Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Salomon Sonic 3 Confidence Review

Article by Ryan Eiler and Jeff Beck

Salomon Sonic 3 Confidence ($130)


Estimated Weight:: men's 10.2 oz  / 290g (US9) / women's / (US8)


Ryan:  290g/10.2oz, men’s US9

Jeff:  304g/10.7oz, men’s US10.5

Stack Height: 20mm (forefoot), 30mm (heel)

Available Now. $130


Ryan:  The Sonic 3 Confidence is one of three shoes Salomon released as part of its Sonic lineup this year (the others being the Accelerate and the Balance), and it has the most cushion, stability, and weight of the three.  They aren’t intended to help you set a PR, but rather to maximize comfort and provide a stable ride. I hadn’t run a heavily cushioned Salomon shoe before, so I was eager to see how its relatively flat outsole and Optivibe midsole compared to the high mileage trainers I’ve used in the past.  Thick stack / high drop seems to be the trend these days, so these are up against plenty of competition.

Jeff: Last year’s Sonic RA Max 2 was great - I thought it was one of the most unappreciated shoes on the market. Then I heard about the total overhaul Salomon was giving the Sonic line, and then heard how much Sam enjoyed the mid-tier (Goldilocks level) Balance, and I had high hopes. Would the Confidence live up to the hype? Yes!...and no.


Ryan:  Tons of stability from both the upper and the midsole.

Ryan:  Stiff midsole provides good push off and helps transition

Ryan:  Handles uneven/unstable surfaces well

Jeff: Outsole has solid traction and tons of durability

Jeff: Midsole seems to have perfected “FIRM” cushioning

Jeff: Upper is more plush and comfortable than last year’s Max 2


Ryan:  Heel counter too soft, and doesn’t provide enough lock-down

Ryan:  Lacks breathability from dense mesh + gusseted tongue liner

Jeff: Sizing feels huge, 10.5 feels like 11.5-12

Jeff: Geometry feels dated

Jeff: Shoe is sluggish and clunky slower than 9:00/mile

Jeff: Picks up rocks like it’s been assigned community service

Tester Profiles

A hopeless soccer career led Ryan to take up running, and after taking a decade-long break from competing, he is back racking up mileage whenever he can.  He calls the 2018 Boston Marathon the hardest race of his life, where he finished in 2:40, barely remembering his name at the finish line.

Ryan decided to forego his Wall Street job to be a gear junkie, and is currently the fledgling entrepreneur behind his company, Bridger Helmets.  Most days, you'll find him loping along the Charles River in Boston. Of all the places he's run, Central Park NYC and the New Hampshire coast top his list.

Jeff is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 40 miles per week, both roads and desert trails in Phoenix, Arizona. He has a PR's of 4:07 marathon and 5K at 23:39. In December he raced his first 50 mile trail ultra. 

First Impressions and Fit

Ryan:  It’s readily apparent before picking these up what they are all about: oodles of support, and rail-like stability.  There’s no drama or pizazz, which is great if you’re going for low-intensity mileage, but bad if you want to turn heads in a 5k.  When standing in them, they feel very flat and stable, due to the shape of the outsole which has relatively little curvature from heel to toe.  They are neither edgy nor lightweight, but I don’t think that’s what Salomon was going for in these shoes. My first lace-up felt like putting on a very rigid slipper; the gusseted tongue and the plush heel collar gave a cozy feel, while the inelastic upper and rigid midsole hinted at maximal support.

Jeff: Right out of the box it was clear that Salomon had made changes that went much deeper than aesthetics. Aesthetically, very little changed from the Max, with a bright blue upper, plain white midsole, and black outsole. But the extra midsole height can be felt right away, and the upper is far more refined than its predecessor. 

Right: Sonic 3 Confidence  Left: Sonic RA Max 2

Ryan is right, there is nothing edgy about this shoe, and it feels like a throwback of sorts. As far as support, it’s subtle, and that’s fantastic. As for fit? You may want to size down at least a half size, or more. I was able to get nearly a thumb-and-a-half between the end of my toe and the end of the shoe, and as a result had some major heel slip problems. A runner’s loop helped some, but the extra length definitely didn’t help matters.


Ryan:  The upper is an engineered mesh, which refuses to stretch and does a great job holding the foot in place.  However, it doesn’t breathe well, especially with a gusseted tongue which adds a second layer of fabric around the entire mid and forefoot.  The midfoot, toe box, and arch are all average in terms of dimension, although they feel less pliable than most due a few sections of tough lamination on either side of the forefoot, as well as on the upper toe box.  If you look at photos of the shoe, you’ll notice strips of thick lamination running along the lower section of the forefoot, which most other shoes lack. These made a noticeable difference in my opinion, and prevented my foot from ‘marshmallowing’ over the edges of the outsole, thereby providing extra lateral support.

The one noticeable problem for me was the lack of hold from the heel counter.  The heel is built well, and is comfortable, but doesn’t have enough structure toward the top to fully lock your foot down.  The top section of fabric which touches the achilles is very, very soft and provides no support. It wasn’t a big enough problem to cause rubbing or stability issues, but it does leave the heel feeling less secure than it does in most other shoes.

The middle 1” of the tongue is heavily padded, and in conjunction with the pillowy laces, distributes the tie-down force across the top of the foot fairly well.  Aesthetically, it’s clean and conservative, which fits the performance characteristics of this shoe.

Jeff: Ryan lays out the details of this upper very well. I will add, the mesh is a different design from last year, and its overall feel is a little more high end. 

Not that last year’s shoe felt bargain basement, but there were a few elements that just felt pedestrian (toes rubbing on the underlays, the black liner around the heel collar, etc) and this year’s upper is a little more dialed in. I will echo the heel lockdown issues, which I had attributed to the extra length of the shoe, but knowing that Ryan experienced it as well makes me think it could be more than just too big of a shoe. And at least Salomon provided a second eyelet, so I didn’t have to fashion my own with a leather punch (looking at you Nike React Infinity). Also, I didn’t have any heat issues, even though I ran legitimately warm conditions (86 degrees fahrenheit without any clouds in the sky feels toasty once you’ve been running for an hour). The toe bumper is far less obtrusive than the Sonic Max 2, and the overlays that run along the bottom of the upper along the midfoot of each side are also very easy to forget about. Anytime you are thinking about a specific component of a shoe during a run, it’s likely that that component is a negative.

Lastly, the toebox. It’s...serviceable. You aren’t finding Altra/Topo room, but I didn’t have any issue with the upper forcing the toes tightly together. I’d rate the toebox as “Adequate” in that the shoe fits up front just fine, but not with lots of extra room.

 And that toe bumper will keep the shoe from stretching any meaningful amounts, so if you are really wide up front you may want to keep looking. The toebox has adequate to ample vertical space though, so overall, it isn’t bad at all.


Ryan: The midsole features Salomon’s “Optivibe” technology, which promises to help with both vibration dampening and propulsion.  I can’t truly say that I noticed this particular aspect of the shoe, as the combination of upper padding, thick heel stack, and thick rubber outsole all work together to provide a very controlled foot strike.  If you look at the heel, the upper, aqua-colored section of foam is a bit less squishy and is more memory foam-like, and may in fact help with dampening -- it’s just impossible to know for sure.

I’m a big fan of midsoles like this for long, time-insensitive training.  For most runs, I don’t mind giving up a few seconds per mile in exchange for extra comfort and injury protection.  I tend to do about a third of my training on packed dirt, mulch, and cinder, and for those surfaces, the midsole rigidity provided fantastic support.  The drop is allegedly 10mm, but it didn’t feel that severe to me, so don’t let that high number scare you off if you usually run a flatter shoe.

Overall, the ample serving of high density, low-rebound foam results in a very controlled sensation all the way from heel strike through toe-off.

Jeff: It’s shocking how much of a difference a single millimeter can make. The Confidence is 1mm higher in forefoot and heel than its predecessor, but it feels like a very different shoe under foot. I know that Salomon changed the midsole material altogether (last year’s version had OPAL soft inserts embedded in EnergyCell+ foam), but the Confidence just feels far more underfoot.

I would agree with Ryan on several points. First, I’m not sure how much the Optivibe insert helps the overall performance of the shoe. Perhaps being a midfoot striker means that I’m not taking advantage of it, but all told this midsole feels fairly uninspired. I’m no stranger to thick, well-cushioned daily trainers - I would estimate that I’ve run in at least 50 different shoes that fall into that category over the last 24 months. Like Ryan, I don’t mind sacrificing speed for more protection on a daily basis - which also makes faster and lighter shoes feel that much faster and lighter when you put them on. But the Confidence feels a bit like a relic to me, in that this shoe feels like something out of 2013 (okay, your definition of relic and mine may be slightly different). Most shoes today work great right out of the box, but the Confidence took 25 miles to lose some of its stiff midsole feel. It isn’t super flexible now, and I would say it is one of the stiffest shoes I’ve run in, but it has gotten better. Also, more and more of today’s shoes have what I think of as “modern geometry” in that there is some degree of rocker to the sole to make a smoother stride. 

The Confidence does not have much of a rocker, and as a result I found it to run very blocky, at least at slow paces. But more of that in the Ride section.


Ryan: The rubber throughout is thick and soft, complementing the stiff and highly cushioned midsole nicely.  Most apparent was how little curvature (or ‘rocker’) is designed into the outsole.  It makes for a very flat-footed strike (not intended to mean dull), as compared to many other of today’s shoes which have a rocking-horse like curvature (eg, many Hoka shoes).  For a runner with a relatively neutral midfoot strike, this results in a ton of evenly distributed stability. Their ‘Geometric Decoupling’ pattern in the rubber didn’t amount to much for me, as I think the rigidity of the midsole dictates the flexibility of the shoe.  A tall stack of soft rubber provides great grip, and I suspect that it may outlast the life of the foam, given its thickness.

Jeff: Salomon didn’t change much of the outsole from last year, most notably changing the two-tone black/blue rubber to all black, and slightly refining the soft rubber outsole pod designs. It is almost alarming how soft the rubber is. I started noticing wear at the ball of the foot in the first 10-15 miles, though the wear has slowed down some since then. Though it is thick enough that even if the wear doesn’t slow down, there’s still hundreds of miles of rubber down there. I was lucky enough to encounter some rain during one of my runs, and the Contragrip rubber didn’t give me any issues. 

The only constant issue I faced with the outsole was the RRS, or Rock Reclamation System that Salomon had inadvertently installed into my shoes. Most of my normal runs around the neighborhood include spending a little time on some groomed dirt trails, and whenever that happened the Confidence would collect more rocks than my six-year-old on a hiking trip. I found myself using the tines of a fork to remove them between runs, only to find 10-40 tucked away in the outsole at the end of the next run. Not the worst problem in the world, but certainly an annoying perk.


Ryan:  You don’t bring a Cadillac to the drag strip, and you don’t bring the Confidence to a tempo run -- but you do buy either of those if you want to experience a luxurious, hospitable feeling.  The most pronounced characteristic of ride quality was its relatively stiff midsole, which has a flex point far toward the toe. The stiffness helps out during toe-off, and makes heel to toe transition very predictable.  It lacks the pop of many newer foams, which promise to make you feel like a pogo stick, but for its mission of providing friendly, long-mileage support, it excels.

Jeff: With more than 30 miles into the Confidence I can say I truly dislike the ride. Ryan is right, the minimal rocker design doesn’t give the shoe much pop, and as much as the midsole combination works wonders in the smaller shoes (Accelerate and Balance) it might just be too thick in the Confidence to work well. Most runs I found myself laboring through, and only when I turned up the speed on a whim (“Not working on slow runs, what happens when I go faster?” was literally my inner monologue) did I discover that the shoe does have some pop to it. But I could only find it around an 8:20 pace or faster, and this isn’t the shoe to wear during those runs. That said - it does the subtle stability thing as good as anyone, and better than most. More and more stability shoes have gone away from the old-school medial post, and claim that their new designs only give you stability where it is needed - but that isn’t usually the case (looking at you Brooks Transcend 7), but with the Confidence, it is. I’m a neutral runner who supinates, and I couldn’t tell you that there are any stability elements to the shoe, just a very firmly cushioned stable platform.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Ryan:  While this won’t win any beauty contests, and it isn’t a do-it-all type of shoe, it should definitely be a consideration for folks looking for a high-mileage, very stable, luxurious kind of ride.  It will fit the majority of feet very well, and doesn’t have any major drawbacks. The lack of stability in the heel counter was the largest concern of mine, although it didn’t spoil the welcoming, supportive ride.  This is a well-made, durable shoe that is deserving of a spot in the closet for low heart rate, high mileage days.

Ryan:  8.3/10  

Takes a hit for heel lockdown and breathability, but excels as a high-mileage and extremely stable training shoe.

Jeff: It took me a while to figure this shoe out. It isn’t that I had to keep running in it so I’d like, but I wanted to understand why it just wasn’t working for me. On paper, it should have. I thought last year’s version was “Criminally overlooked” and this version objectively got better in a number of ways. But, in the last year, so many shoe designs came out that made running easier. Maybe exotic foams, maybe carbon fiber plates, maybe cutting edge geometries; whatever the angle, each manufacturer had an idea, but the Confidence doesn’t have any of those - and it has been left behind. A few of my early runs were so rough, I was wondering if I was getting sick. On back to back five mile runs in the Nike React Infinity, I ran 45 seconds per mile faster, with fifty more feet of elevation, and twenty beats per minute lower in the Nike. The Confidence just doesn’t work for me as an easy daily trainer. Oddly enough, it felt best in the 7:45-8:20 pace range, and that’s not at all where it should be. This is the shoe that you should put on for 9:30-11:00 miles, but they lost all semblance of a modern running shoe as the pace slowed down. That isn’t to say it is an awful shoe, just that it wasn’t the one for me. Strangely enough, it’s littlest brother, Accelerate, has most of the same design and materials, and feels substantially better at easy paces. Perhaps the thinner midsole allows the material to do what it needs to do. Either way, it is worth considering one of the other shoes if the Confidence does not light a fire under you - and let’s face it: Salomon hitting a home run with the Accelerate and Balance still gives them a Hall of Fame batting average for the Sonic 3 lineup.

Jeff’s Score 7.2/ 10

Ride: 6 (50%) Fit: 8 (30%) Value: 9 (15%) Style: 8 (5%)


Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Nike Zoom Vomero 14 (RTR Review)

Ryan:I see the Nike Vomero as a direct competitor to the Confidence, in that they’re both day in, day out, heavy mileage shoes.  The Confidence rides like it’s on rails, whereas the Vomero has a bit more personality due to its more flexible mid/outer and curvier outsole.  I personally prefer the Vomero due to its fit being more refined, and its ability to adapt to quicker paces, but folks who prefer stability above all else might disagree.  The Nikes are a bit narrower, but the extra lamination on the Confidence’s upper make them feel nearly as snug.

Salomon Sonic RA Max 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Confidence runs large, Max 2 fits true-to-size. The Max 2 was one of my dark horse favorites of last year, and the Confidence gets a re-worked upper and all new midsole, but it didn’t make the shoe better. Both shoes are very “no frills” and don’t have much of a bounce or pop to them until you turn up the speed. If you are currently running in the Max 2 and enjoying it, you could give the Confidence a try, though you may want to favor the slightly thinner (and nearly as protective) Accelerate or Balance.

Salomon Sonic 3 Balance (RTR Review)

Editor's Note: Neither Ryan or Jeff tested the Balance sibling to Confidence both sharing the Optivibe midsole. The Balance differs in having a less structured upper without sidewalls, 2mm less heel stack with the same 20mm forefoot stack. It weighs approximately 0.3 oz ounce less. Its decoupling is further to the medial side so a bit more agile and less stiff on toe off than Confidence whose decoupling line and wider lateral platform focuses on forefoot stablity

Salomon Sonic 3 Accelerate (RTR Review)

Jeff: Confidence runs large, Accelerate fits true-to-size. Surprising comparison given the size/weight difference, but these two shoes are siblings, sharing Optivibe midsoles albeit in a lower stack for Accelerate and with decoupling line focused on toe off and less on stability and worth the look. Shockingly, the Accelerate feels much better, even at slower speed, and only offers slightly less protection than its biggest brother. None of the blocky ride or lack of pop - the Accelerate shines, and has enough protection to be a daily trainer for many runners.

Brooks Transcend 7 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Confidence runs large, Transcend fits true-to-size. As Brooks’ big trainer with stability, this one lines up well against the Confidence. The DNA Loft midsole has a much more plush ride that also has a springier toe-off to the firm Confidence. That said, if you are borderline to needing support or not, you may have issues with the Transcend and its Guide Rails - I had a lot of knee pain whenever I went over five miles in testing. But if support is for you, the Transcend is your shoe.

Brooks Glycerin 18 

Jeff: Confidence runs large, Glycerin fits true-to-size. As Brooks big neutral trainer, the Glycerin has been a mainstay in my running rotation for years. While it brings a $20 extra price tag, the upper is softer and more accommodating and the midsole/ride are streets ahead of the Confidence. If you are looking for a big mileage trainer, no question, go Glycerin.

Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Confidence runs large, Sky fits true-to-size. Remember how Mizuno used to be the first name in firm cushioning? Well, no more, the Confidence is substantially firmer than the Sky. The Sky upper isn’t as breathable and it is a more expensive shoe, but it is vastly superior in the ride category, giving a great bounce. No hesitation, go Mizuno here.

New Balance 1080v10 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Confidence runs large, 1080 fits true-to-size. The New Balance toe box isn’t quite as wide as the Salomon and the Confidence outsole has better coverage than the 1080. Otherwise the 1080 runs away with it; it has a softer and more breathable upper and the midsole is much more plush and smoother to run. Go 1080.

Nike React Infinity (RTR Review)

Jeff: Confidence runs large, Infinity fits true-to-size. Another “kind of support, kind of neutral” shoe, the Infinity has issues with heel sleep and its sock-like upper design makes it impossible to create a runner’s loop without a little tinkering. But after a couple well placed squeezes with a leather punch, the Infinity’s main problem is solved, and its superior React midsole shines. Take the Infinity, leave the Confidence.

Saucony Triumph 17 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Confidence runs large, Triumph fits true-to-size. The Triumph 17 was my shoe of the year last year, so you can probably see how this one is going to go. The Triumph upper is softer, more breathable, and the toebox has more room. The outsole doesn’t pick up rocks like the Confidence, and the PWRUN+ midsole is both smooth and bouncy - just a joy to run in. If you need stability, the Saucony Hurricane 22 is incredibly similar to the Triumph, and would be worth exploring.

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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UltrAspire Magda XT 20L Adventure (& Run) Pack Review

Article by Ryan Eiler and Canice Harte

UltrAspire Magda XT ($160)


Ryan: 20L capacity, 464g / 16.4oz

Unisex in emerald blue (one color)

Recommended uses: trail running, mountain biking, mountaineering, hiking, fastpacking,  etc.


Ryan:  A traditional, top-loading pack at the rear, the Magda XT offers 20L of storage, plus a quick-stash outer pocket and a zippered pocket on top.  

Six additional pockets on the chest, waist, and hips provide fast access to bottles and bars.  Ergonomic chest straps hint at the fact that functional design was a top priority in bringing this to market.  As these straps are wider than most, they cover a relatively large section of the chest, making this feel more like a fitted vest, and less like a simple backpack.

The two primary fabrics used throughout are a ripstop nylon, which is light and effective, and a diamond-patterned spacer mesh which contacts the chest, back, and hips. 

A length of “XT fabric” (i.e., thicker ripstop) along the inner compartment and bottom of the bag improves abrasion and puncture resistance.  It comes in ‘emerald blue’, or… too bad, hope you like emerald blue. To my eye, it’s a handsome, neutral color that most folks will appreciate.

Along the outside of the pack, strong cinch cording does a great job of reducing its effective volume, making it feel as small as possible.  I tried running with a range of loads in the back – lightly packed with only a pair of trainers, all the way up to bulging, maximum capacity.  I’ll vouch that this pack can cover the whole field, and functions well packed with 2L up to 20L. They engineered the outer quick-stash pouch with a stretchy, sheer mesh which works extremely well for bonus volume and allows for a quick assessment of your inventory.  While the waist belt isn’t bolstered with extra padding or structure, it does help complete the fully-enveloped feel of this pack. I found that it reduced movement when I loaded it with any more than two pounds of weight.

Also helping to scrunch everything into place are grey cinching straps, which run vertically along the back, pulling the ‘hood’ down toward the base of the pack.  As a kicker, they included stabilizer straps at the tops of the shoulders which I felt helped to both dial in the weight distribution, as well as to bring the overall center of gravity closer to my back.

For those looking for a pack that will be used mostly for commuting, this probably isn't your best option.  While its capacity is impressive, it has almost no padding (I wouldn't want a laptop bouncing against my back), and minimal compartmentalization in the main storage space.  Unless I was running to work with a bag full of garments, I'd prefer a more structured bag for commuting. As Canice mentions in his review, this isn't a running-specific pack -- it's best thought of as an adventure bag, capable of handling running speeds.

My wife's 5'5" frame found it comfortable and secure, although she had similar thoughts on how far she needed to tighten the chest elastic to lock it down.  She's probably at the lower limit of their "fits most" sizing range.

While this doesn’t come with a built-in hydration system, there are enough stretchable pockets for a variety of bottles.  It isn’t compatible with a hydration bladder, since there isn’t a bladder pocket or an access port for a drinking tube. UltrAspire makes similar packs, such as the Epic XT, if you want something more focused on hydration.

Adjustable elastic cords with toggle locks help to tighten the front/side pockets and the chest straps, and while they are basic, they work well for holding bottles.  Hip pockets proved easy to use with their bright red plastic pulls, and are large enough to hold several energy gels or a cellphone. A small, red zipper pocket sewn inside the main storage compartment is a nice touch for holding smaller accessories.

Canice: Ryan covers the features very well so I’ll weigh in to say I really enjoy the two water bottle pockets on the sides of the pack. They’re angled perfectly so it’s easy to reach back and grab one and just as easy to stow it in place when you’re done.

During a short hike I don’t find myself using the chest pockets on the shoulder straps much but on longer adventures they become incredibly useful. I’ve placed quick grab items here like a gps and/or food to extra water in soft flasks. I have had two 26oz bike bottles in the side pockets and they were easy to remove and place back in while on the go. Up front I had a 20oz Katadyn BeFree soft flask and a 500 ml Salomon soft Flask and both fit great. All in all there is lots of storage capacity here.

The waist belt is nice for keeping the pack from bouncing but don’t expect it to hold weight. Not that it’s meant to hold weight, you just want to know this going in and you’ll find it performs incredibly well stabilizing your pack.


Ryan:  The first thing I noticed upon wearing this pack ended up being my favorite thing about it: the chest straps.  Their ergonomic cut prevents them from impinging arm movement, and reduces any chance of excess friction near your shoulders.  Their sensation is more of a distributed hug, in contrast to the harsh lockdown that some less engineered straps provide, making this feel like one secure, cohesive unit.  Highly ventilated spacer mesh is used on all parts of the bag in contact with your body, minimizing heat and moisture against the chest and back. As a result of this thoughtful design, the pressure is well-distributed, airflow is good, and any weight you’re carrying feels completely under control.

Grey cinch straps on the back and atop the shoulders were surprisingly helpful when carrying a heftier haul.  While they only add a few grams of weight, they are usually a feature on large, traditional hiking backpacks and contribute to stability in a big way.  The waist belt also does its job well -- of preventing unwanted vertical jostling, which chest straps alone can’t provide.

I have a small gripe about the elastic used for the chest straps, which didn’t seem robust enough.  This stretchiness is part of their “MaxO2” system, intended to avoid impairing natural breathing. Having a medium-small chest, I had to cinch down the elastic to near its limit, which resulted in the excess elastic cord flopping around during my run.  This isn’t a major issue, and I resolved it by tucking it into the chest pocket, but I would’ve liked to see a less pliable material used here.

A tiny nitpick about the chest strap buckles: they don’t self-align as well as a traditional buckle does, and while they’re small and weightless, they can initially be a bit tricky to buckle, especially if you’re on the move.  Otherwise, securement was adequate and nicely distributed when I took the time to dial in all of the straps correctly. This is the most secure running pack I’ve ever used.

Canice: Big picture I find this to be an incredibly lightweight and comfortable pack that I love to adventure with. The pack stabilizes my gear and performs well in a wide range of conditions. My only real knock on this back is if I adjust the pack body high enough on my back to use the “load lifting” straps on the top of the shoulders then the waist belt rides up and straps across my floating ribs. If I lower the pack body so the waist belt sits on my waist then the shoulder load straps ride too far down my back to be of use.

This is not the end of the world and I have settled into using the pack with the waist belt across my waist and given up on the shoulder load straps. I use them but they don’t do much. But luckily every other strap, pocket and feature works great and this is a brilliant solution for a wide range of adventures.


Ryan:  It’s apparent that this pack has been thoroughly prototyped, tested, and refined by the brains of both designers and competitors especially Magda Boulet, an Olympian in the marathon and a winner of the Western States and Leadville 100.  It feels durable and secure without being overbuilt, and the build quality is impeccable. I keep circling back to the thought of this pack as a miniaturized, unstructured version of the huge 80L hiking back I use for overnight camping.  It has a similar set of straps and layout, but is light enough to function as a high performance piece of gear.

For someone looking for versatility, and the ability to squeeze many pounds of gear into a one pound bag, this is likely your ticket.  Highly adaptable, it can store enough gear for a long day on the mountain, or can be cinched down to feel like a minimalist racer pack.  Its overall feel is one that envelops your upper body in an ergonomic way, but stays fairly breathable through its smart choice of highly ventilated mesh.

Canice:  Ryan’s summary captures the Magda XT incredibly well. This is not a runners pack but a great adventure pack that can carry a lot of gear. So while there’s nothing stopping you from running in the pack, which I have done and it runs well, it is great for fastpacking and long unsupported and fast paced efforts. You dream of the adventure and the Magda XT will take you there.

Tester Profiles

A hopeless soccer career led Ryan to take up running, and after taking a decade-long break from competing, he is back racking up mileage whenever he can.  He calls the 2018 Boston Marathon the hardest race of his life, where he finished in 2:40, barely remembering his name at the finish line.

Ryan decided to forego his Wall Street job to be a gear junkie, and is currently the fledgling entrepreneur behind his company, Bridger Helmets.  Most days, you'll find him loping along the Charles River in Boston.  Of all the places he's run, Central Park NYC and the New Hampshire coast top his list.

Canice is a 2 x finisher of the Wasatch 100, the Bear 100, Moab 100, Western States 100, and Leadman as well as many other Ultras. He regularly competes in Expedition Length Adventure races with his longest race to date 600 miles as well as traditional road races and triathlons.

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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