Triple Aught Design FAST Pack Litespeed (tripleaughtdesign.com)
Reviewed By: Jordan May (jordanmay.com)
Review Date: November 7, 2011
Location Used: Santa Ana Mountains, CA & Las Vegas, NV
Purchase Price: $239 from Tripleaughtdesign.com
Photography: Mike G.
Guy in the photos: Jordan May (@jordanhmay)
Over the past 15 years, I have traveled extensively throughout the country. Photographing events, hiking, cycling, hitting 4wd trails in my truck, various road trips or simply meeting up with friends and family. All of this travel has turned me into a bag whore. That probably came out wrong and no I don’t carry a purse around. With extensive travel comes the need to find the perfect carry solution. Sure, I can keep an army of 20 various styles of bags and luggage at home but that is just a pain in the butt. The flip side of that coin is the impossible search to find one bag that will cover all of my needs. Instead of trying to achieve such a lofty goal, I find myself constantly searching for the perfect bag designed specifically to fit each type of activity.
As a photographer, avid off road traveler and former magazine editor, the majority of my travels surround the outdoor world. This means a lot of time on my feet walking trails, taking pictures, reviewing products or scouting photography locations. To properly do my job, I have purchased over 30 different style of bags including; backpacks, photo specific bags, sling bags, shoulder bags and even tried a few rollers. Each of these bags are tailored to fit a specific type of need. Some worked well, others fell short. I still own quite a few of those bags and use a couple of them when the time calls. What I was searching for when I discovered the Litespeed, was a solid backpack that would be comfortable on long days, suitable for hiking and also worked well as an EDC (every day carry) pack when needed. Did it do the job? Read on.
The only way to truly know if a product is going to work for you is to use it. Simply looking at backpack on the shelf isn’t going to make me want to bring it home. No matter how cool it looks. We don’t always get the chance to try-before-you-buy, but if you do, take advantage. This is where the internet is great, you can find great reviews! At 3.5 lbs, this bag isn’t designed as a cycling backpack, but I wanted to give it a go anyway. I pulled everything out of my Camelbak Mule and loaded it into the Litespeed. This included standard bike tools, a small raincoat, 3-liter hydration bladder, food and a survival kit. Standard carry for a long day in the saddle. The bag did an excellent job of keeping the weight centered on my back. The ergonomic design of the shoulder straps did not dig into my shoulders like so many have before. The bags removable waist belt kept it tight against my back during high speed maneuvers. To appeal better to the cycling crown, this bag would benefit from a better guide system for the bladder line. I only found one good loop to draw the line through, which kept it loose and very mobile during my ride. I could twist it back and forth through the PALS webbing running down the shoulder but that really isn’t whats needed.
The dual compression straps located on the top of the bag just behind my helmet are a huge feature not found on many backpacks. You can see how the top of the bag is being pulled against my shoulders. This along with the waist belt kept the bag extremely tight against my body. The compression straps are designed to carry additional gear on the outside of your bag as well. I took a digger toward the end of my ride and the bag didn’t budge. These straps/buckles will also come in handy hiking, especially when the trail gets steep.
Swapping my cycling shoes for a set of Merrell’s, we headed out for a brisk hike through O’Neil Park. The trail ahead was mostly flat so I removed the waist belt. This would also allow me to see how the bag did without its help. Typically, I don’t run waist belts on any of my bags. I prefer the quick and easy freedom of getting into my bag at a moments notice. Just like on the bike, the weight of the bag stayed in place and I never felt like I needed to grab the shoulder straps with my hands as I usually do with other backpacks. Why? Most backpacks do a poor job of staying tight against your body. Less movement of your bag equals less soreness of your shoulders and back. Trust me. As the bag moves, your back, shoulders and neck have to adjust. This puts additional pressure and strain on your body, which eventually will tire you out faster. Carrying an extra layer of clothing is a must for hikers, this is where the removable Transporter Tail (some call it a beavertail, that extra flat you see clipped on to the bag) is needed. I have owned several bags with tails but none of them were removable and extendable. Properly packed, you could get a good amount of clothing or gear strapped down. The modularity of this bag is tremendous.
A removable sternum strap is a welcome addition keeping the shoulder straps in place. This is a good photo of what I mentioned earlier regarding the hydration line. I’d like to see more guides or loops designed to carry the line down the strap. The loop on the sternum strap does a fair job of keeping the line in front of you for easy access. Although this bag will not replace my other cycling bags, I could easily see this becoming a favorite while hiking.
A – There are two sets of compression straps on the Litespeed. Top and bottom. This allows you to carry clothing or gear easily on the outside of the bag. Rolling up a foam sleeping pad or small sleeping bag in either location would be simple.
B – Numerous PALS webbing sections surround the bag. If you are new to tactical style gear, this webbing allows MOLLE compatible attachments. With hundreds of MOLLE pouches available across the internet, the limit of what you can attach to this bag is only how much you are willing to carry. Water bottles, survival kits, knives, guns, tool kits, etc…
C – The aerated, cell foam padding on the back is very comfortable and the channels should help keep my back dry on hot days.
D – If you don’t want to deal with removing the waist belt, you can tuck it into the center channel of the bag keeping it out of the way. I believe there are some EDC style belts that are compatible with this bag.
Looking to carry a rifle, tripod, fishing pole? The Transport Tail has a pouch on the inside that is revealed in the down position. The pouch is large enough to hold an assortment of items. With the side buckles not in use holding the tail upright, they can be configured to strap a number of items to the bag. Inside the bag is my 3-liter hydration bladder using one of the many clips designed to hold various hanging attachments. The bladder pouch is nice and large and looks to be made out of a waterproof material, which should keep everything else in your bag away from moisture. The clamshell design makes getting into the bag fast, I love it. I wish all of my previous bags featured this design.
I have yet to elaborate on one of the main reasons I love this bag. Its tough inside and out. Everything from the MIL-SPEC 1000 Denier Invista Cordura fabric to the heavy-duty zippers and MIL-SPEC buckles look to last forever. I plan on using this bag hiking through the desert. A number of my previous hiking backpacks have failed because of weather and abuse. I tend to get into my pack often, which means I am setting it down in the dirt or throwing it into the back of my truck often. The bag needs to be tough, the buckles need to be tough and the zippers need to work all the time. Zippers are a big bug-a-boo for me, they often fail. The zippers on the Litespeed are heavy-duty, work great and should last as long as the bag does (I hope). The inside zipper pockets are generous in size and use a high-quality mesh that allows you to see your items. Pocket mesh is another deal breaker for me. Previous packs with similar pockets used a very thin mesh that pens and other pointy objects pierce with ease. The Litespeed mesh is strong. I even poked it a few times to make sure I wouldn’t be shoving items through it. There are enough factors to worry about on the trail, the last one should be whether or not my bag will make it back to camp in one piece.
I have a love/hate relationship currently going with the front pocket. I will use this pocket more than any others because of its location. Aside from pouches I will add in the future, it is the quickest way for me to get to my phone, wallet, knife, etc. The pouch has a nice sectional area designed to hold writing instruments, business cards, knife, flashlight or whatever you choose. The problem is, the design of the pocket doesn’t yield an easy way to get them in and out. What I would like to see is the pocket redesigned in a shape like the red half egg I placed on the photo. A zipper that opens in an arch shape would allow full access to the sectional area, a pouch could be added to the flap and you still have an open area for more items. A small flap pouch would be a great location for memory cards.
Laptops and tablets are commonplace these days. I need the ability to carry either at any time in just about every bag I own. Unfortunately, the Litespeed does not feature any padded sections for either. However, I have found the hydration pouch carries my iPad in its Incase Book Jacket very well. Just make sure there isn’t any moisture in the pouch. I also found that I could carry my 15-inch MacBook Pro in its Incase Protective Sleeve nicely. I would not carry a bare laptop in this bag. There is not enough padding to properly protect your device. Inside a protection sleeve like mine, I have no worries of transporting my laptop around town. I actually prefer the sleeve even when using a bag with a designated laptop section. Often they don’t offer much protection from the elements and I cannot afford to damage a $3,000 laptop. Call me overprotective if you like. The photograph on the right shows the hanging straps (above the laptop) designed to accommodate hanging organizers or an additional PALS panel.
I recently spent four days covering the SEMA Show in Las Vegas wearing the Litespeed. It was loaded up with my laptop, iPad, cables, chargers, Canon lens, snacks and other various small items. Even with a considerable amount of weight in the bag, my shoulders felt great after 5 hours each day. I was using the bag with my Black Rapid RS-7 camera strap. The bag and the strap worked together flawlessly. If you are the type who likes attention, wear this bag around an auto show.
For the photographers out there looking to carry gear, this bag isn’t for you. The padding on the back will keep your gear from slamming into your back but just like carrying an unprotected laptop around, there isn’t enough protection. You can however pack each piece of gear in its own protective case and load the bag up if you choose. A photo specific bag will do the job much better. If T.A.D. was to create a padded foam photography insert with dividers that slides in and out of the bag and stays in place with velcro, that could turn this into a decent photo bag. It would also work in their larger FAST Pack EDC bag.
There is much debate online over whether or not you should purchase a bag based on how cool it looks. All show or all go. Form over function. Argue all you like but there is no way I am going to buy something I can’t stand looking at. You wouldn’t buy a pair of pants that fit perfect but were plaid and zebra striped would you? I didn’t think so. The Litespeed presents uber cool looks and is sure to be a conversation piece wherever you carry it. I stopped by the cigar lounge with it the other day and nearly everyone in the room asked me about the bag.
“Thats a good looking bag, who makes it?”
“Are you in the military?”
“What do the patches mean?”
“What are all the straps for?”
“Are you going hunting?”
Mind you, most of these guys don’t have any experience with tactical style bags. The front velcro patch section gives you a great way to personalize your bag. I picked up these three from T.A.D. but have some new ideas for the future.
Quick travelers note: This bag complies with airline carry-on rules and fits in the overhead compartment as well as under the seat in front of you.
At $239, is this bag for you? If you need a bag that will last a long time, gives you the ability to carry a lot of items without sacrificing mobility, this bag is for you. If a backpack means you have a place to throw your gym clothes, I would suggest a cheaper option. Not counting photography bags I have purchased 4-5 different hiking/EDC bags over the last few years. Those bags range from $50-$140. If I do the math, I am embarrassed to admit how much I’ve spent. For years, I favored the less expensive option. This resulted in replacing items at a faster rate. These days, I prefer to spend a little more on a quality product that will last me a long time. Don’t forget, Triple Aught Design products are Made in the U.S.A. and that should mean something to you.
Will this stay in my collection? You bet. The majority of items I carry on a daily basis fit well into the bag. Not having to worry about tossing the bag in my backseat or on the ground over and over gives me peace of mind. I can see the Litespeed quickly becoming my EDC bag. I definitely recommend checking out Triple Aught Design. If the bag is this nice, I can’t wait to get my hands on one of their jackets.
A pack you can trust. Highly recommended!