Deuter Speed Lite 20 Review 2019

  • Day Hiker

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Deuter Speed Lite 20 Overview

The world of day packs can seem quite endless. There are many, many brands and options out there making solid packs that have tons of features and various packing layouts, a lot of which hold stuff while you hike quite well. These choices can be a bit daunting and most of them, at the end of the day, come down to personal preference. With that in mind, the Deuter Speed Lite 20 backpack is a star player in the day pack for hiking arena. It’s extremely versatile, lightweight, and comfortable, making the complicated choice an easy one.

This straightforward day pack features two external water bottle stretch pockets, one larger stretchy catch-all pocket, and a small zipper pocket up top. The inside has a water bladder sleeve and a roomy compartment. The hip and chest straps are as basic as they come and the shoulder straps have minimal padding. Nothing fancy, but it all functions as it should. The design is thoughtful and straightforward.

Deuter Speed Lite 20 Star Rating
  • Comfort
  • Durability
  • Packability
  • Fit and Adjustability
4.3

Summary

The Deuter Speed Lite 20 is a do-it-all medium-sized day pack that can handle a multitude of outdoor adventures. Whether you plan to hike, bike, or paddle the Speed Lite 20 makes a great lightweight pack to hold all the gear you’d need for an epic day.

While the Deuter Speed Lite 20 is compelling on many points, the funky front stash pocket doesn’t quite work. If you don’t mind that, or if the product gets updated, we’d look at it for our Classic Pick. The Osprey Talon 22 backpack has held our Classic Pick day pack for a number of years, and while it’s more expensive than the Speed Lite, we find it to be more functional, especially in that front pocket area. If you want a less expensive pack overall, the REI Flash 22 is an excellent frame-less pack, and the REI Trail 25 is a slightly less expensive, much more robust all-day-trail pack.

See the full Deuter Speed Lite 20 review below!

Deuter Speed Lite 20 Specifications

Feature Type Feature Specs What This Means
Weight 17 oz. (490 g) A very lightweight day pack for something this functional and mainstream.
Capacity 20L An excellent amount of space for most day hikes and around town. Learn more about backpack capacity in our Guide.
Frame Internal Delrin U-frame This is a lightweight day pack with a very basic internal U-shaped frame. It can be removed if you want to reduce support and weight!
Hip Belt? Yes, removable Very basic hip belt that’s easily removable. Not a ton of support, but does strap the pack closer to you. Learn more about backpack hip belts and how to measure in our Guide.
Torso Not Adjustable There’s no adjustable torso on this (similar to most day packs), and it’s slightly long in the torso for most people. To learn more about backpack torso measurement and adjustable torsos see our Guide.
Number of Exterior Pockets 4 Two mesh water bottle pockets, a zippered small items pocket on top, and a front external pocket that’s not as functional as we’d like.
Hydration Sleeve Yes There’s an internal slot for a 3-liter hydration sleeve. Very simple and functional.
Main Pack Access Zippered A standard zipper that opens to the main chute.
Trekking Pole/Ice Axe Loops Yes Basic loops at the bottom of the pack and compressions straps to store trekking poles and ice axes.
Sternum Strap Yes, adjustable Simple sternum strap that works well.
Materials 210D PA (Dynajin) Fairly high thickness for the weight. This pack is durable.
Load Range 10-16 lbs. (4.5-7.2 kg) We tested this pack and found it maxes out around 16 pounds. This makes perfect sense for the size and frame.
Warranty Limited Lifetime Warranty Deuter warranties its products to be free of material defects. If something breaks, like a zipper, get in touch.
Retail Price $75 Not cheap, not terribly expensive. You’re paying for time tested design, a lightweight capable pack, and the lifetime warranty.

Gear Review of the Deuter Speed Lite 20

I am the first person to admit that I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to day packs. I own and have used way too many to count and have very strong preferences and dislikes when it comes to this very important piece of gear. After all, there’s probably not a backpack you’ll use more in life.

It has to have a great weight to functionality percentage. It has to be comfortable. It has to have pockets that make sense when you pack it, and then on the trail. And lastly, it has to look good. Because in this uber competitive gear category, looks do matter.

Deuter-Speed-Lite-20-review-river-fording
Get particular with your day pack. The Deuter Speed Lite 20 can ford rivers, if you pack it right.

I began reviewing this pack in the spring and now find myself towards the end of summer. I used the Deuter Speed Lite 20 on endless adventures during the past few months. There was a lot of time spent on mountain trails and in the desert. My Speed Lite also went packrafting down the Colorado River. As a photographer, I am always testing the boundaries of how much gear I’m able to cram in the smallest packs possible and holy smokes, did this little pack get pushed to its limits!

If you’re thinking to yourself, “I kind of just need a day pack for gentle hikes and maybe even exploring the city”, do not fear — I did those things with my Deuter Speed Lite as well. This pack doubled many times as my handbag or tote bag when I was traveling. It even got to be a grocery bag in a small Utah town.

Deuter-Speed-Lite-20-review-packed-up-on-the-trail
The Deuter Speed Lite 20 is surprisingly versatile, whether on the trial or in the city.

Revelation: The Moment I Knew

The versatility of the Deuter Speed Lite 20 became apparent rather quickly. My first few experiences were hiking and I immediately loved the simple hip belt and chest strap. Even the shoulder straps, with their very basic design. I found the comfort they offered to be right on point. Very easy to wear, with nothing overdone. This is a small pack and extra padding would have added unnecessary weight. It is just plain thoughtful to keep the straps as bare-bones as possible in a lightweight day pack — it shows a brand that knows exactly what the product is supposed to be used for.

If I am being completely honest, what really sold me on this pack is how easy it is to leave on at all times. Like, I can literally use this pack constantly in whatever I am doing.

Deuter-Speed-Lite-20-review-hiking-with-photography-
The Speed Lite 20 is comfortable, no matter where you wear it.

What I am getting at here is when you’re on trail (or off) and need to use the bathroom. Any woman will know what I mean. It’s annoying to not only pull down your pants, but to also take off your pack just to go to the bathroom. With the Deuter Speed Lite 20, it is light enough, comfortable enough, and has a balanced out design that makes leaving it on at all times (even in the bathroom) very possible.

It sits higher on the back than a lot of day packs I’ve used and sits nice and close on the back. This means it won’t tip you forward or backward when poppin’ a squat. This might not seem like something that would be revelatory, but it is. A nice and convenient pleasure. The simple things really do matter.

Digging Deeper

Deuter thought out the design of this pack well. It’s extremely light for a pack of its size and durability. It weighs in at roughly one pound and is made from burley 210D fabric, which is durable and tight knit. Some of the top quality packs on the market use this fabric, so you can count on it holding up to abuse. Even in the cold winter months, due to the tight weave of the nylon, it would perform well.

Deuter-Speed-Lite-20-review-interior-main-chute
The main chute of the Speed Lite with a sleeve for your water bladder.

I’ve mentioned that the straps are all minimal, but they are ergonomic and comfortable, with an adjustable sternum strap that guarantees a good, close fit. The back panel of the Speed Lite 20 is padded with a rather robust ventilated 3D AirMesh. This allows sweat to stay off your back and evaporate quickly, and it does its job well.

Deuter-Speed-Lite-20-review-back-panel
Basic yet highly functional, the air mesh back panel keeps sweat off your body so you can move quickly.

The pack itself has a V-shape. This creates a balanced load on your back and gives you freedom of movement that many packs simply do not have. It feels stable and secure whether you’re hiking, scrambling, or running.

As far as external storage is concerned, there are two stretchy side pockets and one larger stretch pocket. There are also two gear loops and a small zipper pocket up top. The gear loops were excellent for bringing my tripod along on adventures, and they would also be great for trekking poles, an ice axe, or a helmet. The top zip pocket is a fantastic catch-all for things like keys and sunglasses.

1-Deuter-Speed-Lite-20-review-axe-loops-1
Easy to use gear loops at the bottom of the pack.

The inside of the Speed Lite 20 has a hydration sleeve that can accommodate a 3L bladder, which is pretty industry standard. There are no pockets inside, leaving room for one very spacious compartment. That external zip/catch all pocket doubles as an SOS label on the inside, showing you morse code signals, hand signals and emergency numbers. Hopefully you never need to use this information, but I was pretty impressed by this simple and thoughtful addition. (Pro Tip: Almost all Deuter packs include this info!)

Deuter-Speed-Lite-20-review-SOS-
This SOS information is surprisingly thoughtful, and comes standard on all Deuter packs.

Comfort – 5

This might be one of the most comfortable day packs I’ve used of this size. The simple straps and light padding were just enough and the weight of the pack, even when full (at about 16 pounds) felt wonderful.

After over 100 miles of use, I have not experienced any rubbing, chafing, or hot spots. It fits nice and snug to the back, keeping movements natural and free. With the little structure this pack does have, it instills a lot of confidence that everything you packed will stay in place. And for me that adds to the comfort a lot.

Deuter-Speed-Lite-20-review-small-items-pouch
The small-item pocket up top is just large enough to fit the essentials.

Durability – 4

I have no issue with the quality of this pack, but wasn’t amazed by it either. It is solid and with the tight nylon construction you can depend on it to hold up over time. But in this very competitive gear category I was not wowed — as in, there are other day packs with military-grade materials, and the Deuter Speed Lite is just not built for that kind of thing. That said, for the price, it’s exactly as it should be, and still gets a high mark.

Packability – 3

The interior of the pack is great and exactly what you would expect. You can cram a ton in there if that’s your style, or you can organize it neatly by layering everything one by one. It has plenty of room for what most people would tote along on a day hike or short adventure.

My gripe is with the exterior stretch pockets. I found the material to be less stretchy than the competition, so you can’t fit quite as much in them as you might want to. The big stretch pocket is fairly useless as far as I’m concerned. It is hard to fit much in it and there’s a thick strip of nylon connecting it to the top of the pack that gets in the way of putting anything important in there. It seems more style oriented than anything, which is strange for such an otherwise functional pack. (See pics below.)

Fit and Adjustability – 5

I thought this aspect of the Speed Lite 20 was on point. Everything is adjustable. So no matter your size, shape, or how you like the pack to sit on your frame, I am confident you would be able to find a comfortable and logical fit. This pack allowed me to pull the hip belt tighter than almost any pack I have used, so if you have a small frame, that is a huge bonus.

Deuter-Speed-Lite-20-review-thin-minimal-straps
Thin, basic straps on the Speed Lite are surprisingly functional and adjustable, giving you the support you need.

Grievances

The only consistent complaint I have for the Deuter Speed Lite 20 is the large outer stretch pocket. It underperforms greatly. The only thing I was able to stash in there was an extra top layer for chilly mornings.

Deuter-Speed-Lite-20-review-nylon-exterior-pocket-2
This large nylon strip over the main exterior mesh pocket is a strange choice. It greatly decreases functionality of the pocket.

Ideally this pocket would not have that piece of nylon connecting it to the top of the pack, which effectively cuts off the easy access and large opening of a typical exterior shove-all mesh pocket. Usually a front pocket like this is the place where I keep a lot of photography gear I might need at a moment’s notice, plus an extra layer and even some snacks. I was disappointed that wasn’t the case for the Speed Lite.

I do not believe I have ever used a day pack with such a clunky outer pocket. As far as I’m concerned, Deuter should just save some more weight and leave that pocket out of the design.

Final Word

I love the Deuter Speed Lite 20 as a do-it-all day pack for hiking and adventures where I need minimal gear. Its comfort is so wonderful that it makes it hard to not choose this pack as a go-to. The freedom of movement experienced in it rivals many ultralight day packs, which is impressive, cause it came out way before the ultralight trend. Plus it has a good looking, streamlined design that’s great for use in the city or when you’re just out and about!

Where to Buy Deuter Speed Lite 20

We tested the Deuter Speed Lite 20 pack, which is the classic day hiking pack. Technically the pack is labeled “unisex”, but we want to acknowledge that it was designed with a typical man’s build in mind, though our tester female found it incredibly comfortable.

The Speed Lite is a whole line of packs from Deuter, so there are many versions, including a 12L, 16L, 20L (we tested this), 22L SL, 24L, 24L SL, 26L, 30L SL, 32L. Yes, those are all slightly increased sizes from a very small day pack to an ultralight-esque overnight backpack.

The models with “SL” in the name are made specifically for women, and are indicated with a flower in the product image. These packs have specially designed shoulder straps and hip belts for a woman’s physique.

While all these packs have similar features, we find the 20 to be the best in terms of lightweight, just enough room, and comfy as heck. That said, the 22 and 24 have full hip belts with pockets and a much better front pocket, so if you want those things look at those models!

Compare Deuter Speed Lite 20 prices below.

dede rosenberg bio photo

Deirdre Denali Rosenberg

Deirdre Denali Rosenberg is a photographer and mountaineer based in Southwest Colorado. She believes all humans contain a wild spirit and nature connects everyone. She aims to inspire the masses to get outside, conserve our beautiful land and live an epic life. You can find her work on Instagram.

Review Policy: We do not accept payments or gifts from brands and vendors, and strive to provide unbiased, independent advice. Brands typically provide review samples which we return, and in some cases we purchase the item so we can keep using it long after the review. Affiliate Policy: We support the hours that go into our reviews and testing through affiliate commissions on purchases made through links in this article. These don't effect the outcome of our reviews or selection of gear, as per our Review Policy.

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