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Road Tests

Road Tests :: TAD FAST Pack Litespeed Backpack

by , November 30, 2011

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Triple Aught Design’s (TAD) FAST Pack Litespeed (FPL) is my favorite backpack in my vast personal collection. There, I said it. There are still many other packs I long to own (KILLSPENCER’s Special Ops backpack, Visvim’s 20L and 22L backpack, Lexdray’s Boulder backpack, GORUCK’s GR1, etc)… but let’s focus on the FAST Pack Litespeed… my current, yet to be defeated, favorite backpack that I own.

That being said, the FPL isn’t my go-to everyday carry (EDC) backpack. The FAST Pack Litespeed ($239) is better suited (for me) for specific active… activities. And it’s designed to be this way, for the movers and the shakers, the living. Fast, form-fitting, light, and tough as nails.

“The FAST Pack Litespeed was inspired by our customers who were looking for a lightweight and more nimble alternative to our legendary FAST Pack EDC for use in active scenarios when you need full range of arm motion.” For me, it is great for 1-3 day travel trips, riding my bike around town on errands or over to the local swimming hole, with plenty of room for a towel, change of clothes, all my tech toys, etc.

It’s great for going on hikes on our greenbelt, especially when it isn’t 110+ degrees Fahrenheit outside. And just in case it is that hot, there is a smart hydration pouch that works well with my existing CamelBak bladder with insulated tube. I like how the port for the bladder tube is a beefy flap of Hypalon fabric (serious heavy-duty stuff). It’s perfect for taking to a music festival, camping, or traveling on a multiple-day trip.  Judging by the fit, comfort, and construction, it could be great for a soldier out in the field. I’m not a soldier, so this is just speculation. Then again, I design packs for soldiers, so maybe I do know what I’m talking about. 🙂

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The FPL is designed for the extreme (made in the USA, Mil-Spec 1000D Cordura nylon fabric, high-tensile strength nylon thread, reinforced with Mil-Spec Hypalon, utilizing ITW Nexus GhillieTex Fasteners, NM Duraflex auto-lock buckles, YKK #8 and #10 Nylon Coil Reverse Zippers, etc.). The owner of TAD, both an ex-soldier and a lover of the outdoors designed the FPL to be exactly this way.

TAD focuses on a “…strong appreciation for durable and reliable equipment. (Patrick) founded Triple Aught Design with a signature focus on combining rigorous functionality with sophisticated design. At Triple Aught Design, we believe that human presence should not overtake the beauty of the natural world, evidenced by our choice in color palettes and the many environmental groups we support. Our apparel and equipment are meticulously designed to excel under the strenuous demands of the modern explorer, giving you the confidence to focus on the task, not the equipment. We also believe there is no need to sacrifice style in the pursuit of performance; Triple Aught Design’s unique aesthetic is recognized around the globe.”

Read more about TAD and their products on their website.

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The number one attribute for the FPL is the modularity. It is a literal shape shifter. You can make this pack as complex or as streamlined as you’d like, depending on the day, your activity, your gear, your mood, your aesthetic preferences, your life. TAD relies on the military PALS and MOLLE webbing systems, covering nearly every square inch of the exterior of the pack in the stuff.

Any compatible pouches will work, but I recommend TAD’s killer pouch offerings. These pouches are built just like their packs – tough. They’re multi-sized for all sorts of different gear, they’re well thought out, provide quick access to contents, are aesthetically pleasing, and, well…they match their packs seamlessly. With their large selection of pouches, any individual can create their own unique combination that is perfect for their needs, even if they change daily. Want to bring your accessory pouch with your Leatherman on a hike? Strap it up. Want to leave your Leatherman because you’re catching a flight at the airport? No problem, pop it off the MOLLE/PALS webbing by undoing the rear Velcro straps of the said pouch. Quick and easy to add or remove gear-specific pouches as you please.

I personally am using iComm, OP1, S1, and BC4. The iComm is a solid cell phone/mp3 player pouch (fits my iPhone 4 nice and snug, but loose enough to pull out quickly), the OP1 works great for an organizer of small gear items/cables, the S1 would be perfect for a Surefire flashlight or other similar shaped item, and the BC4 carries TAD’s plastic battery case (which is made to carry CR123A batteries for that Surefire torch).

The shoulder straps are nearly revolutionary. They’re curved and highly ergonomic (as an Industrial Designer, I very much dislike using this term, as it’s pretty much a cliché) to fit your body like a glove. They curve inward, and then back out, so they wrap around your pectoral area comfortably. They are seriously some of the best designed shoulder straps that I have encountered in my years of researching, buying, and designing backpacks.

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There is also something to be said about TAD’s badass morale patch selection, which they change up regularly. I normally wouldn’t expect a company to make really cool patches for their own packs, and would assume I would have to search long and hard for some secret underground third party company who no one knows about for “cred”. TAD is already kind of underground yet highly respected by their cult following.

In other words, not everyone is going to have your same patch/patches. I’m usually a minimalist, and go for the clean look. But not this time. I personally dig the black on black look (though they have a variety of tasteful color options in the packs, pouches, and patches, such as Coyote Khaki, Multicam, and Foliage Green to fit your aesthetic palette) so I’m extremely happy with my Dogpatch, Mean T-Skull, and TAD Logo patches… all in, you guessed it, black. The patches are also really well made, which you’d think would be overlooked with something so simple as a patch. It is that attention to detail that makes me appreciate Triple Aught Design even more.

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The Transporter Tail (the lower flap that is buckled to the back side of the backpack) is something new for me. At first I questioned its purpose, and wanted to remove it to achieve that super clean, minimal look which I’m a big fan of. Now, after using it for a while, I really appreciate it. I’ve found myself using it quite a bit, always in a random pinch, when almost any other pack would have trouble in these situations.

For example, I had won a skateboard deck at an event here in Austin, and though I don’t skateboard, I wanted to take the deck from the event, across town on my bicycle to surprise a friend with it. With any other backpack I’d have to carry the strange shaped object under my arm while I bike one-handed, steering and braking. Or have over half of the deck sticking up and out of an unzippered main compartment. Not ideal. But not this time. With the Transporter Tail, you unclip the two buckles, pop the deck under the Transporter Tail, and off you go. It would also be great for fishing poles, sandy beach towels, dirty boots, a rifle, or any long items/items you don’t want to or can’t store inside the main compartment.

One of the only qualms I have with this lust-worthy pack is the amount of webbing and the locations. For example, you have to unbuckle the top two buckles (which act as cinch/adjustment straps for the shoulder straps) to access the main compartment, which takes an extra second or two. Then if you’d like to fully open the main panel, you need to unbuckle the two side cinch straps for the Transporter Tail. Though I sort of like this as a feature…maybe you don’t want to open the front panel fully 100% of the time, keeping your gear intact rather than all over the ground. Then again, you can leave your most commonly accessed gear in pouches or in the quick access pocket on the front panel. This way you can reserve the main compartment for your gear you need less often, like your tent, your laptop, or a sweatshirt, etc.

The only other issue I’ve found with all the many, many design features on this pack is that the zipper catches on one of the corners of my OP1 organizer pouch, as it is very squared off and zippers like curves rather than angles. It only catches about 50% of the time on the edge binding. I mention this because I’m searching hard for issues.  (Edit: now that the pack has worn in a bit, the catch is gone).

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As mentioned, there is a cult following with Triple Aught Design’s gear and I hope I explained why. They offer jackets, apparel, tools, lights, and more, all of which are up to the same standards of their packs. They also look amazing and solid from what I can see in their photos on their site. I’m keen to give more of their products a try myself, as I bet my first-hand experience with them will be a pleasure and worthy of rave review.

Also check out their larger FAST Pack EDC backpack and their Dispatch Messenger bag for some more carry options.  I’m very interested to get my hands on the larger FAST Pack EDC backpack so I can take it on even longer trips.  Regardless, with any of their products, if you think you may want it, you should buy quick. I’m not joking. Their cult following buys up their inventory within days of releasing a new product (which is announced on the TAD Facebook page), and it can be weeks until they’re restocked. This heavy demand of their products should give you a little bit of an insight to the quality too.

The more I use this pack the more I find it similar to a super-aged Scotch. Highly complex, yet refined, and no doubt delicious. Absolutely an acquired taste. Once you have used the pack and customized it to fit your unique lifestyle and gear, you can become a master at using it. Much like another tool in your arsenal of life, you can become perfectly efficient and have it as an extension of yourself.

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Is this suitable for an EDC pack? Absolutely.

Is this suitable for an active/adventure/travel pack? No doubt.

Will it also become your favorite pack in your collection? I can’t say for sure. That is for you to decide. But I would bet on it.

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