UKC

Osprey Levity 45 Pack Review

With the Levity 45, Osprey have brought the sort of minimal weight that's usually the preserve of cottage industry ultralight specialists to a mass market rucksack. Boasting plenty of features, high levels of comfort and the well vented back system for which the US company is known, the result is really impressive. If you're looking to save weight on your overnight trips then this pack would be hard to beat - but it's important to bear in mind its limitations too.

Comfy with an overnight load, 98 kb
Comfy with an overnight load
© Dan Bailey

Weight, fabric and durability

Lightness is the Levity's chief distinction, so it makes sense to start here. At only 800g (as measured on my digital bathroom scales) my size L review sample is even lighter than Osprey's quoted weight (.83kg size M). That would be impressively light for any small overnight pack, in fact it's the sort of weight I've only seen before on minimalist ultralight models - the sort of niche offering that has little structure and few useful features, and is really only going to appeal to the committed bean counter. The difference here is that Osprey have achieved a pack weight of well under 1kg without sacrificing (much) load carrying support, ventilation, comfort, or even much by way of features.

The fabric is so thin it's almost see-through , 229 kb
The fabric is so thin it's almost see-through
© Dan Bailey

How have they done it? I'm guessing it's largely down to choice of materials. Two fabrics are used on the pack. In areas of high wear - the base, the wrap-around external pockets, and part of the lid - you get something called NanoFly Ripstop, a 100 denier high tenacity nylon. This is pretty durable stuff for its weight, with a grid pattern for extra toughness, and a decent water-shedding finish. To save weight, Osprey have then built the main body of the pack from a much thinner 30 denier siliconised nylon. This stuff is so thin that you can see the contents through it. While it has good tear strength, this gossamer-like fabric is clearly far less abrasion resistant than your average bog standard backpack.

In further nods to weight saving the structure is a minimalist wire frame; the back system is mesh rather than padding; light gauge cord is used in the side compression straps; all the webbing is narrow; and the buckles are all small.

While build quality is typical Osprey - very high - and I have had no cause to complain after several outings over a few months, simply judging by the materials I suspect that the penalty for its amazing lightness is going to be long term durability. The Levity is clearly not a pack for prolonged abuse. Especially bearing in mind its hefty price tag, you're going to want to handle it with some care. If you want something for regular winter use, or scrambling, then look elsewhere. Climbing? Forget it. This pack is exclusively designed for weight-conscious backpackers.

Back system and carrying comfort

photo
The back system is practically all mesh and air
© Dan Bailey

photo
Quick snack break above Glen Clova
© Dan Bailey

Most ultralight packs sit directly on the back, but the Levity 45 is held away from your body, with an air gap running the full length of the back system. Structure is provided by a narrow gauge aluminium wire frame that wraps around the edge of the pack. Onto this is stretched a full mesh back panel, which is held in tension and hugs onto the shape of your back without requiring any sweaty padding - Osprey's well regarded 'Airspeed' back system.

With a modest overnight load the fit, balance and carrying comfort are superb, while for a pack this light the ventilation is exceptional

There's deep padding on the top of the shoulder straps, which is honeycombed for maximum breathability (you can literally breathe through the straps!), but very little padding elsewhere - just a bit in the wings of the hip belt, which again is honeycombed for air flow. Many pack designs go overboard on cushioning, but the Levity 45 gets it spot on for the sort of use you'd reasonably expect to put it to.

The entire harness fits very snugly, hugging the load in close around the hips, shoulders and back to make for a well balanced and forgiving-feeling ride. A bit of flex in the frame helps accommodate the twists of your torso and hips, but there's no shifting around of the pack on your back - everything moves with you. With bags of ventilation too, it's a really comfortable carry. Surprisingly, for a pack with an air gap, the centre of gravity doesn't feel too far to the rear either.

Air permeable shoulder straps, 136 kb
Air permeable shoulder straps
© UKH Gear

Side compression cords, 105 kb
Side compression cords
© UKH Gear

30d and 100d fabrics, 123 kb
30d and 100d fabrics
© UKH Gear

There are limits to the back system though. The Levity's minimal structure is clearly built for lighter loads, not massive ones. With a reasonably weight-conscious overnight load it's perfect, but once your weight creeps up past about 10 or 12 kg the whole structure begins to feel a bit over-burdened, the hip belt feels inadequate, and the straps begin to dig in. For heavier loads, thicker padding, a chunkier belt and a more robust frame would be better, but so long as you keep your weight down - and that is after all what the Levity is about - then all should be well. The back system seems ideal for a pack of about 45 litre capacity, but I'm not sure if the same performance would translate so well onto the Levity 45's bigger brother, the Levity 60. When carrying a backpack that large I'd tend to prefer more structure.

The back is fixed length, so trying it on for size before you buy would be wise. Three back lengths are available - Small, Medium and Large, and the fit is unisex. At 1.70m tall my wife Pegs finds size Medium a perfect fit, while size Large is a great match for my 1.83m frame. It is worth noting that the wire frame rides high over the shoulders, so if you look straight up it digs into the back of your head. Since the Levity doesn't claim to be a climbing pack, that's no great disadvantage.

Capacity and pockets

Large external sleeve/pockets provide tons of external storage, but give the pack a cluttered shape, 172 kb
Large external sleeve/pockets provide tons of external storage, but give the pack a cluttered shape
© Dan Bailey

At 45 litres, the Levity 45 is bang on for a couple of nights of lightweight backpacking; for a multi-day trip you'd want something larger (there's always the Levity 60, with the caveat I've already mentioned). You do have to pick your gear with discipline, but if you've spent over £200 to benefit from the weight saving offered by the Levity then you'll already subscribe to the lightweight ethos. Unless it's for the purposes of a review I never weigh my load - life is too short - but I do carry the most compact and lightest gear consistent with the conditions I expect to find. For a weekend of walking and camping in spring, summer or autumn the Levity 45 is all the pack I'd need; add the extra weight and bulk of winter gear however and it would be tight for an overnight trip. In this sense I'd consider the Levity to be primarily a 3-season pack. I don't think it would stand prolonged winter abuse in any case - and the fact that there are no axe loops only reinforces this impression.

The main body of the pack seems pretty spacious for its stated capacity, with plenty of room for all the big camping essentials. For smaller loads the pack can be squeezed down quite well, with a top compression strap and a very effective zigzag arrangement of side compression straps. These are lightweight cord rather than the usual webbing, and include a neat retainer feature to keep the spare tail out of the way.

An over-lid zipped pocket is provided, which has plenty of room for gloves, hats etc, and includes a handy key clip. There's no under-lid pocket. Additional external storage comes in the form of fabric pockets on the front and sides. The front pocket in particular is pretty big, and I've taken to stashing bulky wet shells and overtrousers here. Both side pockets are separated from the main one with internal stretchy subdividers; effectively the whole thing forms a single piece of fabric, so if you over-fill one pocket the space in the others is reduced. I've been carrying things like water bottles and trekking poles in the side pockets. There's a lot of spare fabric in these bellowed pockets, which makes for a baggy pack profile; if you can get yours to look as neat as Osprey's catalogue shots then you'll be doing better than me!

Other features

The 45 litre capacity is ideal for a winter day walk or a lightweight overnight, 171 kb
The 45 litre capacity is ideal for a winter day walk or a lightweight overnight
© Dan Bailey

To achieve that 800g pack weight Osprey haven't skimped too much on features. You get no hipbelt pockets and, as I've mentioned, no axe loops. However there are daisy chains and a number of little cord loops too, for attaching things to the outside of the pack. The chest strap is adjustable for height, and includes a built-in whistle. The narrow webbing lid straps have small plastic buckles, which are fine with bare hands but slightly fiddly with gloves. To enter the pack, the drawstring can be operated with one hand. A top carry strap is provided, plus an internal sleeve for a water bladder (if you're a fan of sucky tubes - me, not so much). While the fabrics do a good job of shrugging off a shower, none of the seams are taped, so you do need to use drybags inside the pack. And one last thing worth mentioning - the shape of the pack makes it impossible to stand it up on its base; you soon get used to this minor inconvenience.

Summary

Osprey's entry into the ultralight backpacking niche, the Levity is an impressive demonstration of the weight saving that can be achieved with clever design and lightweight materials. With a modest overnight load the fit, balance and carrying comfort are superb, while for a pack this light the ventilation is exceptional. Whether or not you go as far as counting every gram and cutting the handle off your fork, for lightweight wild camping trips the Levity 45 is probably one of the best packs currently available. But with its flexible wire frame, I'm sceptical that the 60 litre version would be quite as effective when fully laden. It is important to understand the limits of the Levity. There arguably isn't enough support and structure for loads of more than about 10-12kg, while if you're looking for a rucksack to withstand years of hard abuse then this is not for you. It's not great for winter, and no use at all for climbing. At £220 the Levity 45 is a considered purchase for the backpacker who knows exactly what they're after, and one that you'll want to handle with a bit of care. All that said, this is a fully fledged overnight pack that weighs a mere 800g - and that really is quite something.

Osprey say:

For the minimalist backpacker, Levity is a synergy of pioneering material and design, achieving a new pinnacle in ultralight ventilation.

In an industry where innovation continues to push the boundaries of what is possible, our gear is becoming lighter and lighter. Levity is an example of where boundaries are redefined. It challenges the norm by integrating an outrageously comfortable ventilated back-system,
an essential feature set and a high-tech fabric to create our most ultralight backpacking pack yet.

Levity is the ultimate pack for minimalist hikers and backpackers for whom saving weight is everything. Minimalist multi-day hikers will find Levity to be the perfect lightweight pack for carrying all their true essentials for their adventures.

  • Price: £220
  • Weight: 800g size L (our measure)
  • Sizes: S, M or L (unisex sizing)
  • Capacity: 45 litres; also available in 60 litres
  • Fabric: 30D siliconised nylon and 100D high tenacity nylon
  • Ultralight Airspeed™ trampoline suspended mesh backsystem
  • ExoForm™ mesh hipbelt and harness
  • Dual access fabric side pockets with InsideOut™ compression cord
  • Removable side compression cords
  • Bellowed front fabric pocket
  • Internal hydration sleeve and internal compression strap system

For more info see ospreyeurope.com

Levity 45 prod shot, 114 kb

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