Nashville Pack & Equipment Company Tempo Backpack

More than two years ago, Nashville Pack & Equipment Company released a frameless backpack called the Cutaway, which focused on minimalist features and extreme functionality for thru-hikers based on elements of ultrarunning vests. I reviewed the Cutaway when it came out and immediately fell in love. Since then, I have used it for all my multi-day backpacking trips and outings with great delight.

Building on the Cutaway’s fundamentals, this summer they created the Tempo backpack—a smaller version that is geared toward fast packers, day hikers, and FKTers. I got my hands one earlier this season and have been putting it through its paces.

The Tempo at a Glance

tempo backpack

The Tempo backpack by Nashville Pack & Equipment Co.

Weight: 5.6 ounces
Volume: 17L (max)
Body Materials: 100d Robic Nylon
Available sizes: One Size – 16″ torso
MSRP: $130, straps not included (purchase separately)

Circumstances of Review

I was provided a demo version of the Tempo for review. I used it on dozens of day hikes in Maine over the summer. Additionally, I have put hundreds of miles on my Cutaway, which uses the same strap system as the Tempo.

Features of the Tempo Backpack

tempo backpack

Storage abounds on the Tempo’s straps (sold separately).

Pockets galore. The pocket style looks similar to the Cutaway, and that’s because the Tempo uses the same straps. The straps are interchangeable between the two packs and are sold separately, because they offer different sizes and styles depending on your needs. It’s also compatible with a 1″ hip belt (also sold separately) that helps secure the pack while running. The larger strap pockets are big enough to hold water bottles, a phone, camera, battery charger, GPS, and other similarly-sized devices.

In addition to the six strap pockets, the Tempo also features two larger stash pockets on the rear: an upper and lower. The lower pocket is sewn on the top but offers side entry with plenty of storage for a day’s worth of snacks or trash. The top pocket is also open on the sides and is ideal for storing an extra layer. Both of these pockets are accessible without having to take the pack off.

Adjustable sternum straps. Several strap options are available that allow you to tighten, loosen, and adjust the fit of the pack with ease. You can unbuckle them completely for a relaxed day hike or cinch them down when moving fast, providing lots of flexibility.

Roll-top snap closure with compression straps. No matter the size of your load, you can cinch it down securely with the Tempo’s roll-top closure and side compression straps. The pack has vents that allow air to escape for a perfect closure. You won’t be able to strap anything to the top of this pack, like a bear can, but if that’s your goal then you’re better of sizing up to the Cutaway.

 

Roll-up collar closure with compression straps allows for adjusting the size to your exact capacity for no jostling.

Benefits of the Tempo

Comfort. Hiking with the Tempo feels like wearing your favorite sweater. With its fully adjustable straps and unique pack shape, it hugs your body and rides perfectly all day (as long as it’s got enough stuff in it, as explained below). It takes a little practice to figure out how to attach and adjust the straps, but once they’re dialed in you’re off to the races.

Storage. The biggest advantage this pack has over others is the multitude of pockets. As previously discussed, there are six pockets on the straps and another two on the outside of the pack, meaning you can reach all your necessities and nutrition throughout the day without having to take the pack off.

Weight. A 5 oz pack – are you kidding me?! Note that this does not include the straps, so once you add those in you’re looking at a total weight of closer to 10 oz, but even then it still feels weightless compared to other options.

Drawbacks

tempo backpack

Limited capacity. Much like the Cutaway, the Tempo is made for light loads. With 17L of capacity, you aren’t going to be able to fit a ton of gear, which makes it perfect for day hikes. If you plan to use it for multiday efforts, you’ll need to be extremely dialed in with your gear choices. You likely will be able to fit just a tarp, a few days of food, and an extra layer or two in the main compartment.

On the other hand, because this pack is frameless, it has no structure. It can have a clumsy-feeling carry if you don’t have enough items in it. If, for example, you went on a day hike and had just a water bottle and a camera inside the pack it would sag and feel lumpy against your back. Though this issue exists with all frameless packs, the Tempo performs best when there are enough items inside to provide some structure.

Wonky trekking pole storage.  A neat characteristic of the Tempo is its ability to store trekking poles—not something usually offered on a pack of this size. However, this entails tucking them under your arms and through the pack’s rear shock cord while securing the handle with an elastic loop attached to the strap. Though it looks cool in photos, it feels awkward in practice and is not easy to do with the pack on. This is not a feature I expect to use on this pack as I rarely store my poles. However, it’s worth mentioning.

Lead Time. As with most cottage-company gear, there is a lead time on the Tempo (currently six weeks at time of writing). This means you will need to plan ahead in order to have it in hand for a planned trip and won’t be able to get it last-minute.

Pole storage. Looks neat, but doesn’t work that well or feel comfortable.

Takeaways

Nashville Pack & Equipment Company’s all-new Tempo backpack is based on the features and functionality of their super-successful Cutaway, but is intended for shorter-duration efforts.

Utilizing the same strap system as their previous models and harnessing many of the functional features, such as unique storage options and pockets, the Tempo is thoughtfully designed and of high quality. Though it does have some quirks, such as the pole storage system, it could be a great choice for your next all-day outing or summer overnight adventure.

Shop The Tempo Backpack

Comparable Minimalist Packs

The Tempo fits into a small niche of fully-featured minimalist-volume packs of which there are not many. Nevertheless, here are a couple of other options with varying features:

Ultimate Direction Fastpack Series
$120-200
17 ounces to 26 ounces, 15L-45L

Pa’lante Joey
$210
11.8 ounces, 28L
(Used by Joe McConaughy for his 2017 Self-Supported AT FKT)

The Tempo backpack was donated for purpose of review.

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