This isn't a new backpack, it's been over a year since we acquired Triple Aught Design's FAST Pack Lightspeed ($239.99) and no-one on our staff can manage to kill it. In fact, by the standards set today by other companies – no-one can even make it look like it's been used. Scott tried to catch it on fire by-way of death by Jack Pine exhaust; but even he failed, the waist belt only burned halfway through, and it's still usable today. Come to think of it, I never did anything extraordinarily painful to the backpack, I personally figured that the guys who frequently use TAD's gear for work likely put the pack through it's paces harder than I ever could imagine. Those guys from elite special forces units around the world regularly swear by the company.
I'm hoping this review isn't sounding a bit fiendish - I'm not intentionally talking about people trying to hurt and abuse this bag; but there's really no other way to articulate the fact which is how tough this pack is built. The FAST Pack Litespeed is Made in the United States of America from the finest, most durable materials that TAD was able to procure. The word's 'MIL-SPEC' are often thrown around, but in this case it actually means something. The 1000 Denier Invista Cordura fabric is tough as nails and comprises the main construction of the backpack. In key areas where abrasion can be of concern TAD has placed another material, Hypalon - the same thing that's used on the boats the Navy Seals use.
All of this comes together to create a pack that is not only strong and durable, but good looking as well. It's fitted with six PALS rows to allow you to mount your MOLLE accessories to the exterior of the FAST Pack Litespeed. TAD carries accessories ranging from pouches to hold your iPhone, to the batteries in your Surefire flashlight. It's versatile and can be used for a variety of activities, such as bicycling, motorcycling and hiking, but the sky is really the limit with this design. For how bomb-proof this thing is built, it's still reasonably lightweight.
The Devil is in the details - compared to the Jansport you carried in Kindergarten, the straps on this pack might look a little bit odd. They zig-zag more than anything I've ever seen, but I found them to be incredibly comfortable, even when loaded to the brim. It goes to show that ergonomics and design are capable of living happily ever after.
The inside the back features a pouch to store your Camel-Bak system in, and a flap on-top to run your hydration tube through. Being a point of possible wear, that pass-through is also made from wear resistant Hypalon. One of my favorite things about this backpack is the versatility that it presents, I used it for tasks as varied storing recovery gear, hauling my laptop to work every day, and taking it as a weekend bag to Las Vegas - it functioned flawlessly in all of those environments. Luckily, I wasn't able to test it in a combat situation.
There's two generously large pockets which are made from high quality mesh, the top pocket is perfect for storing a small easy to reach medical kit for minor emergencies. The bottom pocket is large enough to carry a firearm if need be - or a plethora of laptop, camera, and cell phone chargers. It's interesting that this pack unzips farther than most other units I've seen on the market, it allows you to really cram this thing full, and to do it with some sense of organization.
There's a variety of straps on the upper interior of the backpack allowing for customization, I found it a perfect place to hang small items such as this knife sharpener.
I've found a tell-tale sign of a product's quality to be held in the smaller components, luckily TAD didn't skimp out and chose high quality buckles, zippers and pulls. They specified YKK #8 and #10 Nylon Reverse Coil Zippers; and NM Duraflex Auto-Lok Buckles (which exude a high quality touch.)
These aren't just compression straps for when your load gets a little too bulbous - I'm told they actually expand to carry a full-sized motorcycle helmet. A definite bonus if you don't have the hands available to carry it yourself, or you need to carry an extra for a passenger.
Every time I've purchased something for the sake of durability and practicality, it's always been at the cost of style. Luckily, the Triple Aught Designs FAST Pack Litespeed is about combining all of the above. While I'm generally not a fan of the 'Tactical' design that seems so popular these days, I'd like to say that TAD pulls it off well, it's not overbearing, and even though it's feature packed, it maintains a relatively low-key, minimalist design. At 1300 cubic inches, it's large enough to be your weekend pack, but small and light enough (56oz) to still take to work every day. If you're wearing it in warm weather conditions your back isn't simply left to sweat as the back panel is lined with a high-quality mesh and foam - allowing air to flow freely, keeping you cool.
Ever since I've picked up this backpack, I've been impressed with the solid, high quality feel that everything has. My previous backpack, which wasn't necessarily cheap by any means, just feels inferior to it. It's since been eighty-sixed and is currently on closet duty. TAD provided the solution I was looking for, even though it may be a bit 'Tactical' for my style, but it still manages to be very attractive. It's hard to find any complaints with this backpack, even details as tiny as the stitching are spot on and well-done. Although I'd almost venture to say that there's almost too much practicality built into this pack by way of what seems to be a million straps and attachment points.
At just under $250, it's not a cheap, but you're not getting a cheap product, and it's Made In America, something I'm proud to support.
For more information check out Triple Aught Designs on the web, or visit them at one of their retail outlets in San Francisco.