We tested three Lightwave packs from the UK, and while the three clearly come from the same stable, they have some noticeable differences from American packs. The biggest difference is a reflection of the weather in the UK hills - sometimes raining, other times worse. These packs feature very serious waterproofing: waterproof fabric, taped or welded seams and waterproof zips. Where there seems to be a hole in the fabric (eg for an ice axe attachments point) you find that the inside of the hole is fully taped over. The attachment points for webbing are sealed on the inside, and the logos are done by bonding extra fabric onto the fabric of the bag, rather than by embroidery through the fabric. The exception to this extreme proofing are the seams down the corners of the harness face - perhaps their experience is that these seams don't get as much water on them. These seams are sewn with tape over the selvage.
The fabric on all three packs is the same: 420 denier Dynatech fabric on the back panel and structural areas, 300 denier micro-ripstop polyester on the main front areas, and 40 denier ripstop nylon for internal fabrics. Never mind the fancy names - it's good fabric. 'Airmesh' is used "on all body contact areas," which means the foam is covered with something like a light Lycra. It tends to grip nicely on clothing. The pockets are a light stretch Lycra, but with solid elasticated edge bindings.
The harness system on all three packs is similar to that on the Crux packs: an aluminium tube bent into a sort of U-shape (or M-shape) on the inside and a solid slab of foam down the back. None of the packs have hard plastic sheets across the back, but this did not seem to be a problem for any of them. The shoulder straps were quite curved, but the sternum strap is meant to help hold that curve. That generally worked OK. The straps were suitably padded on the face and at the edges. The hip belts were novel and will be discussed separately under each pack.
All three Lightwave packs took the Test Gear quite well, with a little room to spare. You will notice that our volume measurements were all quite close to the manufacturer-claimed volumes. Perhaps this is just as well, as the packs do not have a lot of overflow capacity in the form of external pockets. But, it is nice to see the honest match on volumes.
The packs do have provision for hydration bladders. You can see the exit port for the hose between the shoulder straps: a sort of oval black rubber grommet. The red haulage loop obscures it in two of the photos. Hopefully it will help keep rain out.
One target market for these packs would be walkers who have to deal with a lot of bad weather - those welded seams are waterproof (that figures of course, coming from the UK!). They are a bit expensive for novices and school kids, but I think all the rest of the market would find these quite suitable.
Lightwave UltraHike 60 Pack
|UltraHike 60||Recommended||For those needing waterproof|
This pack has a hip belt very different from other brands. For a start, the hip belt is effectively split, as shown in the middle photo. In addition some control of the angle of tilt of the hip belt is possible, with top and bottom adjustment straps which work separately. Finally the hip belt is reinforced with a backing of flexible sheet plastic. The end result works very well, even if it is a shade complex.
Lightwave UltraHike 60, 1.20 kg (2.65 lb), 55 L (3400 cuin), m2 & M3. *I think m2 and M3 mean Men's Medium and Men's Large.
The main bag itself is clean, like its alpine cousin the Crux. There are fittings for two ice axes and short stretch pockets at the sides for tent poles and glacier wands. You wouldn't try to actually store any other sort of gear in these pockets. The throat is silnylon but a little short. Curiously the top draw cord runs in a huge tunnel, far wider than I think is needed. There is a deep narrow bladder sleeve inside the pack which could serve as a sort of security pocket - there are no other security pockets on the pack unfortunately. The lid straps start low down on the back, so the lid can adjust over a wide range. The lid itself is not huge, but it does have elasticated sides which make it adapt to whatever (within limits) is under it.
There are some stretch side pockets. They aren't high, but they would take a wet poncho or similar quite happily. They have elasticated top edges so small items should not fall out easily. There is no back pocket of any sort. Part of me wants to cheer this, but the other part regrets that there is nowhere to store flat sit mats on the back. A small omission.
The fabric pattern on the main bag makes it look as though the bottom of the bag sags down, but this is mainly an optical illusion in my opinion. There are a number of small tape attachment loops scattered over the bag, big enough to take 2-mm or 3-mm bungee cord. You could use these to hold crampons or other small things. There are number of these tape loops down the sides of the bag, carrying light climbing cord which serves as a compression system.
Lightwave Fastpack 50 Pack
|Fastpack 50||Above average||For those needing waterproof|
It might be easiest to simply describe this pack as a slightly smaller and slightly simpler version of the Ultrahike 60. Really, that does describe it quite well.
However, it has an interesting feature. Instead of lots of zig-zags of cord up the sides as compression straps, it has just a few zigzags of webbing - visible in the photos. The top connection on the webbing is an adjustable side release buckle rather than a simple ladder lock. Right at the bottom of the side of the pack there is another compression strap with a curious looped strip of tough fabric inside it. These features are just visible in the photos, especially the right hand one.
Lightwave Fastpack 50, 1.19 kg (2.61 lb), 48 L (2900 cuin).
At first glance this bottom fabric strip makes no sense, the position of the webbing strap near the bottom does not seem all that useful either, and the side release buckle at the top seems superfluous. Ah, but try mounting a pair of skis on the sides of this pack, and all will become clear. The bottom strap, the tough loop of fabric there, and the side release buckle at the top are all for holding skis! And they do that very nicely too.
The pack may not be large enough for a long ski trip using tents, but it certainly could handle a bit of ski touring if you can keep the volume of your gear down to a minimum. Alternately, the pack could handle hut-based skiing very well, with plenty of room for emergency gear. OK, not everyone wants to do this, but it is nice to see a pack which is suitably equipped for it.
Lightwave Wildtrek 55w Pack
|Wildtrek 55w||Average||For those needing waterproof|
The 'w' at the end of the name of this denotes a Women's pack, although I can't see why a man could not use this equally well. Just tweak the curvature of the struts near the bottom a little, to suit.
This pack is a bit different from the previous two, although the superficial appearance is very similar. An up-market version maybe? The biggest difference is probably the waterproof zip around the bottom edge, between the red and the grey in the left-hand photo. Inside there is a 'sealed' nylon bag attached to the zip. My previous comments about how useful such an arrangement would be for me stand: I can see no use for it. Fortunately the nylon bag which makes the bottom compartment is loose and can be squashed down flat at the bottom of the pack: you can have your cake and eat it too.
Lightwave Wildtrek 55w, 1.46 kg (3.21 lb), 49 L (3000 cuin), W1, W2
The foam back felt very firm at the start when we took it out for a day trip, but we got used to that very quickly. In fact, it rode very comfortably on both our backs and hips. Part of this is due to the good profile of the back foam, but another part may be due to the more complex hip belt adjustment on this pack. As you can see in the insert at the bottom left of the composite photo, there are top and bottom adjustment straps on the hip belt (both sides). These allow you to alter the cant (tilt) of the hip belt - a bit anyhow. I think it works somewhat; whether it is really worth all the extra complexity is another matter. I honestly don't know.
Also in that insert to the right of the buckles is an innocent-looking bit of grey nylon. You might think it is just part of the hip belt adjustment, but it is far more than that. Concealed behind the surface fabric is a zipped security pocket and overlaying it another security pocket closed with hook&loop tape. You can't get much in there, but you certainly could conceal various plastic cards, car keys and paper money. Few would think to look there.
This pack has the strap across the bottom edge and the side release buckle at the top of the compression webbing, like the Fastpack, but it does not have the fabric reinforcing strip. Obviously it too can carry skis, although it wasn't meant for this. It would be nice if they added the bit of fabric to the bottom strap because as it stands, the ski will rub across the waterproof zip.
This is a mini-review in the 2010 Lightweight Internal Frame Pack State of the Market Report. The articles in this series are as follows (mini-reviews can be found in Part 2), and a subscription to our site is needed to read them.