If you love trail running and fastpacking as much as I do, right now is about the time acute gear envy will set in. As I said in the unboxing video above I’m back out on the trail again, and that means improvements to my kit.
First up, is the RaidLight OLMO Ultra Raid Desert 30L pack.
This pack weighs in at a measly 710 grams (1.6 lbs) and much of that appears to come from subdivisions inside each of the main compartments. The pack has seven (7) sealed nylon zippers with metal toggles which probably add a fair amount to the overall weight of the pack. The pack’s eighth zipper is inside the main compartment and is just the right size for a passport and other important documents. Most of these are relatively short travel which shaves off some of the bulk. Relative to other rucks on the market RaidLight has managed to do a fair job of keeping the weight down. Ultimate Directions FastPack 30L weighs 700 g (1.5 lbs) and lacks many of the organizational features RaidLight has crammed into the same space.
I actually like the color (mine is white, gray and orange with black trim) although I admit that when combined with my blue, charcoal, red, green and orange running togs it’s going to really complete’s my trail-side clown motif. C’est la vie.
Construction looks solid despite any double sewn seams. High-stress points are reinforced with tape and probably fabric glue. When I run my fingers around the inside of the main compartment I can feel the toggles for the draw cords because they run all the way into the seam. That’s good news since a failure at any one of these points could spell disaster on the trail.
A pair of water bottle holsters is positioned perfectly for hands-free sipping underway. Plus, even when loaded the bottles miss tender nipples saving all that uncomfortable pain from chafing. Both holsters have mess pockets for stuffing goo and snacks into. In addition to all this functionality up front, trekking poles have a stowage location across the front of the water bottles. I particularly like this because it means I can on or off-load my poles without taking the pack off.
The pack is well balanced does not wobble or irritate. The harness is well-padded conforms to my shape. There is an unpadded channel that runs up your spine to the shoulder harness which will allow sweat to escape, although I anticipate a wet spot on the back of my short after long, hot runs. The chest belt is easily four or five centimeters away from your chest which means that it won’t ever rub. The hip belt, designed to be worn loosely, comes with a sock over it. The sock is constantly falling off and without it, the belt will likely chafe. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this particular feature.
A headphone extension has been provided in the pack. This is supposed to connect your iPod or phone to your earphones from the right waist pocket and I think it’s a great idea. However, the cordage is heavy, difficult to remove and/or replace, and potentially unnecessary.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like the idea of having a hookup for audio books and music while I’m running, but this is probably going to be the first thing I change about the bag. I’ve checked and a pair of old Apple headphones is just about the right length to make a similar journey and easily half the weight. With a little fishing around I can get a good pair of earphones to complete the job and shave off some unnecessary mass from the kit.
Honestly, I’m not even sure what this is for, but just behind the shoulder harness is a pocket made of clear plastic. I’m guessing that it’s for holding a race number, but if that’s the case then there’s a number of problems. First, when the shoulder straps are anchored properly to the top of the pack this pocket will inevitably be scrunched down. Also, if you put a number here it’s always going to be obscured by your head making the number impractical at best. “Look here,” he says bowing low so that the aid-station people can see.
I suppose you could mount a map here, but duh, why? You’d have to take the pack off to see it. So yeah, I’m not sure what this is for. And without any documentation (even in French which I could noodle through) your guess is as good as mine.
Easy Access Pocket
Again, another spot on the pack where I’m left wondering. On the exterior of the main compartment is a tab with an icon I’m unable to puzzle out. The icon seems to indicate that there is easy access for something, however, what is anyone’s guess.
Additional clues: There are two zippers, one at the top of the pocket and one just above the easy access port. Near the top of the pocket are a pair of velcro loops and a water bladder port (clearly marked).
All of this seems to line up and or reflect RaidLight’s ISOBAG/ISOTHERM water bladder stuff, but why you’d ever want to load 2 liters of water as far away from your back as possible is beyond me. Especially when there is a port that runs next to your body. Maybe on long stage races crossing hot, arid deserts more water is needed?
Gear Attachment Points and Cinching
The main gear compartment is cinched down via a network of cords woven into the sides of the pack. You can operate this feature from the bottom of the ruck and it’s pretty straight forward. It’s nearly impossible to do this with the pack on so keep this in mind when you reach into the bag and pull out your raincoat or flashlights. If you’ve made space in the bag you’ll want to pull the cord before you put the ruck back on your shoulders.
Extra gear can be affixed to the ruck using four (4) gear attachment points on the bottom of the bag. Your sleeping bag and mat will need their own container and straps to be mounted outside the main compartment.
On The Trail
Yeah, so it’s not all confusion. Last night I took this ruck for a round in the forest. The run went off smoothly and while I wasn’t toting a full load I padded so there was some weight.
I took my poles on this dash through the woods too, and my arms got a workout as well. The shoulder straps stayed out of the way and my arms cleared the poles when I stowed them up front.