I thought it was about time I reviewed one of my most used and abused bits of kit and a personal favourite of mine, the OMM classic marathon 32Litre rucksack.
I got this pack after I discovered that the smaller but otherwise more or less identical OMM classic 25Litre sack was just too small for me to use for weekend wildcamping. I had tried and quite liked the Berghaus Arete rucksack but found it just a bit too heavy and not enough pockets/features for me (actually a very nice pack indeed in its own right). I also have the OMM Adventure Light 20 Litre sack as well for day walks and cycling incidently. Anyway, back to the 32Litre classic marathon and why I think it is an excellent design.
Now I am the first to admit that rucksacks like tents are one of my main gear weaknesses….ie I buy an awful lot of them. Of the 20 or so rucksacks I have owned in my time (I still have 6 packs currently), the classic marathon 32Litre is definitely one of my favourites and certainly my most used. So what is it about this pack that does it for me?
Well, first up is the sheer cleverness of design (in my opinion of course) which incorporates so many useful features. The pack has two side mesh pockets that are deep enough to take water bottles for starters. The waist belt has zipped pockets on either half (incredibly useful) and there is a full mesh helmet panel/pocket on the back. The top lid also has a zipped compartment as well as a mesh storage pocket on top of that! The shoulder straps are comfy and yet lightweight and streamlined and also have the all important chest strap (for me). There are the usual ice axe loops and compression bungee cording that ensure you can carry a variety of equipment on the outside and also means when not full the pack can be cinched down to stop “flappiness”. If you like that sort of thing there is a camelback feed hole on the pack body and a rather natty little emergency whistle attached to the chest strap.
With regards to material of construction, OMM use a combination of High Tensile Texturised Fabric (HTTF) for the chassis and a very lightweight ripstop material for the rest of the body. The HTTF material is very very tough and performs the load bearing duties for the sack but isnt overwhelming in terms of volume on the body and only used where needed. This stuff is incredibly hardwearing. The ripstop material that forms the rest of the pack body is much lighter although it is still very tough and I have only managed to put a small (1cm) hole in the pack in the 3 years I have owned it by the careless use of a knife. I havent even patched the hole (lazy) and it hasnt frayed at the point of puncture or gotten any bigger. There is a thin pad called a “duomat” that forms part of the back padding of the pack but this is removable to save weight although I always leave it in. It has been used in the past as a sleep pad although I wouldnt recommend it to be used on its own in winter.
On to the “carry” and fit of the pack. Since I have a slightly deformed spine (the classic “S” curved spine that we all possess is more accentuated on me and so I find rucksacks that are rigid (eg with stays) are very very uncomfortable for me to wear. This is where the classic marathon 32 Litre pack scores heavily for me. It comforms to my back perfectly as the duomat pad only adds minimal stiffness to the pack but just enough to maintain the shape of the overall pack. Its not to everyone’s taste but it is fantastically comfortable for me. The shoulder pads are comfy without being too thin or too “starchy” and even when the pack is full, they distribute the weight evenly. Because the pack conforms to your back, it feels almost like a part of you or at least like just another layer of clothing, if you see what I mean. The pack is narrow enough to keep the centre of gravity nicely poised and allows a great freedom of movement, eg when cycling or climbing as well as regular walking.
So are there any negatives? Of course there are but they are in my opinion few and are vastly outweighed by the positives. Some say that the pack doesnt go down the back far enough especially for tall people as it is a one size chassis. This isnt the case for me as I find it a perfect fit (just under 5foot 8inches in height and back measurement of around 20inches or a size 2 for those packs that do come in multi sizes). The HTTF material on the back of the pack is hardwearing but this very feature has actually caused bobbling of the pertex outer of my Rab VR jacket although to be fair its been used in combination for literally hundreds of trips (I cycled exclusively to and from work for a couple of years using the VR jacket as my outer and the OMM pack on top). Some people also say that the lack of a mesh or deeper padded foam back makes for a sweaty back. In the summer this can be the case but I dont notice it unless I take the pack off at a stop and then if I do I put a windstopper on to stop any chill effect of the sweat evaporating too quickly.
So all in all this pack is a very comfy, highly versatile perfectly sized pack for day walking, overnighters, weekend summer trips as well as good for cycling and climbing with. Its cheap (around£50) and pretty lightweight (770g) and has enough features to keep a “pocket-phile” like me very happy indeed. If I do need a winter sack to carry extras I’ll pick up the Golite Jam 2 or the Gossamer Gear Mariposa but for all other eventualities its the OMM Classic Marathon 32 Litre pack I reach for.
Lightweight (though not SUL)
Comfortable even when fully laden
Pockets all over the place!
Very tough and has lasted extremely well considering the weight of it
A snug and stable fit allowing full freedom of movement
extremely well designed and clever features all over
The HTFF material has caused some bobbling of my pertex outer (after considerable use mind you)
lack of heavy padding or mesh means a sweaty back for some (only a very minor niggle as all packs induce some sweatiness)
for those who are used to a rigid frame, it may take a little getting used to