didn’t have enough capacity to carry both fluid and food. I was just disappointed with most everything that I tried.
I kept saying to myself, and asking people for, a pack with access to what I needed on its front instead of the back.
My prayers were answered with the arrival of the new Salomon XA PRO 15 Packvest!
Salomon has a full line of packs that are designed for trail running and long-distance endurance racing. The new XA PRO 15 is their top-of-the-line pack, designed for runners that need capacity, access and a fluid carrying system. The packs are intended to be used by people moving fast, so they are light-weight, durable and fit tightly to the body.
The XA PRO 15 looks from the back to be quite similar to the more familiar Camelback hydration products designed for running. It has a narrow, vertical pack with a large internal storage pouch that runs down your back.
But turning the pack around to the front is where the fun begins. The front has a zip-up mesh vest across the chest that is covered with pockets and sports two bottle-carriers on the shoulder straps.
Inside the pack is a 1.5L Platypus hydration bladder, situated in its own separate carrying compartment. There is also an outer pocket on the back of the pack for small items like keys and a compartment on the inside made to hold for Suunto GPS pod unit.
Designed for the trail, this pack would also be a great solution for runners doing long road runs on their own without aid station support.
What makes the XA PRO 15 great?
Access to your food in the front is the first thing that makes that pack a great solution. There are three pouches on the front of the vest and two small pockets on the sides of the bottle holders that can be used for gel packs.
In addition, the two front mounted bottle holders give you the flexibility to carry different fluids than you may be carrying inside the hydration bladder itself. The bottles are can easily grabbed out of their holders for use or to refill them quickly in aid-stations.
This combination of multiple bottle carriers and a hydration bladder gives you great flexibility to deal with hydration challenges. For example, you might carry plain water in the hydration bladder, an energy drink in one bottle and an electrolyte solution in the other bottle. You’d then have plenty of fluids and all of your bases covered.
Personally, the XA PRO 15 would have been such a handy device in my last race on the second mega long climb of the day. I was carrying two bottles on my fanny-pack, but I essentially ran out of fluid between the aid stations, as they were five miles apart on the climb. Having the additional fluid in the internal bladder would have been a been a life-saver.
The Salomon XA PRO 15 Packvest really has everything that you could ask for in a hydration pack for long runs and races. It is light (at 1 lb. 4.oz), has great capacity, and gives the best access of any pack that I’ve tried.
The pack sells for $90.00 from Salomon’s web-site. The only draw-back that I encountered in getting the product is that it took a bit more than two weeks to receive it after my order. But heck, what’s the hurry when you’re waiting for an incredible product like this?
For more information visit Salomon by clicking here.
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