|Triple Aught Design FAST Pack Lightspeed shown with TAD's OP1 pouch|
Picking the Lightspeed
I'm not sure when I formally started looking for a backpack. It probably began when I started noticing Triple Aught Design's products on the internet and saw their packs in various places.
For some reason I felt compelled to purchase a backpack. I wanted something bombproof; an over-designed bag that I could take anywhere and beat to hell in confidence. TAD's FAST Pack Lightspeed was on the top of the list.
I have yet to be disappointed.
(pulled straight from the product page)
I'm using the outline found here to review the Lightspeed.
Design Concept: 2
This is a hard-use bag, plain and simple. It looks like it can take a beating. The pack is streamlined and slim.
If I could muster a complaint it would be that the bag can seem busy. It is covered in MOLLE webbing. As such, the exterior of the pack is a bit cluttered. It doesn't really detract from the bag's design quality, though. It does look more "tactical" than it otherwise would but that's more of a personal aesthetic choice than anything.
1000 denier Cordura is a favorite among high-end military-type bags. It's very durable, highly water-resistant, and exceptionally abrasion resistant.
When it comes to constructing a bag that can take a beating, 1000 denier Cordura is the way to go. Sure, it's a bit heavy, but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for the durability the fabric offers.
TAD has sourced some pretty exceptional hardware for the Lightspeed. The zippers are all YKK and in the year I've been using the bag I haven't encountered any problems. The zipper pulls are paracord with high-end caps. All the Lightspeed's fasteners and buckles are high-quality and, as with the zippers, have given me zero trouble.
Bags are constructed by stitching. Stitching can make or break a bag. High quality materials can be impotent if they're not fastened together well.
That said, the stitching on the Lightspeed is exceptional. Short of one longer-than-it-should-be thread which I quickly trimmed there were not and have not been any problems with the stitching on the bag.
Backpacks require conscientious packing. That said, some packs facilitate packing better than others.
The Lightspeed packs relatively easily. The main zippered compartment has a clamshell opening which allows the bag to open quite wide. My main complaint is that the clamshell doesn't extend all the way to the bottom of the bag. This leaves a small section (approximately 3 1/2 - 4 inches tall) that doesn't unzip. This section is a bit irritating to pack. It would be far easier to pack the whole of the bag if the zipper extended further toward the bottom of the bag.
Retrieving things from a backpack is directly proportional to how well they're packed. Of course, there are bags that facilitate retrieval better than others. The Lightspeed isn't bad in this department.
Being a backpack it's necessary to remove the bag to get anything out of its compartments. Of course, that hinders retrieval a bit.
The design of the bag also creates difficulty. The "beaver tail," as useful as it is, attaches to the bag in a way that requires loosening or unbuckling to retrieve anything from the main compartment.
There isn't much to the pack itself. There are two compartments, the large main compartment and a small admin-style pocket in the upper front of the bag. Inside the main compartment there are two additional zipper pockets and a sleeve for a hydration bladder.
The exterior admin pocket contains a number of stitched-in pockets of varying sizes. I typically carry a small notebook, a pen and pencil, a two-cell flashlight (Fenix TK-12), four spare batteries in a small holster, a Leatherman Charge TTi with additional driver bits, a flash drive, and a stick of Carmex. It all fits and it's organized well.
The two interior zipper pockets are pretty convenient and I use them frequently. The upper compartment can occasionally compete for space with the exterior admin pocket as they share space.
The pack's hydration sleeve is a nice feature. There is a hanger at the top to attach a hydration badder. A quick tip, when selecting a hydration bladder for the Lightspeed I strongly suggest getting a "slim" version such as Source Hydration's version found here.
As with most packs, there's a small hanger at the top for keys and whatnot.
Additionally, there are two attachment points at the top of the pack, presumably for their discontinued MOLLE panel. I haven't found any uses for them, but they're there.
Modularity / Expandability: 2
There are countless possibilities for expanding the capabilities of this pack.
Personally, I often have TAD's OP1 attached to the pack.
It's worth noting here that the Lightspeed has two ax loops on either side. They're incredibly convenient for attaching things, axes or otherwise.
At 56 oz (3.5 lbs) it's not the heaviest bag I've ever carried, but it's not the lightest either. My first time picking up the bag was surprising; it was a bit heavier than I was expecting. After throwing it on my back and carrying it around for a while I realized that it's not really that heavy.
The high-density Cordura is primarily responsible for the weight of the bag. Without it, though, the bag wouldn't be the same.
That said, the bag could probably be a bit lighter. For example, the GORUCK GR1 has a slightly larger interior volume (26 liters compared to the Lightspeed's 21.3 liters) but is 0.3 lbs lighter. It's not a very large difference but it's there.
Carry Comfort: 1
The Lightspeed isn't too uncomfortable to carry. It's average, plain and simple.
My biggest complaint with the comfort of the Lightspeed is the back panel. The air-mesh on the pack's back panel is annoying. It doesn't make the panel more breathable and it has the potential to cause irritation on bare skin. This happens quite often when running with the pack as the bottom of my shirt tends to ride up exposing my bare skin to the mesh.
Carryology doesn't like air mesh, and I completely agree.
Short of the mesh, though, the pack is comfortable. With a fully-loaded pack (including three liters of water, and a DSLR with accessories) it's unobtrusive, even in long-term carry. Additionally, the slim design of the pack makes it friendly to more athletic pursuits.
The Lightspeed is an excellent bag. While it's a bit expensive as far as bags go, it's well worth the price. I enjoy using it and expect it to faithfully serve me for the foreseeable future.