One of my pet peeves is an over-engineered day pack—there is absolutely no reason for a padded hipbelt and major suspension system during single day or fast and light pursuits. It just makes the pack heavy and you shouldn’t be carrying that much gear in the first place. Therefore, I was incredibly happy to see Ultimate Direction launch the super streamlined Fastpack 20. For most of the summer, it has been by go-to done-in-a-day type pack, whether cycling across Yosemite, mountain biking and hiking in Germany, running an adventure race in Ireland, or sea stack climbing.
Building off the Signature Series, the 1 lb 3 oz. Fastpack 20 fits like a running vest and uses the same Infiknit harness construction. The back panel and shoulder straps are made from one piece of custom-made fabric, which eliminates any chaffing due to seams. Ladies will appreciate that the lightweight knit shoulder straps and vest-like fit also reduce any pressure on your sports bra straps, something all too common in heavier backpacks.
In classic minimalist style, the roomy main compartment ditches all zippers in favor of a waterproof roll top closure. The roll top access also means you can secure the bag down to 15L when not carrying as much gear and expand all the way to 23L when fully stuffed.
Four different sized organization pockets on the front of the shoulder straps give you on the go access to snacks, gels, water, and even your phone or GPS. Side water bottle pockets are also easy to reach without removing the pack if you don’t want to use a hydration bladder.
The large stretch front pocket is the perfect place to store a map or a quick access rain jacket. One small zipper pocket at the side of the stretch pocket is the best place to secure your keys (key fob included) and wallet or phone. Both the thin webbing chest strap and waist belt move freely along a runner so you can set them to the exact height that is comfortable for you.
Low-profile daisy chains run alongside the front stretch pocket for use to secure down any excess gear (I used them to strap down my helmets), while the double gear loop and bungee cord system comes in handy for stowing trekking poles or even ice axes when not in use.
With all that next to body, high exertion activity wear, the pack can get pretty stinky. Simply throw your Fastpack 20 in the washing machine on the gentle cycle (you don’t even have to remove the foam back panel, which can also be ditched to make the pack even lighter). You can also spray the straps with a little Lysol in between washings.
The Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 comes in two sizes and retails for $149.95, available now.[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGS4wpzrXRc]