Exped Lightning 60

2 reviews
5-star:   0
4-star:   1
3-star:   0
2-star:   1
1-star:   0

Reviews

4

This is a lightweight, uncluttered pack with some…

Rating: rated 2.5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $180 USD

Summary

This is a lightweight, uncluttered pack with some creative details. In actual use, I found a number of drawbacks which affect the usability of the pack.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Designed to be water-resistant with few zippers and drybag-style rolled top
  • Very adjustable suspension length
  • Velcro tabs for rolling strap ends
  • Very clean and uncluttered exterior
  • Undivided interior

Cons

  • Difficult access to top pocket
  • Difficult access to side pockets
  • Sternum strap vertical adjustment slips
  • Top strap adjustment plastic buckle slips
  • Thin shoulder straps can wrinkle
  • Hip belt padding may be unsuitable for some users

I bought this pack a few months ago (2013 model?) so some of my comments may not apply to newer versions of the Lightning.

After a few short local walks I took it on a recent 3-day hike of the 47 km Juan de Fuca trail on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. The trail is quite rugged, with a lot of awkward ups and downs and it provided a good test of the pack. Normally, I'd use a pack on a number of trips before writing a review, but the features and shortcomings I noticed with the Exped Lightning were obvious after a few days.

For a short manufacturer video explaining the design choices for the Exped Lightning, see

The Lightning packs have a drybag-style roll-top closure which appealed to me because I live in a rainy climate (coastal BC), though I haven't actually had the pack wet yet. The snaps on the roll-top are cleverly arranged to either snap together like a standard drybag or clip to thin grosgrain webbing straps which are sewn to the pack at the bottom of the side pockets.

When the pack was 'full to the brim' (I anticipated a slower 6-day hike and possibly colder conditions than I encountered; thus the full volume) I found that I needed to use the side straps to cinch down the roll-top and give a secure closure.

There's an additional single 'top strap' which attaches at one end with a metal hook to the grosgrain on the face of the pack, and at the other end to a plastic buckle fastened to the top of the suspension. This strap and buckle arrangement looks adaptable (adjustable at both ends) but it is not. The plastic buckle does not grip the webbing used by Exped; fortunately there is a sewn loop on the strap end which prevents the strap from pulling through the buckle completely. The buckle functions solely as a termination point for the strap, which would be better sewn directly to the fabric at the top of the 'T' suspension.


Lightning-main-strap-buckle.jpg

Closing the main pack bag thus involves rolling and buckling the top and then fastening and cinching the top strap. Unfortunately this also compresses the small bag' which comprises the top pocket and which is accessed via a waterproof zipper. To open that zipper, you need to unfasten the top strap and to use the top pocket except a very small item, you need to loosen the side cinch straps as well. Once you remove an item (guidebook, lunch item) from the top pocket, the contents inside the main pack bag tend to occupy the vacant space, and re-inserting the item into the rubbery bag is difficult unless the side cinch straps are slackened.


mini-Lightning-top-pocket1.jpg

This 'tight top pocket' problem is not limited to the Lightning, where the top pocket is inside the main pack body. Almost all the ('streamlined') packs I see nowadays have the main 'cinch down' pack straps tightening the outside of the top pocket. My older packs have the top pocket 'added on' to the flap which is under the top pocket and tightened over the main pack body. On such packs you can easily access the top pocket by simply tugging the zipper- no need to loosen the main pack body straps. For example, see the top pocket on my 30+ year-old Haston Alpiniste from Karrimor:


mini-Haston-top-pocket.jpg

On each side of the main pack there is a stretch fabric pocket which can hold a water bottle, food, water filter, or similar small items.


mini-Lightning-water-bottle.jpg

I could (with a bit of difficulty) reach back to remove the water bottle from the side pocket, but replacing it was completely impossible unless I took off the pack. Although the fabric is stretchy, there is not a lot of slack, and the (fixed) compression strap for the main pack passes across the outside of the pocket. Although this does prevent items from slipping from the side pockets, it makes access difficult. I'd prefer the option of fastening the compression strap 'inside' the pocket; some other pack manufacturers provide that option.

There are excellent zippered stretch fabric pockets on the hip belt which can carry a surprising amount of 'stuff' like snacks and hats. The zippers have convenient pulls. This size (larger) and type (stretchy) of hip belt pocket is something I will look for on any future pack.

Another very positive design feature is the velcro tabs that are attached to the end of many of the straps. You can 'roll up' the excess strap and fasten it to the working strap. Aside from much improved appearance (no more 'scarecrow look' with flapping strap ends), this also prevents tangling.

There is a haul loop provided at the top of the suspension. The first time I grabbed the loaded pack by the loop (to pull it out of the car) the aluminum stay popped out of its 'pocket' and it was a bit of a struggle to get it re-inserted. After that I was careful to lift the pack by one of the shoulder straps. When I tried to replicate the haul loop problem (to take a picture for this review), I couldn't do it, so it may not be a major problem at all. I would feel more confident if the 'T' joint were fastened with a rivet or bolt which still allowed limited rotation.

The Lightning packs are available in both men's and women's models. The suspension is completely adjustable for different torso lengths via a very convenient strap and buckle arrangement under the lumbar pad.  Adjusting the torso length takes only a minute. I'm 5'11" and have a 19" torso length for most packs, and the Lightning suspension adjusted to the M(edium) mark fits me well.

The shoulder straps are thinly padded and are reasonably comfortable, though a bit liable to wrinkling. I try to carry most of the pack weight on the hip belt anyway.


mini-Lightning-sternum-strap.jpg

There is a sternum strap provided with a sliding arrangement for vertical adjustment. I thought that this was quite elegant and clever until I was using the pack with a full (30 lb) load on a rough trail. The 'slider' quickly moves to the top position regardless of the initial setting, rendering the vertical adjustment useless. I noticed today that Osprey is using the identical scheme on some of their packs, quickly eliminating Osprey from the running as a possible  replacement for the Lightning.

The hip belt is quite comfortable, though the padding shape is not contoured very much - flat foam with rounded edges. I'm a bit on the 'bony' side, and finding comfortable hip belts is a challenge. After three solid days of hiking, I'd developed a blister on one hip. Perhaps a more rounded or more flexible contour on the hip belt would help. The adjustment for the webbing sections of the hip belt worked well.

The overall construction quality - the sewing and finish- seems to be excellent. I'm a bit sceptical about the very thin ribbon-like webbing used for the compression straps - will it fold or wrinkle under repeated use? A few days is not enough to tell.

This is a lightweight pack but the fabric seems quite tough. Most of my gear lasts a long time, so I'm probably not a good tester for 'ruggedness'.

Summary:

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Very clean and uncluttered exterior
  • Undivided interior
  • Designed to be water-resistant with few zippers and drybag-style rolled top
  • Very adjustable suspension length
  • Comfortable lumbar pad
  • Velcro tabs for rolling strap ends

Cons:

  • Difficult access to top pocket
  • Top strap adjustment plastic buckle slips
  • Difficult access to side pockets
  • Sternum strap vertical adjustment slips
  • Thin shoulder straps can wrinkle
  • Hip belt padding may be unsuitable for some users?
Jake W

Great review John, looks like a good product that hasn't been fully executed properly.


8 months ago
4

I'm definitely impressed with the light weight, a…

Rating: rated 4.5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $173.40

Summary

I'm definitely impressed with the light weight, a suspension system that works and is comfortable, and the overall build quality is quite nice.

Pros

  • Light weight
  • Suspension system comfortable
  • Suspension system highly adjustable

Cons

  • Straps are lightweight material
  • Compression straps over side pockets
  • Pockets on pack and belt are not durable material

I purchased this pack fully anticipating on returning it. I was very skeptical of the suspension system with the aluminum stay in the middle of the back that I thought would surely cause discomfort on my spine. In addition, I thought the price was exorbitant for a no-frills pack.

The reviewers I read prior to purchasing this pack seemed to quite pleased overall. When the price dropped during the fall I decided I needed to give it a try, but I intentionally chose a vendor who had a decent return policy in case my misgivings proved true.

A couple of disadvantage of purchasing the pack in the fall are that my backpacking for the year is pretty much over. Secondly, since this is the first model year, I would anticipate that next year Exped will improve some of the deficiencies, like the compression straps over the side pockets that was commented on in a number of reviews.

When the pack came I loaded it up with 40-45 pounds, including 3 gallon jugs of water and a bunch of jackets for weight and padding. Every evening I hike to the top of the rim rocks with my dogs.  The trail is definitely much steeper than most trails encountered in most backpacking territory. Since I have spent most of my career working trails and wilderness for the FS in Montana and Wyoming, as well as numerous personal forays, one thing I do know is trails. 

Next, I loaded the pack with a standard luxury kit that I would normally carry in my Dana Glacier that weighed approximately 40-45 lbs including a bunch of "bagged" liquid soups that I normally wouldn't carry.  I hiked up and down my rim rock trail over the next week. 

I was impressed with how easy it was to adjust the torso length (I'm about 20-21") and after a couple of attempts it was dialed in such that I could optionally carry the pack load by waist belt; by shoulders; or split between waist belt and shoulders...nice. The waist belt seem sufficient comfortable. The shoulder straps were comfortable, but they do seem not quite as wide as I would like them to be.  This will need to be further tested on multiple day grinders, eh?

Most surprising was I found the aluminum stay did not cause any discomfort even when I tried to by bending over more than normal.  In addition, the aluminum stay was bendable, yet not flimsy. In short, I was impressed and happy with the T-rex suspension. I also noted that the suspension does not come up too high and prohibit wearing a brimmed hat, like my Dana packs with top pouch do.

What could be improved? I thought the compression and top straps were flimsier than I would like. Also, I wonder how well the light nylon buckles will hold up. I do not think the stretchable material on the waist belt pockets and side pockets is as durable as I would like.  Finally, since I am used to the luxury of my faithful Dana Glacier (and Terraplane before going lighter weight with the Glacier) it will take some getting use to not having a number of pockets and top pocket for conveniently stashing gear. 

In summary, when I pick this pack up and marvel how comfortable it is, how well the suspension works, and the clean uncluttered simplicity, I decided this is a keeper and look forward to further experimentation on multi-day trips next season. Nope, I won't be winer camping anymore...too much dark; too much sleeping bag time; too many years on this old trail dog.