Designed for multi-day running, the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30 is a unique ultralight pack. With a volume just big enough for a two-night load and an ergonomic shoulder harness system resembling a vest, this pack is the only one we tested that is quite comfortable when running. Lots of pockets on the front of the vest (including two that accept water bottles) allow you to free your waist and hips for running and keep snacks, water, maps, and your phone at your fingertips. Anything north of 15 lbs gets hard on the shoulders really quick, but light loads carry well with very little bounce.
REASONS TO BUY
Designed for running
Comfortable vest-like suspension
Excellent on-the-go access
REASONS TO AVOID
No waist belt
Heavy frame sheet
The Fastpack 30 has no close competitor in our review. While overnight trail running is a small niche in the ultralight world, this is a perfect pack for it.
Ultimate Direction phased out the Fastpack 30 and now offers this pack in 25L and 35L versions. We link to the new Fastpack 35 in this review.
Our Analysis and Test Results
See the new Fastpack 35 in the first photo, followed by the version we tested, the Fastpack 30.
The price has gone up $10, bringing the cost of this pack up to $180 (but keep in mind you're getting 5 extra liters of space!) While we don't have full details on other features that may have changed, the two packs seem similar in features and function. As we haven't tested the new version, though, the following review pertains only to the Fastpack 30.
Hands-On Review of the Fastpack 30
The Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30 is a running backpack with just enough volume for a few days out. Except for features, it earned low scores in our tests compared to larger models designed for backpacking rather than running. That said, its feature set is just about perfect for multi-day runs.
The Fastpack is available in two sizes: S/M and M/L. We tested the M/L model. The frame panel used for the Fastpack is heavy and rigid. We discovered that replacing it with a cut-to-shape piece of closed cell foam saved 6 ounces without sacrificing much carrying comfort for light loads.
This pack also has more storage up front in the two water bottle pockets and other little pockets on the shoulder straps. Although it's the smallest pack we tested in this review, the Fastpack 30 delivers a better than expected weight-to-volume ratio. Two main factors influence this: lots of external storage when you need it and the ability to remove the quite heavy rigid frame sheet. At 20 g/L max and 14 g/L stripped of the frame sheet, this pack landed in the middle of the field for an average weight-to-volume ratio.
Load Carrying Comfort
This pack is pretty darn good at carrying 15-pound loads but shines at a few pounds less than this. This is a pack designed for overnight running rather than hiking adventures, and at this, it excels. You won't get 30 pounds into this contender, and it would be miserable with such a load. Once you pare your overnight running base weight down to 6 or 7 lbs, this pack shines. There's plenty of room for LOTS of food and water, and more than enough easy access external storage.
If you want a super light pack to cover high mileage each day, but your mechanics are more hiking like than running, the ZPacks Arc Blast 55 is a better choice. It's frame transfers some of the load to your hips. Buy the Fastpack 30 for running, otherwise, a more traditional pack with a hip belt will be more comfortable.
Too numerous to describe them all, the features on this pack offers lots of exterior storage and effortless access. A roll top closes the pack, five pockets up front carry your most important to access gear and snacks, and three pockets on the main pack carry tons. At times, we carried four water bottles on the outside. It also has loops and lash points for poles or two ice axes…basically, anything you want can strap on or stow in a pocket. The Fastpack 30 also accepts a hydration bladder in a large internal pocket with a Velcro tab up top for easy vertical securing. A center port lets you route the drinking hose over either shoulder.
With the small volume, this pack is not adaptable relative to the other ultralight backpacks we tested. It is designed for one thing - running adventures that take a few days. While you could strap some bulky things to the outside, this would defeat the purpose. We recommend using it for fifteen pounds or less, keeping it compact for running.
Unfortunately, we have some durability concerns. Being feature-rich, this pack has lots of buckles, pulls, and zippers that could become failure points. While it is a small detail, our first test run broke the elastic pull cord for the left shoulder strap water bottle pocket. The plastic fob pulled right off. On the plus side, the stretchy pocket fabric on the Fastpack is so far very abrasion-resistant.
Designed to do one thing very well, the Fastpack 30 is optimized for carrying comfort with light loads…while running. The Gossamer Gear Mariposa, our Editors' Choice winner, is our top recommendation for a do-it-all pack for ultralight backpacking and thru-hiking, followed by the Gossamer Gear Gorilla.
Priced at $185, this pack is only a good value if it fits the precise niche of one or two nights out in the backcountry while throwing down lots of fast mileage.
Forgoing a waist belt and expanding the shoulders straps into a vest-like harness, the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30 is built for carrying your overnight kit on long trail running adventures. It handles loads up into the mid-teens and has every manner of exterior storage to keep what you need mid-run at your fingertips.
Sizing, Accessories, & Other Versions
This pack comes in S/M and M/L versions for smaller and bigger folks. The Fastpack 20 is nearly identical but scaled down in size. The most hardcore ultralighters can use it for overnighters, but it's perfect for day hiking and peak bagging as well.
Our first side-by-side review of ultralight backpacks...
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