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Gear Review – RaidLight OLMO 5

A well designed pack that’s hard to fault.

Olmo 5 Raidlight BackpackFor many runners who train and compete in ultra races the choice of pack is probably second only to shoe choice. Take a day pack which may be too large and you are uncomfortable. Choose one that is too small and you end up carrying bottles or festooning the pack with extra pouches, a waist pack which may bounce and cause discomfort or one which is comfortable but lacks the space to accommodate enough water to get you between check points or if training one which ensures you have enough water for a long run in remote country.

All the above were considered by the top Italian ultra runner Marco Olmo when he decided to design packs suitable for ultra racing and in the end he appears to have come up with the perfect solution.

Marco Olmo, now in his 60’s, is still winning or placing in events as diverse as the Marathon des Sables and the Ultra Tour of Mont Blanc. He designed the Ultralight OLMO 20 for the multi stage Marathon des Sables and the Ultralight OLMO 5 for events like the UTMB.

Both sacks which are produced and sold by French specialists RaidLight are excellent and the 20 litre one at 360grams is even lighter than RaidLights Endurance 10, but it was the OLMO 5 that interested me the most.

A 5 litre back pack sounded to be too small, and I wondered if it would hold more than a bottle of water and a food bar but this incredibly lightweight sack, weighing just 290grams, was full of welcome surprises.

The OLMO5 comes with two 600ml bottles which fit into shoulder strap mounted bottle holders. The holders are mesh based and also have additional pockets on the front which would take food bars and gels. The holders also have draw cords at top and bottom so they can be used as pockets if you prefer to carry water in a bottle or bladder in the back pack.

The main pack has a zip closure plus there is an additional mesh pocket under a flap which also includes a zipped compartment to give a third secure place for keys or a mobile. There are also narrow mesh pockets along each side which would take more gels or the RaidLight Trail Poles. For those using a heavier trekking pole there are additional elastic loops along the sides which enable poles to be secured at an angle across the pack.

I live and work in Andalucia, Spain, wet and severe weather is very rare, the mountains are remote and although there are springs it can be risky to rely on finding them flowing, especially during the summer months – you need to carry enough water. Not a problem in stage races where water is available at check points but when planning race stages for Al Andalus Ultra Trail there are no convenient water points – everything has to be carried.

Raidlight Olmo 5 and gear The OLMO5 proved it was up for the job:

The pack was loaded to see what it would hold and as you can see in the photograph, it holds more than enough for a full day in the mountains.

I prefer to use two 750ml Camelbak Podium bottles which means the bottle of water issued at each check point during the Al Andalus can be split between them and Eletewater added to provide the perfect electrolyte drink. The bottle holder pockets took a Mulebar and a gel. The main pack took a further 1.5litre bottle with a Smartube attached, (the pack also has exit points for the bottle or bladder tube). A waterproof jacket, first aid kit, hat, gloves, socks and a head torch all fitted in with the bottle and a couple more Mulebars went into the zip lid pocket.

Leki trekking poles were secured across the outside of the pack, and to complete the test I added a camera and pouch to the waist strap. The OLMO5 was packed without having to force anything in and when I put it on it was comfortable. The final really clever design is the chest strap. This runs from the front of the bottle holders rather than the main straps and means you get a very stable pack with no movement from the bottles which, although held firmly, can be easily removed and replaced.

For a race like Al Andalus Ultra Trail, (which isn’t a self support race like the MdS), or for ultra races like UTMB, Ronda 101 or the Spanish 126, the main problem is how to carry the 1.5litres of water between check points, along with food, emergency kit and a jacket. The OLMO5 looks to be the answer.

A brilliant design from a brilliant competitor, well done Marco!