Deuter Speed Lite 20
$80, 20L/1,220 c.i. 1 lb. 3 oz.
At first glance, Deuter’s Speed Lite 20 struck me as a daypack with the right capacity and features for virtually any adventure—and super lightweight, which I like. So I decided to put it to a serious test, on an 8.5-hour, 20-mile, 4,500-foot, mid-September trail run-hike of the Alice Lake-Toxaway Lake Loop in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, including a 1,400-foot, third-class scramble up 10,651-foot Snowyside Peak. And there’s much to like about the Speed Lite 20.
I also carried it with about 12 pounds inside (including two liters of water, a DSLR camera and two lenses, and a couple of jackets) hiking the 10-mile Around the Mountain Trail in Idaho’s Boise National Forest.
With a minimalist, highly flexible, U-shaped, Delrin frame, a half-inch of perforated mesh padding in the shoulder straps, and an unpadded, removable, webbing waist belt, it carries 10 to 12 pounds comfortably. Given that simple harness, I found it fairly stable when running at a slow, long-distance pace, but it started bouncing a bit when I had 2.5 liters of water or my camera gear inside. The thin back pad of perforated mesh breathes well, but being right up against your back, it still traps perspiration. Still, the hugging-the-torso fit and the tapered shape, which stays out of the way of arm movement, made the pack hardly noticeable on my back while running with poles or scrambling third-class rock. Another benefit of such a lightweight and flexible harness: You can fold the Speed Lite 20 in half, making it very packable.
The main compartment—accessed quickly via a deep, U-shaped, top zipper with big pull loops for grabbing with gloves on—has adequate space for food, water, and clothing for an all-day hike in the mountains (and it’s a good size for an airplane carry-on, fitting a large laptop). There’s a zippered top pocket that fits a sunglasses case plus small items, and the mesh side pockets can hold a liter bottle or snacks, gloves, map, etc. Most prominently, the front pocket—sewn into the pack at the top and bottom, with stretch mesh and partial openings on both sides, but no zippers—swallows a rain jacket and then some. Given the zipper-less, open sides on the front pocket, the sewn top makes it more secure than an open stuff-it pocket (and no zippers means one less part that can break); but the openings are a bit small for pulling out a jacket with gloves and a hat in there, too.
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Two compression straps on each side hold trekking poles or skis, and they smartly can be extended around the front to clip on the opposite side, for maximum compression. The PU-coated, 210-denier ripstop pack fabric is pretty tough; the external mesh represents the only durability concern. Other nice features include a tuckaway ice-axe loop, a light attachment on the front, and loops at the four corners of the front side for attaching an optional helmet carrier.
I give this pack one demerit for lacking hipbelt pockets—a detail I value especially in an ultralight daypack because I’m choosing it for long outings where I want the convenience of having much within reach without having to take the pack off. But the mesh side pockets are within reach while wearing the pack, which partly makes up for the omission of hipbelt pockets.
Deuter’s Speed Lite 20 is an efficiently designed, lightweight daypack for any outing when you’re traveling light, whether on dayhikes of any length, adventure racing, multi-pitch rock climbs, peak bagging, ski touring, or bike commuting.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.