Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Very light, nice Velcro tab for hydration hose, innovative buckles let you clip a lot to the outside.
Cons: Very thin waist belt.
Best Uses: Hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, great alternative to a standard hydration pack.
The Speed Light 20 is a nice balance of being lightweight, simple, and still comfortable, which is why it wins our Top Pick award. It is the lightest pack reviewed, yet still offers some support and comfort, though the waist band is thin and without padding. It is halfway between a super minimalist value pack like the REI Flash 18 ($35) and the super tricked out Osprey Talon 22 $99. Unlike the REI Flash, the Speed Lite has a comfortable back panel, and unlike the Osprey Talon, it is light and flexible with just the necessary features. One of the greatest advantages of this pack is that it is easy to strap stuff on the outside. The compression straps reverse and strap around the back of the pack to hold a rope, skis, or your extra jacket. No other day pack reviewed does this, and this allows the Speed Lite to carry much more than its size would originally indicate. If you prefer something larger that can stow more inside the pack, the Gregory Z30 has a higher capacity and a specially designed ventilated back. If you like the simplicity and frameless construction of the Speed Lite, but are looking for something less expensive, the REI Trail 25 is also a frameless, basic day pack.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Speed Lite 20 comes equipped with many clever features and a close attention to detail. The ice axe loop tucks up into the outside stash pocket so you don't have to deal with it when not in use (which is most of the time for many people). That same mostly-hidden outside pocket accepts your extra stuff. For example, when you need to shed a base layer, you can cram it into this pocket. Or if you have a light rain shell it will also fit in here and start drying (while not making everything else in your pack wet). It also has loops to attach a helmet holder, which is a separate accessory.
Minor details such as the SOS instructions printed on the inside pocket and the reflective stripe on the back add extra finesse to the overall design.
Since it is hydration bladder compatible, the Speed Lite is a great alternative to a hydration-specific pack because it will double as a fast and light daypack. It has a unique Velcro loop on the right shoulder strap that keeps your hydration system hose right where you want it.
The side compression straps can be extended all the way across the pack to hold skis or other thin objects, which is one of the pack's coolest features. Few other packs are as easy to lash extras to the outside.
The hip belt is so thin it only offers stability and not any comfort for carrying the pack when it is fully loaded. You can also remove the hip belt, which many people may choose to do.
As the lightest pack in this review, (just over a pound) the Speed Lite offers the best weight to feature ratio of the other day packs in this sample, making it the best choice if you are concerned about weight.
For such a small, flexible pack, the Speed Lite remains remarkably stable and comfortable. The back is padded yet meshy, not providing as much ventilation as the Osprey packs or the Gregory Z30, but more ventilated than the REI Trail 25.
It is light enough and compressible enough (can be folded into a ball) to take as a daypack when backpacking. It can also take the place of a hydration specific pack because it is small, light, and fits a bladder. Since this pack can hold a helmet, an ice axe, or have things lashed to the outside, it can be used for just about anything.
The Speed Lite has proven to be quite durable, but one thing to look out for is that all the buckles are Deuter proprietary buckles, which means if one did break, it would be complicated and expensive to replace.
Ease of Use
At first this pack seems overly simple, but at closer inspection it becomes obvious that it can do just about anything. It is less flashy than the heavily featured Osprey Talon and Osprey Stratos, yet it can do just as much. Even as the smallest pack in this review, it held all of the essentials in our pack test plus had an extra carry for an ice tool, and the outside lash feature gives you the option of carrying much more than its 20-liter capacity.
The Speed Lite can be used in any situation you would want to carry a standard hydration pack: skiing, hiking, running, cycling or climbing, but this pack allows you to bring even more gear along than a standard Camelback pack.
For $89, this pack is a great deal. Less expensive than heavier duty packs like the Gregory Z30, its lashing and stow features give it almost as much carrying power.
Deuter Speed Lite 10
Speed Lite 15
Deuter Speed Lite 30
— McKenzie Long
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: January 29, 2013
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