I recently got the chance to play with Triple Aught Design's FAST Pack Litespeed. This little gear hauler has been around awhile, but like other gear fanatics, I find it very hard to buy something off the web unless I can get my hands on every strap and buckle.
The guys at TAD Gear are known for putting a lot of thought into their kit, and the Litespeed is no different. Its sleek, technical design is loaded with features -- some good and a few that disappoint. After putting a review sample sent to us from TAD through its paces, here's what you need to know.
The Litespeed's main compartment takes up most of its 1,300 cubic inches of space. Its clam-shell design opens wide for easy packing. Unlike the old ALICE ruck -- which always had a little more space if you crammed hard enough -- the Litespeed is designed for the bare essentials. Like all technical packs, it forces you to trim your kit down and leave the extras in your duffle, monster pack or truck.
This is a daypack, but if you load it right, the main compartment will hold enough for a spartan overnight in late spring until early fall -- poncho, poncho liner, food, a small stove, water, soft shell jacket, extra socks, etc.
The inside flap has two zippered, mesh pockets for small, occasional items such as a first-aid kit, 550 cord, a fleece cap, bug juice, foot powder and wipes. There is a sleeve for a hydration bladder, but I prefer bottles.
The outside of the Litespeed features a small, zippered pocket near the top of the flap for quick access to items such as snacks, a multitool, pen and paper, a white light, and extra batteries. There is also a detachable, beaver-tail flap on the front of the pack, which is useful for carrying rain gear or a wet shelter tarp. Tad Gear calls this its Transporter Tail because it features a small pocket on the inside. When hung upside down, it can be used to carry long items such as snow boards or breaching shotguns. One end of the item goes into the pocket and the rest is secured against the pack by the two horizontal straps. Nice idea but awkward. I think I'd just opt for a larger pack.
The Litespeed's exterior is covered with PALS webbing for mounting small pouches. Two-inch webbing underneath the PALS lets you attach Tek-Lok mounted sheaths. Built-in cargo straps underneath the pack work nicely for mounting an air mattress.
The shoulder straps and padding on the back panel are comfortable enough, but I have not worn the Litespeed with body armor. I was disappointed with the skinny waist belt, though. I understand this is daypack and not intended for heavy loads. But wide, padded waist belts are standard on high-performance technical packs made by popular gear companies such as Black Diamond. A technical pack is supposed to hold the load securely against your body for scrambling, climbing and other strenuous activities. A narrow belt is just going to dig into to your side. It's not the worst design I have ever worn, but it could be better.
Another gripe I have for TAD Gear designers is that this pack is a little overbuilt. I'm a big fan of 1000 Denier Cordura, but 500 Denier would probably do the job. I like the strong, heavy-duty zipper, but the MIL-SPEC NM DuraFlex Auto-Lok buckles are overkill. I have seen lighter-weight buckles on expedition packs designed to carry 6,000 to 7,000 cubic inches of gear. Rugged is great but not at the cost of 56 ounces for a daypack.
I have never found the perfect pack. For me it comes down to whether the features I like on the pack outnumber the things that bug me. Overall, I think the Litespeed is a good pack for short treks or strapping it to the top of a vehicle. The price is not bad, but for $239.00 it ought to include a hydration bladder.