nashville packs cutaway backpack front and back side

Nashville Packs Cutaway Review

The lightest fastpack with a running vest harness and continuous external pocket

Based on our research, Nashville Packs Cutaway with Hybrid Vest Straps is one of, if not the, lightest weight fastpacks with a running vest harness (shop now). What’s more, it’s waterproof and has voluminous external storage thanks to the massive, continuous hybrid-paneled outer pocket and shoulder strap pockets. The Cutaway is an exceptionally sweet backpack.

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  • Weight: 15.3 oz
  • Price: $342
  • Materials: VX07 Soft 3L Laminate
  • Frame: BYO Foam Sit Pad
  • Load Capacity: 25 lbs
  • Internal Volume: 33L
  • External Volume : 10L (estimate)
  • Pros: Large continuous outer pocket. Ultralight. Waterproof. Very customizable. Pocket-covered running vest harness gives very secure fit. Optional hip belt +pockets available. Excellent backcountry performance.
  • Cons: Expensive. Some assembly required. Could use more shoulder padding. Barrel shaped when fully loaded decreaes pocket volume. Strap salad.

Compare this to more great options in our guide to fastpacking backpacks.

testing the nashville packs cutaway for review

Testing Notes From Reviewer

The Nashville Packs Cutaway is as fast as fastpacks get thanks to its low weight and secure, running vest fit. I used it on an in-and-out ridge traverse in the central WA Cascades that involved 8k elevation gain and 24 miles round trip. My pack was built with VX07 fabric, and fully decked out with most of the accessories, including the sit pad back panel attachment, padded winged hip belt, and hip belt pockets. Everything performed marvelously, and multiple backpackers incorrectly assumed I was day hiking – One of the best compliments an ultralight enthusiast can receive.

The pack was comfortable on my torso, though I personally would have preferred a bit of foam padding in the shoulder straps. These are the lightest weight running vest shoulder straps I’ve ever used and love them for that reason. But worth noting that it probably mid-tier in terms of how comfortable a running vest pack can get.

One note on the running vest pockets is that I recommend using the lower of the two pockets to store your bottle, secured by the shock cord loop at the the top if they are tall or a full soft botte. Storing even a 500ml smartwater in the tall narrow bottle pressed it uncomfortably tightly into my chest. Notably, with limited shoulder mobility, this was also one of the first packs in which I was ever able to reach back and grab a water bottle from a side pocket! Such a win! Lastly, I never found a use for the upper vest strap pockets that sit overtop of the shoulders.

All in all, I’m extremely enthusiastic about the Nashville Packs Cutaway and it delivered an exceptional ultralight backpacking/fastpacking experience. Will definitely be taking it out more and I strongly recommend it.

-Jaeger

close up on vest harness

Construction & Features – Pack Body

This section covers the nuts and bolts of the Nashville Packs Cutaway chassis, which comes in a variety of fabrics. The Cutaway body is a shaped like a D, with the flat side against your back. It it a roll top closure with snaps to seal off the mouth when full. Below is a close up of the interior face of the waterproof VX07 laminate fabric.

On the front and sides of the pack is a continuous outer pocket made of one static mesh and two UltraStretch panels. This pocket can be tightened or loosened at either panel intersection with a shock cord. We really like this approach and hope to see more continuous outer pockets in the future from more brands. The expanded volume of the continuous pocket doesn’t waste precious space on seams, and is good at storing bulky items. They’ve even added an upper deck pocket on the back side of the mesh panel, great for storing any loose knickknacks.

close up on external storage pocket

The downside is that when the pack is fully loaded, it expands into the pockets from the inside, which in turn decreases the external storage volume, thus forcing you to set it to its most loose setting and really test the stretch-ability of the UltraStretch Fabric.

shock cord cinch for continuous front pocket

A Y-compression strap connects to the top middle edge of the outer pocket which keeps the middle from sagging and allows you to store something light and bulky on top of the pack. We recommend using this for a fleece. One minor downside to this system is that if you unclip the compression strap to access the middle of the outer pocket, whatever you were storing with Y-strap will come loose, making it a bit of extra work to open/close.

The back panel is just fabric with no frame or structure, so we recommend adding the sit pad attachment kit (which comes in the accessory pack). It forms a pleasant, ridged foam back panel and blocks lumps, though it can get a bit sweaty.

side view of nashville cutaway

Construction & Features – Hybrid Vest Straps

Connected to the body are the Hybrid Vest Straps, which is Nashville Packs name for a running-vest-style-harness adorned in multiple, large mesh pockets. To their core, these near-structureless straps seem to be made with two layers of spacer mesh rather than foam, which is great for breathability, but they’re not the firmest. Each articulated shoulder strap connects to the top of the pack with three lines of adjustable nylon webbing with five possible connection points to give you a customized fit. While odd at first, it is quite secure and fairly comfortable.

close up on running vest straps

A series of squiggling cord runs down the front interior edge of the shoulder straps and create notches for a customizable, precise, and secure sternum strap attachment system. This is highly preferable to a slider bar. Test multiple sternum strap configurations before deciding on their final placement. It’s very dependent on your specific torso. The pack comes with three sternum straps, two static and one with stretch.

All nine of the aforementioned straps create something of a strap salad look, dangling short lengths of nylon webbing from multiple places. This is not a performance impacting issue, but a bit annoying.

side view of nashville cutaway
close up on padded hip belt
close up on hip belt connection points

Customizing The Nashville Packs Cutaway

The following customizations are available:

  • Adjustable shoulder and sternum strap placement and tightening
  • Custom Fabric Selection
    • Stock Models available in VXO7 Soft or Challenge UltraGrid
    • Made-to-Order Options available in dozens of colors
    • You can even supply your own fabric!
  • Accessory Pack Available
    • Includes 1″ nylon webbing hip belt, pad attachment system, and side compression straps
  • Removable Padded Hip Belt Wings Available
VXO7 Fabric detail

Areas for Improvement

Acknowledging that this is an exceptional fastpack, we would like to see a few minor changes to improve the user experience.

First, figuring out how to assemble all of the straps and add-ons involved watching videos on NP’s website, and about an hour of work. It would be great to have this pre-assembled in the most universal placements to give customers a starting point from which they can begin to adjust. Not that it’s hard or particularly complicated – anyone can do it. But it probably took me eight times as long as it would have taken them.

Secondly, it would be great if the there was a sewn-in dual attachment point where the top Y-strap connects to the top of the mesh pocket. Isolating these systems would solve for the fact that as-is, unstrapping for access to the front mesh pocket causes whatever is stored in the top Y-Strap to come loose.

Thirdly, a bit of aerated foam in the primary weight-bearing area of the shoulder straps would make the pack much more comfortable for the minor penalty of at most an ounce and a bit of extra sweat. Whatever they’re already using on the padded winged hip belt pockets would be great, please and thank you.

Fourthly, the hip belt pockets are a bit smaller than average. We love a large hip belt pocket, and wouldn’t mind seeing the volume increase by 50%.

Lastly, the strap salad situation. Not sure what the solution is to this, but there are just a lot of straps coming off the top connection and front vest straps. Maybe there could be some place to tuck them?

back panel with sit pad and soft bottles of nashville packs cutaway

Nashville Packs Cutaway Review Verdict

We reiterate, The Nashville Packs Cutaway is an extremely sweet design for experienced ultralighters. Simply put, it is lighter weight, better fitting, and has more external storage than most of the competition. Cutaway is the perfect pack for crushing long mileage days, especially if you plan to mix in some trail running on flats.

jaeger demonstrates the nashville packs hybrid vest harness