Exped Lightning 60 & Flash Pocket

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Quixoticgeek

Full Member
Aug 4, 2013
2,480
8
Europe
For a while now I've been wanting a new pack for winter use as well as for longer multi day trips where I need to carry more than 2-3 days food. My Osprey Tempest 30 is a great pack, but it's 30L capacity becomes a limit when I want to use my big bulky synthetic winter sleeping bag.

After much deliberation I narrowed my Choices down to 4 packs. Osprey Exos 58(1.37kg), Z-Packs Arc Blast 60(601g), Gossamer gear Mariposa(825g (medium)), and the Exped Lightning 60(1120g). Despite being heavier than both the Arc Blast and the Mariposa, I decided on the Exped. Whilst my kit is lightweight, and getting lighter, I still have heavy synthetic sleeping bags, as well as wanting a pack for use when I need to carry several days worth of food. Working on an assumption of 800-1000g per day for food, a weeks food is 7kg. Given the Arc Blast and the Mariposa seem to top out capacity wise at around 35lb, the 24kg (note unit change) capacity of the Exped leaves me with plenty of comfortable range. Sure I don't want to carry a 20kg pack any great distance, but knowing that my pack isn't going to be massively uncomfortable after resupply is nice.

Main Pack

XT1A1763_sm.JPG
The pack in use with Flash pocket on the outside.

Enough of why I bought it, onto what I bought. The pack is pretty much as basic a pack as you could want. In terms of construction it's effectively a dry bag style main compartment, with a couple of stretch side pockets, a compression system, all attached to a back system. Exped list the weight as 1120g, my pack comes in at 1070g on my scales.

The bag has a closure system similar to a dry bag, but the seams are not sealed so it shouldn't be submersed or treated like a dry bag. It's made from a Dyneema grid stop fabric which doesn't seem to be that crisp packetty like Cuban fibre and Sil Nylon can be, but not quite as quiet as canvas. The fabric is 210 denier thick, 160gsm nylon with Dyneema reinforcing, all with a waterproof PU coating with a 15000mm hydrostatic head. Or put simply: a durable ripstop fabric. I went for the black pack as it was the colour least likely to stick out when walking in the wilderness. I don't like bright colours in the outdoors and prefer if I can blend in with my surroundings, rather than being visual pollution.

Next to where the T bar of the back system attaches to the pack there is a waterproof zip that gives access to a pocket. On my first trip out I accidentally left this zip open by a couple of millimetres and it made the contents rather damp. This  pocket is effectively a free floating flap inside the pack, I find it helps when closing the pack to lay it across the top of the contents so you can access it easier from outside. On the inside of the pack the pocket has a separate zipped mesh compartment. Other than that the inside of the pack is just one big compartment, no dividers, no zips, just a simple bag of holding.

On the each side of the pack there is a stretch pocket, these are plenty big enough for a 1L Nalgene bottle, I tend to carry a 1.5L Evernew water pouch in the right hand pocket which fits nicely. When this pack was first released, the side compression strap went over the top of the side pockets greatly reducing their utility. Exped have since released a new version (the 2014 version I have), which routes the strap through the pocket, so that it doesn't interrupt it's use. If you want you can still rethread the compression strap over the top of the pocket.

The rest of the pack is criss crossed with a selection of compression straps. These are made of a lightweight webbing tape which isn't the most stable of straps. If you pull it too tight it tends to curl into a cylinder rather than remaining flat. In practice this hasn't been an issue to me. The straps are long enough that I can fit a CCF roll mat on the side of the pack. To avoid having excess flapping about in the wind each strap has a velcro wrapping so you can roll up the excess, it's a nice touch.

Along with the compression straps there is space for a couple of ice axes or similar, plus a few extra loops you could thread with bungee cord if you wanted to add a roll mat to the bottom, or carry something else on the outside.

All in all the storage section of the pack is basic and to the point. In the trips I've used it I've not found any real issues with the compression straps, or lack of compartments. Exped seem to have got a really good balance of features vs simplicity.

Back System

XT1A1765_sm.JPG
The back system of the pack.

If you judged this pack my it's storage compartment alone then it would be nothing special, just a simple back pack. Where Exped's ingenuity has shone through however is in the back system.

The core of the back system is a central corrugated aluminium stay. This slots into a slot at the top of the pack where it interacts with a cross piece and into a slot in the hip belt at the bottom. The hip belt is made up of 3 large foam sections, one fits into the lumber part of your back, and then the two sides wrap round your waist (this is clearer if you look at the photo above). The shoulder harness has a yoke shape which is free to slide up and down on the aluminium stay, but held at their upper reach by a webbing strap marked with S M L (small medium Large), that fits to a tri-glide attached to the hip belt. There are a pair of load lifters that come from the T bar and attach to the shoulder yoke. A grab handle also connects to the T bar.

This arrangement of straps, metal and foam allows for a back system that transfers the load onto the hips like no other pack I've tried (I've tried too many...). Fully loaded with 10kg of kit, with the waist belt cinched into place, the load is transferred onto the hip belt so effectively that I can loosen off the shoulder straps, and the pack just stays in place. You only really need the shoulder straps to stop the pack from tilting backwards.

Dialling in the back system is not the simplest task, but Exped has released a pair of videos, one on course tuning of the back system, and one on fine tuning it. I spent about 15 mins getting the back system tuned perfectly for me (shoulder yoke all the way down, and the Ali stay bent slightly to match my spine). Having done so I don't expect to have to adjust it again.

The hip belt has a zipped stretch side pocket on each side. This pocket is large enough for my first aid kit to fit in the left one, and for snacks or a compact camera to fit in the other.

The pack comes in both men's and women's fit. Alas Exped have fallen into the trap of assuming women want bright colours and only do the women's version in Terracotta (a red) and Deep Sea Blue. Neither colour seemed to be ideal for not standing out. On the men's range it comes in Black or Lichen Green. The green is a bit too light and bright for my tastes. Hence going for the black. One of my few complaints is the choices of colours. I got the men's pack in black and even with my ample chest it seems to work OK.

One modification I've done is to attach a small loop of bungee to the webbing on each shoulder strap, This gives me a horizontal point to attach my DeLorme inReach Explorer on the left strap, and my Petzl Zipka 2+ on the right strap. It's a simple mod that adds a couple of grams.

Flash Pocket

To go with the Lightning range of packs Exped have released the Flash Pocket. Weighing 80g, this is a large dump pocket that attaches to the front of the pack. One side of the pocket is solid fabric, and one is mesh, depending on which way round you attach it allows you to either have some weather protection to it's contents, or an airy breath-ability. I find the flash pocket useful for things like a damp tarp, water proof jacket, and the days food. As well as things I've forgotten to put into the pack before I closed it up. At about £8 quid it's a nice extra to have.

The design of the pocket, whilst intended for the Lightning range of packs, is not limited to them, and could be used with other packs.

Summary

In summary this pack might not be the lightest on the market, but whereas many packs have the sole selling point of their weight, this pack's ability to carry load more comfortably than any other pack I've come across sets it apart, and even justifies the few extra grams.

Light weight, yet able to take those heavier loads when necessary. I can't recommend this pack highly enough. When I have the money I hope to get the 45L version for when the 60L is overkill.

The only area the pack is let down is in the available colours. If it came in a nice dark green, it would be perfect.

I bought my pack from Backpackinglight.co.uk and the flash pocket from Ultralight Outdoor Gear.
 

janso

Full Member
Dec 31, 2012
611
5
Penwith, Cornwall
Nice review; I look forward to a field test review!! Exped do some cracking kit outside of dry bags.


Sent from my hidey hole using Tapatalk... sssh!
 

Quixoticgeek

Full Member
Aug 4, 2013
2,480
8
Europe
I've been using it since November, this review is based on several trips over what's passed for autumn and winter this year. I love this pack. It just carries so comfortably. Nothing else comes close.

J
 
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Macaroon

A bemused & bewildered
Jan 5, 2013
7,116
271
70
SE Wales
Great review, as usual; the more I read about these the more I think the pack would suit me very well indeed. I'd find the 45L jobby just right for what I think my future needs will be, but as posted elsewhere I just can't get past the colours on offer. I use my pack every day and I just couldn't feel comfortable with what's available, perhaps it's some king of technical problem with dyeing dyneema :dunno:
 
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Quixoticgeek

Full Member
Aug 4, 2013
2,480
8
Europe
Great review, as usual; the more I read about these the more I think the pack would suit me very well indeed. I'd find the 45L jobby just right for what I think my future needs will be, but as posted elsewhere I just can't get past the colours on offer. I use my pack every day and I just couldn't feel comfortable with what's available, perhaps it's some king of technical problem with dyeing dyneema :dunno:

The white part of the grid stop fabric is the dyneema, the black/green/red/blue bit is nylon. Dyneema is very poor at taking dye, hence it being white, while the Nylon is coloured.

IMHO, the black is OK in person. Worst case, stick a rain cover over the pack in the colour you do like. IMHO, it's worth it for the back system.

J
 

beachlover

Full Member
Aug 28, 2004
2,309
153
Isle of Wight
Great review. :)
Does the pack ride close to your back and if so how does it perform in terms of breathability compared to for instance, the Osprey and other packs that have an "airspace" to allow ventilation between the wearer's back and pack? I'm also guessing that there is no padding between the contents and the wearer, so does that require some thought when packing to avoid objects inside poking into the wearer's back?
 

Quixoticgeek

Full Member
Aug 4, 2013
2,480
8
Europe
Great review. :)
Does the pack ride close to your back and if so how does it perform in terms of breathability compared to for instance, the Osprey and other packs that have an "airspace" to allow ventilation between the wearer's back and pack? I'm also guessing that there is no padding between the contents and the wearer, so does that require some thought when packing to avoid objects inside poking into the wearer's back?

The only areas that actually contact your back are the Lumber pad and the shoulder yoke. The Aluminium stay is just off the back, tho if you are wearing thick clothing it may press. The reality is that because it has such a small contact patch I've not noticed any issues with sweaty back. After years of using various different pack designs I'm firmly of the belief that despite what the manufactures say no backpack will give you a completely dry back if you are being active. The air space trampoline backsystems certainly don't seem as wonderful as claimed. I've yet to use the lightning in the middle of summer so can't be certain, but I'm not expecting any sweat issues, in fact I'm expecting it to be better than the back system on my Osprey Lightning 30 pack in terms of sweat.

As for the padding, yep, no padding. So you may need to be careful when packing to make sure that you don't put something next to the back that would stab you. In practice I've yet to have to change anything, either I am subconsciously packing it right in the first place, or I've just not hit that issue yet.

J
 

beachlover

Full Member
Aug 28, 2004
2,309
153
Isle of Wight
The only areas that actually contact your back are the Lumber pad and the shoulder yoke. The Aluminium stay is just off the back, tho if you are wearing thick clothing it may press. The reality is that because it has such a small contact patch I've not noticed any issues with sweaty back. After years of using various different pack designs I'm firmly of the belief that despite what the manufactures say no backpack will give you a completely dry back if you are being active. The air space trampoline backsystems certainly don't seem as wonderful as claimed. I've yet to use the lightning in the middle of summer so can't be certain, but I'm not expecting any sweat issues, in fact I'm expecting it to be better than the back system on my Osprey Lightning 30 pack in terms of sweat.

As for the padding, yep, no padding. So you may need to be careful when packing to make sure that you don't put something next to the back that would stab you. In practice I've yet to have to change anything, either I am subconsciously packing it right in the first place, or I've just not hit that issue yet.

J

Thanks for that. :)
I had thought about adding "does it matter?" to my question about the ventilation, as in practice I can't say I've really felt relieved of anything but cash for those innovations in all the rucksacks I've tried so far and trust me, I've tried a few! :rolleyes:

Well, I've bitten the bullet and just ordered a Lightning 45 for a walk between Portugal and Spain next month, so I've over a week to get out with it to see if it replaces my Osprey 50AG and will no doubt report back with a longer term review if it accompanies me.
 

Nomad64

Full Member
Nov 21, 2015
1,073
583
UK
An excellent review and thanks once again to Julia for the introduction to the Exped Lightning cult! :)

As I said on a previous thread, I have problems with my shoulders which makes traditional rucksacks uncomfortable to carry for any length of time and although I would much prefer something in olive green cordura or canvas, the effective transfer of weight to the hips was the main priority. I'm pleased to say that the Exped Lightning system does that perfectly and last week, my shoulders were much happier after a hilly day hike with 9kg in the Lightning than they were a few days later after a couple of hours with 4kg in a Karrimor Sabre 30 which lacks a decent load bearing waist belt and any meaningful shoulder adjustment.

That said, the lightweight design, size (45 and 60L), single compartment of the Lightning and roll top design probably makes it more of a specialist hiking pack rather than something to carry everyday for work or study.

The price of the Lightnings is also attractive (interestingly when I was looking, the prices in the USA seem to be significantly higher than the UK) - other packs that I considered such as the Osprey Atmos AG and Montane Grand Tour were a fair bit more expensive and those that were on special offer were either lurid colours and/or the wrong size. Had the prices been the same, I would still have chosen the Lightning.

As Julia has said, it is certainly worth watching the set up videos, when I first put mine on, the lumbar pad felt awkward but with a bit of tweaking of the alloy stay, it is really comfortable.

In answer to beachlover's query about the air gap between back and pack - this will depend a bit on how you profile the stay but I can easily slip the palm of my hand in between, so plenty of ventilation and although a bit of care is required when packing boxy objects, there is no reason why they should dig into your back.

Although the design of the Lightnings has been really well thought out, the arrangements for a hydration system seem to be a bit of an afterthought. Unlike many modern packs, there is no sleeve for a bladder and although there are some internal loops to hang one from, the exit port is through the internal pocket which means that the hose has to exit through (what would otherwise be) the waterproof zip on the top of the pack. Camelbak etc. users can still strap their bladders to the outside of the pack or slip it into the Flash pocket that Julia mentions but carrying one inside the pack is not an option unless you can guarantee no rain or add a rain cover. Not sure about Crusader water bottles but 1L nalgene bottles fit neatly in the two elasticated side pockets.

The only mod that I've made so far is to add some bungee cord to the base to fit a small folding foam sitting pad to keep it accessible and avoid mud etc going back into the pack and to provide some abrasion resistance.

Although unlikely to be as durable as cordura or canvas, the Lightnings come with a 5 year guarantee and the single sack design means that if you remove the suspension stay, you have a simple sack to make any repairs to.

I was so pleased with my Lightning 45 that when a 60 came up for sale cheaply, I bought one of those aswell, along with the Flash pocket.

For anyone keen on the Lightning's suspension system but wanting a more conventional pack, Exped do also make the Thunder range in 50 and 70L which uses the same suspension system but with a slightly bigger pack with a conventional lid though I couldn't find any for sale at a sensible price in the UK.

http://www.exped.com/usa/en/product-category/backpacks/thunder-50-lichen-green

Once again thanks to Julia for the induction into the cult of the Exped Lightning - spread the gospel. :)
 
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Quixoticgeek

Full Member
Aug 4, 2013
2,480
8
Europe
Thanks for that. :)
Well, I've bitten the bullet and just ordered a Lightning 45 for a walk between Portugal and Spain next month, so I've over a week to get out with it to see if it replaces my Osprey 50AG and will no doubt report back with a longer term review if it accompanies me.

That brings the total number of these packs I knowingly am responsible for being purchased, to 6. Mine plus 5 others...

An excellent review and thanks once again to Julia for the introduction to the Exped Lightning cult! :)

Thank you. Glad it's useful.

That said, the lightweight design, size (45 and 60L), single compartment of the Lightning and roll top design probably makes it more of a specialist hiking pack rather than something to carry everyday for work or study.

Yeah, this is very much a pack for when you need to carry a load a distance. I wouldn't want to use it on the daily commute say... Also the height of the stay means that it would bang the back of a cycle helmet. But it's not intended for that purpose, so that isn't something I fault it on.

Although the design of the Lightnings has been really well thought out, the arrangements for a hydration system seem to be a bit of an afterthought. Unlike many modern packs, there is no sleeve for a bladder and although there are some internal loops to hang one from, the exit port is through the internal pocket which means that the hose has to exit through (what would otherwise be) the waterproof zip on the top of the pack. Camelbak etc. users can still strap their bladders to the outside of the pack or slip it into the Flash pocket that Julia mentions but carrying one inside the pack is not an option unless you can guarantee no rain or add a rain cover. Not sure about Crusader water bottles but 1L nalgene bottles fit neatly in the two elasticated side pockets.

Without wanting to go too far off topic on the subject of hydration systems, the reason I didn't mention it is that I do not like them. I find that a hydration system doesn't allow sensible control over intake of fluids. If it's inside your pack you have no way of knowing if you've drunk 300ml or 3000ml. I think it's better to have a bottle or water pouch of a known capacity that you drink from, so you know that you've emptied it twice, thus you've drunk a litre. This may be personal taste and as with everything YMMV. But that is why I didn't bring it up.

The only mod that I've made so far is to add some bungee cord to the base to fit a small folding foam sitting pad to keep it accessible and avoid mud etc going back into the pack and to provide some abrasion resistance.

I have put bungee on the loops at the bottom front of the pack to hold my camera tripod. I did think about bungeeing my sleep matt on the bottom of the pack, but concluded that it would just be awkward when putting it down, and as my CCF mat is only 220g, I stick it on the side and it doesn't unbalance the pack.

When camping in woodland I keep a 2m length of 2mm dyneema in my pocket, with a double figure of 8 on each end along with a lightweight carabina (Edelrid Micro 0). When I stop I find a suitable tree, loop the cord round the trunk or branch, clip the carabina through one of the loops from the figure of 8's, and then taking the pack off by it's grab handle, clip said grab handle to the crab. Result being that it doesn't touch the ground and you don't have to bend over to access the contents. This is how the bag is in the photos.

I was so pleased with my Lightning 45 that when a 60 came up for sale cheaply, I bought one of those aswell, along with the Flash pocket.

When money allows I plan to get the 45 too.

Once again thanks to Julia for the induction into the cult of the Exped Lightning - spread the gospel. :)

No problem, glad you enjoy the pack.

J
 

caorach

Forager
Nov 26, 2014
156
0
UK
Good review that and is certainly in keeping with what I've found myself.

Having come from the LA Sting which has lots of options, straps and pockets, to the more minimalist Exped I really can't think of anything else a pack would need than what the Exped might have. Now so far I've only used the Exped for a few single days out but even so it is most comfortable and seems to suit my needs plus it is a lot lighter than my Sting. Maybe by the end of the season my views will have changed but at the minute if you are looking for a bag then it is worth giving the Exped a look.
 

Nomad64

Full Member
Nov 21, 2015
1,073
583
UK
As a postscript, I'm back from a brisk, hilly 20 miler today with 6kg plus a couple of litres of water in the Lightning 45 and I'm please to report that both my shoulders are fine. :)

A fraction of that distance and/or weight with my old Sabre 30 would have had me knocking back the ibuprofen.
 

Klenchblaize

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Nov 25, 2005
2,586
125
62
Greensand Ridge
Good and helpful review. On the strength of this I'm going to purchase one for my 14-year old daughter so she has a DoEAS compliant pack for her Bronze Award adventure this September. The Instructor/Guide who checked all the girl's kit yesterday was NOT impressed with the Bison Bushcraft leather & canvas pack I forced upon K junior!

Not sure she will like the only two colours I've seen on offer in the UK so if anyone knows who stocks the red or blue let me know please.
14_Lightning45_Line-1024x374_zpsgfbm1pef.png

Here is another good review if interested:
http://sectionhiker.com/exped-lightning-60-backpack-review/


Cheers

K
 
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beachlover

Full Member
Aug 28, 2004
2,309
153
Isle of Wight
You won't be disappointed with it. I bought the Lightning 45 and have just retuned from walking 250 kilometres of the Camino Portugues from Porto in Portugal to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and carried and lived out of it for the whole of that time. It performed faultlessly, was a delight to carry and didn't let in a drop of water despite some serious downpours along the way. I'm only sorry they don't make a 30 litre version as a day pack for me to use now i am back.

 
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kmac

Tenderfoot
May 13, 2009
51
1
London
Resurrecting an old thread.......thinking of buying this for my daughter (the women's version)
She is 26 inches (66cms) just above her hip bone - wondering if the hip belt will be too big as Exped say it ranges from 78cms onwards.
Would there be any way to make it a snug fit for her?
 

Quixoticgeek

Full Member
Aug 4, 2013
2,480
8
Europe
Resurrecting an old thread.......thinking of buying this for my daughter (the women's version)
She is 26 inches (66cms) just above her hip bone - wondering if the hip belt will be too big as Exped say it ranges from 78cms onwards.
Would there be any way to make it a snug fit for her?

That's a good question. I'm not currently with my pack, but when I'm next with it, I'll have a measure, see what I can work out. If you've not heard from me by Saturday, remind me.

J
 

kmac

Tenderfoot
May 13, 2009
51
1
London
Hi Thanks for offering to check this but I'll save you the bother as I've got another pack for darling daughter.

She tried a Berghaus Trailhead 60 Women's backpack and whilst the torso length is adjustable the hip belt was too long and as a result loose.
Had to buy a Gossamer Gear Mariposa in "Small" and a "Small" hip belt. Perfect fit now.

The Lightening would have been ideal as with the adjustable torso I could have used it too but with by daughter's narrow waist the hip belt is not going to be a snug fit for her
Given that the weight should rest on the hips the fit of the hip belt is crucial so went with the Mariposa in the end.
 

Quixoticgeek

Full Member
Aug 4, 2013
2,480
8
Europe
Thanks for the review. It seems to be my number one choice at the moment, however i'm keen to know if you can remove the single metal frame post?

Yes. Tho I'm not sure how useful the pack would be without it. But if it was say for transport, or storage, sure that would work.

J
 

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