Last updated: 24-Oct-18
The lightweight, minimalist Salewa pack is designed for moving fast in the mountains. I have been testing it on training runs on the trails and hills of Scotland.
- 18-litre capacity
- Split Ortholite foam shoulder straps
- Contact-Fit Lite carrying system
- Twin Compression System
- Two-in-one lower compression straps
- Main zipped compartment with water bladder pouch to the rear
- Top zipped security pocket
- Two side mesh pockets (open top)
- Reflective details
- Unisex fit
Pros: What’s good about the Salewa Ultra Train 18 backpack
The pack offers a good balance of lightweight and durability. Too often, in my opinion, brands make packs that are super lightweight but they lack some of the more robust features. Salewa seems to understand this, and while the Ultra Train pack is not the lightest on the market, it does have good comfort and high-quality design and materials.
The Split Ortholite foam shoulder straps are interesting. They are nicely padded, yet, because they are two thinner strips, rather than one wider strap, they are still quite lightweight. I thought they would dig into the shoulders but they do not. Rather they seem to spread the load nicely.
There is a lot of adjusting to be had to get a good fit, which is needed since this is a pack that is aimed at both men and women and seemingly across a wide size range. (Do see my points below, however.)
Salewa’s Contact-Fit Lite carrying system is aimed at “moulding to your body to give a precise fit around the shoulders and promote good breathability”. I found the pack did fit me quite well and stayed close to my back while running. The back is slightly padded so it is comfortable but this can lead to a sweaty back.
There is a rather complicated looking Twin Compression System for the upper and lower areas of the pack. Suffice to say they work well to keep the pack compressed so it does not rock around on your back when you have a lighter load.
The 18-litre space is more than large enough for my training runs and would suit races that do not require kit such as a sleeping bag. You can easily fit in spare layers, a waterproof jacket, snacks, map etc.
A water bladder fits into a pocket inside the main compartment, where there is the standard style of Velcro hook. There are two mesh pockets on the outside for further water bottles and snacks. With a bit of an effort (I have tight shoulders!) I could access a water bottle from the side mesh pocket without taking the pack off.
Cons: What’s not so good about the Salewa Ultra Train 18 backpack
Because this is a unisex pack, I would like to see a chest strap that moves up and down the shoulder straps. If you are a larger-chested lady, you might not find the chest strap accommodating enough.
The pack is also a one-size-fits-all and, as most smaller men and women know, this is rarely a good compromise. If felt the pack was a bit large on the shoulders and I had the straps pulled in almost as tightly as they will go. I am a slim female but I am not particularly small, so this is a bit disappointing. Why not make the pack in two or three different sizes, or, at least, one for men and one for women?
While the pack does sit comfortably on the back and the shoulder straps are comfortably padded, I would like to see more attention to the waist strap. This is a basic webbing strap. I prefer a bit of padding here (I find the webbing rubs my skin) and how about a useful waist strap pocket or two? Many similar packs now have front pockets for easy access to snacks, phone etc.
The pack is water resistant but not completely water tight so in wet weather you would need to add a waterproof cover or use dry bags.
This is a well-thought-out rucksack with some great features. It offers a good balance of weight and comfort and is a comfortable fit, especially if you are a guy. I would like to see a version for women, or a smaller size. The RRP of £90 is quite high but many similar bags by different brands are in the same price bracket and this one looks to be made of durable fabrics.
Others rucksacks you may want to consider:
Salewa Lite Train 14
Salewa Ultra Train X-Alps 18
Montane’s women’s Via Claw 14
Inov-8 All Terrain Pro Vest
About the writer: Fiona is a keen runner, preferring off-road and hilly to flat and road. She lives in Scotland where the weather is fickle so needs to be prepared for all conditions.
All images Fiona Outdoors except when stated.
Have you used the Salewa Ultra Train 18 backpack? Don’t agree with this review? What’s your opinion? Add your own comment to this review and share your experience and passion for running with others.
Not a member yet? Sign up here to be part of the RunUltra community and share tips and stories with thousands of fellow runners around the world.
We are a professional review site and our reviewers receive free products for testing from the companies whose products we review. We test each product thoroughly and give high marks to only the very best. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are by the reviewer’s name shown.
We use affiliate links in some of our reviews and articles. This means that if you purchase an item through one of these links we will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through our links but the income will help us to keep bringing you our free training guides, reviews and other content to enjoy. Thank you in advance for your support.