When a major-player in the backpacking market like Osprey decides to make an ultralight backpack you can be sure that there’s going to go a ripple through the scene. I was lucky enough to receive a Osprey Levity 45 backpack in August 2017 for testing and have put the pack through it’s paces in the last six months. Here’s what I liked & didn’t like about the new ultralight backpack from Osprey.
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The Osprey Levity 45 is a great lightweight backpack which carries loads up to 10 kg in comfort. The Airspeed suspension back frame should be especially useful for hikes in hot environments, while the highly water-resistant material of the pack has kept my gear dry while backpacking for a week in Scotland. I would have wished the front and side pockets would have been more stretchy, but other than that this backpack is well made and should be an ideal choice for those who have used heavier backpacks in the past and look to lighten up. For all the details watch the video and read the review.
I received my Osprey Levity 45 sample in August 2017 and had it along on a dozen day trips in autumn and winter, as well as a one week backpacking trip through the Cairngorms in Scotland. All in all I have used it over 25 days.
The function of a backpack is to carry your gear in comfort from A to B. The idea behind an ultralight backpack is that it isn’t weighing 2+ kg empty, but significantly less, making the hiking part of a trip more comfortable. The backpack also should protect your gear from the elements and allow fast & easy access to important pieces of gear which you need on the go.
Straight out of the Levity and Lumina (the Lumina is the female version of this backpack, though it comes out in Europe first in 2019) Owner’s Manual, here’s the features of these pack:
- A fixed top lid with one zippered pocket
- Two removable side compression cords
- Dual access fabric side pockets
- Bellowed front fabric pocket
- Top lid cord loop attachment points
- Sternum strap with integrated safety whistle
- Internal main compartment compression strap
The pack is made from two materials, the Main material is a 30D Silnylon Ripstop while the accents (that’s the lid, bottom, front and side-pockets) are made from a more durable NanoFly™ 100D Nylon x 100D UHMWPE Ripstop. The more durable material is a non-branded version of what other backpack makers sell at a premium as Dyneema or Cordura, and both materials seem to have a DWR coating.
I’m hard pressed to give Osprey here any points: Ultralight backpacks have been around for many years, using equally or more advanced materials (like the material still commonly known as Cuben fibre, Silnylon, XPac and mixes thereof). I could say that the Airspeed frame, which allows for air circulation between your back and the main compartment of the pack, is an innovation in such a light pack.
The pack is well-made as you would expect from a brand like Osprey - they know their trade and how to make backpacks. So expect when you go to the store to get a Levity that it will hold up to many years of backpacking.
My Levity 45 weighs 751 g in Size M. Please keep in mind that this is a pre-production model and the ones hitting the stores are expected to weigh 810 g on average!
The Levity 45 is with its 45 l volume a good pack for long weekend trips or one week-long backpacking trips without resupplying, as in carrying all the food for one week. It’s going to be a tight fit at the beginning of a trip, even with a UL baseweight, but the more you eat the lighter it gets 😜. The main compartment swallows all my gear - shelter, bivy, mattress, quilt, stove, spare clothes and puffy jacket - with room to spare for food, an extra lens and the Mavic Pro Drone. The shoulder strap is not too wide, which means I can attach my Capture Clip to the pack and have my camera always at the ready.
When packing the backpack it’s important to pack smart, as the main compartment is not a round barrel but has two corners at the bottom which can stay empty if you don’t pack with a system - I stuff my bivy and some socks into these fins, and then come quilt, mattress, etc. If you don’t do that you’ll end up with empty space, and if you go out with a full week worths of food then that empty space might be needed. So pack smart! On the inside you also find a reservoir sleeve for a hydration system if that’s how you roll, I haven’t tried that as I use 1 l Platypus bottles and a Kuksa for water.
The side pockets as well as the front pocket (which is bellowed, that means it does expand a bit) are not stretchy, which means you’re limited in terms of how much gear you can stuff in them. Of course the pockets on the Levity are more durable than mesh, but if you like to carry some extra stuff on a trip that doesn’t fit into the main compartment then mesh outside pockets were usually there to accommodate that stuff, but not here. For that the Levity has some loops on the lid, to which you could attach some extra gear. I haven’t tried that, and also imagine it’d be difficult to attach some apples or other fruits to these loops 🍎🍉🍒😄.
Back to the pockets, these were fine to carry my water bottles, snacks, a big-ass tripod and extra clothes. The side pockets can be accessed from the top or the side, I can so for example get my Kuksa out of the side pocket when I want to drink and put it back in. As they don’t stretch it can sometimes be a bit difficult to stuff gear in the side pockets when the main compartment is already filled with your gear, so keep that in mind if you carry a tripod. The zippered lid pocket is fantastic, has a keychain hook inside, and swallows an incredible amount of gear - I carried my GR1 pocket with batteries and cables in it, plus some more stuff - all goin’ easily in there.
The Airspeed backpanel does it’s job well, with the aluminium frame keeping the mesh to your back and allowing for airflow. What I really like, though, are the shoulder straps and hipbelt. These have been really well designed and are very comfortable, also if the pack is fully loaded with 10+ kg of gear & food. The foam which is wrapped by a mesh is pretty durable and adapts well to your shoulders and body, making for a comfortable carry all day long. The same goes for the hipbelt, which is pretty minimal but wrapped nicely around my hips and helped transfer the weight to them. I think the carrying frame system of the Levity 45 is very well made, and if you hike in very warm environments then I think this pack should be nice, as with the Airspeed backpanel and the airflow it allows it should possibly make you sweat less.
The side compression cords which are on the pack felt a bit useless to me, I still think that the compression system of the ULA Ohm is one of the best ones out there. The compression strap on the inside is a nice idea, but I tend to forget that the inside strap needs to be connected to the buckle on the inside, so sometimes I just don’t use it. The drawcord works well, though the point where the cord exists the fabric looks a bit weak to me and could be a point of failure.
The material of the Levity seems to have a DWR coating, especially the not transparent material with the white grid (see here) kept the rain at bay, while the transparent material started to let some water seep through after a week in the Highlands. To be 100% safe I still would recommend to pack critical gear (quilt, down jacket, dry socks) in a waterproof drybag.
Addition: Osprey informed me that the stretchy pockets have been fixed for production - these were updated from the sample pack I received. And the point where the drawcord exits the fabric has been reinforced for added durability, so this shouldn’t be an issue either.
Could be better
I will repeat myself here, but: I wish Osprey would have made the side and front pockets more stretchy so one can easier get things in & out of them or over-stuff them.
I have reviewed half a dozen backpacks here and used probably more than triple the amount in the last 10 years, but there’s just a handful of UL packs which have a ventilated backpanel, like some of the ZPacks packs (which are a bit lighter but more expensive), and of course you just could go with the Osprey Exos which also has an Airspeed backpanel.
Does the market need another ultralight backpack? If that’s a question which is in your mind after you read this, let me say: Yes. We ultralight backpackers life in our own little UL Bubble, where we don’t see a problem with ordering a pack off the internet from a cottage manufacturer halfway across the globe - but we’re really not the majority. The Osprey Levity brings ultralight backpacks into the big stores and so in front of the eyes of thousands of outdoor enthusiasts who will love this pack - not only because they can choose from three different back lengths, but also because they can try the pack on before they buy it! I remember me ordering my first pack online some eight or nine years ago, it was quite an adventure to find out the right length I’d need, getting it through customs and all that. It’s not a process that many people want to go through, and hence it’s amazing that we have a lightweight backpack like the Osprey Levity now in stores across the globe.
And yes, the Levity backpack itself is also really, really good. It has some things which Osprey can improve upon when the next version of the pack comes around in a couple of years, but overall Osprey has done their homework well and has produced a very good backpack which will satisfy many backpackers. It’s lightweight, made of durable and water-resistant materials, has Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee which lets you send in a damaged pack and get it repaired, and is also very comfortable to carry with a 10 to 12 kg load. It has everything an ultralight backpack needs as well as a backpanel which increases airflow, which should make it perfect for those super-hot summers we are getting these last years across the globe.
Where to buy it
The Levity is AVAILABLE! Get it at Bergfreunde and Alpinetrek.co.uk in Europe. In North America order it at Backcountry.com, REI, CampSaver.com, Moosejaw and Summit Hut. And yes, please go try the Levity at your local Osprey Shop so you get a feel for what an ultralight backpack feels (I promise, you’ll love it!).
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