Mention the name Triple Aught Design and very few people in the EDC or backpack community won’t know who you’re talking about. Founded by Patrick Ma (now of Prometheus Design Werx) the brand originally centered around military inspired clothing and backpacks, with the epicenter of their pack range being the tactical Fastpack line. In recent years TAD has made a move towards more lightweight and subtle designs. As part of their new design focus the Spectre line of backpacks was released.
Originally the Spectre packs came in 3 sizes (22 liters, 34 liters, and 42 liters) and were made of Dimension Polyant LS-42 and X-51 fabric, a combination that allowed it to be durable while remaining light weight. While the line was generally well received many people had less than stellar reviews for both the look of the LS-42 fabric (a comparison or two may have been made to acid washed jeans from the 1980’s) as well as the non-removable waist belt that came on the 22 liter version of the pack. To their credit, TAD listened and within a year a second Spectre 22 option was released, this time sans waist-belt and in stealth black VX-21.
|Capacity||1342.5 cu. in.||22L|
Quality and Comfort
Out of the box the Spectre has the quality feel that I’ve come to expect from TAD products. Although some users reported loose stitching on their packs, I haven’t noticed any issues with my bag. The Spectre is definitely lighter weight than the comparably sized Fastpack Litespeed, and while it obviously doesn’t feel as “bombproof” as its tactical cousin it definitely feels robust enough to handle hikes and everyday carry duty.
The shoulder straps and back panel are made with closed cell polyethylene foam covered in mesh which makes the Spectre very comfortable to carry as well as allowing for some moisture wicking during particularly warm or strenuous use. I took the Spectre on the ultimate sweat test; Disney World in Florida. While it didn’t prevent the immense back sweat issue expected from such a venture it did handle the challenge admirably and I remained comfortable carrying the pack all day.
The one downside to having the mesh covering on the back panel is that it does seem to show some pilling after light use. As you can see it even picked up a little of the red from a couple of the t-shirts I wore on the trip. I’m sure it would be an easy fix with a shaver but it’s still a little disappointing. That said, this is a common issue on most packs with an air-mesh style back.
The shoulder straps themselves are a yolk-type system. Yolks generally don’t work as well for me as two independent straps, but the flexibility of the foam and fabric made it a complete non-issue. The back panel also contains a HDPE framesheet which not only provides structure to the pack but when combined with the optional waist-belt allows for comfortable carry of slightly heavier loads.
The pack also features load lifters, which can be adjusted not only by tightening the straps but also by moving the anchor point along the shoulder strap itself via the attached webbing.
Directly above the harness are two rows of water resistant zippers. These zippers are very small. TAD probably chose this size to keep anything from potentially rubbing on the wearers neck, but it makes accessing them fairly difficult and almost impossible if you are wearing gloves.
The top zipper allows access to the stash pocket that can also be accessed via the main compartment of the bag. At first I was skeptical but it really comes in handy allowing quick access to any small items you may need while you’re on the move.
Below this zipper is a second zipper with dual sliders which provides access to the bag’s hydration sleeve. The user can attach their water bladder via a Velcro loop at the top of the pocket. You can then run the hose to either shoulder strap by leaving the slider on that side slightly open.
The front of the pack is fairly subtle with three color matched rows of webbing for adding pouches or carabiners. It also serves as an attachment point for the bag’s compression straps.
The sides of the pack feature dual water bottle pockets, something notably absent from pretty much all of TAD’s other offerings. The pockets are made of Tweave 4-way stretch panels and will easily handle a Nalgene bottle with only slight intrusion into the main compartment.
The bottle pockets also feature a zipper at the bottom which allows for deployment of ice-axe loops. These allow you to strap longer items to the side of the pack using the attached compression straps and side webbing.
Along the side of the pack there is also a single column of webbing which allows for the attachment of narrow pouches such as the TAD s1 or s2, or your ice-axe.
The top of the pack has two hidden nylon loops. They’re there to attach the optional transport tail. However, you could also attach items to them with a small carabiner or by adding some shock cord.
Entry to the pack is made via water resistant reverse coil YKK #5 zippers and is a half-clamshell design. This offers more access to the interior than a top loader. The small zippers are mitigated slightly by plastic zipper pulls but they still feel undersized.
The interior is fairly spartan except for the aforementioned stash pocket as well as attachment loops at the top and bottom which when used with slik clips or fidlocks allows for adding some of TAD’s pouches and accessories
One big positive with this pack is that despite it’s dark colored exterior the interior of the bag is mostly lined in a very light grey color allowing for easy visibility of the contents of the bag.
The top of the bag has a thin un-padded grab handle which is more than capable if the pack is carrying a lighter weight load. However, I’d suggest against carrying a heavier load for any extended period of time in this manner as the sides do rug against your palm a bit.
The exterior bottom of the pack has a pair of compression straps for adding a jacket, sleeping bag, or any other bulky items you may need to carry.
Given that it was designed first and foremost as a daypack for your outdoor adventures its unsurprising that organization in the Spectre 22 is definitely a bring-your-own affair. The only built in organization are the bottle pockets and the internal stash pocket, none of which contain any kind of slots or elastic for securing small items. The good news is there are several options available from TAD to help alleviate some of the issue, even making this pack a viable EDC bag. The Transporter Sleeve for laptop carry, control panels for adding pouches to the interior of the bag, or their OP1 admin pouch for external organization. Of course the downside to this modularity is that all of these options come at an additional cost and finding them in stock can at times be difficult or impossible.
Due to the lack of built in organization I feel like making this pack a full clamshell would be a marked improvement on the current design. By having an opening similar to the Arc’teryx Assault pack or the Prometheus Design Werx Shado it would allow not only for a clamshell opening while retaining the bottle pockets, but would allow full access to the contents of the bag. Meaning that adding a control panel with pouches to the interior would be less cumbersome to access when the bag is full.
- Lightweight but sturdy daypack
- Comfortable straps and back panel make for an enjoyable carry
- High quality build and materials
- Ability to add beaver tail and waist belt increases capacity
- Light colored interior make it easy to see contents of the bag
- Bottle pockets, because bottle pockets make everything better
- Half clamshell makes accessing things in the bottom of the bag more difficult when full
- The back panel mesh pills very quickly
- TAD accessories can be hard, expensive, or impossible to find
- Tiny zippers on this bag can be difficult to grab, especially when wearing gloves
- Adding waist belt, beaver tail, and organization means added cost
Overall I feel like TAD has made a solid step in the right direction with the updated Spectre 22. Its lightweight design and thoughtful features make it a comfortable carry for day hikes and can easily be converted to EDC duty provided you already have some organization available to you or don’t mind spending a little extra money. The Triple Aught Design Spectre 22 retails for $225.00 but is currently unavailable via their website.
Disclaimer: the TAD Spectre 22 was purchased privately and used subsequently for this review. The content of the review was not shared with TAD prior to publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never edited to keep brands happy.