UPDATE: I recently spent three days fastpacking the Laugavegur and Fimmvorduhals trails in Iceland using the Salomon Peak 30 pack and I’ve updated my earlier preview with thoughts from the trip.
For spring 2017 Salomon has released a number of packs, and if you’re into run commuting, fastpacking, adventure racing, or generally enjoy moving quickly through the woods and mountains with lightweight gear you’re sure to find their new lineup quite interesting. The ones that caught my eye were the Skin Pro 15 Set, the Agile 20 AW, the S-Lab Peak 20 Set, the Peak 20, and the Peak 30. Below we will be taking a quick look at the Peak 20 and Peak 30 packs.
This fall I will be headed back to Iceland with a couple of friends with plans to hike the Laugavegur & Fimmvorduhals trails and some exploring. The last time I was there my wife and I had planned to tent camp even though we ended up in the huts due to severe weather. We carried warm sleeping bags, pads, cooking gear, a tent, etc… More than we needed.
This time, from the start, we are planning to utilize the huts. Because the huts are warm, and equipped with comfortable sleeping mats, and cooking gear we can carry much less. No mats, no tents, superlight sleeping bags, no or minimal cooking gear. This should allow us to cover more ground, in less time, with greater comfort.
Now, I already have a bunch of lightweight gear, but I didn’t have an appropriate lightweight pack. So, when I saw the new packs from Salomon I bit, and initially ordered the Peak 20. When it arrived, and I finally got my hands on it, I started to worry it wasn’t going to be big enough. So, in a moment of total gear nerdiness, I went and ordered the Peak 30 as well. I now have both and am going to spend the next couple of month playing around before I decide which one to take.
In the end it will depend on how the rest of my kit comes together. Even thought I’m hoping to travel very light, I do want to take a small camera kit and will have to carry food for 4 days. I’m sure I can do it with the 30L pack, but not sure I’ll be successful with just 20L. Anyway, let’s take a look at the packs in question.
Capacity: 20 liters/1220 cubic inches
Sizing: One Size Fits Most
Capacity: 30 liters/1830 cubic inches
Sizing: One Size Fits Most
Salomon Peak 20 Backpack
The Peak 20 is a stripped down, no frills, gear carrying, mile crushing pack… or at least it looks that way. I am pretty critical of my equipment, but I haven’t found too many things to complain about. There are no unnecessary straps, pockets, or unneeded features. The pack is light, there are no poorly placed seams, and the materials seem to be a good compromise between being light and being durable.
Here you can see the Peak 20 from the side. There are pockets on each side made of ripstop nylon. They aren’t stretchy, so they will be of limited value once the pack is fully packed. That said, they are perfect for storing your trekking poles or tent poles.
The compression straps are also very well thought out. At the top and bottom they are routed internally so the straps stay out of the way. Below I have better images of the compression straps.
The Peak 20 is a vest style pack with a very minimal waist strap. The shoulder straps are made of a very light and soft foam/fabric combo. There are stretch mesh water bottle pockets at the top of each strap made to carry soft flasks, and perfectly fit a HydraPak 500ml Soft Flask. Below these are zippered pouches for carrying other essentials you want quick access to… gels, gummies, salt tabs, etc… My smartphone just barely fits (original version Moto X). On the right hand zippered pouch there is also a stretch mesh pocket which is great for stashing and grabbing stuff quickly. Salomon knows running packs and they nailed the straps on these.
On top there is a small zippered stash pocket. If the pack is completely stuffed there won’t be much internal volume in this space, but the pocket itself is quite expansive. It runs the full width of pack and can easily hold a headlamp, multitool, buff, pair of gloves, chapstick, etc. Sometimes the usefulness of these pockets is limited by their size. That’s not an issue here.
Here you can see the topmost compression strap and load stabilizer. The yellow arrow indicates the internal routing of the strap. This setup really allows you to cinch the pack down in situations where you’re not carrying a full load.
One area of concern… The pinch release strap lock. Salomon loves these things, but I’ve never been impressed with them. They hold alright under light loads, but slip when put under significant load. Compression straps are, by design, typically under significant loads. That said… the jury is still out on this one.
Here you can see one of the side pockets and the lower compression straps. The red lines indicate where the straps are routed internally. They do a great job of holding things together and stabilizing the load, while staying out of the way.
One of the other cool features is the way Salomon divided the internal space of the pack. There is an internal piece of fabric creating two internal spaces both accessed through the main zipper. To access the smaller front pocket you just unzip the pack from the right bottom, to the right top corner. To access the larger main compartment unzip the zipper from the bottom left to the upper right corner. It’s a super simple and elegant solution.
Salomon Peak 30 Backpack
UPDATE: So, I had the opportunity to put the Salomon Peak 30 to use on a recent trip to Iceland, and generally it was great. During our trip we hiked the Laugavegur and Fimmvorduhals trails over the course of three days covering ~25km on day 1, ~38km on day 2, and ~25km again on day 3. We stayed in the huts, and carried 4 days of food. The Peak 30 easily fit everything I needed including a small amount of camera equipment. It carried very comfortably and I experienced not one bit of back or shoulder soreness. I did use a pack liner to keep everything dry in the Icelandic weather, and I very much appreciated all of the easy to access storage. The pockets made it easy to stash all of my food for the day and meant I could focus on moving forward and taking photos.
Also, I should mention that I didn’t have any issues with the pinch release strap locks. They seemed to hold fine throughout the day and I was able to adjust them, and forget about them.
As for the zippers… I still think they suck. They don’t work well, and I feel they are a liability in a backcountry setting. I would much rather these packs use a top-loading design with a drawstring closure, and a top flap. Also, I should note that on the Peak 20 pack I’ve now done 25-30 runs with it and the zipper slider is already starting to corrode and get tough to pull. This is such a critical component, why so little thought concerning it’s usability and longevity.
Bottom Line: I like these packs and would definitely recommend checking them out. I’m going to keep using mine… well… at least until the zippers blowup!
The Peak 30 is just a slightly larger version of the Peak 20 with a one awesome addition I will cover later. It’s a little longer, and a little deeper, and more appropriate for longer outings, or for people who aren’t into cutting off the handle of their toothbrush.
Here you can see the strap setup on the Peak 30. It’s the same layout as on the Peak 20, but with a slightly more substantial waist belt. Because the Peak 30 is a bit longer, the wider belt tabs help stabilize the larger heavier load and provide some additional, easy access, storage.
Here you can see the more substantial hip tabs. The yellow lines indicate the internally routed compression straps. The red line shows the awesome, stretch mesh, storage pocket. I love me a vest pack without a waist strap. However, the stretch mesh storage pockets made possible by the hip pads make the Peak 30 a real winner in my book. When trying to cover a lot of ground as quickly and efficiently as possible you never want to have to remove your pack. The more easy storage you have, which you can access without taking your pack off, the better.
Again, the top storage pocket on the Peak 30 is quite expansive running across the entire width of the pack. You shouldn’t have any issue fitting the things you might want to keep in this area.
Here’s a quick shot of the internally routed top compression strap and load stabilizer. It’s almost identical to the one on the Peak 20. I do have some concerns about this area though because of the extra height of the Peak 30. The load stabilizing straps are secured using pinch release strap locks. The extra height of the Peak 30 creates strap geometry that will most likely increase the applied load as compared to the Peak 20. Again, this is just a first look, and the jury is still out on the packs performance in this area. I’m hoping to be surprised.
In general Salomon has come out with a couple of awesome packs. It’s great to see a company like Salomon investing in designing equipment for the fastpacking crowd. If Salomon sees an opportunity, I can’t wait to see what some of the other companies start contributing to this area of sport.
One last point of concern… The zippers Salomon chooses to use on their packs suck. I’m sure they are light, flexible, and meet the specific design needs of Salomon’s production guys, but they don’t run very smoothly when loaded. When empty they’re fine. They aren’t the smoothest running zippers in the world anyway, but once a a pack is stuffed full they really start to hang up. Especially when trying to get around a corner or bend. Everything else seems dialed, and I can’t understand why Salomon still can’t get these right.
(I don’t think the zipper issue is just me. Both Peak packs display similar hangups, and I have an older Salomon pack that uses the same zippers and they suck too. It’s not such a big deal as to dissuade me from recommending these packs, but you should be aware. Be careful when opening or closing the zippers, and don’t force things when they hang up, and you should be ok. Also, you should probably carry a few safety pins in your repair kit so a zipper failure doesn’t totally ruin your trip.)