Salomon XA 25 Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
Hybrid, vest-style daypacks are a relatively new addition to the market, and previous packs of this style just haven't quite hit the nail on the head. The Salomon XA 25 shows just what can be done by combining the snug, no-bounce fit and easy access of a running vest with the capacity of a more traditional daypack. Doing this all at a super low weight, this pack is superb at giving you no excuses to stop moving, and practically disappears from mind when you're wearing it.
The Salomon XA 25 bucks the trend of achieving comfort with stiff, unyielding, and bulky suspension. Instead, it brings running-vest technology, such as cross-chest bungees and multiple attachments between the wide shoulder straps and the main pack body. This snugs the pack down tight on your upper torso, eliminating the need to transfer weight to the hips. We comfortably carried a full winter running kit (including multiple layers, microspikes, and a few liters of water) on a long day and experienced absolutely no shoulder soreness afterward - all the weight rode comfortably on our midsection.
The only downside to the close-fitting suspension is the lack of ventilation. We found this pack slightly less breathable than packs with suspended-mesh back panels. The wide shoulder straps and abundance of front storage prevents a bit of heat escape from the chest, but we got used to this quickly.
The chest bungees and shoulder strap adjustments work very well but aren't anything like traditional backpacks. After about a day of use, we got to the point of being able to put on and take off this pack about as fast as any other. We also found these features to allow excellent range of motion. With a lot of elastic, it's easy to scramble, lean over, and move your body however you wish: your gear will move right along with you.
This pack is light! Weighing in at a scant 15 oz and carrying almost 30 L, plus the loads of gear, food, and water you can stuff in the mesh pockets, this pack is incredibly light for its volume and feature-set.
The Salomon XA 25 achieves this light weight by eschewing much of a frame (not necessary, with its vest-like suspension), and using thin cords and bungees in lieu of compression straps, zippers, and buckles.
At this low weight, we normally expect packs to sacrifice carrying comfort, but we easily carried 3L of water, our typical daypack load (i.e., 10 essentials), microspikes, and winter layers on a full-day hike with this pack with no problem. The vest-style carrying system is a game-changer in terms of carrying a decent load without putting undue stress on your shoulders.
The Salomon XA 25 is a purpose-built pack meant for fast-and-light missions. Borrowing from running-vests, it would seem like it's meant primarily for runners. Not so - we enjoyed hiking and scrambling just as much as we did running with this pack.
That said, we wouldn't recommend this pack for things like commuting, travel use, or climbing. It would work fine for those activities, but you'd probably attract some questioning looks, and there are other, less expensive packs that work just as well.
While it's light, The Salomon XA 25 pack can comfortably carry anything from just the essentials for a medium-length run to a full day's load. Our lead tester cinched down the outer compression straps to just carry a little bit of water and snacks for a short run. After discovering a trove of plastic bottles at the top of the trail, he uncinched the pack and filled it with trash. Both up and down, the XA 25 ran comfortably without bouncing.
Ease of Use
The Salomon XA 25 feels like a dialed-in piece of gear. All pockets on the front are so easy to access, but also feel secure, even for small things like chapstick. There are a whopping 4 pockets on each shoulder strap, so it's easy to go all-out organizing your gloves, food, water, phone, sunglasses, etc. - anything you might need on the trail.
On the back of the XA 25, you'll find a single stretch-mesh stuff pocket and a perimeter bungee with two chinches on each side of the pack. Small features like the hooks on the end of the cinch cords (which keep cords from flopping around) really impressed us. The perimeter cinch cords held onto poles super tightly - we had no flopping like on almost all other packs. The back stuff pocket is great for layers and keeps you from having to get into the main compartment for most of the day.
The main compartment is a roll-top design with a single cinch used to tighten it down. The buckle that goes across the top of the roll-top is nice, but we found it to be a bit finicky with its dual-webbing and lots of extra cord. It's great when the pack is full, but we wish it tucked away like other features on this pack for when our load was light.
We were initially a bit worried that the thin fabric and numerous cords on this pack would make it fragile, but months of testing have proved otherwise! The polyamide/polyethylene fabric is light but very tough, and excellent design kept the numerous cords from catching on things. We saw no abnormal wear on this pack after dozens of miles of use, and with few zippers and well-constructed seams, we expect it to last for many years.
In our rain testing, the roll-top closure kept the inside of the main compartment bone dry, even when we sprayed the roll-top directly. Taped seams and a large opening make it easy to keep your gear dry, even without a rain cover (which would not work on a pack this flexible). This feature is excellent for rainy places and provides a lot of peace of mind.
There's no denying that the Salomon XA 25 is on the higher end of the daypack price spectrum. However, for that price, you get an extremely comfortable, durable, and versatile day pack. It performs like a top-notch piece of gear should, with very few extraneous or flawed features. If you like to move fast, have super easy access to your gear, and value a product that is well-thought-out, the XA 25 is an excellent value.
The Salomon XA 25 handily beats out the competition to take home our Top Pick for fast and light activities. It's got a stellar design and hugs your torso like it's custom-tailored. A pack this well-designed fits into your mountain activities seamlessly and supports, rather than hinders your endeavors. We had loads of fun testing this pack, and we're confident that you will too.
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