View Full Version : Sub 60 Fastpack Review

Just Bill
11-10-2014, 18:27
So, I got my hands on Matt Kirk's Record breaking backpack. Full disclosure, I got it for free due to some mental defect and moral failing on the part of Mr. Kirk. I am under no obligation to review this pack, other than the horrible sucking feeling of guilt at having not paid a penny to a fella I admire for the privilege.

Only one problem-
I don't like the pack all that much.
So how to write a review and assuage my guilt without adding further insult to this generous fella?
So the pack sat on my shelf for a bit and went on the occasional trip as I thought on this problem.
Finally an AH-HA moment occurred one day and this review can commence.

What is it- Well Matt does a fine job of telling you himself with near "movie quality" voice effects!

A quick spec rundown- YES, it's an ultralight pack!
$90- pretty good deal for a specialized pack.
A 285 gram (10 ounce) pack capabable of storing 25L of gear (30L in a pinch).
Nearly unlimited storage variations- Hip pockets, shoulder and body water bottle pockets, bandoleer gear storage, wet gear storage, easy to add a CFF pad of various sizes or even use an inflatable.
Fastpack minded UL design- light loads (20lbs), frameless body pack.
Keeping nearly all day use items "At Hand". Totally unique bottom loader design.
Construction was "Sub'ed out"- Point being these were professionally made by a well respected vendor- not hacked together by Matt in his basement.

So what's my problem?
Well I make my own gear, so as cool as this pack actually is, well, I make my own 6-12 ounce frameless packs. Hard to beat your own custom pack, right? So for me personally, it was hard to say, "I'll never use another pack again!"

So who might want this pack? Two groups of folks would find this pack handy.

UL folks who don't make their own gear, fastpackers, and runners looking for a pack capable of carrying overnight gear in a compact package.

If you don't make your own stuff, this is not a style of pack you can pick up off the shelf. Period. Your options are very limited and also quite expensive for a comparable item. On top of that, you can customize the pack to fit your needs, even re-configure the pack for different trips by changing placement or removing components.

The inner pack- can be left at home for UL trail runs or overnighters- or used as shown. This is also a sweet feature for those using SUL shelters. When you sleep in a bivy or hammock- you can simply dump everything, including the pack body into the Sil liner and hang it from your shelter or a tree.

You can easily add a foam pad to give more body to the pack, a simple sit pad slides between sil and mesh body easily, or for heavier loads you can use the old trick of rolling up your pad to form a frame.

The bottom loading feature is a unique feature that does allow a more "runner's" configuration of load when needed, and as advertised- lets you get your hands on that food-bag that typically accounts for the bulk of your load.

Compression and load adjustment is limitless and easy to modify or configure.

Let's be honest- options for this type of pack are pretty limited, this pack is very well thought out and tested.

For those not in record breaking condition- it's easy enough to cut a few hunks of CFF pad if you want to increase comfort at the shoulders or hips if needed, and a sit pad sized hunk goes a long way on your back when loads get closer to the upper limit.

Folks who DO make their own gear-(or want to get started)
"Well hold on there Bill, I thought you said you didn't like the pack because you make gear?"

Exactly. But perhaps the most unique quality of the pack is the "Some assembly required" feature. While that may sound like a ding to some; It is the most redeeming feature of the pack in my opinion. Because all the important parts and pieces that affect pack design are NOT permanently attached, so can make the pack anything you want.

So as the bright orange guilt spot sat in the basement while I continued to work on my own designs gnawed at me, I found myself picking it up often to address all those little tinkering questions us MYOG folks come up with. Finally it dawned on me what this pack's potential was for yours truly.

What if I move this here, or that there, or try an extra inch of torso length, or put the hip-belt a half inch lower?
These are not questions you can answer without adding to the pile of prototypes sitting in the other corner of the basement- so want to try any of these ideas out? Well you need to sew up a pack.

Unless you have Matt's Fastpack sitting there, where a couple of twist ties and a ruler are all that stand between you and a completely different pack design. It's great, I've even sewed a few different straps and hipbelts and pinned them to this pack to hit the trail for a test run.

So the fastpack has proven to be not an invaluable pack, but an invaluable TOOL in my MYOG adventures. Besides wasting $30 of fabric, I'm not wasting time to test out a tweak or an idea, simply moving around a component and loading up when a new idea strikes!

If you end up with one of these- a pair of linesman's pliers (flat nose) is handy for getting the twist ties secured. Not so you can crank on them (it's not needed) but just so you can get them tucked away neatly.

Don't go nuts on the ties until you take a test fit and a quick walk with a load. A twist or two will get you going.

If you play with it a lot like I have, pick up some extra ties at the hardware store. They are plenty strong for average users, but if you are moving them a lot they will wear.

For those getting started in MYOG- this pack is a great introduction to general UL hardware and design techniques. It is well thought out and well-executed, the best way to get going is to get something in your hands to study, and this pack has many great features to examine (and occasionally measure/borrow/steal).

Find out more/Pick one up-

11-11-2014, 10:31
That's a great write-up! I actually grabbed one on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and have been looking forward to trying it out. Have you tried hauling some weight around with it yet? Just curious what your impressions were in that regard.

11-11-2014, 12:15
Hercules, Tom Sawyer, and MacLovin are just some that should be in that same mini bubble.

Just Bill
11-11-2014, 13:23
That's a great write-up! I actually grabbed one on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and have been looking forward to trying it out. Have you tried hauling some weight around with it yet? Just curious what your impressions were in that regard.

What kinda weight? :)

Short answer- It's a frameless pack- general concensus on that is without doing shoulder shrugs and military press all day at the gym- most will find 15 or less perfect, 20-25 annoying for but doable when leaving resupply, and anything much past 30 a no go. I haven't carried any more than 20lbs in this particular pack.

Long answer-
The way I describe it is that it's a bookbag, but taller/narrower to carry more balanced and rest on your butt instead of the small of your back. The addition of a hipbelt is more for stabilization of the load than load transfer.

The general trick to accomplish load transfer/eliminate what BPL calls torso collapse is to add a "frame"
That can be metal stays or other mechanical tricks- that turn this into an internal frame pack
Or it can be SUL tricks like using something you already carry like a sit pad or sleeping pad.

Very roughly speaking-
Adding a sit pad adds a few pounds of comfort.
Adding a full foam pad (rolled and center filled) adds 5-10 pounds depending. For the most part an Air mattress does the same.

If using the pad trick, and using some spare socks/clothes/etc. to pad the shoulder straps I have carried 35 pounds leaving resupply enough to say it works.

Smart ass answer- From the Gossamer Gear Hyperlight Murmer-
"An Extreme Ultralight pack for the elite ultralight hiker. Suitable for developed trails and base weights of 5lbs or less only. If you aren't sure, then this isn't the one for you."

That said- I think Matt's pack has enough versatility to compete with any similar pack.

Unlike any other pack-
Minor tinkering is available to anyone who can work a twist tie.
Major tinkering is possible even via hand sewing.

Along those lines- Matt turned me on to a craft store find- Darice 2mil foam, also available in 3mil. rolls or sheets

This foam is perfect for micro adjustments of padding or even shaping without much weight or bulk gain. I'm not much for carrying a sit pad, but a scrap of this helps smooth out the back of Matt's pack and gives you a little something to sit on too. It slides easily between the sil liner and mesh outer bag.

11-11-2014, 13:25
Yeah, I've used a frameless pack. Picked up a ZPacks Zero for the week on the BMT in May, and was extremely happy with it (max weight around 21 lb's, descending to ~15 as food weight dwindled). Just curious how you felt it carried compared to some of the other similar packs you might have used in the past.

Just Bill
11-11-2014, 13:42
Yeah, I've used a frameless pack. Picked up a ZPacks Zero for the week on the BMT in May, and was extremely happy with it (max weight around 21 lb's, descending to ~15 as food weight dwindled). Just curious how you felt it carried compared to some of the other similar packs you might have used in the past.

I know you have- just killing two birds with one post on the follow up- or just blowin' wind if you ask my pappy.

That is super hard to say for me-
1- I make my own stuff mainly-this is my first pack from someone else in a while.
2- This pack can be set up an almost infinite amount of ways, each of the configurations carries a bit differently.

FWIW- my eyeball assessment of the zero-
Different pack-
Plus- padded shoulder straps- but that's fixable on the fastpack if you want to tinker.

Big negative- 19" tall, even on the fetching model you can see it's breaking right on the ol' Lumbar. And when was the last time you wanted to cozy up and rub a lumbar when better destinations are just a few inches south.

Now I realize that a decent hydration bag and 20" tall bodies can work for many folks- the taller packs do a better job when you cross that line from day hike/fast n light weekend overnight into a multi-day trip. With the compression on Matt's pack though- the pack can "transform" to smaller height or width as load decreases. It does this pretty well. Not sure if Matt showed it, but with the mesh body you can weave a shock cord or light line around the body to tighten the diameter of the load as well.

A top secret trick I know Matt didn't show- you can also use slightly larger loops and thread them in the mesh in an X shape on the outside of the pack, then thread it a few holes over the bottom and top. When you pull the pack on these loops can criss-cross your chest- crank em down a bit and the whole pack gets compressed and sucked into your body quite nicely.

The moral of the story- there are many good packs out there- there are some good ones/some lighter ones/some better ones for other stuff. I thought the coolest thing about Matt's pack is that it fit's that swiss army knife balance of doing many things very well. Often this fails, but I think Matt got that part right.

I have or have made each of those specialized packs for each of those special uses- this one pack strikes a nice balance.