- Buyer's Guide
Drive By :: TAD FAST Pack Litespeed (Exclusive 1st Look) + Giveaway!
Drum roll, please. Here it is, folks. The brand new redesigned Triple Aught Design FAST Pack Litespeed backpack. It has a loyal cult following. And for good reason. You may recall me having said that the FPL was “my favorite backpack in my vast personal collection” back in 2011 when I had the chance to give its predecessor a Road Test review. Well, how does the new updated version of the Litespeed compare? Will the FAST Pack Litespeed take the place of the FAST Pack Litespeed for my new favorite backpack? Let’s find out.
Just to be clear, this is only a Drive By review, launched quickly so we could time the posting of this to sync with the launch of the pack’s official release through the Triple Aught Design website. As of posting this, we are the only folks who have the honor of the first exclusive look at this new pack. And we are very excited about that. We’ll have an in-depth Road Test review of this pack later this year, once I really get a chance to put it through its proper paces. So, we won’t be focusing on what isn’t new, like the fact that it’s still Made in the USA from mil-spec materials (like 1000D Cordura nylon), using mil-spec hardware (like ITW Nexus), and all that other good stuff you know and love about the FPL. We’re going to focus primarily on the new improved features of the pack. The stuff you want to hear!
In TAD’s own words, “In the 4 years since it first hit the market, our customers have used and abused the Litespeed across the world in incredibly diverse environments and circumstances. We’ve enjoyed working closely with them to understand what worked well, what they thought could be improved, and how the Litespeed had become part of their stories. This is the first major evolution of our Litespeed platform since its inception and while we have kept the overall appearance similar to the prior version, it has actually been reengineered from the ground up based on customer feedback and testing.”
Before you dig into this review here, you can also check out TAD’s “FAST Pack Litespeed Re-engineered” video on Vimeo.
Who It Suits
You want a bag that’s tough, customizable and adaptable. One that’s ready to take on outdoor, travel and urban missions alike. This pack certainly ticks the boxes.
Who It Doesn’t
The tactical aesthetics won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Plus they’re a little too overt for formal workplaces. If you need a stylishly understated work bag, this isn’t it. Also if you’re after a “simple” bag, there are much better options. This bag isn’t difficult to use, but it does have a lot of features, so you should enjoy playing around with your carry and alternating between different setups to really make the most of this pack.
The pack does keep the same great-looking silhouette as its forefather. It only took one look for me to lust after this pack when I first laid eyes on it in 2011. You can tell it means business from its aesthetics. I had to have one. When you lay your hands on it and then dig in, then you fully understand what it’s all about.
“The pack does keep the same great-looking silhouette as its forefather.”
There are a couple of minor aesthetic (yet highly functional) changes to this FAST Pack Litespeed. They’ve shortened the overall height of the pack, making it more comfortable for a variety of different body shapes and sizes. I always thought the last FPL was a little long. Not that this was a bad thing, but proportionally, it curiously stood out to me. They’ve got it just right now. This reduction in height also allows users to access belt-mounted gear much easier, without interference from the bottom of the pack.
I also noticed they improved the exterior MOLLE/PALS nylon webbing to an even more durable variety, specifically A-A 55301, featuring a heavier weave. It will surely be able to carelessly brush off the wear from your adventures and handle the weight of all your heavy gear-loaded pouches that you can add through the MOLLE.
Additionally…webbing. The last FPL, well, there was webbing everywhere. Particularly, dangling off the pack. It was like a webbing factory exploded! Of course, I’m exaggerating a bit. But I definitely had to find some creative ways to manage all the excess webbing, looping it through here, tucking in there, adding web management hardware, using an elastic loop from the belt webbing, etc. Yeah, I’m picky. Still, it was a problem that needed to be solved as proven through the many forums I visited, where others showed off their solutions to the issue.
Well, TAD solved it. The new FPL is clean. There is built-in webbing management everywhere, cleaning up the exterior silhouette, while keeping it just as functional. I count 8 ITW Nexus Web Dominators in total.
Even the sternum strap has an elastic loop to keep the loose adjustment strap in place. That detail shows this webbing ‘clean up’ was a major focus of theirs with this redesign. The reduction is actually a functional improvement too, since you’ll have much less opportunity to get your pack caught on branches in the thorny bush or in a set of closing automated doors on a train. Or in your beard.
“The new FPL is clean. There is built-in webbing management everywhere, cleaning up the exterior silhouette, while keeping it just as functional.”
If you prefer an even cleaner look, you can remove the Transporter Tail and its attachment webbing points super easily/quickly, by simply slipping the metal anchor point through the ITW Looploc on the side of the pack. Even the bottom 1.5″ nylon webbing straps of the Transporter Tail are hidden behind the TT itself, so they’re not visible (like they are on the previous models).
Here it is. The one feature you’ve been waiting to hear about…TAD completely eliminated the top two buckles on the top of the Litespeed. You know, the ones that you had to unbuckle every time you wanted to access the main compartment? Those buckles. They’re gone. Removed. Deleted.
“TAD completely eliminated the top two buckles on the top of the Litespeed.”
The shoulder straps now attach directly into the top of the back panel, keeping access to the main compartment hassle-free. So now you simply just unzip the YKK zipper sliders for full access to your gear in the pack. Just look how easy that looks now. This single update alone left me very impressed.
Speaking of shoulder straps and back panel, the entire suspension system has been redone. They added in a beefy HDPE framesheet, built right into the system. Non-removable. Or at least I couldn’t discover a way to slide it out. This is a good thing, meaning it is fully incorporated, allowing you to carry heavier loads in the pack, while it sits higher on your back, much more comfortably. So far, so good.
“Speaking of shoulder straps and back panel, the entire suspension system has been redone. They added in a beefy HDPE framesheet, built right into the system.”
Adding to the comfort, the shoulder straps and back panel pads now use a thicker foam versus the thin foam on the last version. The shoulder straps have gone to a more traditional-looking design, dropping the super-thin and curvy S straps from the past. Well, the difference is huge. Like switching from a 1960’s 4×4 vehicle which “needs some work” to a Gulfstream jet on a clear day with no turbulence. Smooth. Yet the materials all still meet up to TAD’s extremely demanding durability long-term use testing. The airmesh covering this new foam is also improved. They claim it dries faster and has better airflow, but I haven’t been testing it long enough to report on those claims. I tend to believe TAD though, but I’ll report back, don’t worry. This stuff is possibly some of the only airmesh I’ve ever felt that doesn’t feel rough…but nice to the touch.
Must, put, down, pack.
Stop touching the airmesh and get back to typing!
Anyway, this serves two purposes. It feels more comfortable while wearing it. But it also limits abrasion on the user’s garments worn under the pack. Nice of them to consider that for us.
“Adding to the comfort, the shoulder straps and back panel pads now use a thicker foam versus the thin foam on the last version.”
Organizationally, the pack mostly has the same design (except for some new stuff, mentioned later). The two zippered mesh pockets on the back side of the front clamshell opening. As well as the front Top Admin Pocket. I’ve found that the Top Admin Pocket with organization seems easier for my relatively large hands to reach down into on this new design. And now, it seems larger “tactical” pens like my Karas Kustoms BOLT pen can fit in the larger pen slots with ease. I always thought that room was a bit tight in the previous version, so I’m enjoying this pocket even more now for quick-access items.
Everyone loves 550 paracord, right? TAD must have seen everyone wrapping that killer Hypalon grab handle with the stuff, and figured there must be a better way. They incorporated a genius lightweight attachment system made from 550 paracord, so you can easily toss on a jacket or a bundle of rope to the top of the pack.
This is done with clever cord routing, looping through itself, around the handle. And I love this part – there are 96, count them, 96 inches of paracord included in this system, so it can be removed and used for emergency use. Easily replaced later.
“They incorporated a genius lightweight attachment system made from 550 paracord, so you can easily toss on a jacket or a bundle of rope to the top of the pack.”
All that excess webbing neatly and invisibly tucks away behind the MOLLE/PALS webbing that runs down the side of the pack, going back to that whole exterior cleanliness thing again. This system is really trick. Good work, design team.
TAD also let us take a look at their new version of the MOLLE Panel (not yet available, but soon). This accessory has six rows and six columns of PALS nylon webbing on the one side and two convenient zippered mesh pockets on the other side for smaller gear.
This is capable of being mounted in several different configurations, providing even more versatility for customization and organization of the interior. It swings up and out of the pack for easy access.
Here’s where things break the mold a bit. TAD has added yet another new system, which focuses on allowing users to “adapt and evolve the pack configuration to their changing needs,” through modularity. They’ve added an external and internal system they’re calling “Anchors” which can accommodate a variety of accessories that are yet to be seen. However, they included a pre-release accessory for this exclusive first look Drive By.
That accessory is the “sterile” version of the Transporter Tail (again, not yet available, but soon). When attached to the exterior of the FPL, it allows the pack’s aesthetics to blend in a bit more into a civilian setting, reducing the amount of MOLLE webbing visible…at least to the untrained eye. You can swap out the two tails easily, depending on your preference for the exterior of your FPL. The trick is…if you purchase the Sterile TT, you can still use the MOLLE TT at the same time. How? Well, the TT also attaches to the INSIDE of the pack via the Anchors system. This internal TT now allows you to compress heavier items against the upper back for better weight distribution, for segmenting storage space, or keeping items up and off of the floor of the pack.
“They’ve added an external and internal system they’re calling “Anchors” which can accommodate a variety of accessories…”
You’ve got options…MOLLE TT on exterior only, MOLLE TT on interior only (a great option to mount pouches to for internal organization), Sterile TT on exterior only, Sterile TT on interior only, MOLLE TT on exterior + Sterile TT on interior, Sterile TT on exterior + MOLLE TT on interior, or without any TTs at all. Seven configurations. Whew, I think I got them all, but I’m not that great at math. Who knows, they may even release more accessories to work here too. Personally, I imagine they will. (Just confirmed with TAD, they told me there will be MANY more accessories that work with this system, so keep watching their site every Friday for new products.)
“This internal TT now allows you to compress heavier items against the upper back for better weight distribution, for segmenting storage space, or keeping items up and off of the floor of the pack.”
That’s the highlights so far. I’m going to need to keep digging on this pack (with pleasure) for the next couple of months in order to provide a more in-depth Road Test review. Someone has to do this dirty work. But do I love it? Will the FAST Pack Litespeed dethrone the FAST Pack Litespeed as my favorite backpack I own? You’ll have to check back for the next review for the final word on that. But signs certainly point to “Yes”.
Oh…and one more thing…
Triple Aught Design is GIVING AWAY one of these brand new FAST Pack Litespeed backpacks to a lucky Carryology reader.
How do you enter?
1. Go find our Carryology Facebook post for THIS article.
2. SHARE that article on your wall.
3. Make sure you TAG (@) the Carryology Facebook page AND the Triple Aught Design Facebook page in your shared post (that means you must be following both pages).
4. We’ll pick a winner in 7 days (October 24th, 2014 at 0900 Pacific Time).