Chances are you haven’t heard of OMM, the Original Mountain Marathon brand, especially if you don’t live in Europe. That doesn’t mean the UK brand isn’t worth checking out. It first started in 1968 as a 2-day mountain race held in the UK. The premise is that teams carry their own provisions for the double-marathon race and that they have to use orienteering skills to find their own way across the route that is announced when the race begins. Today, OMM sister events are held in other places like France and Japan and at different times of the year. Given the need for teams to carry everything they need, it’s no surprise that OMM started designing and producing their own race packs. We got the opportunity to take the Phantom 12 for a test drive. It’s one of two packs in the Phantom series and it’s meant for smaller loads.
Construction and Function
The Phantom 12 is 55 cm long, weighs 200 g and has a capacity of 12 liters (hence the name). The orange and black fabric is a Dyneema, a brand name for the engineered material more accurately called ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene. In other words, the long molecular chains that make up this fabric yield a very strong construction and is consequently the strongest thermoplastic on the market. It soaks up very little moisture and it would take a lot to destruct the fabric through abrasion. So, what you have is a pack that’s meant to endure pretty extreme temperatures and weather conditions. For a pack that’s meant to be used on long training runs in the mountains, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better fabric. In addition, reflective “OMM” symbols are found all over the pack so it’s easier to be spotted from various directions at night.
In a Velcro-fastened pouch at the back you’ll find a lightweight, holed, and highly flexible EVA pad that provides 6 mm of extra padding for your back. The pad isn’t permanently built into the pack so runners can shed the padding if necessary. When the Phantom 12 is filled I found the pad useful in providing a minimal layer of protection. About two-thirds of the lining on this pouch, the area that comes into direct contact with your back, is made up of this Dyneema fabric. Towards the bottom, however, is a wide mesh that’s probably mean to add a little ventilation in an area where runners tend to sweat a lot. The pouch worked as a great place to carry a water bladder while also able to fit the padding.
Near the top of the outside of the Phantom 12 is a little pouch that opens with a waterproof zipper, much like the main zipper of the pack. Quite simply, OMM designed the pouch by heat-laminating a second Dyneema layer on the inside of the pack. Again, this is an effort to reduce the overall weight of the pack. Unfortunately, after just a couple of uses the inside wall of the pouch opened at its point of attachment and the pouch was no longer useful. The two remaining pouches on the bag are bottle pockets on each side. The fabric is a mesh and the top has a bungee cord for fastening. They are not large enough to hold normal sized water bottles (and they aren’t intended for that) and although I personally didn’t use them, these pockets would be useful for storing some loose items or carrying small water bottles.
The fastening and tightening features are pretty complex on this OMM pack and they are best explained through a visual example. What stands in the foreground of the strap design are nylon loops nearly all over the bag that allow you to customize many features. In other words, while the shoulder straps are permanently sewn to the pack, the chest (or sternum) and hip straps can be moved from loop to loop depending on where you want them to cross your body.
The chest strap is a particularly interesting feature. On the right side (sitting on a runner’s left) the strap has a stretch nylon. Only the left side can be tightened. For someone with a broad chest, this may work perfectly fine. However, a more petite athlete will find that if he or she needs to tighten this strap as much as possible, you’ll end up with the clip on the very left side. Unfortunately this can cause the pack to sit on your shoulders a little strangely, where it rides up on the right side of your neck. If you never find yourself tightening the strap that much, this will be a non-issue.
The main shoulder straps of the Phantom 12 also sport a wide mesh for ventilation. Along the outside, near the shoulder blades, the straps have an “X” made out of nylon. I used these to secure the mouthpiece of my water bladder. They’re attached at a relatively thin (roughly 2 inch) point at the top of the bag and have adjustable nylon straps on two locations near the bottom and sides of the pack. Depending on how you pull these nylon adjusters, you can pull the shoulder straps down or outward to the sides of your body. Near the top of each strap is a bungee cord and fastener design, much like the load lifters of other packs. They pull the pack closer to your body and serve to further immobilize the pack so it moves with your body instead of bouncing around. As an inbetweener when it comes to sizes, I found these straps extremely helpful in giving me a personally perfect fit. This was particularly beneficial on colder days when I tended to carry more gear.
The last major feature is a thin bungee cord that effectively runs from one bottle pouch to the other, snaking along each side of the Phantom 12 and sporting a plastic hook at the top. The cord can be shortened and secured at the bottom of each water bottle pouch and it hooks onto a variety of loops. The main intention of this feature is to secure or pack down the variable contents you are going to store in the Phantom 12.
The OMM website features three additional products you can add to this pack, including a water bottle and holder, a map pouch, and a leanweight kit, which is essentially a larger pouch that attaches to the outside of the pack. We didn’t get the chance to use these so I can’t speak on the function of these products, but it’s good to know you have additional options to customize the Phantom 12.
The bag is unisex and given the fact that the pack is so adjustable, I am confident the Phantom 12 fits both genders equally well. At times it took a little while to get the right fit, but once it was set I was able to go all day. I would particularly recommend the Phantom 12 for taller runners.
One thing you’ll note in the description of ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene is that it has a very low friction rate. What this means to an everyday runner is that wearing this pack on top of another polyethylene material, like a rain jacket, causes the bag to glide from one side to the other. I would love to see OMM add some thin lines of rubber along the fabric that might provide some friction or grab hold of something like a rain jacket.
Overall, the OMM Phantom 12 is terrific in that it allows for a custom and adjustable fit, which is extremely beneficial depending on how much you’re packing in the bag. I found the backpack to function best when going hiking or on slower long runs, just as it is designed for. A slower pace allows for more comfortability and a more immovable or secure fit. The Phantom 12 is a pack designed to go the distance. It sells for $150, which is a fair price considering it is made of a strong, lightweight, and lasting material.View More: backpack, commute, cycle, hike, hydration pack, OMM, run, trail running, travel