User Review: Deuter ACT Lite 65+10
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $199
This is a very solid backpack for those looking to go lighter but not ready to forgo all advantages of a traditional internal-frame pack. This pack is light on bells and whistles by design, but doesn't skimp on durability.
- Effective moisture management system
- Reputable company with excellent customer service
- No easy way to access items buried deeply
- Tall and thin design limits packing variability
- Cheap velcro H2O bladder holder that frequently drops a full bladder
I grabbed this pack after suffering for several overnighters with a cheap, hand-me-down Camp Trails Night Song II (a women's pack, mind you) and I can confidently say that save for changing my footwear, changing my pack to one that fits properly has been the single most important upgrade I have made to my backcountry kit.
This pack fit me well right off the rack, but Deuter's VariQuick adjustment system accommodates a wide range of torso lengths (15" - 21" per manufacturer website). The hip belt and shoulder straps are decently well-padded and the adjustment straps slide easily and hold fast. The Aircontact system on many of Deuter's packs — essentially two long padded tubes that serve as the only place where your back is touching pack — works very well to vent heat off your back:
According to Deuter, this results in a 15% reduction in perspiration and a 5 degree average reduction in temp. I don't have any way to verify this quantifiably, but I can say that it does feel noticeably cooler than my old bag.
The sleeping bag compartment is cavernous, and for 3-season use I am easily able to pack all my spare layers and sleeping bag within. The main compartment is quite tall and thin, which does limit the number of ways you can arrange your gear inside, and this is the main drawback in my opinion. Additionally, there is no easy way to access gear buried deep within the bag, which becomes slightly problematic when combined with the aforementioned narrowness:
This pack claims to have a 65L capacity with a 10L sleeve that can be extended to yield a 75L capacity, and this does not seem to be an exaggeration compared to other packs that I have examined with similar capacities.
In my experience, the frame of this pack is a perfect mix of rigid yet forgiving. The removable hollow-core X frame transfers weight well and holds up to heavier loads (I consider anything over 45 lbs. to be quite heavy, but I think this pack would hold up well with loads slightly heavier than this). The shoulder straps have enough padding to keep me reasonably comfortable for a 20 mile day.
One of the features I really like about this pack is the huge stretch pouch on the front. This easily swallows your puffy layer or wet rain fly that you want to keep separate from the dry contents of your pack:
Other conventional features include a pocket on the hip belt that houses a camera or snack perfectly, dual water bottle stretch pockets on either side of the pack, dual ice axe loops, and a water bladder compartment. Of note, the velcro closure device intended to hold a bladder in place will typically drop any bladder with more than 2L inside. Usually this isn't a problem for me since the contents of my pack will keep the bladder from moving anywhere, but this could potentially cause problems with smaller loads and a full water reservoir.
This pack has been used for a few overnighters as well as a half-dozen longer trips (4 days). So far, no obvious signs of wear are apparent. The bottom of this bag is a reinforced proprietary fabric (duratex lite) that I have found to be quite tough. This pack ostensibly comes PU coated from the factory, but the first moderate rainfall I experienced saw a decent amount of leaking into the main compartment. Don't leave home without your pack cover.
I have used this pack almost exclusively for on trail hiking in the Midwest in early spring to early winter.
The reason I really like this pack is that it fits me nicely, is well made, is under 4 pounds (3 lbs. 15 oz.), under $200, and houses all my gear needed for a week-long 3 season trip perfectly. While this pack lacks some of the nicer features on other models of comparable capacities (i.e. Gregory Baltoro 75), this was by design.
Deuter also has an Aircontact model in a similar capacity that is heavier and doesn't deny you any luxuries, but the ACT Lite series of packs are essentially meant to be stripped-down while maintaining the most necessary of features. No daisy chains, integrated rain cover, or additional straps. If you need these features and don't mind carrying a 6 pound pack, this may not be the bag for you. If, however, you are looking for a great compromise between features and light weight combined with solid value, then this would definitely be a pack to take a closer look at.