Osprey Levity 45 Rucksack Review

12th Jul 2018

Osprey Levity 45 Rucksack

How low can we go?  When I first started backpacking my rucksack alone weighed several kilos and wasn’t at all comfortable.  Nowadays, we have innovative manufacturers pushing the boundaries of the possible to produce uber light packs with features designed for a comfortable and stable carry.  We have come a very long way.  

Many of these super light options come from small scale manufacturers, but mega brand Osprey have recently thrown their hat into this gravity defying ring with the Levity series.  I am a big fan of Osprey products and so was delighted to receive one of the 45 litre models to review.  A few months of testing and here are my thoughts….. 

Features

While lightness is the first thing you will notice about the Levity, it is soon also apparent this pack is very feature rich.  Let us work through what is what.

Firstly, that weight.  The medium length pack I received is given a quoted weight of 830 grams but my test pack actually weighed a staggering 780 grams on a digital scale.  This is a big, but very welcome difference on an already extremely light pack.  

A big part of this lightness is the fabrics Osprey have used.  A 100 denier material called Nano Fly Ripstop is used on high wear areas like the base, lid and external pockets while a 30 denier siliconised nylon is used for the main body.

The 100 denier material is proving durable and its grid pattern has coped well with scrapes and bumps, but it is the 30 denier material you will notice most - this stuff is so light it is actually semi transparent and on first examination will seem very vulnerable.  It is standing up fine to use so far,  but you really aren’t going to expect this rucksack to stand up to hard use in the same way more durable fabric options would.  That’s fine though - this is a rucksack designed for the ultralight backpacker.         

For a fully featured backpacking rucksack the very impressive weight is backed up with all the bells and whistles you could need.  The back system is formed from mesh and with structural rigidity offered by a minimalist wire frame.  The rest of the harness comprises well padded honeycombed shoulder straps and a sternum strap with emergency whistle.   Finally, a comfortable padded mesh hip belt finishes off the harness set up.  As I have come to expect from Osprey, everything has been designed by a team that knows what works.

In terms of carrying facilities, there is a main compartment with hydration system compatibility, a large bellowed front pocket, dual access side compression pockets and a lid pocket.  On the outside there is a removable compression cord system, dual daisy chains and additional cord attachment points. Oh, and of course, there’s a key attachment clip in the lid pocket.

In Use

This is the first time I have used a pack of this type and so I was on rather new ground.  I have used it so far for some mountain leader training and assessment course overnight expeditions and a multi day trip across Knoydart.  I don’t claim this to be a long term test,  but several multi day trips of the exact type this pack is designed for has certainly given me a very good feel for its capabilities.

No pack designed for all day carrying is of any use if it isn’t comfortable and, especially given the extremely stripped style of harness system, the Levity really does offer great comfort.  The Ultralight AirSpeed trampoline suspended mesh back panel keeps the back away from the main body of the Levity and, because there is a good deal of space between the mesh and the pack fabric,  it offers superb ventilation.

I have had some experiences with trampoline mesh packs where I have felt the system can, because the main body of the rucksack sits proud of the back, be a little unstable.  This definitely isn’t the case with the Levity - once everything is cinched in the pack feels rock solid.  The frame is made from lightweight materials and actually has a little flex in it but, once you get used to this, it is a great feature and means the pack moves with you as you twist at the waist or hips.   

Infact, Osprey have done a great job with the Levity carry capability in every way.  Alongside the mesh panel, the shoulder straps are very supportive and comfortable and, due to their breathable mesh construction, they also vent well in hot weather.  The waist belt is also, while fairly lightly padded, both very forgiving when carrying and also supportive enough when packing a load.       

Of course,  the harness system is designed for a specific purpose and a particular user.  The pack works for the user who has honed down their load and is aiming at something under the 13 kilo mark.  I carried it for several days across Knoydart carrying everything including food (and some leader equipment) and, at a starting weight of 12 kgs,  it felt absolutely fine.  I finished the walk with a kilo or so less and it felt absolutely bang on.

The Levity packs come in different back lengths but there is virtually no extra adjustment and so please be sure to get the right size for your height.  At 5’ 8” I found the medium length to be perfect but can’t speak for the other sizes.  There is a little adjustability in the positioning of the sternum strap and straps connecting the shoulder straps to the top of the main compartment allow the shoulder height to be slightly varied (or at least the tightness with which the straps pull the shoulders in).  

The Levity is available in a couple of capacity sizes (45 and 60 litre),  but again for me it really suits the 45 litre size as I feel this should be enough capacity for the intended user.  I see a 60 litre pack as more of an expedition load hauling size and would want something a bit more durable and structured. 

Aside from the fit, the next big consideration is the load organisation.  The Levity has a single main compartment backed up with a lid pocket, a large front pocket and 2 side pockets. I come from a climbing background and so generally look for packs that are stripped down single compartment tubes - having pockets on the front and sides would normally be off my agenda.  However,  I know they are popular on backpacking packs and it doesn’t take long to appreciate the flexibility they add.     

The front pocket will hold just about anything from a wet flysheet to food, maps, a set of waterproofs or a spare warm layer.  It is a bellowed design so it can accommodate plenty even when the main compartment is stuffed full.  It has a strap to secure it at the top.    

Having said that, even more convenient are the side pockets which can be accessed both from above and from the side. These stash pockets have elasticated closures at the top and side and so items stay secure and they are again generously sized to hold anything from a spare layer to a water bottle.  The side entry allows you, if you have the reach flexibility at least, to reach into them whilst wearing the pack.  

The lid pocket is a fairly standard zippered design although again Osprey have thought to make it big enough to be useful.  It has a tethered key clip inside.  I tested the hydration system with an Osprey Hydraulics reservoir and it worked really well although you should have no problem with most bladders on the market.

When I used the pack for a multi day trip it was, while not overly full,  just comfortably packed.  For an overnighter I had space to spare (even when it was just the main compartment and lid pocket that was filled) and that’s where the side compression system comes into action.  This is a simple cord that can be pulled tight to compress a semi filled pack and, despite it looking rather flimsy,  it actually does the job extremely well.    

The final luggage attachment options are several cord loops on the lid and tape daisy chains down the front which you can use to attach a camping mat or similar.  Oh, and there is a handle at the top of the shoulder straps.

As mentioned earlier, everything about the Levity has been well thought out around a brief of functionality and lightness and the pack ticks these boxes superbly.  Inevitably,  the super light materials used will mean compromises with durability.  I don’t see this as a problem and don’t say it as a criticism - it is just a reality.  Anyone investing in this pack will, I imagine, be an experienced user who knows how to use this type of product appropriately.  

I have treated mine carefully but realistically and so far there is no problem with wear and tear or anything failing and I am confident it will continue to last well - just don’t expect the fabrics to stand up too well to being rubbed a lot against rocks or dragged through woodland.  I also see significant limitations if you expected this pack to stand up to winter use.  I, and I expect the Osprey team did too, see this as predominantly a 3 season pack (having no ice axe holders is a big giveaway!).

The final thing I wanted to highlight was the look of the Levity.  The test model came in pleasant contrasting shades of grey accessorised in blue and the combination makes a good looking pack.  What I meant more about appearance is actually to do with the shape.  The baggy (when empty) or bulbous (when full) side and front pockets creates a wide bottomed pack that friends and clients have been quick to comment in - and not always in a very positive way!  None of this will bother you while you are wearing it, it is simply a factor of the feature set.  Don’t expect a pack of this type to look anything like a stripped back climbing pack.

Summary

In another life I would love to have been an equipment designer and, if I were, packs like the Levity would have been great ones to get my designer teeth into.  Osprey say of the Levity series ’in an industry where innovation continues to push the boundaries of what is possible, Levity is an example of where boundaries are redefined.’ I say that this sums up the pack perfectly.  

One of the biggest pack manufacturers have drawn on their knowledge of materials and design to produce a superb ultralight pack for the ultralight backpacker.  Its weight is staggering and it packs and carries superbly.  It will need to be treated carefully, but anyone spending the hefty £220 on this product will know to look after it well.  I absolutely applaud Osprey for putting such a product together and think they have done a brilliant job.  Full details can be found on the Osprey website here.

Posted by Paul