TRAIL TESTED

Ultralight Backpacking with Osprey's Levity 45

Osprey has always been a solid choice for backpacks, so when I got the chance to try out the ultralight Levity 45 backpack I was excited to see how well it performed. Osprey markets this pack as built for the “maniacal gram-counter,” and this definitely lives up to its name as a truly ultralight backpack. For that light weight you sacrifice many of the extra features you might find on heavier packs, while still maintaining a high level of comfort, function and versatility.

First Impressions

In order to get the 1.8-pound Levity 45 as light as they did, Osprey had to remove many of the extra features that you find on their other packs. Gone are the convenient hip belt pockets, multitude of extra straps, and extra padding on the shoulders and hips. For pockets, you get one zippered pocket in the lid and three more open, yet fairly deep pockets on the back and sides of the pack. That’s it. The pocket on the back is great for stuffing a rain shell or puffy jacket for quick access, and the side pockets can fit one-liter water bottles nicely. Speaking of rain, there’s no pack cover—the gram counters said “nada.”

The Levity is constructed of 30D Cordura silnylon, which is more commonly used to make the walls of lightweight tents. This definitely gives an idea of how rugged it is. It doesn’t feel like something you want to be pushing through brush, or tossing around on rocks. In fact, when I was loading it up I noticed that my fuel canister was pressed against the outside of the pack and I was able to very clearly read the canister’s label through the pack material. The areas of the pack that are the most likely to see wear (the outside of the large pockets, the bottom, and top of the pack) are all made with NanoFly 210D nylon. This more durable material in these common contact points feels much more durable—but I still wouldn’t toss it around too much.

Loading Up

Loading the Levity 45 was a little challenging at first because it’s narrower at the top—the only loading point—than it is at the bottom. This makes it feel a little smaller than the stated 45 liters. Once I realized this, I just had to be a little more strategic in arranging my gear from the bottom up to fully utilize the space. This was fine—I just took to loading it like playing a game of Tetris. Ultimately, I ended up having no problem fitting everything I needed for several days on the trail.

The Levity 45’s smaller size really dictated what was essential and what could be left behind, thus requiring a true minimalist approach. This, combined with the recommended 20-pound max capacity, there’s no room for heavy, bulky gear or an abundance of luxury items—if any. The priority became my essentials and food. There are a few small, exterior gear loops and daisy chain attachments that are suitable for lashing on a sleeping pad or ultralight shelter, but not much more. 

On the Trail

The first thing I noticed when I strapped on the Levity was its 3D tensioned mesh back panel. This is a nice feature that comfortably holds the pack well away from the back and allows for great ventilation—very nice on warmer days. In addition to preventing sweaty back, the mesh really feels like it is supported across the whole back, and doesn’t create any uncomfortable pressure points. And while the back padding is pretty minimal, it is still surprisingly comfortable. Once on the go, I did notice that the support system had a slight bouncing effect when moving quickly downhill, but not anything that felt uncomfortable, or like the weight of the pack was moving around too much. 

After severals miles, with a fairly light load, the Levity continued to be quite comfortable. I could anticipate however, that under a heavier load, the lack of padding would start to matter and I would be regretting those few creature comforts I managed to squeeze in. Overall, the comfort and breathability really stood out as the highlights of Levity when moving quickly down the trail. Just one trivial observation I made was that due to the shape of the pack, I always had to find a rock or a tree to lean it against when taking it off for a break. It will not sit upright by itself and will always tip over. And due to the aforementioned delicacy of the pack’s material, I was very conscious of what I was setting it on or leaning it against.

Pros and Cons

Pros: Super-ultralight weight; good level of comfort; excellent breathability
Cons: Difficult to get a water bottle out of the side pocket without taking the pack off

Recommendation

The Osprey Levity 45 is a great option for minimalist hikers looking to save every gram they can, while not sacrificing comfort. It’s extremely well-ventilated for keeping the back dry, and something that will remain comfortable even after long miles. You don’t get any bells and whistles, but when you are counting grams you don’t have time for those anyway—though you do get a whistle on the chest strap—woo! For those looking for a little more storage space, or for going on longer journeys, the Levity 60 has the same harness and features, with a slightly higher capacity (25 lbs).

Osprey Levity 45 Specs

CAPACITY: 42L (sm); 45L (med); 48L (lg)
WEIGHT: 1.8 lb (sm); 1.85 lb (med); 1.9 lb (lg)
TORSO: 16–19 in (sm); 18–21 in (med); 20–23 in (lg)
MATERIAL: 30D Ripstop Silnylon, 210D NanoFly nylon 

FEATURES: Internal frame, hydration port, fixed lid, compression straps, sternum strap w/ whistle
STYLE:  Unisex
PRICE:  $250

Brandon Wood

Brandon Wood

Brandon is an avid hiker who has racked up countless trail miles throughout Oregon and California. He also loves mountaineering and rock climbing, and has summited several Northwest peaks, including Mt. Shasta, Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier. Brandon lives in Bend, Oregon. You can follow his adventures on Instagram at @brwood22.

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These reviews are based on the field results of PCT: Oregon’s gear testing team. Reviews are subjective, and are based on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, temperature, weather, elevation, and trail/camp conditions, as well as personal comfort and body function. Individual results may vary.
This post may contain affiliate links. All purchases made through these links help support the costs and operations of PCT: Oregon. PCT: Oregon and its gear review staff are not associated with the featured gear brand(s). For more information on PCT: Oregon’s gear selections, reviews and affiliates, click here.
Photos by Brandon and Lauren Wood.

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