Review: FAST Pack EDC
When I received the EDC I was struck by the weight of it and how stiff it felt. I had a good look over it, and I became aware that this wasn’t going to be a throw-stuff-in-and-go pack, but one that would require time to set up. If I’m honest, this wasn’t quite what I’d expected, especially in today’s culture where most things come out-of-the-box ready (e.g. Apple’s products). So after a slightly unexpected start, here’s what I found…
The balance of width and height makes the whole pack feel quite tall, which allows it to keep a slim figure, even when completely stuffed.
I like that when the main compartment is not full the contents of the side pockets can be pushed in and the compression straps used to keep these pockets inside. This reduces the width of the pack and starts to look more like the EDC’s little brother, the Litespeed.
There are several interesting features inside. Firstly there is a large mesh pocket on the front flap that reaches down to where the outside admin pocket finishes. I thought only having one pocket in this main compartment, compared to other packs that have four or five, would be a negative. I actually found the opposite to be true. Whenever my Rush was full, accessing any of the lower pockets became pretty tough and led to either unpacking or scratched knuckles. Without the temptation of these other pockets, it feels less prescriptive and allows for your own organisation.
There are also two triglides for attaching an admin panel that is no longer available (except the rare second hand one) and a key hanger, which is nice to have and very useful.
This front pocket is the same height as the side pockets but much wider. The capacity does reach into the main compartment a bit, so if the pack is fully loaded the depth of this pocket is slightly reduced.
It is worth noting that this pocket can be hard to access, either when the transporter tail is carrying anything, or when it is compressing the pack down. In both these instances either the compression straps need loosening or the buckles unclipped to open this pocket enough to get inside. If you’re having to do this often it becomes quite tedious and I feel this could limit what you’d want to put in there. However with the tail removed this pocket comes into its own. Its lack of webbing reduces the tactical look of the pack and is a great dumping pocket.
This pocket is often slated in other reviews and I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing. Deciding what to carry in each of the pockets was quite difficult as it is hard to visualise its width and depth. I resorted to doing this through touch and trial and error, but I could have tried turning the whole pocket inside out. Others have suggested adding a crescent or a full clamshell opening like the OP1 pouch TAD produce. Whilst this may work, it may take away from the structural integrity of the pack and probably the look of the pack and TAD is all about tough, well designed gear.
I started by putting individual items in each section, but over time I’ve found it quite tedious to use. Comparing this pack to the 5.11 Rush 24 I own; one thing I thought the EDC lacked was the top access fleece lined dump pocket. But now I’ve started using this Admin pocket as exactly that and I’ve found it to be perfect. It does lack the forgiving fleece lined interior, but I did find with the Rush’s dump pocket that everything got jumbled up together; whereas with the EDC smaller items can be divided up using the inner pockets.
The side pockets are slightly shallower than I expected, but they are definitely wide and accommodating. The size and location of this pocket makes it perfect for water bottles as it is accessible whilst wearing the pack. They would fit almost any water bottle or flask in width and my Sigg 0.6l just sticks out the top. Access to them is quick and easy, even when the pack is full.
At first I was surprised that this only unzips in an L-shape, from the bottom corner to the top opposite corner. The bladder section of my Rush 24 opened in a U-shape which I thought I liked. But the FAST Packs hydration pocket reaches down much further to the base of the pack, so a water bladder can be hooked on, whilst outside the pack and slid in almost without having to lift it up or push it down. It can be effortlessly swung out and refilled without detaching, which is great for longer trips with lots of refilling stops. There are two forms of attachment that should accommodate any hydration bladder. There is an overlapping Hypalon reinforced opening for the tube to exit the pack which feels rugged and closes up well when not in use, despite not having any fixings. It also works well for any paper documentation and a Macbook Pro 13″ fits in comfortably too.
One of things I did not like about this pocket was that where the zip passes the right shoulder strap it gets halted by the bulk of the triglide (that hangs inside the main compartment) pushing insto its path. This is fine if you are just dipping into the pocket to retrieve something small, but it does mean that to open this zip fully takes a bit longer than usual.
Also in here is the HDPE pocket with the frame sheet and the T6061 Aluminium bar. I removed this aluminium bar straight away as I don’t really have need for it, and it adds extra weight. The frame sheet is great for keeping the shape of the pack and pushes a full bladder into the main compartment rather than into your back.
Straps & Webbing:
Shoulder straps and compression
TAD have used Contour-FleX straps that are truly as comfortable as it gets. The contours and the ability to adjust the straps top and bottom mean you can fit the pack to your back like a glove. This pack is quite heavy when empty but as soon as it is on my back it fits so well I barely notice it, making it a necessary sacrifice for the features and ruggedness. The sternum strap often gets a lot of grief for being flimsy, but after 6 months of use I personally haven’t found it showing any signs of wear.
Each strap has a D-ring, vertical webbing and elastic hydration tube guides which are all well placed to be used effectively. I wasn’t really sure about the top compression straps at first, but I was pleasantly surprised at their effectiveness. They really make a difference to the distribution of the weight. When in use they can be pulled apart to access the main compartment no problem, or unclipped if some pack organisation is needed. When not attached I found they got stuck underneath the shoulder straps as I put the pack on, but this did serve as a reminder to clip them back in for the benefit they brought. When they’re not in use I devised a way to clinch them up on the shoulder straps to avoid this problem, and they look quite cool all bunched up.
Any of the straps that are used for compression have neat wings that keep excess webbing tucked into a nice tight bunch. These are great for quick (what I call see-saw) adjustments whilst on the go; they are easy to find and pull, plus they don’t come apart unintentionally. I found this to be a particularly useful feature whenever I’ve been on long hikes as the pack can be shifted around depending on the incline of the terrain and where you want the weight to rest. They can also be attached to the webbing of the pack to keep them from knocking around as you walk.
I did find that, whilst only wearing a t-shirt, the sharp edges of these neat wings scratched my arms up a bit. These little pieces of ingenuity are so useful that I’d be reluctant to call this a negative, and I’m sure this could have been avoided by taking more care in removing my pack or loosely wrapping up the loose ends, but it should still be noted as a consideration.
The EDC is covered in PALS webbing which allows you to configure the pack however you like. I’ve attached several MOLLE compatible pouches to the pack and they seemed to fit well. The 2″ webbing works great for TAD’s pouches and is easier than the weaving-strap technique.
The whole pack uses reverse YKK nylon coil zippers. Reverse zips are used to keep dust and grit from getting into the coils, which seems to be effective as I’ve thrown the pack down in some really dusty/gritty places without any consequences. Additionally this makes the zips seem quiet. I’ve also found on other packs that zips sometimes pull the material surrounding it and don’t open easily without requiring two hands. However on the EDC zips are well supported either side which allows one hand operation.
As one of the unique features of the pack, the flashlight cave does not disappoint. As I EDC a flashlight I’ve not felt the need to use this quite as it is intended, but I may do in future. At the moment I have a gear retractor that I attach keys to which is incredibly convenient.
This cave runs the full height and width of the side pocket, but there the capacity is shared so stuffing one will reduce the space in the other. This is generally fine, but I’ve found the retractor sometimes gets caught due to the edge of the bottle in the side pocket.
Back Panel & Belt Attachment
The back panel is really comfortable. There is a square of hypalon about where the waist sits that is designed to stop the pack from slipping. Whilst on a long hike in blistering heat, my friends ‘hiking pack’ gave him a heat rash and tore up the base of his back, but this pack stayed in place and allowed a good airflow.
The detachable belt is great. It attaches initially via a hook and loop patch behind the bottom of the back panel. Next a webbing strap on each side allows it to be fixed really snugly to the pack. It is secure, which is what you’d want, but this does mean it is not quick to add and remove. The PALS webbing works great here for small MOLLE pouches.
The straps attached to the central buckle are quite long and though there is an elastic keeper loop on each side, I found they came loose when adjusting. I resorted to passing the excess underneath the PALS webbing which worked ok, but I’m looking for a better solution.
There is a seriously tough Hypalon reinforced grab handle at the top of the pack that keeps a grip even when wet. I see a lot of people wrapping this with paracord, but I decided not to so I can continue to admire this hardy material. It is well balanced and easy to find as sits a nice distance away from the pack.
They say save the best till last; so that’s what I’ve done. This feature is definitely a major highlight of the pack. Its versatility is incredible. Whilst the PALS webbing is obviously great for attaching pouches, carabiners and paracord; there is much more too it than that.
The four, ITW Nexus buckled, compression straps can be used to either compress together a half empty pack, or securely hold items underneath the tail. The benefit is being able to carry extra items without disturbing a well packed main compartment or to keep dirty or wet items separate. This list of items I’ve placed in this kangaroo style pouch grows almost every week, but it most commonly contains an outer layer. There is also a pouch on inside of this tail which, when the tail is unclipped, can be used to carry a rifle, tripod or other long items. When the tail is attached this pouch is also great for quickly stuffing item into.
I’ve seen the Transporter Tail rolled up underneath the pack, carrying a chainsaw, used as a chest rig and removed completely. Your imagination is the limit here.
To conclude, let me use a software illustration. Downloading free, or cheap, software can be great, but you soon realise its shortcomings. Shelling out for the mainstream software might mean a slow start of laboured learning, but you don’t often regret it later. In the same way, some packs are good at first but you find out all their limitations later; this pack just gets better with age. It may not be very out-of-the-box ready, but with plenty to customise it has a more tailored-to-fit approach.
Special thanks to Taylor, Mike, Skylar and Raquel.
Extra special thanks to James Clarke for deviating from his usual portrait shoots to do a pack portrait and taking all of these awesome photographs. Check out his website here.
The highest thanks to my wife for putting up with me working on this for the last 6 months.
Nat Wagstaff Editor-In-Chief
While I was researching packs for a 100km endurance hiking challenge, my interest in how we organise our gear gave birth to Pack Config, a place that inspires its readers to improve their own packs. What I carry, either daily or out on a hike, is constantly being refined as I discover new methods and products. More…