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Deuter Speed Lite 32 Backpack Review

Comfort

Weight

Suspension

Features

Adjustability

Sizing

Durability

Streamlined Technical Backpack

The Deuter Speed Lite 32 is a streamlined adventure sport pack designed for fast hikes or alpine tours. It’s outfitted for hauling extra technical gear without weighing you down.

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The Deuter Speed Lite 32 is a do-everything backpack that can be used for hiking, peakbagging, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, and even fast and light overnight trips. Weighing 32 ounces, it’s got a minimalist vibe with scaled back padding and a lightweight frame. But a host of technical features and the use of durable fabrics, give the Speed Lite some serious chops for rugged adventures.

Specs at a Glance

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Speed Lite is a conventional alpine style pack with a sewn-on top lid.  The lid has two pockets, one external with a key fob, and one internal, printed on the outside with the SOS signaling instructions found on all Deuter backpacks. The main compartment closes with a drawstring and has an internal hydration pocket capable of holding a 3 liter reservoir. The hydration port is located between the shoulder straps, but there’s only one hose keeper strap on the left shoulder pad.

The Speed Lite 32 has a sewn-on top lid and front stuff-it pocket
The Speed Lite 32 has a sewn-on top lid and front stuff-it pocket

The side mesh pockets on this pack are not reachable when the pack is worn, so you will need to use a hydration system if you want a drink on the move. The same side pockets are also a snug fit for a 1L Nalgene bottle; they fit but you’d have a hard time pulling them out even if you could reach back and grab them while wearing the pack. The mesh use for the pockets is tough and has a dense weave, so you can play rough with the Speed Lite and not worry about them getting ripped and chewed up.

You almost have to use a hydration system with this pack, unless you’re willing to stop and take off the pack when you want a drink , since the side mesh pockets are not reachable when the pack is worn and are barely wide enough to hold a 1L Nalgene bottle.

The Speed Lite 32 has a front stuff pocket that’s open at the top but secured but held close with a strap. There are strips of mesh down the sides to help dry out wet or damp gear and a drain hole at the bottom, so you can store a wet water filter or bathing in it. The mesh has the same durable weave as the side water bottle pockets.

The side pockets will fit a 1L Nalgene bottle but it is a tight fit.
The side pockets will fit a 1L Nalgene bottle but it is a tight fit.

The hip belt also has a pair of small zippered pockets, sized for bars, although you can barely fit an iPhone 6 smartphone into one. Given the “soft” nature of the hip belt, which we examine further below, I wouldn’t put anything rigid like a phone in them and use them more for snacks than anything. The front of a backpack hip belt is also one of the highest points of pack abrasion if you like to hike off-trail and bushwhack through vegetation. While both hip belt pockets are made with the same durable mesh used on the rest of the pack, I’d advise against putting anything electronic or too valuable in them, less they get soaked or torn.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Speed Lite 32 frame is a U-shaped Delrin fiberglass rod that loops around the perimeter of the pack and helps it keep its shape. It’s soft, flexible, and body hugging, which is what you want on an adventure pack like the Speed Lite, but it isn’t strong enough to support much load beyond 20 pounds.

The back of the pack is covered with mesh and contoured die-cut foam that provides some ventilation for your back. Not a lot, but some. It feels comfortable if you’re just wearing a thin shirt, but it is pretty much unnoticeable if you pile on a few clothing layers.

Die-cut foam with a mesh covering provides ventilation to keep you drier
Die-cut foam with a mesh covering provides ventilation to keep you drier.

The shoulder straps are well padded and covered with mesh to wick away perspiration. The shoulder straps are J-shaped but have extra padding along the inside edge in an effort to make them more comfortable for people with well-developed chests. The sternum strap can be moved up and down on a rail system, but there are no daisy chains on the front of the straps to attach extra pockets. The pack also has load lifters running between the frame and shoulder straps. While many smaller volume packs don’t have them, they can be useful if you carry heavy winter gear like snowshoes or even skis, using the pack’s external attachment features, which we review further below.

The Speed Lite hip belt is not padded and more of a fabric wrap designed to keep the base of the pack close to your torso and hips than a load bearing feature. That’s not a bad thing, but it underscores the limitation of the pack for carrying heavier loads. The hip belt closes with a pull forward webbing strap for ease of use. Given the hip belt’s reduced load-bearing qualities, it would have been nice if it was non-destructively removable with clips, like the hip belts on some ultralight backpacks of similar volume.

External Attachment and Compression System

The external attachment system on the Speed Lite 32 is where this pack really shines. It has two tiers of webbing compression straps which both close with buckles, making it easy to attach snowshoes or skis to the side of the pack. The webbing straps are extra long, but have elastic keepers to prevent them from flapping around. The compression straps can also be reversed so you can run them around the front of the pack, which is very handy for winter gear attachment, suck as sleeping pads, a crampon pocket, or snowshoes.

The Compression Straps are reversible, making it easy to carry snowshoes or a sleeping pad.
The Compression Straps are reversible, making it easy to carry snowshoes or a sleeping pad.

The Speed Lite also features full length daisy chains down the sides of the stuff pocket, which are also good for rigging up custom attachment points with accessory webbing or cord. There are also four additional gear loops on top of the lid for this purpose. There are also a pair of ice axe / trekking pole loops on the front of the pack and well as shaft keepers, which is a detail that many backpack makers leave off backpacks.

Recommendation

The Deuter Speed Lite 32 is a great multi-purpose adventure-sport backpack that can be used year round. While it is large enough for overnights or hut-to-hut trips, I think its sweet spot is for more technical day-hiking adventures like peakbagging, climbing, and winter hiking trips where you need to carry additional layers and technical gear. I use this pack all the time now for autumn day hikes as the weather is turning cooler, because it can hold all the gear and extra clothing I like to carry. It’s also quite similar to another Deuter backpack that I enjoyed using in the past called the Speed Lite 30, which is no longer made, but had the same comfortable V-shape, durability and technical features.

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Last updated: 2018-10-03 17:35:14

Disclosure: Deuter provided the author with a sample backpack for this review.

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Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 Backpack Review

The Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 Backpack is a ventilated and adjustable length pack that’s well sized for multi-day trips, hut-to-hut hikes, and pilgrimage style trips. While it’s loaded with convenience features and cushy padding, it’s comparatively lightweight at 4 lbs 9 oz providing a good balance between carry comfort and ease of use. In fact, it’s somewhat unusual to find a pack of this volume (50 liters main + 10 liter extension collar) that has many of the features typically reserved for much heavier and higher volume expedition backpacks.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Unisex
  • Weight: 4 lbs 9 oz
  • Frame: Internal, wire spring
  • Ventilated: Yes
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Pockets: 11+ main compartment
  • Rain cover: included
  • Torso sizing: 15-22 inches
  • Hip belt sizing: unavailable
  • Bear canister compatibility: vertical
  • Materials: 210d nylon and 420d polyester
  • Max recommended load: 35-40 lbs

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Futura Vario 50+10 is organized like a conventional alpine-style pack with a top lid, main compartment, front stuff pocket and a sleeping bag compartment. But the 50+10 volume requires a little explanation. It means that the pack can hold up to 60 liters of gear, 50 liters in the main compartment and pockets distributed all over the pack, plus an additional 10 liters in what’s called a spindrift or extension collar. In reality, there’s little distinction between the main compartment and the spindrift collar, and you can really just treat the pack as having a capacity of 60 liters.

Most notably, the Futura Vario 50+10 has 11 pockets in addition to the main compartment, 10 of which are closed with zippers. If you love pockets, this is the pack for you.

This includes:

  • Two large pockets in the top lid, one on top w/ a key fob and one underneath
  • Two mesh side water bottle pockets, sized for 1L Nalgene bottles
  • Two torpedo shaped side pockets above the water bottle pockets
  • Open front stuff pocket
  • Sleeping pad pocket
  • Rain cover pocket
  • Two large solid faced hip belt pockets

The top lid is floating, so you can raise it up if you want to overstuff the main compartment (plus spindrift collar) or trap gear between the top of the pack and the bottom of the top lid. The lid has a tendency to flop to the front of the pack when full, like so many packs with top lids. It’s not a showstopper, but an annoyance.

The side water bottle pockets are sized for 1 Nalgene bottles. They’re both reachable while the pack is worn, but it helps to have a squat rigid bottle, like a Nalgene, to get them back into their pockets. The bottom of the pockets is reinforced nylon, so they won’t tear when you place the pack on the ground. They also have side cutouts so you can run the bottom compression strap through the pocket or over it.

The pack has two long torpedo-shaped side pockets that are good for storing shoes, like crocs, shown here
The pack has two long torpedo-shaped side pockets that are good for storing shoes, like crocs, shown here.

There are two 14″ long, torpedo-shaped side pockets over the water bottle pockets, on both sides of the pack, which open and close with zippers. They’re ideal for rolling up and stowing t-shirts or lightweight sweaters, a bathing suit, hats, gloves, snacks, or electronics. The pockets are also large enough to store a pair of crocs, sandals, slippers, or low shoes.

The pack has a front stuff pocket that’s open on top, with mesh stripes down the sides to drain water and help gear dry. It’s not large enough to store shoes or sandals and really just sized for clothing or rain gear.

The main compartment has a separate sleeping bag zippered hatch and compartment. The top of the compartment unzips and folds down, if you prefer not to use it, but still provides access to gear stored at the bottom of the pack.

The main compartment has a U zipper that provides extra access
The main compartment has a U zipper that provides extra access.

There’s also a rain cover pocket and an included rain cover. It’s connected to the pack using a wooden dowel, so you won’t lose it. But it’s also removable if you choose not to use it. It weighs 3.6 oz and wraps around the pack with an elastic opening.

The hip belt pockets are both large and solid faced, providing better durability and water resistance. They are big enough to fit a smartphone or a POS camera.

The main compartment and spindrift collar cinch closed with a drawstring. There’s an additional rope strap that runs over the top of them that provides additional compression. The main compartment can also be opened using a U-shaped zipper that runs around the bottom of the front stuff pocket. This is ideal for travel or hostel stays where you need to get clothing, but don’t want to completely unpack.

The main compartment has an internal hydration pocket and a central hang loop to keep your reservoir upright. There’s only one hydration port though, routed out the left side of the main compartment, behind the shoulder (not over it). While there are elastic keeper straps on both shoulder straps, you’ll probably want to run your hose on the left if you use one.

The padding on back of the pack hugs your body but is less confining than Osprey's AG "anti-gravity" frame.
The padding on back of the pack hugs your body but is less confining than Osprey’s AG “anti-gravity” frame.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Futura Vario 50+10 is a ventilated, adjustable-length backpack that has a lightweight trampoline-style frame with mesh located behind your back to help keep your back cool and dry perspiration more quickly. The effect is similar to the “anti-gravity” mesh that Osprey has on their packs, but the Futura Vario’s is considerably lighter weight and less confining, with a shallower cavity behind your back so you can walk upright more naturally. Packs with deep ventilation cavities like the Ospreys have a tendency to pull you backwards and off-balance. Deuter is the company that first invented the trampoline or “ventilated” backpack frame as it’s become known in 1984, so they’ve had a head start on perfecting it.

The ventilated trampoline frame helps keep you back cool and dry perspiration faster.
The ventilated trampoline frame helps keep you back cool and dry perspiration faster.

The Futura Vario 50+10 also has an adjustable length torso length so you can get a personalized fit and carry more of the load on your hips or shoulders, depending on your preference. To lengthen the torso and put more weight on your hips, you’d use the simple webbing strap located behind the ventilation mesh to raise the shoulder straps higher. To shorten the torso, you’d lower the shoulder straps. It’s very easy to adjust and use. Not sure what feels good? Try to get it so that the pack’s load lifters angle down to your shoulders on a 30-45 degree angle. That’s usually a good indicator of the right torso length setting.

The hip belt is heavily padded and pre-curved, with softer padding along the top where it comes in contact with your hip bones. A mesh covering helps wick away moisture, while a pull-forward hip belt makes it easy to get a secure fit. The hip belt is sewn to the back of the pack providing a solid connection with the wire frame and excellent lateral control.

The shoulder yoke slides up and down a webbing strap behind the mesh. When raised it lengths the torso. When lowered it shortens the torso length.
The shoulder yoke slides up and down a webbing strap behind the mesh. When raised it lengths the torso. When lowered it shortens the torso length.

The shoulder straps are thickly padded J-straps, but despite its unisex label, I wouldn’t recommend them for use by women. The women’s version of this pack is called the Deuter Futura Vario 45+10 SL which has a shorter adjustable back length (14-19 inches), narrower shoulder harness and a conical-shaped hip belt.

Backpack Compression and Attachment Points

The Futura Vario 50+10 has two tiers of compression straps on the sides of the pack, but the top tier is the only one with a buckle that opens, making it useful for securing longer items to the sides of the pack. The pack also has permanently attached sleeping pad straps that run over the sleeping bag pocket hatch, so you can hang a pad or tent body off the front of the pack. There’s a single ice axe loop, with an elastic shaft holder, and a pair of trekking poles loops (top and bottom) for securing your poles to the pack when not needed. While you could use the pack for modest winter trips in a pinch, it’s not really set up for attaching winter equipment to the outside and best used for three season use.

Comparable Backpacks

Make and Model Price Weight Volume Access Pockets
REI Traverse 70 249 4 lb. 14 oz. 35, 70L, 85L Top, front 11 exterior
Gregory Baltoro 75 330 4 lb. 15.4 oz. 65, 75, 85L Top, front 10 exterior
Osprey Aether AG 70 310 5 lb. 3.4 oz. 60, 70, 85L Top, front 7 exterior
Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 230 4 lb. 9oz. 60L Top, front 11 exterior
Osprey Atmos AG 65 270 4 lb. 9 oz. 50, 65L Top 8 exterior
REI Flash 65 Backpack 199 3 lb. 10 oz. 45, 65L Top 6 exterior

Recommendation

The Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 is a comfortable multi-day pack that’s ideal for someone who wants a ventilated, well-fitting backpack, that has a lot of pockets to stay organized and can be used in the backcountry as well as for hut-to-hut or pilgrimage style trips. In addition to its 11 exterior pockets, there are a couple if things that I think stand out about this backpack.

Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 Backpack on the rocks
Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 Backpack on the rocks

First off, the Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 carries really well, with a thick pre-curved hip belt that hugs the hips but won’t bruise them if you have to carry heavier gear. While it is ventilated, it has a very modest curved back which promotes a more upright posture, doesn’t interfere with packing, and doesn’t pull you backwards and off-balance. That’s a real plus. Finally, the pack is surprisingly slim in terms of width and depth so it moves more like a sport utility vehicle and less like a moving truck. Comfort, balance, and maneuverability….pretty much what you’d expect from a German company like Deuter Packs.

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Last updated: 2018-09-04 19:27:27

Deuter provided the author with a backpack for review.

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