+ comfortable for a lightweight pack
+ fully adjustable harness system that is utter simplicity to adjust to any torso size
+ clever compression system that cinches up nicely and adds to the stability of the pack
+ weather resistant
- a little too spartan in some respects
- hipbelt pockets & side pockets won't stand up to too much bush-bashing or pack hauling over rocks
- lacks accessible pockets for those things you want handy (probably both a pro & a con)
Fast packing adventures where weight is crucial
Exped Lightning 60 loaded with 18.4kg
With a 3 Peaks attempt coming up, I've been on the hunt for a lighter multiday pack.
The problem of course, is lighter packs tend to sacrifice stability and comfort.
I finally discovered the Exped Lightning 60 and the Marmot Graviton 58 as my two finalists. In the end, I went with the Exped for its size and great reviews (not that you can find a lot).
I've now had a chance to try it out with an 18.4kg load and the following are my first impressions.
Wow! For any pack, this is one stable pack - let alone for a lightweight one. The pack doesn't have a frame per se, rather it relies on a single, centrally placed aluminium stay - and it works a treat.
Based on my relatively short test (7km with 18.4kg inclusive of hill and stair repeats) the Exped is comfortable enough. Granted, it is no Osprey Aether (the Smokey Dawson Recliner of packs) but weighing in at just 1100 grams it is well over 1kg lighter than the Osprey. It is pretty darn comfortable for a lightweight pack - or at least my back says so :) It's certainly more comfortable than any other lightweight packs with a decent load on that I've used in the past.
The only area I think they skimped a bit too much is in the shoulder straps, they have bugger-all padding and I'm thinking they would be a problematic on a multiday walk with a heavy load. I'll probably tape some lightweight foam onto them for 3 Peaks (though I'm not intending to be carrying 18+ kg).
The Exped is a no-frills single compartment top loading pack. It doesn't have the conventional top pocket, rather, it has a roll top same same as a stuff sac. It does have a pocket that you can access externally, but I wouldn't hold out too much hope of getting stuff in and out easily with a full load.
The roll top certainly helps with weather resistance though and in making the most of the packing space. The other features of the pack that add to its weather resistance are the minimalisation of seams and zippers - big thumbs up on this front (though it does mean you don't have stuff handy like you do with a top pocket).
There is also an internal mesh pocket for nicnacks.
The manufacturer says the Exped is hydration system compatible, but all this means in reality is there is a hydration port on each side of the pack. There is no internal bladder compartment or clip (to keep the bladder upright) and there are no loops on the harness to route the drinking hose.
I really like the compression system on this pack, it looks a little ungainly but it clearly adds to the pack's overall stability. It also creates the capacity to carry stuff externally, like a wet tent fly or jacket etc. The straps are well oversized for this, but neatly roll up and are held with velcro ties when the extra length is not required (pretty clever really). This saves on the need for a back mesh pocket that most packs incorporate these days.
Whilst I'm on straps - hallelujah!!! Finally a modern pack that doesn't have hipbelt straps that dangle past your knees when cinched (do they really think people that fat go pack walking?).
The harness system is ingenious and fully adjustable for all torso lengths. The system is simplicity itself. I'm a fan of clever design and this is über-clever design. All packs should rip this adjustment system off! The hipbelt is well padded and comfortable and there are two generous mesh hipbelt mesh pockets. Being mesh, they don't look overly durable, but hey ya can't have everything (same, same the two mesh water bottle pockets). As I said before, the shoulder straps are a bit skinny.
Like all modern packs, you get the obligatory ice axe loops and an elasticised walking pole strap.
They also make a 45L version for those who are travelling ultralite or for those big day trips with lots of gear.
The Exped Lightning 60 is a bit of an ugly duckling and in some respects a bit too spartan - but if you want a lightweight, stable, comfortable large capacity pack - the Exped is your huckleberry.