- Usual full price: $150 USD
- Weight: 560 g (one size)
- Volume: 20 L
- Pros: versatile, durable, spacious
- Cons: weight, bulk, single flask holder
- Suitability: ‘citizen’ skimo racing, ski mountaineering day trips, summer alpine climbing/scrambling
A good all around ski mountaineering and adventure day-pack for fast and light travel.
Product description and How we tested it:
The Salomon X Alp line is Salomon’s foray into serious mountaineering equipment and uses some innovative ideas from their top athletes. The X Alp 20 pack is one of the most interesting pieces in the line and worth checking out for any ski mountaineer.
Salomon worked a few interesting features into the pack. First is the back-side zipper. This isn’t particularly critical in a race environment when you are never opening your pack but in training or on an adventure day, it is more useful. I originally figured this was a bit of a gimmick but in practice this allows you access to your pack at times when it might be beneficial not to set it down – for example, when straddling the snowy summit of a peak or reaching for a water bottle midway up a 4th class ridge.
The ski carry system (a lasso type) is removable. It is essentially girth hitched to small loops on the pack but still works as a robust system. When you finally pack away the skis for the season you can remove the extra straps and use your pack for summer adventures. The upper ski carry (lasso) strap also functions as a rope strap in the summer (see photos above.)
The shoulder strap flask pocket allows quick access to fuel and liquids but is only on one side. I’d prefer that both straps had a pocket as it would be possible to carry a second flask up front when the ski carry was not attached. Similarly, the right hip has a zipper pocket that is useful for carrying food or a camera. The left hip belt could be equally equipped.
Like most skimo packs, the X-Alp includes a separate crampon compartment. However, the compartment is extra padded which, while being slightly heavier, prevents the crampons points from pressing into your back. Furthermore, unlike other skimo packs, the crampon pouch has a full zipper to keep your crampons absolutely secure inside.
I’ve been most impressed with how spacious the bag seems. This may partially be due to the extra long zipper but compared to other 20L packs (the Dynafit RC20 for example) it fits more gear – it seems to be more comparable with a pack like the Dynafit Broad Peak 28L. Climbing in the Tetons, I was able to carry a rap line, helmet, spare clothing, and a liter of water in my pack without having to strap things on the outside (though there is a spare set of clips on the pack body to attach a helmet).
Overall thoughts: The X-Alp 20 shouldn’t be considered a pure race pack though it will function in that purpose. It is better served as an adventure pack for ski and climbing days where light and fast features are valuable.
Equally effective as a skimo pack and summer adventure pack. Large capacity. Secure ski fix. Durable.
Things to be improved:
It is slightly bulky but this likely just comes with the features. It also appears to be more resilient to abrasion than most race packs. I would prefer a second shoulder flask holder and a removable zipper pouch on the waist belt.