When Salomon sent me two of their new Alpine packs to test I was a little bit dubious. Salomon are known for their footwear, and I hadn’t even realised that they’ve now moved into the backpack market. However, I needn’t have worried. There’s a lot of thought gone into the X-Alp range of packs, and while there might be a few personal niggles with the two they sent me, overall, I think these are great additions to the Alpinist’s array of technical gear.
The two packs Salomon sent are the X-Alp 20 and the X-Alp 30. They are both very similar in design, apart from the obvious differences in size.
Both packs are loaded with features, including reinforced bottom pocket, ice axe and ski attachments, waist-belt pockets, and zipped back entry, and both feel very solid and well made.
Initially I wasn’t too sure about the zipped-back entry. I tend to use rucksack liners inside my pack, so a zipped entry just makes it awkward to get at your kit, but I did find this to be a minor irritation. The X-Alp 30 also has a top loader as well as the zipped back, and has a top pocket too.
The reinforced bottom pocket works well on both models for crampons in winter in the UK, and on summer Alpine routes where minimal gear is required (the packs just aren’t big enough for days where lots of kit is required), but could possibly do to be just a little bit longer, as my crampons only just fit inside the pocket on both models. The bottom pocket also works well for carry a rope, and there is a hole for feeding the rope directly out, perhaps on those occasions when only a short section of the rope is needed – say for confidence roping. I tried this with a 9mm confidence rope and it works well for that.
The X-Alp 20 retails at around £100, and the 30 is around £125, so Salomon have put themselves up there with the very best within this range. I think they are great packs, very well put-together, but I do wonder if they are really big enough for either winter mountaineering in the UK, or summer rock climbing? Go to Salomon’s website for more details: Salomon Backpacks