The Spectre of Change: moving with the TAD Spectre 22L and the Talon Guide trousers

The products that Triple Aught Design have been changing recently: it started with the hood of the Raptor, and continued with the Protocol and Sentinel jackets.

With the city side well represented by the smarter jackets and shirts, the new products this year have taken a decidedly alpine twist, with the superb Alchemy line of base layers, and the Talon Guide trousers. Completing the image, for the moment, is the Spectre line of backpacks. First released was the 22L model, and 22L is enough for a daypack, or just about — but pushing it — for an overnight. The Talon and the Spectre both usher in an era framed by the inclusion of Tweave Durastretch into the sewing pattern.

Afternoon Ride - Ze S.'s 47.3 km bike ride
https://vimeo.com/218908511www.strava.com

Recently I’ve taken it on a short bike ride, and a day-hike of the same length (although I’d describe it as a little longer), giving me just shy 100km carrying the pack, along with using it for work.

Morning Hike - Ze S.'s 49.6 km hike
Ze S. completed 49.6 km on May 27, 2017.www.strava.com

The biggest departures from TAD’s usual specification are four:

  1. Material: gone is the very heavy 1000D Cordura, replaced by the lighter sailcloth LS-42 and X51. In a comparison with the LiteSpeed (also a 22L pack, not including a hip belt), it’s about half the weight
  2. PALS: gone is the heavy, over-the-top PALS webbing, replaced by a modest useful panel of the same.
  3. Hip belt: permanently attached to the backpack, featuring two smaller pockets, the right size for a snack or small tool.
  4. Beaver tail: now frustratingly removed, available as a separate accessory.
  5. Top-zip only: no more can one open the pack all the way to the bottom. A step back?

The light-coloured inside of the pack has four loops: two at the top, and two at the bottom, spaced for their Control Panel, or indeed their Transport Sleeve.

Taking in Mt. St. Helena from the Palisades

In terms of adjustability, there are lifter straps, a chest strap and of course the hip belt. On both trips, I had it loaded with about 6kg, and both on the bike and on foot, I was able to easily adjust the position that the pack rests at to achieve comfort. Outside, there are compression straps that both compress the size of the pack down (very useful when scrambling through brush), and help keep anything in the two exterior pockets in place.

Scaling a cliff to get back on trail

The lack of PALS not only reduces the weight, but makes the pack streamlined. Combined with it’s half-ovoid shape, this helps prevent it from snagging, and the strip of sailcloth on the top of the bag, along with the bottom, provide reinforced areas, with Tweave being used for the outer pockets. I used the modest PALS to hold a new GPP2 (also of LS-42, as is the fashion), which conveniently held small items (torch, pen, notepad, first aid kit). I feel the GPP2 could be improved by the removal of the PALS on the large face, leaving the side loops for glow sticks or similar.

Similarly thoughtful is the pouch for the water bladder: it’s dynamic, stretching around the bladder that it houses. The zip that secures the closure is bidirectional, to enable the hose to be neatly routed out of one side, or the other as is preferred (Mystery Ranch have this on some of their packs).

Finally, there’s a well-designed pocket that’s at the top of the pack, accessible both internally and externally. Perfect for keys and so-on.

Those familiar with TAD’s ‘AC cloth’; a lightweight, synthetic cloth that dries fast will be immediately familiar with the Talon trousers. Taking classic alpine queues, with a dynamic and reinforced arse, ankles, and pockets placed on the front of the thigh. These areas are made out of Tweave, and stretch to accommodate their contents. The pockets are placed so that they can be accessed whilst wearing a harness.

The ankles can be worn looser around a high boot, or snapped tighter under gaiters. Hopefully, these will be released in other colours than black, as it can get a trifle warm.

Colour aside, my only criticism of these trousers is that the belt loops are too small to allow wearing of a thicker belt, such as the Arc’teryx E-220 Rigger’s Harness, which is a fantastically useful device for the occasional risky descent.

TL;DR? The real question to be answered about these new products, is are they an improvement, and do they help the wearer to greater experiences in a way than what was previously available did?

I would say yes, absolutely. TAD’s maturation into robust city wear and modest-coloured outdoor equipment is very welcome.

Retiring from the summit of Mt. St. Helena
Ze Stuart

Ze Stuart