Lightning 60

Let’s cut to the chase: the Lightning 60 is a great pack. Need a pack that is very light, yet handles heavier loads with ease? Look no further than the Lightning 60. Though this pack is disarmingly simple looking, it is remarkably comfortable. I was recently won over by this pack on an eight day backpack in the Grand Canyon.

Hey, I’m on board with the notion of packing light for sure, but here’s the rub: I love backpacking in arid regions of the southwest like the Grand Canyon. On warm and dry backpacking trips, water is the one item that you cannot skimp on in order to save weight – life depends upon maintaining adequate hydration. When faced with the prospect of having to carry enough water for a dry camp in hot weather, it is not uncommon to load up with 8, 10 or even 12 liters of water before leaving a reliable water source. This means that pack weights can easily approach or exceed 40 pounds, even if you have taken care to keep the base weight under reasonable control. Maybe it is just me, but I have had problems carrying weights like this in packs with an inadequate suspension; an aching and sore back being the main problem. I want a pack that is both light and will comfortably support heavier loads.

Photo courtesy Jacek Macias

Well, here is where the Lightning 60 really shines: the suspension does a magnificent job of handling heavier loads even though the pack checks in at a very reasonable 2 lb. 8 oz. Turns out you can have your cake and eat it too! The shoulder straps are quite comfortable, the hip belt is surprisingly well padded and luxurious, and the simple adjustment system makes it easy to get a perfect fit. My suspension hero is the single aluminum stay, which is very effective at moving heavy loads off the shoulders and onto the hips. At 2.5 pounds, this pack rivals the comfort of packs I’ve used that weigh more than twice as much.

Another bonus of the single stay design is that it allows tremendous freedom for the hips to rock up and down under a load even when the hip belt is snugged up tight — great for bushwhacking and various other canyoneering maneuvers.

I must also mention a few other nice touches. The overall profile of the pack is nice; clean and not cluttered with unnecessary features. The pack fabric is quite tough and durable for the weight. The roll-top closure is just the ticket; saves weight and works great. The stretch side pockets mounted on the hip belt are almost perfect: not too big, not too small, smooth zipper action – very useful.

I do have a few quibbles: The hydration hose port feature is somewhat awkward. In order to thread my bite valve through one opening I first had to enlarge it with scissors, though I hasten to add that my modification did not seem to affect the integrity of the opening. Even then, removing the hose remains a bit of a struggle. I did like the way a hanging pocket zipper performed as an outside port for the hose – very quick and convenient to adjust the position of the hose when I wanted to.

As with many packs on the market, the side compression straps interfere with the use of the stretch pockets mounted on the side of the pack. The user has no choice but to compress the contents of the side pouches along with the rest of the load, which is not always desirable. Just an annoyance, but it would be nice if the side pouches were easier to access when the compression straps are securing the main load.

But I found these to be minor complaints indeed. This is now my go-to lightweight backpacking pack. Looking for a cleanly designed, light pack that handles heavier loads with surprising comfort? Take a look at the Exped Lightning 60.

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