SMD Flight 30 UL Review by Jim Sutherland

SMD Flight 30 UL Review by Jim Sutherland

For longer than I remember, I have used backpacks when climbing, hiking, and biking in the mountains. So, when I noticed the Flight 30 Ultra Running Backpack this summer, I thought to myself that it would make a great backpack for mountain bike guiding - I certainly wasn’t wrong!

When riding on my own, or with friends I don’t usually need to carry additional items such as a group shelter, first aid kit, larger repair kit, extra spare clothing or food as these items will have been shared amongst the group.  However, when working as a bike guide this summer, I expected to carry them along with my own personal kit.  Having successfully used my Six Moon Designs Wy’east backpack when mountaineering or ski touring last winter, I was confident that the Flight 30 Ultra would also be a capable backpack.

After a week of guiding a group of mountain bikers across the Scottish Highlands and a rugged two-day bikepacking trip on the West Coast, I was delighted with the Flight 30 Ultra and would recommend it to others without hesitation.


day two of a bikepacking trip NW to The Sanctuary

I will now take readers through the important features of Flight 30 Ultra Running Backpack:

Pack Updates

I was struck initially how clean and uncluttered the Flight Ultra 30 looked on the Six Moon Designs website but I wanted to boost that by choosing the new Challenge Sailcloth EPX 200 fabric as an option.  My backpack has already had some rough treatment from the elements, riding and pushing past tree branches as well as being placed on rough Torridonian Sandstone whilst attending to someone else’s bike and so far there is barely a mark on the fabric.

as part of bike luggage system


The Flight Ultra 30 provides me with a wide range of adjustments which I will fully describe later in this piece. One of the most important was the ability to set up the backpack in advance so that it did not interfere with the back of my bike helmet and that it was close to my torso when riding.  The roll top closure certainly contributes to this and along with the adjustable torso length tool, I got this dialed in as soon as I received my backpack.  I would imagine that the ability to quickly and easily look around when running or moving fast on the trail is also important when on foot too.  This is one of my favorite features(?) of Flight Ultra 30.


Pack Organization

The stash pocket on the bottom of the pack is a great place to store some bars for a quick snack or put your own, or other folks' used food wrappers.

The side pockets on the Flight Ultra 30 can only be described as cavernous for such a small backpack.  I have confidently stowed my map and compass there each day, all week without any worries about them working loose.  On a weekend bikepacking trip in wet, gritty conditions I kept a small bottle of chain lube tucked away in a side pocket from food or clothes in case of a leak from the bottle.  


The quality of all the materials used to make the Flight Ultra 30 is first-class.  Although the roll-top closure buckles are small they snap shut the first time, unlike some other buckles without such positive user feedback - great ergonomics here Six Moon Designs!  When paired with a 50-liter pack liner your gear is effectively double-wrapped as the Challenge Sailcloth EPX 200 fabric has shown no sign of leaking in some very Scottish weather!  With some careful planning around gear stowage, you can get a lot of important stuff in this backpack.

pre-trip gear grid


I appreciated being able to adjust the torso length on the Flight 30 Ultra until it was just right for me and my chosen activity.  The comfort and fit were noticeably better than the other frameless backpack I had until now been using.  One of my guests even commented on how well my backpack fitted on and off the bike.

The T-shaped tool is pretty cool and good fun to use with the scrunchy noise that it makes as it pushes through the hook & loop slots!

Harness Options

To be perfectly honest until I got my hands on a Flight 30 Ultra I had no experience of using anything other than a traditional shoulder harness on a backpack.  So that has meant many, many years of shoulder straps being too loose/tight, the backpack sitting too high/low…  you get the picture.

So I decided to go in at the deep end and get a vest harness in the hope that I would be able to adjust my backpack to keep the load close and fixed to me whilst riding on technical terrain.  To get that personal fit I removed one of the chest straps, using the clever quick-release connection to the vest itself..  This was mostly to allow quick access to zippers on layers in order to shut out draughts or cool off as I found working around both chest straps too fiddly for me.  In the future, if I decide to re-fit that strap I know that it will only take a minute or so.  The vest storage pockets work well and I was able to store my mobile phone in one of them without it being uncomfortable or difficult to access.

The upward-tightening lower straps made micro adjustments before setting out really easy and I have not noticed any slippage here.  The action of tightening is also a lot smoother than the old-style pull-down buckles; I like it a lot.

There are four adjustable straps on the waist belt which means that I can set the main buckle and the belt at the perfect height for my build.  There is nothing worse than a belt that sits too high especially when wearing rain pants, or bike shorts as slowly, but surely they slip down lower and lower no matter how many times you stop and tighten the belt again.  Little details such as the individual keepers on each strap stop them from flapping around too much, or you have to tuck them under themselves in the hope that they stay there.

In conclusion, I believe that this part of the Flight 30 Ultra design is a game changer when using a backpack for fast-moving activities on a variety of terrain.


The Flight 30 Ultra looks the real deal because it is the real deal - especially in my color choice of Coyote Brown!  I have enjoyed trying it out this summer and learning how to make small adjustments to make it even better.  The internal hanging pouch is useful for storing important items such as van keys, wallets, or phones securely.  Once in there, they are down the back of the liner and very unlikely to come adrift.  Perhaps a simple loop with a clip could be included in the pouch for future editions?  Having used the backpack on two very different trips I can say how much I am looking forward to riding with it again next spring and summer.

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