Exped Summit Lite 15 Review
Cons: Fragile, wimpy shoulder straps, no back padding
Our Analysis and Test Results
The past popularity of cheap, ultralight packs for use in multi-pitch climbing piqued our interest. The Exped Summit Lite 15 is the latest in this type of small climbing pack.
This pack's ultralight design made it both less and more comfortable, resulting in a middle-of-the-road performance overall. Though the shoulder straps are a decent width, they're minimally padded. This is also the only bag in our review with no back padding. While this enhanced the weight and packability, it calls for careful packing if you're stuffing your rack in there.
While climbing with a light load, we thought this pack was pretty comfortable. In these situations, many of our testers forgot they had it on. While the Summit Lite isn't great with heavy or sharp items, it is comfortable with a light and squishy load.
The Summit Lite has many of the features we prefer in a small climbing pack. The hook for hanging the hydration system may not immediately work with all reservoirs, but a small loop of cord can usually be rigged to remedy this. The hip belt is easily removable.
The lid of the Summit Light is a zippered closure with another zippered pocket on the inside. There is a stretchy external pocket which is great for keeping snacks or a small water bottle handy on the approach. Though we wouldn't want to store our phone in there, this pocket is more secure than we expected while climbing, especially when the rest of the bag is fairly full. This bag has a fairly smooth outside — we had no problems with snagging on brushy approaches.
While there are several attachment options for hauling, none of them are particularly inspiring strength-wise. On top of that, we doubt the 100d nylon could stand up to much abrasion. We also missed having a key clip on this pack, and the sternum strap buckle does not double as a whistle. We feel that this simple and low-cost feature should be standard on any small pack designed for adventure.
Durability is the Achilles heel of the Summit Lite. It is made of 100 denier nylon. Abrasion is the primary enemy of durability in a small climbing pack, and this is not a very abrasion-resistant fabric.
While we did a short test haul using only the thin grab loop, we don't think it's reliable for much hauling. This pack can withstand face climbs, but climbers should be careful on any route with movement where the pack could come into sustained contact with the rock. You'll also want to avoid packing anything hard against the fabric, as this will greatly increase scuffing and damage.
The climbing applications of the Summit Lite should be limited to situations where its low durability won't come into play. In non-climbing situations, the bag's low weight and packability make it very versatile.
The whole pack is designed to stuff into the under-lid pocket. It will then fit easily into a larger pack for a jaunt into a backcountry base camp for ticking multiple routes over multiple days.
The Summit Lite has two external daisy chains. While these are useful for attaching items, it isn't easy to do so in a way that keeps them from flopping around on scrambly approaches and descents. One of the daisy chains has an ice axe loop at the end, though you'll have to rig your own attachment for the shaft of the axe. If you want to attach a pair of tools to the pack, be prepared to do a bit of rigging to attach the second tool.
The Summit Lite 15 is among the lightest packs in our test at 10 ounces (283 grams). The weight can be reduced 1.2 ounces more by detaching the hip belt and sternum strap. The low weight is due both to the simplicity of this bag's design and the lightweight materials used. We often grabbed it for routes with difficult face climbing and no hauling.
One of the main advantages of the Summit Lite 15 is its low price. A great many climbers never haul and avoid chimneys and offwidths. If this is you and you only occasionally climb multi-pitch routes with a pack, this bag is a great value.
The Exped Summit Lite 15 conforms to the current trend toward making climbing gear as light as possible. It does most of the things we need a climbing daypack to do with a simple design and low weight. The main downside of this pack is its fragility. Die-hard adventure climbers should choose a more durable option. Most other climbers will find that the Summit works well for them.
— Ian McEleney