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 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 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.
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 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.
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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