Triple Aught Design is a brand who understand adventure. A quick glance at their website will show you climbers, covert photography, trips to archery and rifle ranges. Their community events involve road trips into the mountains, or code-breaking scavenger hunts around San Francisco, where they are based. In a world where, sometimes, less is more, Triple Aught Design has become known for feature-packed designs adding that extra pocket, or hidden mounting points for internal add-ons that some users will love, and others will never even consider – this is very clear in the Litespeed.
In 2014 Triple Aught Design unveiled the second iteration of their FAST Pack Litespeed, at the time their smallest bag. The new design made changes to the pack’s interior, its straps and suspension, and the overall shape, with the idea being to create a compact bag that would hit both specialist and day-to-day use, with the potential to move fast and stand up to the harshest conditions.
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Quality & Comfort
Despite the name, the Litespeed is not a lightweight bag. Durability and bombproof construction are at its core, and that’s obvious from the moment you pick it up. The pack is made from 1000D Cordura, using mil-spec buckles and webbing, which it is absolutely covered in. Any material choice has pros and cons and the FAST Pack line makes no bones about it – they’re tough packs for (to use TAD’s phrase) ‘extreme field use’ and not ultralight backpacking. While testing I lent out the Litespeed to a few friends and they all, without fail, commented on the weight of the pack, even when empty. In use weight invariably leads to fatigue and, personally, I don’t have any need for quite this much abrasion resistance – if I could trade a little and drop half a kilo from the pack, I think I’d like it better.
These comments switched, however, when folks put the pack on. The Litespeed has an internal HDPE frame sheet and some pretty decent suspension, making for a comfortable ride that hugs close to the body. Moving around with this pack on my back is really easy, keeping the load stable when cycling or clambering over rocks and trees. The straps do a fairly good job but, over longer hikes, the load-carriage shows its limitations. After four hours walking with the Litespeed, my back started to ache. After six, I was uncomfortable in a way that I wouldn’t have been if the pack had a yoke and belt. As an aside, Litespeed does have the means to fit a padded belt behind the lumbar pad. Triple Aught Design (TAD) has been promising to release a belt that will fit the pack for years now, but nothing has materialised on that front so far.
The Litespeed is designed with customisation and add-ons in mind. It has PALS webbing everywhere Between TAD’s Control Panels, Organisational Pouches, Transporter Tails or Pharos Lights, they produce a lot of options, not to mention the plethora of MOLLE-compatible pouches available online. If you look long enough you’ll find a pouch exists to fit just about every need imaginable, and it will mount to this bag, inside or out. I made extensive use of OV Innovations’ Teeter Pouch with the Litespeed, which is a slim and capable solution for bottle storage outside of the main compartment. The included Transporter Tail is really versatile and great for carrying overload, or forming a divider insider the pack. Even without using the PALS, there are external attachment options in the form of compression straps across the front and base, and even a lightweight paracord rig for tying a rope or a jacket to the top of the bag.
The Litespeed’s 22L size is utilitarian, but still at the top end of the ‘small bag’ category. On days when I carried a jacket, my lunch and some water to work it did fine, but adding a paperback book and some gloves quickly filled the space. For a walk by the coast or an afternoon in the woods, it performed similarly, although I’d have my reservations about taking a bag this size for a full day’s mountaineering.
There is some internal organisation built into the pack – two pleated mesh pockets will hold notepads, flashlights and other items that could get lost in a gear soup otherwise. There is a loop for hanging a water bladder and more mounting points for organisers inside. It has only one external pocket, zipped behind the Litespeed’s generous loop velcro panel. This outer pocket is quick to get in and out of but not designed to hold much beyond pens, multi-tools, flashlights and other smaller items.
The Litespeed is undeniably tough, and TAD gets no shortage of recognition for the quality of their builds. For situations where gear failure is absolutely not an option, I think the FAST Pack line is a solid contender.
The pack’s scope for customisation and adjustment is massive. Even without any additional accessories the Litespeed can be pulled apart and rebuilt to suit the user’s preference. With a little effort and investment, it’d be possible to configure this pack to an exact set of needs or swap out accessories on the fly, as roles change day-to-day.
As I said, cycling with the Litespeed is a joy. It rides solidly against the back without any movement at all, doesn’t interfere with the body, and the Transporter Tail lets me carry a helmet with ease once I’ve dismounted.
The trade-off to a featureful, overbuilt pack like this is that it’s heavy, finicky and (arguably) incomplete. It needs ‘setting up’ to get the most out of its feature set, which is a pain compared to the range of gear out there that ‘just works.’
For my use, I’m also not a huge fan of the 1000D material. The heavy fibre (plus the pack’s lack of internal protection) means it soaks in rain. I genuinely didn’t feel that the benefit of extra durability versus the weight gained. TAD themselves seem to be aware of these points, and more recently have released the FAST Pack Scout, which is lighter and sleeker, but still built around the same principles as the Litespeed, and also their Constellation line featuring the flagship Axiom 18, which is designed to better meet the needs of the urban commuter or traveller.
The Litespeed is a massively versatile bag – it’s tough but agile (in short bursts) with custom options to suit a huge range of roles. It takes a bit of work to get right, I can absolutely see why so many people love this bag.
For outdoors situations where durability is the most important feature, the Litespeed might be ideal. For other uses… well, it’s not perfect.