Based on the fact I pretty much always run on road, I’ve never really had a need for any sort of endurance kit. I have a couple of bags I use for commuting, but they’re not really designed for “adventure” carrying. By that I mean that they do the job on a 10-mile run home when I either don’t bother carrying water or I can nip into a Tesco if I really need to, but they’re not really designed for efficiently carrying stuff you’ll need for an endurance race.
Last weekend I ran in The Race to the Stones (read about my injury-fest here), a 100km trail race through the Chilterns and North Wessex Downs countryside. Although it’s a relatively entry-level event in the ranks of ultra marathons, it’s still 100km. The most I’d ever done in the past were road marathons, all the planning I needed for those was to remember my running kit and to apply suntan lotion. This would be an altogether different affair and I’d need to prepare myself with kit that would actually help me finish.
I spent ages looking at the various endurance rucksacks available, something that’s not particularly easy when you’ve never done an ultra (ask me about marathon kit and I’ll send you lists of the stuff). How much stuff would I actually need to carry? Did I need built-in water bottles? Is 2 litres a lot of space? Does it need to be waterproof? I didn’t have a clue.
I wanted to er on the side of caution in terms of bag size. This was my first attempt at something over a marathon and the main thing was to finish it, not to get a fast time. Because of that I knew I’d probably be out on the course for a while and couldn’t skimp on kit space. An extra phone charger, plenty of water, medical supplies, spare socks, snack supplies, sun cream. The list was pretty big and I wasn’t prepared to attempt to travel light (one of the real athletes I ran with just did it with a bottle strapped to his waistband). Anyway, after nipping into a few shops and checking the sizes, I opted for the Salomon Agile 6. Size and space-wise it seemed perfect for what I wanted and could double up as a commuting bag for the 98% of the year when I’m not doing endurance running.
I’ve used the bag for a few commute runs as well as the Race to the Stones and it fits really well. The bulk of the bag sits nicely high on the shoulders, both the back compartment and the front bottle holders. I’ve ran in it with a fair bit of weight and it feels secure, even running at a pretty good pace. The main compartment is quite roomy, big enough to fit a pair of shoes and all your general day-to-day accessories like phones and keys. I’ve even used it as a camera bag on a long walk. There’s also a secondary zip compartment inside so you don’t lose all of your smaller bits and pieces.
The front two water holders on the straps come complete with two 500ml soft water bottles, the size of which actually surprised me. When you look at them deflated they appear quite small, but stick them under the tap and they actually increase in size a fair bit.
Took me a while to work out that the chest straps are connected at the front by some non mechanical clips (really should read the manuals). After the first few times where I slipped the bag over my head like some confused child, I realised that there are two small clips on the front which you twist of and clip back on. It’s a nice design which is a lot less fiddly than plastic buckle clips. The strap adjusters are pretty much the same as any others I’ve used. Apparently it’s designed with harness construction as well as a “stab” system for more stability – whether this is marketing language or not (as far as I can tell it’s based on the location of the strap connectors), the build of the straps works really well. So all you need to know is that the straps are a very nice fit indeed.
Rather uncharacteristically for a UK reviewer, I haven’t actually been able to test the waterproofing of the bag in the field. I have however chucked a load of water on it and the 500mm waterproofing worked fine. It’ll definitely hold up to a bit of rain.
The bag comes complete with a few nice carrying features that include helmet carrying loops, “4d pole holders” (a quick system to access the poles) and an elasticated key holder – which is very nice for the commuting runs.
There is, of course room for a bladder (1.5l) in its own section on the rucksack. I’m personally not a fan of bladders, largely because I always forget to clean them out, but it’s there if you need it.
As modern-day athletic gear goes, the Agile 6 is a very subtle piece of kit. There are four colour options, each of which is just one colour. There’s no neon or big designs on it, just a nice, functional pack. Exactly the kind of thing I like to wear.
Having tested out the Agile 6 for a few weeks now, I really like it. During the Race to the Stones it was a lovely piece of kit. I had enough water on me, I had plenty of space for kit and it felt comfortable. The clip function and the straps gave me no concerns or issues.
The water pockets are also big enough to slip in a phone or a small water bottle for easy access and the internal smaller pocket is a life saver for stuff like change and bank cards.
Who’s it for?
Perfect for the more general runner who might do a bit of trail and long distance running, but would rather buy something that they can use all year round, without spending a fortune.
To find out more about the Salomon Agile 6, head over to the website here.