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Triple Aught Design Spectre 34L Backpack Review

The Triple Aught Design Spectre 34L backpack is a stylish, water-resistant, and highly modular alternative to your typical run-of-the-mill trail pack.  For TAD fans, the Spectre 34L is a lighter weight and less tactical alternative to the Fastpack EDC.

 

The Triple Aught Design Spectre 34L

The Triple Aught Design Spectre 34L

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

Material
Dimension Polyant LS-42 and X51
Tweave 4-way stretch Panels
Closed Cell Cross-Linked Polyethylene Foam
3D Spacer Mesh
Nylon Webbing
HDPE Framesheet
7075 Aluminum Frame Stays

Volume
34 liters (2075 cu in)

Dimensions
12” (30.48 cm) W x 23” (58.42 cm) H x 7.5” (19.05 cm) D
Torso: 16” to 23”
Waist: 26” to 50”
21” Vertical Stay

Weight
1.6 kg (56 oz)

The Dimension Polyant LS-42 sailcloth is highly water-resistant (water just beads and rolls off), but it’s also lighter weight than 1000D Cordura.  TAD shaved nearly a pound off this pack compared to the Fastpack EDC, which is roughly the same size.  The material is very tear resistant, but you still lose a bit of abrasion resistance by going with the Sailcloth over the 1000D.  However, I’ve found the durability of the VX packs that I’ve owned to be more than adequate for backcountry use and everyday carry.  The same is true with the Spectre.

Most people I’ve talked to either love or hate the distinctive “moonscape” look of the new material. I’ll go on record as stating that I wasn’t in love with it before I received the pack, but out of the box and in person I thought it looked great!  I applaud TAD for not being afraid of going with something unusual and different.  The color combination with the Ranger Green webbing of the pack I was sent totally works.

 

FEATURES

The Spectre has mount points that can be used to add various optional accessories; some of which, if you’re a TAD fan, you may already own.  For instance, the front panel features three channels of MOLLE, which can be used to attach an OP1 Admin Pouch or a GPP2 Pouch.  TAD has released matching LS-42 versions of both but I had the black OP-1 in 1000D on hand so I attached it.

 

 

Bottom and side attachment points can be used to mount the Spectre Hydration Carrier, or in my case, the Spectre Transport Tail 1.  It’s made from LS-07 (a lighter weight version of the pack material) and can be used as a quick stash pocket for items carried outside the pack like an extra layer.  Unlike TAD’s classic Transporter Tail that can be used with the Fastpack series, it also features a single full-length weather resistant pocket to keep small items like hats, gloves, etc. dry and unexposed to the elements.

 

Spectre Transport Tail 1

Spectre Transport Tail 1

 

The gusseted side water pocket pockets can take a 32-ounce Nalgene and the compression straps effectively hold it in place.

 

 

Perhaps my favorite feature are the two long zippered compartments along each side of the pack. They run the full length, which means they are long enough to take some collapsible Trekking poles or even a tripod.  Very few times have I been able to carry my Slik Compact Tripod without having to lash it awkwardly to the outside of my pack.  That wasn’t an issue at all with the Spectre.  The pocket swallowed it with ease.

 

 

The long pockets also feature a port that allow for the routing of a hydration hose from the main compartment through the pocket and out to one of the straps.  Although doing this would compromise the water-resistant zipper by permitting a small gap where the hose is routed through.

 

 

I typically use the other stretch bottle pocket for my eye pro case.   Each bottle pocket also has a small zippered pass through on the bottom for longer items.  I attached a K2 Screw Gate Carabiner to the webbing on the side of the pack.  I can use it to hang the pack, as a side grab handle, or for other uses. 

 

 

The interior of the large main compartment has loops at the top for attaching a hanging panel like the TAD Control Panel 1.  It has zippered mesh pockets on one side and MOLLE webbing on the other providing lots of options for organizing and storing gear.

 

Triple Aught Design Control Panel 1

Triple Aught Design Control Panel 1

 

Behind the Control Panel, I hung a Source Tactical WLPS Low Profile Hydration Reservoir.  The stuff pocket could also be used for clothing or other gear.

 

IMG_7460

 

There’s a large no-frills webbing carry handle and load lifters that can be clipped into the webbing at different positions along the harness straps to dial in the correct fit.

 

 

FIT

As the dimensions indicate, the torso length is adjustable.  I re-positioned the free- floating harness to the top position with the load lifters at the prescribed 45-degree angle to give me adequate torso length.

 

 

The 3D Spacer Mesh back panel is well padded and allows for good ventilation on warm days.  The Spectre 34L does come with a removable two-piece padded hip belt that attached behind the lumbar pad via hook and loop.  It does not feature built-in zippered pockets like the belt on the Spectre 22L but it does have MOLLE so you can attach pouches.  Personally, because the belt lacked a certain amount of structure and pockets, I found myself leaving it at home more often than not.  A pack this size doesn’t always need one so I didn’t miss it.  Your mileage on that may vary, but regardless it’s nice to have it included with the cost of the pack.

From a size perspective, I found it fit my 6’4 frame perfectly once properly adjusted.

 

 

It carried it on both long forest preserve hikes as well as some urban exploration.  With the later, the low profile of the Spectre kept me from worrying about parts of the pack snagging on things.

 

 

The Spectre features a HDPE framesheet with a removable bendable 7075 Aluminum stay.  The curve in the stay was pretty aggressive out of the box.  I ended up flattening it for a more comfortable fit.   

While the straps were pretty comfortable, under heavier loads, I found myself wishing that the straps were a bit longer, wider, and more padded.  For instance, they weren’t as comfortable as the harness on my Hill People Gear Connor or even compared to the straps on the redesigned Fastpack EDC.

 

 

But, aside from that, I really loved how it carried and the versatility of the modular design in a pack that can be used in a variety of roles.  For instance, during a trip my wife and I took, I removed the Control Panel 1 and replaced it with a large Transport Sleeve to carry my laptop.  I use the Transport Sleeve with some of my other TAD packs so I appreciated also being able to use it with the Spectre.

 

 

While on our trip, I had my wife, who is 5’5 try the pack on.  I didn’t completely adjust it for her, but it will give some folks an idea on how large the pack would be on a smaller frame.

 

 

CONCLUSION

PROS

  • Advanced materials that are lighter weight, weather resistant, and durable enough for most trail and EDC use
  • Low profile
  • Modular design that is functional without the need to add expensive accessories
  • Free-floating harness with adjustable torso length
  • Effective side compression system
  • Dual water bottle pockets that can each hold a 32-ounce Nalgene
  • Framesheet with 7075 Aluminum Stay
  • Included Hip Belt 

CONS

  • Straps should be wider and longer with more padding
  • Some will be reluctant to buy because of the unique look of the LS-42 material 
  • Very little small item organization out of the box
  • Some accessories (like the OP-1, Control Panel, and Transport Sleeve) are costly. The total cost for a fully kitted out Spectre can add up fast.

Overall, I really like the Spectre.  There will be unavoidable comparisons made to the Prometheus Design Werx SHADO.  Like the Shado, the cost can climb quickly if you add a lot of the accessories that I mentioned (most of them I already owned).  However, unlike the SHADO, this pack does come with a stayed framesheet and a hip belt.  I’d recommend the Spectre Transporter Tail 1 ($30) due to the utility it adds to the overall package, but stop there and you have a pretty capable trail pack that’s versatile enough to be used in other roles if needed.

The Triple Aught Design Spectre 34L retails for $275 and can be purchased from TAD’s website

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