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Lightwave UltraHike 60, Lightwave Fastpack 50, and Lightwave Wildtrek 55w Packs (UK)

Mini-review for the 2010 State of the Market Report on Internal Frame Backpacks.

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by Roger Caffin | 2010-09-28 00:00:00-06

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

Pack Rating Qualifications
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, Lightwave Fastpack 50, and Lightwave Wildtrek 55w Packs (UK) - 1
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

Pack Rating Qualifications
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 UltraHike 60, Lightwave Fastpack 50, and Lightwave Wildtrek 55w Packs (UK) - 2
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

Pack Rating Qualifications
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 UltraHike 60, Lightwave Fastpack 50, and Lightwave Wildtrek 55w Packs (UK) - 3
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.

  • Part 1A covers the very basics and lists all the packs in the survey.
  • Part 1B covers the frame and harness which carry the pack itself.
  • Part 1C covers the main bag and all the other pockets, plus the all-important question of comfort.
  • Part 2 in this series covers the individual packs tested.


"Lightwave UltraHike 60, Lightwave Fastpack 50, and Lightwave Wildtrek 55w Packs (UK)," by Roger Caffin. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2010-09-28 00:00:00-06.


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Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 2: The Packs
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Coin Page
(Page0018) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern USA
External Frame Packs? on 10/18/2010 20:47:02 MDT Print View

Thanks for a nice review Roger.

Perhaps outside the scope of this review, but since the subject of external frame packs has come up: do you have any recommendations for lightweight, commercially available, external frame packs that capture your "H - frame" idea?

Back in the old days, my external frame pack and hip belt could shift almost all the weight onto my iliac crests, or alternatively, onto the greater trochanters.

I find now, with increasing age, a decreased tolerance for prolonged heavy loading of the L5-S1 disk, and the SI joints. Anything much over 20 lbs all day, no matter how it's distributed over the shoulders or the lumbar area, starts to hurt.

Some of the individual pack reviews and comments above suggest some of these packs come close, but it sounds like you think the external frame is better at overall comfort - issues of durability, fragility and standing up to heavy brush aside.

Am I on the right track here? Any advice. How can I get most of the load back on the sides of my hips - the iliac crests - and still go lightweight?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: External Frame Packs? on 10/20/2010 23:43:42 MDT Print View

Hi Coin

Sorry, but I don't have a simple answer for you. I think I noted somewhere in the review that my hips are rather narrow, such that many hip belts do not work very well on me. For this reason I have always preferred to carry the load on my back. This does *not* mean 'on my shoulders'.

With my design I find the load does go through the mesh on the back of the pack to the full area of my back. Frankly, I am not really sure why this works so well, but it does work for me.

I am sure that it won't work for many other people, and that a solid hip belt will work better for them. In this sense, fitting a pack to a person is very much like fitting a pair of shoes. I sigh (for the same reason) when I see someone ask 'what shoes should I buy' and then read a reply that they should buy SuperDucksMultiWeb shoes.

However ... I will offer the following advice - which is also in the Review somewhere. Try to buy a pack which matches your torso length, but do not buy a pack with a torso length which is too short. Better to have a pack torso length slightly longer than your torso length: that will throw the load onto your hips more effectively.

Even better: pick a pack in the right size with an adjustable torso length. Then fine tune over several trips how it fits you. Yes, I definitely give brownie points to packs with an adjustable torso length.

I also give brownie points to packs with a solid stiff harness or frame. Frameless packs are all very well if my total load is under 6 -8 kg. Over that the weight of the harness is far outweighed by the added comfort it brings. Now, I know this comment will attract numerous responses contradicting me and saying how wonderful a frameless pack is. Well, as with shoes ...

Can an external frame pack (like mine) stand up the 'heavy brush'? Chuckle. Trust me, the scrub in the Australian Blue Mountains (and in SW Tasmania) is definitely world class.

A commercial equivalent? Sorry - at this stage I cannot make a recommendation, because I don't know.


Cameron Semple
(camS) - F

Locale: Brisbane, Australia
Shadow on 10/21/2010 06:43:52 MDT Print View

I had a look at a Shadow this evening at a local distributor. I liked the clean, no frills look. Didn't have time to load it up though. You mentioned the thick webbing used on the hip belt. I found it virtually impossible to tighten the belt once fitted. The webbing was so rough that it wouldn't pull through easily. Combined with the older style of pulling the straps out rather than into the middle.

Any ideas when the 2011 line of packs will be available? The Umbra looks interesting.

Edited by camS on 10/21/2010 06:45:49 MDT.

al b
(ahbradley) - M
small manufacturers / osprey atmos on 10/21/2010 15:46:43 MDT Print View

Roger (Caffin):
Would any of the ultralight small manufacturers be interested in making your external frame sacks.

The osprey atmos 50/65 has a kind of all back mesh (for ventilation) but I think the gap between back and pack is bigger. I didnt like the shooulder straps.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: small manufacturers / osprey atmos on 10/21/2010 20:58:46 MDT Print View

> Would any of the ultralight small manufacturers be interested in
> making your external frame sacks.

I would be delighted if someone did want to.


al b
(ahbradley) - M
osprey exos possible equiv to Roger (Caffins) MYOG external frame on 10/22/2010 04:55:27 MDT Print View

Roger (Caffin):

Actually, from reviews, the osprey exos 46/58 looks better than the atmos, as still has kind of all back mesh (for ventilation) but the gap between back and pack seems smaller, and the rucsac storage looks less curved.

Perhaps you could borrow one and compare it (not using waist belt) against your external frame pack.

Coin Page
(Page0018) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern USA
External Frame Packs? on 10/24/2010 09:12:13 MDT Print View

Thanks Roger.

Yes, like finding well fitting shoes. But I did find those (wider), so I keep my optimism for finding the perfect pack for heavier loads. Thanks for the reminder/emphasis on torso length (longer for me).

The Aarn packs, and LuxerLite pack seem hopeful. Discussions of these packs over the last 5 years give lots of opinions both ways. I would love to hear from owners/users of these packs what they still think of them now.

Any other packs in this general class - lightweight with enough frame to transfer all the weight to my hips if I want to - that anyone thinks I should also consider? Any packs in the review above come close for a long torso?


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: osprey exos possible equiv to Roger (Caffins) MYOG external frame on 10/24/2010 15:35:08 MDT Print View

Hi Alan

The survey covered both the Exos 46 and the Exos 58. Nice packs.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: External Frame Packs? on 10/24/2010 15:38:09 MDT Print View

Hi Coin

The survey lists the available pack sizes. I was testing Medium in just about everything, but many of them have a Large model available.

Which one to choose? Ahhh... Very personal. 'Every body is subtly different ...' as they say on the planes.


Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: External Frame Packs? on 10/25/2010 12:46:16 MDT Print View

"The Aarn packs, and LuxerLite pack seem hopeful. Discussions of these packs over the last 5 years give lots of opinions both ways. I would love to hear from owners/users of these packs what they still think of them now."

I have used both of these, and in both cases they are nice packs, but I ended up using them without the front pockets. They just didn't work for me. however, if you like front pockets, I find the LuxuryLite pocket (and frame) to be more functional and cooler. I also ditched the LuxuryLite cylinders and modifies a GoLite Gust to attach to the frame. Excellent volume and comfortable carrying. Note: the LuxuryLite pocket restricts you vision more than the Aarn. Also note, I have both of these for sale. If you are interested, shoot me a PM and we can negotiate a price.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
frogs ... on 10/26/2010 06:24:59 MDT Print View

just a note for others that the french site i-trekkings has done a similar test with packs in roughly the same weight and volume range

note how the Decathlon Forclaz 50 Ultralight scored very high in comfort and on score/price while being the cheapest and lightest pack

just shows you what can be done ..

just use google translater on the links below

Edited by bearbreeder on 10/26/2010 06:28:48 MDT.

al b
(ahbradley) - M
exos 58 usage with no load thru hip belt on 10/27/2010 15:08:48 MDT Print View

Roger (Caffin):

I checked the articles 1A-C,2 butt did not find a mention of testing the exos 58 with no load bearing via the hip belt i.e. a comparison against the way your your external frame myog pack is used.

Do you still have one for a hip-beltless comparison against your external frame pack.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: exos 58 usage with no load thru hip belt on 12/16/2010 20:22:34 MST Print View

Hi Alan

Sorry, this dropped off the radar for a while.
Unfortunately no: the Exos packs were farmed out to Australian readers.


Eric Botshon
(Ebotshon) - F
Exos 46 on 07/12/2011 10:36:03 MDT Print View

The review mentioned that the osprey pack was closer to 40 than 46 liters.

Any chance this test was done with a size small pack instead of the medium? The smal torso length pack is smaller than the stated 46.

Willem knopper
(willem65) - MLife
Exos Frame on 09/08/2011 15:41:10 MDT Print View

I have tried the Exos and I find them to be to very ridged, the pack does not move with you (back) at all. I personally think they are really just a fancy external frame pack. I did like the idea of the air flow but was just very disappointed how it restricted your movement especially if you were to use it doing any walking other than on the flat.


Phillip Damiano

Locale: Australia
Jansport Big Bear on 03/22/2012 21:42:44 MDT Print View

Roger mentioned in one of his comments here:
(Yes, we kept a few, for specific functions. The rest have been passed on to Australian & NZ BPL members (kept the postage down) for further field testing. I expect that they will provide some Reader Reviews in due course).

I'm one of those Australian BPL member, I've recently acquired one of the Jansport Big Bear 63 prototype packs of Roger.
The pack has only been in my possession for a few weeks now, tested on day hikes including some rock climbing.
The Harness is very comfortable and the material is very durable. I've tested this on a Off-track hike recently with very thick vegetation. I got scratches over me, the pack survived with no scratches.

I'm yet to test it out as a Overnight hike, but I can't see it causing any problems there. It's a nice pack. I do like the colour that the prototype pack was supplied in with the orange trims.

This is an on going review, I will keep you's updated on my findings on my next overnight hike, which is not for another 3 weeks from today. In a couple days, I've got a day hike I'm planning on, I will pack all my overnight hiking gear into the pack for a test to see how the pack feels with some weight in it. My base weight is just under the 8Kg. I'll add a few litres of water to that, making a total weight of 11kg.

So far, I like the pack. It's not exactly on the ultra light weight at just under 1.5kg but it does have a good frame and harness.Jansport Big Bear Prototype Pack

Edited by Phillipsart on 03/22/2012 21:51:42 MDT.

Phillip Damiano

Locale: Australia
Re: Jansport Big Bear on 03/24/2012 19:33:34 MDT Print View

Packed my hiking gear into the Jansport Big Bear pack yesterday and went for a walk around the block with apx 12kg load. Pack is comfortable, enough room for 5 or 6 days of food. No complaints.

Will be continuing wearing the pack with my gear on daily hikes for the next couple of weeks as training for an upcoming 3 day overnight hike in some steep terrain.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
"Pocket Man" on 06/14/2012 21:41:39 MDT Print View

I own an older - and IMHO better - version of the REI Flash 60. It's the REI Cruise UL 60 (2nd model). That pack absolutely NEEDED side pockets. Fortunately REI had "aftermarket" pockets at that time, but no longer.

I like side pockets because they store stuff I may need quickly like 1st aid kit, water treatment kit, toilet kit, potty kit, and things I don't want inside my pack
Like stove stuff including fuel. (For ex., ESBIT tabs smell fishy -like two other things I know of. ;O)

My REI pockets add 400 cu. in. each and make the pack "complete" in my dinosaur mind. Yeah, I'm a geezer and like exterior pockets. As another poster said of the Ospey EXOS that front "shovel" pocket is nice and can hold that wet tent, etc. Same goes for my Cruise UL 60 - which should really be called the "UL 50" - sorta like many post-recession 401-K funds should really be called "201-K" funds.

SPIRIDON Papapetroy
(spotlight) - F
Osprey Exos on 09/09/2012 21:15:47 MDT Print View

Has anyone had pain in the part of the body where the lower part of the frame touches it. I am a bit worried because it doesn't have any padding.

Phil Cawley
(Philc) - M
Lightweight Internal Frame Packs. on 04/08/2015 21:50:37 MDT Print View

Hi, First time I've ever made comment. In my mind (without a doubt!) everything considered Aarn Packs are the way to go! I've got four of them (one for nigh on every occasion!) and would NEVER consider going back to the old style! Try 'em and you'll use 'em. Phil.